Leading lights: Headlamps spotlight users’ movements

See what will be lighting up campsites and routes for 2014.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

While the debate between AAA and rechargeable lithium batteries in headlamps rages on — most brands now offer both options in a single product — other innovations are enlightening the category with solutions for movement and maintaining lumen power.

Black Diamond, Petzl and Princeton Tec have updated their basic models with more lumens and rechargeable options, and many rechargeable models also work off standard AAAs, giving the products added versatility. A great example is the Princeton Tec Remix Rechargeable (MSRP $80), offering 175 lumens, with the ability to switch between the rechargeable lithium-ion battery or three standard AAAs.

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Taking a cue from Apple to create a product that solves a problem of which we may not have been aware, Snow Peak introduces the Motil. The headlamp employs an innovative system with a counter-weighted LED to rotate the light up or down automatically when users move their heads, eliminating the need to adjust the position manually. According to Nate Brown, general manager at Snow Peak, “By focusing more on changing the design, rather than the technical specs, we hope to offer people a product that address a functionality problem common across all headlamps.”

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Another problem, according to Justin Roth, communication manager at Petzl, is that while headlamps are advertised as having a certain amount of burn time, users only get max output for some of it. Then the power begins to fade, and for most of the battery’s life the output is sub-maximal. Enter Constant Lighting technology, now in the Tikka + (MSRP $40) and Tikka XP (MSRP $55), in which a chip regulates the output of the headlamp to provide a steady stream over the course of the battery’s life. Instead of starting out at 100 lumens for a couple of hours, and ending up at 20 lumens for ages, you get a constant 100, albeit with a shorter battery life. Petzl believes the reliability is worth the trade-off.

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The integration of lighting elements into existing products continues, such as with the GoMotion Synergy Hydration Lightvest (MSRP $80). This 1-liter hydration pack features a 100-lumen Cree LED on the front for forward visibility, as well as flashing red taillights, which can be switched on or off. The front light, which features 110 degrees of rotation up or down, sits at chest level, improving depth perception. Because of its position on the body, the light stays steady even when running down a trail. Also, the light’s three levels don’t diminish as battery life fades, instead powering down to the next level once it can no longer sustain the higher output.

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Looking to make headlamps easier to use, Black Diamond’s Storm (MSRP $50) and Spot (MSRP $40) will feature the brand’s new Power Tap technology, which allows for adjustment of the lighting level with a simple touch on the right side of the headlamp. Tap the touch-sensitive area to boost the power, and tap it again to reduce it back down to a dimmer level.