Headlamps are a necessity when hiking or backpacking, and it’s important to find one that’s both reliable and convenient to use. The new Inova STS Powerswitch headlamp is a rechargeable, waterproof, touch activated headlamp that allows the user to use the included rechargeable battery or swap in traditional AAA batteries when needed. This is my review.
Nite Ize has created the Inova STS Powerswitch to be flexible and capable of adapting to various situations. They’ve done this by providing a rechargeable lithium ion battery that can be easily swapped for standard AAA batteries if needed. The battery compartment is easily accessed via a small locking hinge that creates a watertight seal to protect the electronics inside, making the entire body waterproof. The unit is controlled via a simple knuckled touch panel located on the top of the lamp. A swipe to the right activates the red LED and a swipe to the left powers on the main LED, a 280 lumen white lamp. Alternatively, a counter swipe disables the glow while holding two fingers down on the touch panel, followed by a quick swipe, locks the lamp from use to avoid accidental activation. The band is a soft synthetic strap that’s adjustable to fit any size head, and the mount system is also compatible with bike mounts, helmet mounts, or other accessory brackets also offered by Nite Ize. High power mode provides 280 lumens of light for 2 hours, while low power mode trickles just 9 lumens for 76 hours on the included rechargeable battery, With AAA batteries you can get 295 lumens for 3 hours on high and 9 lumens for 108 hours on the lowest setting. The output can be fine tuned to any brightness in between, too. It weighs 2.3 oz, includes a USB charger and retails for $59.99.
What I liked
Performance wise, the long winded Powerswitch (as I’ll call it from here on out) is a champ. Pushing 280 lumens, it’s more than bright enough for practically any real world scenario that a backpacker is likely to end up in. I usually found myself happily relying on the power saving low preset, and occasionally the medium setting for working in dark corners or moving about with ample, well distributed, light. The battery holds up very well during usage too, seeming to match, for the most part, the suggested 2 hour run time at it’s brightest setting in mild temperatures. I’ve only drained it during testing, never actually running out of juice during real world usage, which is exactly what I want out of a battery. When it is depleted, recharging only takes a couple of hours via the included USB charger and AAA batteries can be used in the mean time, meaning you’re never really out of a headlamp as long as you keep a few batteries laying around.
Using the headlamp is pretty simple. Swiping to activate the lamp works pretty much every time, assuming you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, and it’s easy enough to do in the dark thanks to the texture touch panel that cannot be mistaken for other parts of the lamp. Swapping the battery in and out is unusually simple too, using a simple lock that works similar to many storage chests to open up the compartment (no screws or prying here) allowing easy, yet reliable, access to the inner compartment. From here a light tug on the easy to grasp square battery pulls it out, even with gloves on.
The headlamp is comfortable to wear. The band is soft and feels something like a cross between polyester and neoprene, and it’s thick enough to be self padding, in a sense. It sits comfortably against the forehead and the band itself creates a gentle but snug tension around the skull once adjusted properly, preventing the lamp from moving around or slipping into unsuspecting eye sockets. The lamp itself is a little bulky, as most rechargeable headlamps are, so that heft is felt, but it’s not distracting and is quickly forgotten.
When it comes down to build quality, the Powerswitch is solid, and I mean this both figuratively and literally. It feels like a solid lump of material and it can really take a beating. The plastics are quite scratch resistant, and the body is constructed to be both waterproof and impact resistant, so dropping it onto a rock or onto the ground will, generally, not be an issue. The band and clips don’t cut any corners either, with consistent threads and a thick overall construction that’s surely to last several years without stretching out or fraying. After repeated and long term use, the band showed no signs of stretching out or becoming wavy like some bands do over time.
I also quite like the price point that the headlamp falls into. For just under $60, a price normally reserved for non-rechargeable lamps, the Powerswitch provides every feature that I look for in a headlamp such as the options red LED, dimmable illumination modes, a rechargeable battery, charger, and the waterproof shell. It’s one of the best values on the market.
What I didn’t like
This is mostly preference, but I’m not a huge fan of touch controls on headlamps. Granted, the controls work well, even with gloves (given you have touch compatible gloves) and I never had any issues activating it, even in the dark. However, I can never get over the sensation that I’d just rather have a normal button or two. The touch sensor also results in more accidental activations that I would like, especially while digging through my pack as a brush of a knuckle or hand can easily turn it on. This being the case, locking the lamp is less of a feature and more of a necessity. Doing so, however, is less than ideal . It requires precision that I don’t always want to exert as you have to hold the touch sensor with two fingers and immediately swipe to one side. A late swipe and nothing happens. A little practice and it becomes second nature, but it’s not as straight forward as I’d prefer. I’d rather have a small switch or perhaps a second sensor to detect if it’s being worn or not.
The Powerswitch is a lovely headlamp that provides ample illumination, reliable usage, and the trending use of an included rechargeable battery. I like having the ability to swap out the lithium ion pack for a set of AAAs if I run out battery power, and having a full waterproof body means I can use the lamp in any weather condition without having to worry about burning it out. It’s tough, comfortable, and comes in at a very reasonable price. Granted you enjoy touch activated devices and have compatible gloves, the STS can be a nice piece of equipment to have in a pack.
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I want to extend a huge thanks Nite Ize for providing this headlamp for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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