Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamp
Knog Bandicoot 250
$45, 2.1 oz.
When I reviewed this headlamp’s predecessor, the Bandicoot, I thought it was the kind of new product that had the potential to upend an entire category. After using the more powerful and comfortable Knog Bandicoot 250 on a nine-day hike of nearly 130 miles through the High Sierra in August, mostly on the John Muir Trail, I still think this technology is a game changer.
You can sum up the appeal of the Bandicoot 250 in one sentence: It’s powerful, rechargeable, lighter than most competitors, and cheaper than many. But there’s more to this story than that.
The innovative Bandicoot has been upgraded to a maximum brightness of 250 lumens with a range of over 100 feet—not cutting-edge by today’s standards (a tradeoff for its compactness and almost insignificant weight), but certainly bright enough for the needs of most backpackers and hikers, including hiking a trail at night.
The very light and durable silicone housing now is adjustable with a toggle to fit a huge circumference range of 30-70cm, covering the biggest and smallest heads. It still seamlessly merges the strap, body, and LEDs and doesn’t bounce at all or snag in hair. It’s easy to forget you’re wearing it.
Its four LEDs—high beam, elliptical beams for broad ambient light, a red light for preserving your night vision, and downward-angled lights for reading—cover the needs of many users, including trail running and biking streets at night (and this low-profile headlamp fits more comfortably under a bike helmet than bulkier models). One nitpick: I found the reading lights angled too far downward for reading while lying on an air mattress.
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Operation is simple and intuitive: Turn it on and off by depressing the larger (right) power button for a second; that button also scrolls through the modes, while the smaller (left) button clicks through brightness levels in each mode.
Lock and unlock it by depressing both power buttons for three seconds; the red light flashes twice if you press either power button to indicate lockout mode and a white LED flashes twice to indicate it’s unlocked. Click either button when the light is off and the reading lights function as the four-level battery indicator.
The LEDs are easily removed from the stretchy housing/strap through the opening on the back side of the thickest part of the housing; it then plugs it directly into any USB port to recharge (no cord needed) in four hours (from being fully drained). Few headlamps offer such simplicity for recharging or replacing batteries.
According to Knog, the Bandicoot 250 runs for eight hours at max brightness; 12 hours at Spot level (200 lumens); 22 hours at ambient level (50 lumens); and 25 to 32 hours in the dimmer red and reading modes. Even with normal use on a nine-day hike, I finished with plenty of charge left in this headlamp. The IP67 rating means it’s waterproof up to one meter for 30 minutes and completely protects against dust.
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Powerful enough, comfortable, simple, rechargeable, lighter than most competitors and cheaper than many, the Knog Bandicoot 250 represents a great all-around value for backpacking, hiking, climbing, trail running, and other outdoors activities.
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You can purchase the Knog Bandicoot 250 at knog.com. You can also support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the previous model, the Knog Bandicoot, for $10 less at moosejaw.com.
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.