The Black Diamond Sprinter is a lightweight USB rechargeable Headlamp designed for high intensity use on and off the trail. Housing a powerful front lantern, back red strobe lights and a removable top band, it’s usable in practically any condition. My review:
The Sprinter divides it’s electronics between the front and back of the unit. The main 200 lumen white LED lamp sits in the front with a convenient toggle switch atop the main housing and a small touch sensor on the side to quickly toggle between two power settings. A power cable connect here and runs along the right side of the stretchy headband into the rear housing, which holds the rechargeable lithium polymer battery. The battery is charged via an included USB cable through a waterproof, covered housing on the side of this back panel. This back panel also holds the red LED lights, great for running at night or improving your visibility to others in your hiking group. Two strobe settings are activated via a small button just to the right of these LEDS. There is also a small LED below to show how much charge remains, which illuminates briefly anytime any function of the headlamp is used. A dorsal head band helps keep the headlamp in place for running and scrambling, and is removable to shave a little weight. The Sprinter has an IPX rating of 4 (splay proof for 5 minutes), retails for $79.99, weighs 3.7 oz (105 g), and provides 42 hours of light on low, and 4 hours of light on high at 200 lumens.
What I liked
The Sprinter provides ample illumination for any condition a backpacker is likely to face. Pushing 200 lumens at it’s brightest setting, I never found myself utilizing it to it’s full potential, simply because didn’t need to. Instead, I found myself keeping the headlamp setting somewhere near the lowest setting, providing a good balance of light and battery life. The LEDs are dimmable, so you can really dial in what setting you want. It saves the last setting it was used at when turned off too. This means no 200 lumen 2 am flash bangs going off in your tent when you’re trying to “sneak” out for a late night bathroom run. The light it does put off is well diffused, but still focused enough for distant viewing, so working up close as well as staring off into the abyss are both equally viable options, should you feel the urge.
The battery life is also quite good. When used on the lower settings, the headlamp handily provides enough energy storage to power several weeks of typical usage on the trail, and it’s easily topped up when needed. Simply plug the USB cable into a power bank, computer, USB outlet or any other compatible power source and it fully charges in about 4 hours. A handy LED on the back of the headlamp informs of roughly how much juice remains at a glance; glowing green for fully charged, orange for half way, and red for critically low.
Operation is fast and simple. A quick press of the top button on the main lamp housing turns it on and off, holding the button allows it to be brightened or dimmed, and tapping the side touch sensor quickly toggles between kill and stun (bright and not so bright). On the rear, the small blue button toggles the flashing red LED lights on and off, and that’s about it. There is really no way to get confused about the operation, and certainly no need to carry along an owners manual, like some other units out there. The buttons are prominent enough to be easily felt at night, making it easy to activate in the dark, and they’re able enough activate while wearing gloves too.
The buttons are also fairly stiff and ever so recessed into the base of the unit, practically eliminating any chance of accidental activation.
Comfort wise, the headlamp feels great. It’s easily adjustable on both sides and the top, allowing for a dialed in fit. Once it’s there it stays in place without creating any pressure points around the skull, and there are no abrasive seams on the bands either, meaning long term wear is quite enjoyable. The removable top band only improves the lamps stability, keeping it in place even while scurrying up rocks, hopping off banks or sprinting down mountains Bear Grylls style, for some reason. Combine the gently curved back panel and softly padded bands, it’s light weight build, balanced weight, split evenly between the front and the back, and it makes for one of the most comfortable headlamps I’ve ever tested.
The build quality is also quite good. Most of the material is wrapped in a rubbery bumped of sorts, helping protect it from drops and abrasion, while the clips and straps seem rugged enough to hold up to years of typical use. The bands are thin, but they always snap back to shape after use and have yet to show any signs of stretching or fraying, so I expect them to hold up quite well.
What I didn’t like
One issue I did run into cropped up while meticulously adjusting the bands to fit my head just right. While adjusting it, I found the bands had a tendency of slipping off of the tracks designed to hold them in place, requiring some fidgeting to get back in. This happened repeatedly, around 5 or so times while working to get the fit just right. Admittedly, I was playing with the straps more than most like would, aligning everything and making it look nice, but others may run into it too. Once in place, thankfully I’ve not run into the issue since, but it’s worth mentioning.
The included battery isn’t replaceable with standard batteries in a pinch. If the battery runs out, you’ll need to go without until you can top it off. This is easily remedied by carrying a small power bank, however, which is a viable solution. Thankfully, the battery life is so good this is quite unlikely to happen in the first place, and I’v never felt the need to carry the extra weight. Even on red, I’ve had several days use left to get me by. It’s a minor quibble.
The back plastic scratches easily, but it’s not a real problem as it has no effect on it’s durability or functionality.
The Black Diamond Sprinter is an excellent headlamp. It’s tough, reliable, light weight at just over 3 ounces, and it packs down much smaller than other headlamps in it’s category. The light it gives off is expertly diffused, allowing it to be used up without being blinding or far away without the light puttering into nothing. It’s exceptionally comfortable, weather resistant, and provides enough battery life to satisfy most backpackers. It’s also easy to operate, minus the tendency of the bands to slip off while moving the straps around. As far as rechargeable headlamps go, it has all the features that I look for: a brightness memory, dimable LEDs, one hand activation, and it has so far avoided any accidental activations while being stuffed inside my backpack. in my eyes, this is a near flawless choice, especially for more active users who can benefit from the excellent weight balance and extra top band. With this in mind, it’s staying inside my pack and I’m giving it my highest rating.
The highest of recommendations.
For more information on Black Diamond and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, http://blackdiamondequipment.com
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I want to extend a huge thanks Black Diamond for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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