Does light weight, high brightness, water resistance, intuitive controls, and affordability make for a great headlamp? The answer may be surprising.
About the headlmap
The Black Diamond Ion headlamp is designed with simplicity in mind. There are no buttons. Instead, there is a touch sensitive front panel that reacts to a series of swipes and long presses to control how the headlamp responds. It weighs about 1.7 ounces, pushes 80 lumens, and includes an adjustable head band. The battery case is water tight, and holds 3 AAA batteries. The lamp retails for $24.95 and comes in red, blue, black, and white.
What I liked
It’s light weight, at under two ounces. It comes with lithium ion batteries, which further reduces the weight over standard batteries. The lamp is plenty bright, with adjustable and dim-able settings. The light is diffused pretty well, and makes reading and working inside a tent easy, while illuminating the trial just fine.
The battery life is great, and the headlamp itself is quite affordable.
The touch controls work well, and they’re great for making conversation.
What I didn’t like
The touch controls turn out to be more of a nuisance than a help. While they do, mostly, work, you’ll find yourself swiping a time or two with no response at all, or the response you get may not always be the you wanted. The touch controls do not work with most gloves (only tech specific gloves), so if you do a lot of cold weather hiking and camping, you’ll want to avoid this all together if you want to keep your gloves on.
Digging for my lamp in the dark while a mouse was crawling around on my backpack next me me, I had trouble figuring out which way to hold the lamp, and which way was the proper way to swipe. It’s not easily distinguishable which way is up on this lamp, so figuring that out in the dark makes it worse. Often I found myself turning the light on or off while putting it on my head. It takes several seconds longer to use the touch controls than a simple button, which I found myself yearning for while fumbling in the dark to enable the light, then strobing myself in the face.
The headband, while comfortable, leaves a dangling extra length of cord flapping free behind you, bouncing off your skull as you walk and move around. I found it annoying. More annoying, is it almost looks like it clips back onto itself, but it doesn’t. A simple, tiny adjustment to the adjustable clip and it would be able to clip back out of the way, but they didn’t do that. Instead, it bounces around.
The red light, while a nice feature, is pretty useless. It’s not bright enough, and doesn’t diffuse properly. Instead of a spot of a soft glow, you get this patchy pattern of red. Closer to that of a series of out of focus laser points than a usable light sources, I found it to be function-less in all but the most pitch black of scenarios. Even then, I reverted back to the white light.
The battery cover, while water tight (nice!) is a pain in the tush to remove. Fighting this thing in the dark to swap out batteries is likely to release your inner raging beast, destroying everything within a 4 foot radius.
I was terribly excited about this headlamp, but in the end, all of the selling points turned out to be things I didn’t appreciate. A simple button works better than a touch panel, and a decent clip to hold back extra headband length seems like an obvious oversight.
While the white light provides a great soft beam, the red is nearly useless.
It’s not that it’s a bad headlamp. It’s kind of fun to use, for a while. The main issue is, for the price, there are other options that will work better, be easier to operate, and be more comfortable while wearing.