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Tuesday, February 27th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Tuesday, February 27th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Headlamp options for ice fishing, hunting, camping, everything out-of-doors

Modern headlamps make outdoor activities easier. There are many options, including solar-powered units like (inset) this one from LuciBeam. (Photos courtesy of Roy Heilman)

Sometime in the past 20 years, outdoors users realized that when one hand wasn’t devoted to holding a flashlight, the things we needed to do in the dark got easier. 

Relatively simple by design, headlamps bring big convenience. Their positioning ensures that wherever our heads turn, illumination follows seamlessly. Multiple settings offer exactly the light we need. Plus, they’re small enough to fit into most pockets and compartments.

Headlamps haven’t changed much. But their two main components – power and light source – have kept up with technological advances to meet varied needs.

Power

Like other battery-powered tools, headlamps today are available with rechargeable capabilities. But they’re not the weaklings of yesteryear. Modern rechargeables are capable of lasting at least as long as their disposable counterparts, though headlamp models with them typically are a step up in price. 

The Radiant RH1 Powerswitch from Nite Ize is a good entry-level rechargeable headlamp. In fact, it can run on the included battery pack, or three AAA batteries. It throws off a maximum 600 lumens, and recharges in only three and a half hours. It goes for a reasonable $40. 

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The folks at MPOWERD, known for their popular solar-powered Luci lanterns, recently introduced the Luci Beam 2-in-1 Solar Headlamp and Flashlight. Like many, it is rechargeable via USB cable.

What sets it apart is that it is also rechargeable by the sun itself, which means you might never need to plug it in. The headlamp portion attaches by magnetic connection to the solar panel/flashlight body while solar-charging. It has one flashing and three steady white beams, and one flashing and two steady red beams. Maximum battery life is listed at 30 hours for flashlight and 24 hours for headlamp.

Light source

First-generation headlamps were relatively slow to catch on, and the outdoor marketplace hosted relatively few options at the turn on the last century. Like their handheld counterparts back then, they utilized incandescent bulbs. Not anymore. 

Today’s headlamps employ LEDs, which deplete power sources less quickly. They last far longer (ideally never burning out), and can come in many colors.

Another advantage of LED technology is the incredible range of illumination it can achieve. Headlamps that fall in the “budget-friendly” category – $50 or less – typically have multiple brightness settings that range from single-digit lumen ratings (lm) up to around 500 lm. 

One example is the new Coast RL10, whose high beam reaches out with 560 lm and lasts two hours. On the low setting, it is purported to go 14 hours, on three AAA alkalines. It retails for approximately $30. 

If you’re willing to kick in some more dough, brighter lights come within reach. For around $70, the rechargeable NEBO Transcend 1500 attains 750 lumens on the high end, and maintains that for four hours. Additionally, it has a “Turbo” mode, which bumps it up temporarily to 1500 lm – perhaps useful for things like spotting an unlit boat ramp at a distance, or surveying a large decoy spread. After 30 seconds it automatically adjusts back down to prevent the unit from overheating. The light can also be detached from the head strap and mounted magnetically in tight places. 

In addition to white light, most headlamps these days come with at least one other colored LED. The most common is red. Most manufacturers cite this as being low-impact on one’s night vision. Others say it is also less conspicuous to animals like deer, and much less attractive to nighttime insects.

The next most common color LED is green, which is also said to protect night vision, though not to the same degree. It can, however, offer better contrast when examining things like maps. 

A select few headlamps out there include blue LEDs, which reportedly help detect blood. When included, blue is usually part of a red-green-blue package, like in the Princeton Tec Snap RGB. In addition to red, green, and blue light, the Snap RGB has high, low, and flashing white beams. The light unit can be removed from the head strap, to clip or mount elsewhere. It is available in black or camo for around $50.

So many options

With a dizzying array of choices out there, picking a headlamp could be a daunting task. However, only a couple of factors will help narrow the field down considerably. 

Deciding whether or not you think recharging is a good option can eliminate about half the choices out there.

Price can also be a guiding factor. For those who anticipate using theirs for basic functions, i.e., night trips from the tent to the outhouse, making sure you don’t trip on the way to the deer stand, etc., there is little reason to spend more than $40 or so. And with holiday sales coming up, there will be bargains. 

Speaking of gift-buying season, those looking for a useful gift for an outdoor enthusiast have plenty to consider in headlamps. In addition to models previously mentioned, here are a few more ideas. 

The Fenix HM50R V2.0 is an updated version of a best-selling model. It emits up to 700 lumens, and Fenix says it will operate normally in temperatures down to -35 to -45 degrees Celsius. That means it should be dependable for activities like winter camping, ice fishing, and snowmobiling. The large switch on the side is said to be easier for gloved hands to operate. It retails for around $60.

The Petzl Bindi is about as small and light as it gets. Coming in at just over an ounce, this rechargeable dynamo can light the way for up to 50 hours.

Ledlenser’s HF8 Signature has everything you’ll probably need and then some. In addition to red/green/blue LEDs, a powerful rechargeable battery, and up to 2000 lumens, it also has blinking, strobe, and S.O.S. beam capabilities. “Adaptive Light Beam” technology automatically adjusts light output to the conditions. At over $150, it is a pricier option, but also like the Cadillac of headlamps. 

For more from Roy Heilman, see his website: NeverAGooseChase.com

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