headlamp reviews

Gear Review: Princeton Tec Sync Headlamp

Princeton Tec Sync
Princeton Tec Sync

Ultralight Headlamp
Princeton Tec Sync
$30, 2.9 oz. (including three AAA batteries)
moosejaw.com

Hiking down the steep, rocky, frequently slippery trails of Mount Washington in the dark for the final 90 minutes of a 17-mile, 6,000-vertical-foot dayhike over the four summits of New Hampshire’s Northern Presidential Range, the last thing I needed was a headlamp that wasn’t bright enough or lost power. With the Sync, those issues weren’t a problem. In fact, its brightest setting threw a broad beam that illuminated the lower Tuckerman Ravine Trail well enough that two teenagers in our party who had forgotten their headlamps could see. Considering also that the Sync is one of the lightest, cheapest, and simplest headlamps on the market today, and it’s hard to find fault with it.

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Gear Review: Bosavi Headlamp

Bosavi headlamp
Bosavi headlamp

Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamp
Bosavi
$70, 2 oz. (including rechargeable battery)
Max burn time: 65 hours at low power, six hours at high power
bosavi.com

With an increasing number of headlamps weighing in under four ounces without compromising brightness, the name of the game these days is versatility and convenience. The Bosavi sets itself apart not just because it’s rechargeable (like some others), but with a design that makes it ideal for hiking or backpacking, trail running, climbing, skiing, bike commuting, and just about any activity you’ll do outside in the dark that doesn’t require a super bright light (and a massive, heavy battery pack). Plus, an ounce or two may seem like splitting hairs to some, but ultralight backpackers and hikers, climbers, and trail runners will appreciate that the Bosavi is lighter and more compact than most competitors.

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Gear Review: Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp

Black Diamond ReVolt
Black Diamond ReVolt

Rechargeable Headlamp
Black Diamond ReVolt
$60, 3.5 oz. (including its three rechargeable NiMH AAA batteries)
Max burn time: 12 hours with rechargeable batteries, 70 hours with alkaline (triple-power LED); 190 hours with rechargeable batteries, 300 hours with alkaline (single-power LED)
blackdiamondequipment.com

[Note: See my review of the updated, 2017 version of the Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp, which replaced the version reviewed below.]

One of the few downsides of backcountry travel is the volume of alkaline batteries we burn through and throw away. So the first thing that attracted me to the ReVolt is that it’s rechargeable. Then I discovered that this headlamp not only treats the environment well, but it’s powerful, versatile, and pretty darn light and compact—an all-around winner.

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Gear Review: Petzl NAO headlamp

Petzl NAO

Headlamp
Petzl NAO
$175, 7 oz.
petzl.com

Stepping outside my tent during a black night in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness, I turned in the direction of our food stuff sacks hanging from a tree more than 300 feet away—and saw them lit up brightly in the beam of this headlamp. Then I swung my gaze back to the ground before me to watch where I was walking, and the Nao’s beam instantly switched over to wide-area mode, brightly illuminating a broad perimeter around me. And it did this without me touching the device.

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Gear Review: Solio Clip-Mini Solar-Rechargeable Light

Solio Clip-Mini

Solar-Rechargeable Light
Solio Clip-Mini
$35, 3.5 oz.
solio.com

File this under “very cool.” This LED light recharges using either solar power or a USB cord, eliminating the need to throw away batteries. It recharges in six hours on sunlight or one hour via the USB connection—so a day on the trail with the Clip-Mini attached to your pack (via its convenient, big carabiner clip) juices up the lithium-polymer battery completely.

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