The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Great Headlamp

I’m a huge believer in always having good light when working on our boat, so I wear a headlamp pretty much from the time I start a job below to when I knock off.

And not one of those wimpy little things with a couple of AAA cells in them for me, I want a seriously bright light that floods a wide area.

For probably 20 years I used a Fenix HP10 LED headlamp driven by four AA rechargeable Ni–MH batteries. And even with that battery capacity I would usually end up changing the batteries out halfway through the day.

Over the last few years I have tried one or two lithium battery headlamps but always found them wanting:

  • Too complicated with a bunch of features I didn’t need, necessitating many button presses to get to the bright white I use all the time.
  • Poor battery life.
  • Difficult to source funky batteries that required special chargers.

But last winter, when one of my trusty old HP10s bit the big one, I got serious about finding a lithium replacement.

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Iain Dell

Hi John – may I ask why you didn’t go for one with a red light facility, please?

Iain Dell

That’s really useful; thanks, John. I was thinking of the ‘thingummy’ that comes adrift/needs fixing when on watch alone at night but I guess if its that important then its worth seeing clearly to sort it out properly. I’m aware that there’s several papers about the benefits or otherwise of coloured lights at night where its argued that it can be quite person-specific. However, I was interested in your own practical experience and appreciate your reasoning.

These small articles can be quite thought-provoking and I’m grateful for your reply. Very timely as my last headlamp didn’t survive the winter…!

Torsten Hansen

Thanks for the tip(s). Who knows, with this I jut might be able to end my long search for a headlamp that I really like, which would be a relief. For what it’s worth, my favorite so far is a Husky model with a wrap around strip and a single spot light. I find that the gentler light of the strip reduces the hard shadows that make work such as sanding and painting more difficult. The spot allows clarity for detail work.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John and all,
I had an earlier Fenix headlamp which I quite liked. It fairly quickly (first year or so) developed a problem and the only assessment/repair could be done in China. I thought sending it there was a little ridiculous, but it was not that much money and as kind of a lark, I sent it along. That was the last I heard of it and follow up letters went unanswered: not unexpected, but disappointing.
Since that time, I have been happy with my Black Diamond headlamp (only complaint is too many bells and whistles for my needs) and a friend swears by his very in-expensive led headlamps and keeps 2 or 3 in strategic locations on his boat.
Do you know whether repairs/problems are now more locally available?
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
PS. One of the mistakes I learned from on an earlier headlamp is to not have an over-the-top-of-the- head strap to support the lamp. Without this strap the elastic around the head stretches and the lamp falls into your eyes or you have to have the strap too tight to stay in place when bumping your way into tight spaces.

Jim Schulz

Does an over-the-top strap interfere with the ability to wear it around your neck? I like to wear mine around my neck on watch.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Jim,
Yes, I suspect it probably would, or at least be awkward. Perhaps the smaller ones lend themselves to your habit, but the ones I am used to, I think, are big enough to be uncomfortable or have a battery pack on the back. Most over-the-top straps are removable, but are likely necessary to keeping heavier lights in place.
My best, Dick

Chris Daly

Here is my experience with headlamps. There are many cheap units out there which do not give good service. Some 10 years ago I bought a Princeton Tec headlamp which is powered by 3x AAA calls. I have used it during all night passages for over 10 years. It is small and light weight. It has a dimmable red mode and a bright white mode. I use the dim red mode at the helm to provide just enough illumination to see instrument controls. I use the white mode when sail trimming to be able to see sheet colours etc. I have been very impressed with the quality of my 10+yo Princeton Tec headlamp. Even the elastic head band has retained its elasticity, unlike 95% of other brands. I just checked the Princeton Tec website and there are many different headlamp models available. The unit I have is now called “Fred” with the following specs:
POWER 200 Lumens
LAMP1 Red Ultrabright
LED3 White Ultrabright LEDs BURN TIME 41 hours
BATTERIES 3 AAA Alkaline WEIGHT2.8oz / 78g
This would be my choice for sailing headlamp.
Chris Daly
Discovery II

Bradford Lewis

Thanks for all your amazing articles.
But I haven’t seen or read a review about an “Efoy”
Methanal fuel cel battery charger.
What is that all about?

Bradford Lewis