I'll have to admit that most of my gear is well-used. It has served me well and I hope it will continue to do just that. Headlamps however seem to be going through a well-needed renaissance. After years of bulky headlamps with several AAA batteries that get dim and wear out fast, the new ones are sleek and bright. If you haven’t upgraded in more than 5 years, it’s time to go to your local retailer and see what is out there.
The go-to headlamp for most adventures ‘back in my day’ was a $50 Petzl. When it came out it was small, bright enough, and easy to wear. I’ve still got a couple but the stretch has worn out of the headband and the brightness does not meet my standards anymore. Not great for biking around in the dark but good enough to find your bathroom spot in the middle of the night.
Considered bright 20 years ago, this barely registers now. Several versions exist with differing designs. Suffice to say the battery was bigger. There were versions that allowed storage of the battery off of the headlamp which kept it warm and functional during winter activities. Some had more elaborate headgear to balance the headlamp and the battery. I didn’t like these, they were bulky and expensive, mostly for niche use. Current headlamps that register this brightness are made for use at close range. They are inexpensive and quite lightweight.
Now we’re talking! As we moved to LED lights about 10-15 years ago, the brightness went up and battery drain went down. This allowed for a revolution in technology. Apply new lights to existing hardware and voila(!) you have a better mousetrap.
Over the last few years we seem to be achieving ever higher brightness combined with new form and function. The lights can now dim based on ambient light with certain models. A combination of a central bright spotter with more diffuse smaller LEDs seems to be the industry standard. With this brightness I can comfortably ski in the dark, and trail run any time of night.
The arms race continues but like the megapixel war for cameras, it doesn’t really need to. Anything brighter and you are now the guy that forgot his headlights are on and blinding everyone. I’m excited to see how this product category evolves over time. I foresee smaller rechargeable batteries, lighter more comfortable units, while maintaining dimmable brightness
Anyone out there like to trail run at night? In winter? I have had some eerie encounters with moose. When it is snowy out, I usually run with minimal brightness with the snow acting as a reflector. Moose however appear as a dark spot similar to a tree but with 2 reflective eyes staring back at you, silently judging. They often congregate in groups of 2-3 but are less apt to charge for some reason. Don’t forget to stay warm and wrap yourself in Alpine fit!