Can I just say that I appreciate a good piece of equipment? Having good, reliable equipment can mean the difference between a spectacular night and a really disappointing night. In the realm of flashlights, perhaps the best lesson to that end was when I began looking for some of Florida’s exotic chameleon populations. I’ll post a little more info on these guys down the road a bit, but for now suffice it to say that I used to be unable to see any more than a single one of them until I upgraded my lighting. I would’ve never found this big male were it not for good, bright, reliable lighting. He was way up in the trees when I saw him:
So for this, the first of flashlight reviews on this blog, I’ll be reviewing the Fenix HP10, a headlamp that packs some serious power. To establish criteria for future flashlight reviews, I’ll give everything a grade in the areas of overall brightness, width of beam, throw, water penetration, light penetration, battery, size, price, dependability, ruggedness, and “other.” So, let’s get this started.
The Fenix HP10 has been my #1 headlamp for quite a while now, so that should give you an idea of its favorability from the get-go. I will be the first to admit that I did have technical problems with my first HP10 (the on/off button was malfunctioning) but I emailed Fenix and they fixed it for me. I don’t blame the torch – malfunctions happen and sometimes you get the unluck 1 in a million – and Fenix’s immediate willingness to repair/replace it was lovely. The one down side to that was it had to be sent to China to be fixed; though I believe that problem has been remedied of late.
Overall brightness – 8/10 – This isn’t gonna be your main light for spotlighting mammals in the bush or anything like that, but for a headlight at 225 lumens, the brightness is superb. The only way I could see a headlamp would score a 9 or 10 for me would be if it was exorbitantly expensive.
Width of Beam – 7/10 – On the better side of average. It’s good for shining one object/etc., but can cause issues for night-hikes if you’re one of those people who likes a wide periphery. Sometimes you can lose that snake/lizard/invertebrate/mammal if it’s not in the beam. Now, that said, it does have a very wide spot; but it would be nice if it included a flood option. Actually, they do offer a flood option, but you have to pay an extra 5 bucks for the diffuser. At such a cheap price (less than $5) I would have said that the fact that they sell a diffuser represents merely a lack of foresight and not a grab for a couple extra bucks; but they also sell a diffuser for the newer HP20. I’m not saying anything, I’m just sayin’. All that said, the diffuser works wonders and can really help you spot a lot more critters if you get in the habit of using it.
Throw – 9/10 – My first field trial of the HP10 was a night hike at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Okeechobee County, FL, and I was immediately struck by what a capable light this was for shining object far off. Not only can you see the Cornsnake meandering across your path a few feet ahead, you can spot the Bobcat observing you on the other side of the clearing. Once again: it’s a headlamp so don’t expect a car headlight, but beautiful throw nonetheless.
Water/Light Penetration – 7/10 – One of the problems my good friend Jason had with LEDs back in the day was their lack of ability to pierce the light on the highbeams of a car when out looking for a snake that was making its way across. Because of that, it took him a long time to try out any light other than a good Maglite – this is not an issue with the HP10s CREE LED. Nor is water penetration – being able to see through murky water for frogs and other amphibians is something that’s important to me in a light: this light perhaps isn’t the best at this, but on turbo mode (the highest of 4 modes) it gets the job done.
Battery – 10/10 – General rule of thumb: you can’t go wrong with AA’s. This unit uses 4 of them and they last me a full weekend of camping or 4 or 5 herping trips no problem. Also, the light is regulated so the output is relatively constant until the batteries are dead dead – none of that gradual fade to oblivion we all know and love from older flashlights.
Size – 9/10 – Nothing cumbersome here. Not as small as a tikka if you’re traveling really light, but I honestly can’t think of a situation where I wouldn’t be able to find a spot in my backpack for it. Then there’s always your head if you run out of room there.
Price – 8/10 – At around 60 bucks, this light is affordable and well worth it. I wouldn’t suggest dishing out the money for it if you’re going to take a night hike once a year, but any more than that and I’d say it’s an excellent investment.
Dependability – 8/10 – I’m only going to knock it down a point for the first HP10 I got that was non-functional: the second one has gone to the other side of the world with me and back with no complaints.
Ruggedness – 8/10 – I’ll give a point off in tipped hat to my friend Tim B, who said he broke the plastic on the HP10. I don’t know though: I’m pretty tough on equipment and I’ve never had issues. I do, however, see a strong possibility of cross-threading on the battery department screws, though I’ve never had an issue and I don’t think most rational human beings will either: that leaves quite a few others that might have issue, though.
Other – 6/10 – Don’t let the score in this section scare you away from this light, there’s just a couple of issues here that didn’t fit well into the other criteria. First off is the glare: the light puts out a little bit and it can be distracting. My advice is to wear a hat and the problem is gone, but it might be a issue for non-hat wearers. Also, the light when worn normally is angled upward (or maybe that is the angle of my head?) and if you want your light trained on the ground at your feet (as I often do) it has to be adjusted until the head is facing nearly to the ground. More a aesthetic issue than anything, though. One last grievance is the fact that there’s no way to select your brightness level before turning the light on. This can be a small issue when you are going for a quick “click” of the on button, hoping to shine something far off before it high-tails, only to find the lamp on low.
OVERALL – 80/100
A good light. A really good one. I’m a hard grader and this light is better than most of the stuff on the market today. For someone who finds themselves in need of good lighting a lot, but doesn’t have a ton of cash to blow; I’d recommend this headlamp every time.
While looking for Salamanders in Georgia:
the HP10 with my quarry for the evening: Filadelfia, Paraguay: