A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December

Of all things headlampish

I just love headlamps. I carry one wherever I go because they’re really useful – even in the daytime. If you end up crawling under a car or looking in a dark cupboard, just whip it out. Of course at night I use them camping, hunting, fishing, hiking and during a blackout. They’re even good for reading in bed without disturbing my wife!

Sadly, I’ve misplaced my Black Diamond headlamp which I really loved. I know it’s somewhere, but I haven’t seen it for over a year. I’ve had a cheap one and have been pinching my wife’s headlamp to tide me over, but now it’s getting to the ridiculous stage and I just have to get one before going to East Malaysia, where staying in hostels and being in Uncle Tan’s jungle camp will mean a headlamp will be invaluable.

Since headlamps are so cheap these days, you’re probably wondering why I just don’t go and buy one for $5 from the local camping warehouses like Anaconda (which I did – that’s a little cheap one to tide me over), but there’s more to headlamps than meet the eye. Just a quick cruise around Candle Power Forums will quickly reveal over 500 forum threads on headlamps alone and it gets very technical! There’s great information there though – the guys are absolute fanatics.

Basically when it comes to headlamps the things to consider are what you’ll be doing with it. If you’re running or night hiking and need to see in the distance, you’ll need good “throw” and some decent lumens. If you’re just around camp or using it in close quarters (in the roof,  under the car, reading a book in a tent) you’ll need “flood” i.e a beam angle sufficient to give you some peripheral vision and also the ability to drop the output so you don’t blind yourself or others.

Good headlamps can do a bit of both with a single beam for penetration and a few LED’s around it for flood. You’ll want a few settings such as high, medium and low so you can vary the intensity and save the battery. Also, the more power you need out of it, the bigger the battery pack, and more heavy and cumbersome it will be (plus carrying spares). Heavy duty headlamps take up to 4 AA batteries in a rear mounted pack, smaller headlamps take 3AAA’s most often mounted with the light.

Other options you need to think about is adjustable angle, some circuitry that allows constant voltage (rather than having brightness drop with the battery charge), easy to use switching, water resistance or water proofing, build quality so it doesn’t fall apart too quickly, head band comfort, overall weight, light color (bluish light in the cheaper ones tend to make everything look weird at night), warranty, price/value, and adjustable beam. For power supply you may want a headlamp that will run Lithium Ion batteries which last longer but will destroy a headlamp that doesn’t cater for them. If you like reading a night, a power pack at the rear of your head is going to get old very quickly!

Some headlamps like the Zebra can actually be demounted and used like a torch. Devotees swear by them and the forums are chockablock full of users who rave about their Zebra. New powerful technology uses Cree Lamps with tons of blinding power.

For more reading on what you should consider before diving in check out this guide from the boys at Candle Power Forum (yes that’s right, I don’t think there are too many girls over there).

I jumped on a couple of forums and asked a few questions and after much reading, I found the names that kept popping up were the Peztl (this has long been a classic), Princeton Tec (USA manufactured), Black Diamond (which I had), LED Lenser, Surefire and even surprisingly Coleman and  Energizer.

I decided that I didn’t want to spend more than $40, so given my requirements I decided I needed around 1 watt of power, predominantly floody, adjustable down to around 10 lumens for reading, taking no more than 3 AAA’s and narrowed it down to headlamps like;

LED Lenser H7

Princeton Tec Quad

Petzl Tikka 2

Coleman High Power

So there you have it. I ordered the Princeton Tec Quad from Ebay in the USA since our exchange rate is so good, and should be able to land it for about $30 and I might even try and source the LED Lenser H7 from Singapore for around the same if I’m lucky and do a comparison. Hope this post didn’t get too geeky for you.


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