The latest generation of efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) style bulbs transform headlamps from bulky, do-I-have-to-bring-one necessities into lightweight and powerful retina-burning lamps. These new headlamps are small, lightweight and easily fit into a pack pocket ready for emergency deployment. With their sleek construction, they are perfect for pre-daylight alpine starts, in-the-dark rappels and article-climb meal prep.
Weight and Size
The smallest and lightest lamps invariably use the smallest and fewest batteries, often resulting in shorter burn times and dimmer beams. The up side to this gram shaving approach is that the headlamps are about the size of a small cell phone and unobtrusively fit in most jacket or pack pockets.
This feature is often directly related to the headlamp’s overall weight and size with larger units and their more substantial batteries casting stronger and brighter beams. Manufacturers further improve light output by using a second high-intensity LED or noble-gas filled bulb, which can be switched on for serious route finding. These bulbs however, consume energy faster than most full-size SUVs and should be used sparingly for optimal battery life.
Beam Shape and Light Settings
The importance of beam shape is often lost on the average climber until they switch on their lamp and realize that a wide beam is not ideal for locating the rappel station situated half-a-pitch below in the inky darkness. Similarly, a powerful, deep-penetrating narrow beam is inefficient for quickly searching a large area. This is why variable light settings make sense. Not only will do they preserve battery power, but they also allow tuning light intensity and beam shape to the conditions; less light for reading inside a tent and more light when frantically searching for the descent in pitch-black conditions and driving rain.
Lucidio TR1 -$
Smaller than most cell phones, the Lucido TR1 easily fits in a pocket and offers just enough light for camp work and trail hiking. Four LEDs cast a beam up to 20m and offer up to 60 hours of burn time. A small locking switch prevents accidental battery waste and the two light settings provide appropriate light for a variety of situations. This is a great emergency light that also excels in base camp.
With its rechargeable lithium battery, the Black Diamond Sprinter provides a glimpse into the future of headlamp construction. A single bright front bulb casts an impressive amount of light, while an independently adjustable blinking rear red light offers a visible target when following other climbers on the descent. The headlamp includes a top stabilizing strap for extra control and the multiple electrical plug outlets provide international charging possibilities when travelling. With its variably dimming front bulb, the Sprinter delivers up to 30 hours of burn time.
Princton Tec -$
The tiny Remix offers a surprising amount of light thanks to its dual bulb system consisting of three 5mm LEDs and one Maxbright Rebel LED. The combination provides wide light for general in-camp activities and easily transforms into a brighter lamp suitable for more serious hiking and route finding. The tiny size and effective light output assures the Remix is never left at home.
Tikka 2 Plus
The original Tikka redefined headlamp performance by merging small size with surprisingly useful light output. With the new Tikka 2 Plus, Petzl updates this iconic lamp by increasing the light output and lengthening burn times while maintaining the same overall dimensions. Two brightness settings and a small red LED assure sufficient light for a variety of activities while conserving battery power. For convenience, Petzl has also added a battery life indicator minimizing unexpected brownouts. The result is a great headlamp for almost any climbing situation. -GA