Simplicity in use is the theme of the Princeton Tec Axis. The Axis is a lightweight, high powered headlamp that provides instant access to brightness adjustments through a unique, simplistic interface. My review:
The Axis has only two adjustments. There is a large, easy to find button on the side of the headlamp, and an adjustable knob locked around it. A single press of the button turns on the red LED, while a second activates the much brighter 250 lumen white LED. Rotating the knob allows the light to instantly switch between flood, spot, and various brightnesses. There is a removable, adjustable elastic headband, water resistant battery compartment that houses 3 AAA batteries (there is a rechargeable model), and the headlamp itself is built from a durable, lightweight plastic. The lamp weighs 83 grams (2.9 ounces) and retails for about $39.99.
As it should be, using the headlamp is very easy. As mentioned before, turning the lamp on is as easy as pressing the fairly large button on the side of the unit. It is easy to use in gloves, and finding the button in the dark is largely trouble free thanks to the bubbly shape and rubber like texture. The first press initiates the red LED, which is a smart call as a bright flash of white will basically reset any night vision that might have developed while hanging out in the dark. The second press initiates the white LED, while a third press will turn off the unit. Once they’re on, spinning the dial on the side swifty and effortlessly toggles between any mode, and it can be rotated in either direction to back up to a previous section. This works very well for on the fly adjustments, and is intuitive almost instantly.
Now that we’re talking about the buttons, I do wish the power button was a little clickier and more tactile. It has a very short throw, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’ve actually pressed it or not. Aside from looking at the lamp itself, there is rarely any feedback to to let you know otherwise. Also, the button is actually smaller than the rubber panel that covers it, making it somewhat easy to miss if trying to press it from the side. Thankfully, it’s still entirely functional, minus a few missed presses here and there while learning the proper finger placement.
Battery life is quite good when using the lower settings, and even after several trips, using it around the house, and even taking it to work, I’m yet to have to replace any batteries after a few months use. The brightness levels are just about perfect too, without any excessive bright levels to eat batteries away, but plenty of light for night hiking, or working in camp.
The headlamp is somewhat waterproof, rated to take a quick dunk or splash, but prolonged exposure could prove to be a problem, so no caving with this one. It’s rated at something similar to IPx4, but a non-sealed battery compartment likely prevents it from being more resilient in watery conditions.
The headlamp is fairly comfortable, with a curved plate that’s covered in the elastic band to provide some padding. It’s light enough that it doesn’t bob around while hiking, and the band does a nice job of gripping in place. It’s not exceptional in this area, but it suffices.
The adjustability is good for the average sized head, but children or those will small craniums may find themselves with a flappy lantern. I barely have enough adjustment with the band to cinch down to my size head, and I consider my skull fairly standard in size. Smaller users may run into some issues here.
Overall, it’s a pretty great headlamp. It’s been reliable, is properly light weight, and provides one of the most easy to use interfaces I’ve ever tested. There is nothing to remember when it comes to operation, and digging it out of a pack and firing it up in the middle of the night is impressively easy. The price is fair too, easier being one of the better values I’ve come across.
For more information on Princeton TEc and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, http://princetontec.com/
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I want to extend a huge thanks to Princeton Tec 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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