As I’ve started each of my reviews on headlamps I just have to tell you that I really love my Petzl Tactika XP headlamp. No, not the “new” Petzl Tactika XP…the old Petzl Tactika XP. If you want to know the difference between the two models of Petzl Tactika XP headlamps then you need to read each review and it will be clear to you. All that being said, the original Petzl Tactika XP headlamp is the standard by which I judge all others.
Let’s get on with the review of the Black Diamond headlamp.
As always…the mission –
“To provide personal lighting capability for night operations in a tactical or camping environment.”
Requirements & Restrictions –
- Must be water resistant.
- Must be rugged.
- Must provide foolproof for “red lens” operations.
- Must operate on AAA batteries.
- Should be camouflage or flat earth color.
- Must have headband operation capability.
- Should have helmet mount capability.
- Should contain the lamp and batteries in the same housing.
So why am I even looking for a headlamp to begin with when I already have, and like, a Petzl Tactika XP headlamp. Well, because I believe in “two is one, one is none, three is a good start.” Roughly translated that means, have a back-up option to your primary piece of gear or equipment. Then, have another option to have a back-up to all of that. Why? Because your gear or equipment will fail when you least expect it, and least want it to. So you better have a couple of alternatives.
As I mentioned earlier I live my original Petzl, it is everything I want in a headlamp. Solid, water resistant, perfect light pattern, and a failsafe red lens. The band or head strap is a quality piece of expandable material. The headlamp has lasted me two years of usage on a single set of three AAA Duracell copper top batteries. You simply can’t beat that headlamp. The problem is that Petzl decided to take a fantastic product, a true top quality, excellent product…and discontinue making it.
As soon as I opened the package I wasn’t impressed…Energizer batteries vs. Duracell batteries. All the headlamps that I have purchased so far had Duracell batteries…which are the best batteries made. So…strike one!
And the instruction sheet was huge! And in about 150 different languages. The print was so small I had to break out the magnifying glass. Strike two!
To test it I installed a set of Duracell batteries (to be fair), it wasn’t readily apparent how to open the battery compartment. Inconvenient, but not another “strike.” Then there are these flimsy looking pieces of plastic that act like hinges. Once again, I am not impressed with that idea. But, also another “strike” either.
There is no gasket material and the housing has no apparent way to keep moisture out. I will have to look into that and get more info on its moisture resistance. Although the unit is rated at IPX4 level and Black Diamond has a great warranty. They must be sure of the water resistance capabilities.
Let’s move on to the brightest of white light settings…it is bright, really bright and plenty bright enough to meet all the basic needs for just about anything you would do. OK, maybe not a spotlight for a Blake Shelton concert, but that kind of spotlight isn’t really appropriate for the needs of the average prepper. I wasn’t crazy about the size of the pattern, seemed large to me.
There is a really pretty cool features that I thought was pretty cool…and useful is the power level meter. When you turn on the headlamp you have an indicator showing the remaining battery power level. This headlamp is the only unit that I tested that has that feature. It is just kinda nice.
But the operation of the headlamp is really a bit complex.
- The headlamp turns on to whatever your last setting was…whether you want it to or not. Unless you hold down the single button, then it switches to whatever is the opposite of the setting you were using that time.
- Once you get the light on, holding the button dims it to the setting you want. Yes, “dims it” as in infinite settings of brightness. I can see that being really useful or a royal pain in the butt.
- If you have the intensity set on low and you touch the side of the case with your finger it switches to a bright mode. While that may sound convenient, accidently switching to a bright white setting at the wrong time could prove fatal in a tactical situation.
- The button is very sensitive. While it was sitting on the desk and I was typing, I reached over to turn it over to look at it from a different angle. Ooopppssss, it came on at it brightest intensity. I didn’t understand that feature at all.
You know I forgot that there is a feature that I like a lot as well. One thing you don’t want to happen is your headlamp to accidentally turn on while it is stored in your pack or pouch. Then you need it and the batteries are dead. Well, this headlamp has a “lockout” that prevents accidentally turning this unit on and killing your batteries. I like it, but I have to ask the question, “Why is the button that sensitive in the first place?”
There is a feature that is also pretty cool. When you are using the headlamp on a dim setting and what a bright boost light right now…well, all you have to do is tap the housing. No, you don’t have to push the button, just tap the headlamp housing on the right and “presto” your headlamp switches into a very bright mode. But, that can also be a double-edged sword.
I also don’t like the red light mode at all. While it has plenty of setting adjustments (0 – infinity), they red light pattern simply sucks. It is not focused at all. Actually, it has a triple overlapping rings of light that is quite annoying.
Let me digress back to my old Petzl Tactika XP for a minute. I really liked the feature of the XP turning on in the dimmest mode and then cycling up to the brightest mode. That way it gives you the lowest profile initially but allowing you to get bright light with just another push of the button. However, the Black Diamond starts out with the brightest setting. Granted, for the average user in the average situation there is really no problem. But, if you remember, I want to use this headlamp in any potential tactical situation as well. That means I want to keep a low profile whenever possible. Starting out with 130 lumens of white light is not my idea of low profile.
If you go to their website you will find a plethora of information, including videos, of how to use this headlamp. Seems strange to me that you would need a whole bunch of instructions for something as simple as a headlamp, but in today’s world…information is a good thing. Having it in video format is a nice plus, walks you through the operations step-by-step. But, in my ADD/ADHD world I would like it all to be self-explanatory and just push a button…presto! It all works. But that is just my unrealistic expectations at work.
I really tried to like this headlamp…but, I don’t. I give it a “do not buy” recommendation.
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