So many ways to shine a light this holiday season. Do good unto others is the most basic. And if you’re a certain reindeer with a red nose, shine your nose-light as you venture out tonight. And if you’re a go-getter in the early AM or dodging around ski trails after sunset: maybe it’s time for a headlamp upgrade.
We tested two Black Diamond headlamps for approximately three months. Both on and off snow and trail/road running.
Black Diamond Sprinter
The first model is for folks intent on running in the dark in placed where you might encounter road traffic. This is where the BD Sprinter is at home. The Sprinter boasts a rear-facing red strobe. An alert night time motorist is able to see you’re out there logging the hours. The blinking/strobing red light screams pedestrian. Always better safe than sorry. Hi-vis reflective clothing is key for running in low light situations. But in the event the reflective schwag is in the dirty laundry pile and you choose not to wear it anyway, the Sprinter has you covered. (For those on the ski trails, the Sprinter’s rear strobe can be switched off.)
The 105 gram unit is fitted with a rechargeable USB Li-ion battery. That’s right, no AAA batteries for the Sprinter. Like almost all high-tech gadgets, the only way for an energy refresh is to recharge. The Sprinter comes with a USB charging cord, but not a plug for a wall outlet. You’ll have to use a computer, or poach one of those ubiquitous white wall plug blocks to fill the power up. (It takes approximately five hours to fully recharge.)
The Li-ion battery is housed in the rear with the strobe. A weatherproof wire runs discretely from the battery along the head strap to the front headlamp. The housing for the front lamp is reduced in size — it’s approximately one inch by one inch square with the lamp in the middle. A stretchable strap running from the front lamp to the rear strobe/battery sits atop the head and makes for a secure fit. With a bit of weight in the front and the back, the top strap prevents any slippage down the forehead or rear of the head.
If you are keen on wearing ski hats with a pom-pom, that might be a deal-breaker as far as the Sprinter is concerned. The strap running atop the head needs to be flipped to the side of the pom-pom. Not really a big deal. But for those fixated on symmetry, well, the top will be slightly askew. And remember, it’s dark out. No one will see.
One tester who runs with a ponytail noted that sometimes she had a tough time finding a sweet spot to accommodate her ponytail. Grilled further for details, she stated ponytail comfort was a problem she has with most headlamps. So no special ponytail fittings with the BD Sprinter.
The Sprinter’s brightness runs from 4 lumens (lm) to a max of 200 lm. The front lamp has a dimming button to adjust brightness. Th 4 lm is rated for 7 meters, the 200 lm extends your range of visibility to 50 meters. Both of these are accurate. On snow, we preferred to dim down the lumens, as much of the light is reflected.
BD says the Sprinter, on a full charge, runs 4 hours at 200 lm. We tested this on several cold mornings for two hours with no issues with the light dimming or the battery draining. However, take precautions if depending on the Sprinter in low-low temps and you are intent on pushing that four-hour threshold. Be conservative when navigating at night with the Sprinter on big backcountry days. Li-ion batteries historically have a tough go with running time in bitter cold temps. Although we like the rechargeable battery, the Sprinter probably should not be your go-to for big days in the mountains. When the battery drains, that’s it. Lights out.
The Sprinter is weatherproof and comes with a three-year warranty. The retail cost is $79.95. But if you sniff around, this rechargeable gem of a headlamp, with a bonus safety strobe in the rear, can be had for roughly $60.00.
The BD Spot
Right upfront, we’ll say this: the Spot is what you think of when it comes to headlamp essentials. This is a trail-ready — dirt, rock, or snow — headlamp. It features a basic stretchy strap to secure the headlamp on your head. The lamp and batteries are housed in a single front unit. Like many headlamps, the Spot runs on three AAA batteries. (Unlike the Sprinter, it is not rechargeable. However, it will take rechargeable AAA batteries.)
Running through the simple stats, the Spot is waterproof to one meter and comes with a three-year warranty. Without batteries, the Spot weighs 50 grams. Add in the batteries at approximately 36 grams, and it’s an 86 gram package.
Like the Sprinter, the Spot comes with a “power tap” which is BD’s way of saying the brightness is adjustable with the touch of a button.
The Spot has three basic settings for brightness: 6 lm, 160 lm, and a robust 325 lumens at its brightest. In “bright” mode, the Spot uses light from two separate LEDs to harness that bump to over 300 lumens. With the three basic brightness settings, the Spot shines when considering close up and far away functionality. In other words, if you are fumbling for a tin of kick wax and applying wax on the fly, the Spot can dial back the brightness for a dimmed down but still well-lit work environment.
Running, skiing, camping, the Spot really has you covered in terms of output and burn time. If you are one who pushes the scale of their adventures, have no fear: bring a spare set of AAAs and you can run the Spot on medium output, about 60 lm, for even the darkest of nights on the solstice excluding maybe those rarefied locales that don’t see any sun this time of year. We feel for you.
Another key feature for big days is what BD calls reserve power. The Spot is programmed to provide a beam of light to about four meters distant when the batteries are running low. That reserve light is minimal, but it will do in a pinch when it hits the fan. (The Spot comes with an illuminated battery charge indicator along the side.)
We loved the Spot. The only drawback, no rear-facing strobe for those more urban-based runs.
The Spot retails for about $40.00, but this time of year, look around and you’ll spot the Spot for $25.00. It’s a reliable design and a workhorse.
Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.