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  • Guthook's Gear Guide: Headlamps

    Written by Guthook at Guthook Hikes!

    It seems strange to write a "gear guide" to headlamps because I only own two, but between those two headlamps I have everything I need for now. I can imagine another reason I would buy another headlamp in the future, but for now, Petzl earns my great respect for their line of headlamps

    Look at that tiny little e+Lite. It's so nice and small!

    Petzl E+Lite:
    29 grams (1 oz) with 2 CR2032 batteries.
    7 grams (0.25 oz) for two CR2032 batteries.

    I love that Petzl advertises the e+Lite as an emergency headlamp, because I usually use it as my primary light while backpacking. Since I try to avoid night hiking, my only use for a headlamp is for reading and journaling at night, or doing simple chores around camp. The e+Lite puts out plenty of light for these tasks, and for only one ounce in my pack. One ounce! Considering how infrequently I use the light in three-season backpacking, this is the perfect weight for a piece of equipment.

    If I find myself hiking at night for some reason, it gets the job done as well, although it's not very good for a night hiking headlamp. As with many headlamps, it is brightest with fresh batteries, so I usually keep two sets of spare batteries with me on long trips. If it looks like I'll be out long after dark, I may switch to fresh batteries before it gets dark so that I'll have the best light until I reach camp for the night.

    The only problem for me with the e+Lite, and the reason why I may not use it much anymore, is the batteries. CR2032's are not the easiest batteries to come by, and they're not cheap. Usually, in stores, I find them for about $1 apiece. Granted, I don't use the headlamp all that often, so I don't buy many of those batteries, but it's still a pain.

    Tikka XP2 and Core battery disassembled.

    Petzl Tikka XP 2 Core Headlamp:
    XP2 without batteries: 54 grams (1.9 oz).
    Core: 30 grams (1 oz).
    3 Sanyo Eneloop AAAs: 36 grams (1.3 oz).
    3 standard AAAs: 34 grams (1.2 oz).
    3 Energizer Ultimate Lithium AAAs: 23 grams (0.8 oz).

    I started using the XP2 on the Pacific Crest Trail because I expected to hike at night a lot. The Core battery came later, and I've found both were fine investments. The XP2 is more of a traditional LED headlamp, which takes either 3 AAA batteries or one Core battery pack, and it lights up the night like a portable sun. Though I rarely hiked at night on the Pacific Crest Trail, the XP2 was worth its weight in gold for those few occasions. The super-bright LED is doubly effective because of the easily toggled diffuser plate, which switches between a long-distance, concentrated beam of light, and a wide beam for general viewing.

    Tikka XP2 with normal batteries.

    The Core battery is a very nice addition to the headlamp. It recharges via a USB cord, eliminating the need for normal batteries and saving a few more from going in the trash. This could be especially useful for through-hikes, since one USB wall charger could be used for charging both my phone and my headlamp, saving me from carrying extra chargers or dealing with a bounce box full of chargers. The Core is probably even more useful now that I'm a weekend-warrior, since I don't have to worry about batteries degrading over time as they sit on my shelf at home. I can just check the charge indicator on the battery, and know that I have enough for the weekend.

    Tikka XP2, fattened with the Core.

    Compared to other batteries for the the XP2, the Core has its ups and downs. You can see by the pictures that the Core adds a fair amount of bulk to the headlamp. I was surprised when I weighed all the battery combinations, though, since I figured the Core would weigh significantly more than standard batteries, and that my NiMH Sanyo Eneloops would also be very heavy. Not so. The Core holds its own quite well for weight compared to standard batteries. The Energizer Lithium batteries are significantly lighter, brighter, and longer-lasting, but they are on the pricey side and can't be recharged.

    The weight, then, is the main disadvantage to the Tikka XP2. "What's he complaining about?" you may ask. With the Core, the weight is still just under 3 ounces, and with lithium batteries it gets down to 2.7 ounces. That's nothing, right? For most people, yes, but for me, not so much. I won't feel the difference in one ounce in my backpack, but I like to do whatever I can to avoid creeping ounces. Adding an ounce here and an ounce there eventually turns into a half pound, a pound, or more of extra weight in the pack. But that's a story for another day.

    I'll stick with the XP2 Core for now, mainly due to the fact that I won't have to buy piles of batteries, but I can tell you one thing I'd buy in a heartbeat if it becomes available anytime soon.

    Petzl, are you listening?

    e+Lite Core: 1.5 ounces, including the lithium battery pack, rechargeable by USB. I'll be waiting for it.