What you should consider when choosing a personal headlamp
If you’ve ever tried holding a flashlight on deck in rough seas while putting a reef in the mainsail at night you know the value of having a good personal headlamp.
These little personal headlamps are everywhere now days. Not all of them are what you want when an emergency strikes.
What should you look for in a personal headlamp?
First and foremost is reliability. You want it to work when you need it and you want it to last long enough to get the job done.
When you’re on a boat it is pretty important that whatever personal headlamp you get should at least be water resistant. Water proof is even better.
Battery longevity is the other big consideration. Many tasks on a boat take a fair amount of time. How long would it take you to change a raw water impeller or broken fan belt at night in rough seas? That’s how long your batteries should last.
Then double it.
Performing tasks under stress in difficult conditions takes far longer than when you’re snug in your slip.
Always keep extra batteries handy or your rechargeable batteries topped up.
Functionality is also important. Considerations include comfort, ease of operation and adequacy of lighting.
There are several personal headlamps that have multiple lights projecting out a couple inches. I prefer a lower profile design that is not as likely to be knocked off by sails, sheets or other obstructions.
Ease of operation includes switching and focus mechanisms. Many personal headlamps have multiple options for brightness and beam width. Simple switches that are easy to manipulate so you don’t have to look at the device or fumble around to adjust it.
Adequacy of lighting is ultimately the most important factor. And, the amount and intensity of light dictates the longevity of the batteries.
Intensity of the light is a common and desired option. Many devices have variable intensity settings including low, medium and high. Low intensity is fine for general purposes and greatly extends battery life. But when you need a lot of light . . . it’s there.
How do you know if the personal headlamp or flashlight you’re considering is powerful enough? Check the Lumens rating.
What are Lumens?
Lumens are a measure of how much light the human eye can see from a source, like a personal headlamp.
Most of the headlamps I reviewed fell in the range of 150 to 300 Lumens.
150 Lumens is probably adequate for poking around in the dark looking for your shoes it may not be adequate when you’re trying to see if what’s out in front of you is a buoy or a rock.
Three hundred Lumens is good for close to mid range. I wanted more.
I wanted a light that extended out a fair distance and had battery capacity to support full intensity for at least a couple hours. That meant 500 Lumens or more.
Claims of battery life can be deceptive. Just use common sense. I found personal headlamps with as many as five separate lights powered by two AAA batteries. The claim of battery life is like, 8 hours. But, they don’t tell you that that battery life is with only one of the five lights on low power setting. How long will it last with all the lights on?
Besides the options of battery size and number there’s also the battery types. Most personal headlights rely on the old standard alkaline AA and AAA. Some use rechargeable battery packs.
I was hoping for something a bit better. Like a rechargeable Lithium battery. Lithium batteries last longer than Alkaline and recharge faster. This little option really narrowed the field.
One other option that you rarely see is color of light.
Cruising at night I really like the red light. Moving around the boat I hate ruining my night vision with bright white light. When I really need to see detail I can turn on the bright white light.
What about price?
Price is not that big a deal. The range is typically between $8.00 and $20.00. Some range as high as $70. I mainly focused on the utility of the device and found no reason to pay more than about $20. Ten dollars would not buy all the features I want.
Here’s what all my research boiled down to.
A personal headlight that will operate at high output for a reasonably long time putting out above average amount of light, is light and low profile, easy to operate and offers a night vision feature. Not asking too much, right?
This is what I found . . .
A personal headlamp that met most of my criteria.
Size: 60*42mm (2.36″ x 1.65″)
Product Weight: 70g
LED Light Source: CREE XPE-R5
LED Power: 5w
Body Material: ABS
Runtime(high mode): 2h
Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Battery(included)
Battery capacity: 1200mAh
Water-proof rating: IP44
Rotation angle of light source: 0-60°
Five Modes: High/Low/SOS/Red light/Strobe(red)
A feature I would like to have had that this package does not include is the Zoom, or focus. But, the high Lumens rating kinda makes up for it.
The other thing I don’t particularly like is that I could find no competitive products made in the USA. Maybe that will change in the future as manufacturing returns to the US. Until then, we work with what we have.
Do your own research.
You will undoubtedly have different needs and goals for lighting and will want features that vary from mine.
Here’s a great review site to begin your research . . . Click Here