Review: Black Diamond Spot 400-R Headlamp

Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamp
Black Diamond Spot 400-R
$65, 2.6 oz./73.7g

Using Black Diamond’s Spot 400-R on various outings, from nights in camp on a nine-day hike of nearly 130 miles through the High Sierra in August, mostly on the John Muir Trail, and pre-dawn starts on a seven-day, nearly 70-mile walk in September in Glacier National Park, to dawn patrol backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boulder Mountains and backpacking on a section of the Arizona Trail along the Gila River in the first days of April, I found this latest update continues the legacy of functionality and versatility that has made BD’s long-popular Spot line arguably the best value in an ultralight headlamp—while also demonstrating the strong value proposition of choosing this rechargeable model over a battery-powered headlamp.

Powered by a 1500 mAh Li-ion battery with micro-USB charging port, the Spot 400-R—the rechargeable version of BD’s outstanding Spot 400—throws a beam 100 meters at its maximum brightness of 400 lumens; that’s bright enough to hike off-trail, search for a descent or ascent route in pitch darkness, or identify the large, nocturnal animal showing an interest in your cached food. BD says a full charge lasts for four hours at max power—a brightness level most users won’t need for anywhere near that length of time on a single outing or multi-day trip.

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Black Diamond Spot 400-R LEDs.
Black Diamond Spot 400-R LEDs.

At the other end of its brightness range, the headlamp will keep running for 225 hours at low power of six lumens, which is bright enough to find your way in and out of a tent in the middle of the night. At medium power, the Spot 400-R projects a beam 60 meters and lasts eight hours on a full charge; that’s brighter and farther than many users will need in camp or even most of the time you’re hiking a trail in complete darkness. In peripheral white light mode, the broad beam projects adequate light uniformly to organize gear or illuminate a campsite or tent interior, without getting blotchy or having an annoying dark spot in the center.

Those performance details illustrate both this lamp’s power and how typical use will not quickly drain its charge. After eight nights of regular use at various brightness levels and modes, I found the headlamp still retained two-thirds of its charge—displayed by its three-level battery meter—meaning the Spot 400-R can hold plenty of juice for normal use on a very long trip.

BD has again made this Spot update incrementally lighter and more streamlined, with a housing that doesn’t feel like a load on your head or bounce around when moving fast. The low-profile design still has two buttons and intuitive operation: It powers on and off and dims using the larger button, while the smaller button cycles between the three modes: the direct beam, peripheral white mode, and red for night vision.

It also has dimming capability in all three modes (by holding down the larger button) and strobe is activated in all modes by clicking the larger power button twice rapidly. The Spot series and other BDmodelshave brightness memory technology: They turn on in the mode and brightness level you last turned them off.

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Black Diamond Spot 400-R buttons.
Black Diamond Spot 400-R buttons.

BD’s unique PowerTap technology—found in other BD headlamps—allows you to simply tap the right side of the casing (marked by a bulb icon) to cycle between max brightness and whatever dimmed level you previously set.

Like other BD headlamps, the Spot 400-R has a lockout mode that turns on and off by holding down both buttons for a few seconds, to ensure that the lamp isn’t inadvertently turned on and draining its charge inside your pack or pocket—a smart safety feature, even though both buttons lie flush in the housing to help prevent accidental activation.

The easily adjustable headband, made from recycled elastic, features comfortable Repreve fiber and remains comfortable for hours. The IP67 rating means it provides full protection from small, solid objects like dust and sand and is waterproof to one meter underwater for up to 30 minutes. The micro-USB charging portis accessed easilyby flipping open a small port cover.

BD’s line of headlamps includes the battery-powered but otherwise identical Spot 400 ($50, 2.5 oz.) and the rechargeable Storm 500-R ($75, 3.5 oz.), featuring 500 lumens at max power and the full suite of features found in BD’s Spot and other headlamps.

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The Verdict

At just 15 bucks more than the Spot 400, the rechargeable Black Diamond Spot 400-R delivers the same brightness, versatility, low weight, and value for backpacking, hiking, climbing, trail running, and other outdoors activities at a price that’s soon covered by the money saved not buying (and throwing away) batteries.


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See “The 7 Best Headlamps” and all reviews of headlamps, hiking gear, backpacking gear, and ultralight backpacking gear at The Big Outside.

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned backpacker, you’ll learn new tricks for making all of your trips go better in my “How to Plan a Backpacking Trip—12 Expert Tips,” A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking,” and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.” With a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read all of those three stories for free; if you don’t have a subscription, you can download the e-guide versions of “How to Plan a Backpacking Trip—12 Expert Tips,” the lightweight and ultralight backpacking guide, and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.”

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all reviews and expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza

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2 thoughts on “Review: Black Diamond Spot 400-R Headlamp”

  1. Thanks for great read! Got one of those from nearby outdoor sports store and hopefully it’s gonna be as good as your review is! Been using mostly handheld flashlights beforehand, but since I’ve started hiking and backpacking much more I found a need for headlamp (realised this when my tent collapsed in the middle of the night during rain, not the most pleasant experience 😀 )