Posted by: Joe Nuss on May 21, 2010
Black Diamond Sprinter – MSRP $79.95
Want to throw a ton of confidence-inspiring light on the trail or road? The Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp does that and change. It’s got a super-bright, double-power LED lamp with three settings: high, low and a blinking mode. It’s lightweight and low-profile, and the balance between the headlamp and power pack kept the lamp steady and nearly jiggle-free. If you’re seriously worried about stability, there’s a removable over-the-head strap in the box. Forget the batteries; this one’s rechargeable. In just six hours, the Sprinter is fully charged. The folks at Black Diamond say that’s enough for up to 30 hours of burn time on low power, or about 5 hours on max – plenty long enough for most night or early morning endeavors, but a legitimate shortcoming for ultra distance.
On high, the Sprinter pours 68 lumens over 50 meters, or about 160 feet. The ovalized beam is somewhere between “spot” and “flood”, making it just right for lighting up the darkest path in front of you (and then some) with enough spillover to prevent you from getting a tunnel vision effect with little wasted light. The low power setting is significantly less bright, but provides plenty of light when paired with a running partner’s headlamp or when used around the ambient lighting of town where “being seen” is just as important. A strobing red taillight is a seemingly road-runner’s feature, but at a recent 100 miler it made it easy for my pacers to keep tabs on me as I ran on up the trail while they raided the aid stations!
No word yet on how long the battery will last, but the Sprinter will probably outlive only the most extreme users. Ultra- or solo, self-supported types may want to consider a backup or replaceable battery model. And any sticker shock from the purchase price can likely be tempered with the “green” feelings you’ll get from not dumping batteries into the landfill – and the envy you’re running mates will have once they’ve seen this headlamp.
Petzl TIKKA XP®2 – MSRP $59.99
Petzl knows extremes, and the company’s roots in Alpine caving give them sho’ nuff cred when it comes to making headlamps. I mean, could it get any darker than a hole in the guts of a mountain? A perennial favorite of backpackers and hikers, Petzl has any number of models – including the new TIKKA XP®2 – that will illuminate any after- or before-hours trail running excursion.
What makes the TIKKA XP®2 so special is its incredible adaptability. Five different lighting modes make it adjustable to nearly any lighting situation, and its miserly energy use mean you’ll run on for miles and miles (up to 160 hours in economy mode) before you’ll need to replace the batteries. No worries there, either. A low-battery indicator light will let you know when you’re close to needing a fresh set of AAA’s.
At its brightest, the focused LED spotlight pumps out 60 lumens at a distance of about 200 feet. An on-board diffuser spreads but shortens that beam to a more usable flood, lighting most any path. The significantly less-bright but still very usable “economy” mode is selectable with the touch of a button. One more push, and the button activates the flashing white light mode which is perfect for situations where “being seen” is most important.
The TIKKA’s red LED light mode makes it the right choice for early morning scavenging through the sock drawer without waking your partner, trailside emergencies or “nature breaks” where you need some light but don’t have time for your eyes to readjust from light to darkness. This one has a blinking mode, too; another great lighting option for being seen by oncoming runners or traffic. The adjustable headstrap has an attached emergency whistle – just in case. Aftermarket attachments include helmet or belt clips making the TIKKA XP®2 a light you’ll use every chance you get.
Princeton Tec Fuel – MSRP $26.99
The Princeton Tec Fuel is a real jewel at a cubic zirconia price. A bright enough 4 LED headlamp that’s lightweight and simple to use. The Fuel is a must-have in your gear kit for the pre-dawn start of those a.m. runs, or for excursions that might last until after the sun goes down. And at this price, there’s no reason not to have this little number in your drop bag or as a back-up for your pricey bells-and-whistles model.
Like most battery-operated models, the Fuel runs on three triple-A batteries and can parse out the juice on low power for as long as 146 hours. Even on its brightest setting, the Fuel can go for up to 50 hours. We left one on for two days and still had enough left for an hour-long in-town run. It was noticeably less bright than other test models at 43 lumens, but threw out enough light to provide plenty of warning if there was trouble afoot – or potentially underfoot. It’s not the most streamlined model, sticking out from our foreheads a bit far, but its light weight kept it from bouncing on the run.
Smart touches, like the hinged bracket made it easy to remove from the headstrap for other applications. We used a pair of rubber bands to cinch it to a bike helmet, which gave our early morning rides a little “something extra” with little effort at all. The single-arm attachment made adjusting the Fuel a snap, and an easy-to-open battery door was manageable even with gloved fingers. Princeton Tech labels the Fuel as an “all purpose” headlamp and hardcore night owls will find it comes up a bit short, but most runners will find it a great start to opening up the world of early morning – or evening – adventures.
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