Princeton Tec Yukon HL Review
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
Powerful two-stage headlamp, made in the U.S.A. and with a lifetime warranty (that I have used!).
The Princeton Tec Yukon headlamp is one of the most important tools in the webBikeWorld garage.
LED headlamps have become an essential item around the webBikeWorld garage.
A good quality headlamp can really come in handy for lighting any type of motorcycle repair project or maintenance task.
And once you've used a good headlamp, you'll probably never go back to flashlights again...
I do a lot of work on motorcycles, and a headlamp has become an essential tool for me. Yes, I still get a laugh here and there when someone wanders into the garage who hasn't seen a headlamp before.
Maybe they look a bit nerdy, but the last laugh is on me, because they work so well.
There are several different LED, incandescent and hybrid (combination LED and incandescent bulbs) headlamps to choose from in my garage, and I'm always on the lookout for new types of headlamps to add to the collection.
Until recently, LEDs weren't powerful enough to replace the halogen bulb headlamps, but LED lighting technology is evolving at a rapid pace.
It seems like about every 6 months or so there's a new generation of LEDs coming to market, and I can now finally say that there are LED flashlights and headlamps that have the light output of their halogen brethren.
Some of the early LED flashlights and headlamps that we reviewed did not live up to expectations and are a poor replacement for a bright halogen flashlight. But the promise of LEDs are greatly increased battery life, no bulb replacement, light weight and resistance to vibration.
This Princeton TEC Yukon HL is definitely the best LED-only headlamp we've tried so far. Princeton TEC products are made in the U.S.A. (with some imported components), and Princeton TEC specializes in the manufacture of flashlights and headlamps using LED and incandescent technology. They have a selection of lighting products for scuba diving and outdoor use.
Princeton is a familiar name to climbers, spelunkers, scuba divers, hunters and outdoor sports enthusiasts, and the REI co-op has carried Princeton lighting products for many years.
Headlamps are so much better to use than flashlights when working on a motorcycle, because they leave both hands free and their light is naturally directed on to the work. It seems that no matter how bright the lights are in the garage, I always need some type of auxiliary light directed on the immediate work area, and headlamps are my light of choice.
They're especially useful to carry in your saddlebags or tank bag whilst on travel. If you break down at night, if you're setting up a tent in the dark, or even if you're just stowing gear in a saddlebag in the early dawn before a long ride, a headlamp is the only way to go.
The Yukon HL weighs a relatively light 229 grams (8.0 oz.) with three AA batteries. Princeton TEC includes three Duracell AAA alkaline batteries in the package, which is a nice touch. When the Duracell batteries wear out, I'll use rechargeables.
We try to use rechargeable batteries whenever possible for the cameras and electronic gear around here, because we seem to go through batteries very quickly and used batteries are nasty things to throw away and have lurking in the environment.
The head attachment for a headlamp can make a big difference in comfort, and the Yukon HL's strap system is very comfortable. It has a single 25 mm (1") elastic strap that fits circumferentially around the head and has a single adjuster.
Another 25 mm strap that fits radially over the top of the head and it also has an adjuster. The inside of the straps are soft and are comfortable against the head.
The heavy-duty plastic battery pack is located at the rear of the assembly and is carried in back of the head. This gives the system approximately a 60/40 weight distribution, biased towards the rear.
Too much weight up front is uncomfortable, and we've found that a quick swing of the head can dislodge the lamp on some headlamp models, so Princeton TEC's design works well.
The battery pack is square at about 72 mm (~2-3/4") in both length and height (not counting the strap locating tabs on each side), and it's about 25 mm (1") thick. The inside of the battery pack is curved, which adds to the comfortable fit.
The batteries are inserted by opening a very secure latch on the top of the battery pack. The lid is hinged, and the batteries are easily replaced.
A permanently mounted square section O-ring (not really an O-ring if it's square!) is located around the inside of the lid to help make the unit water resistant.
The power lead for the LED light feeds through a rubber grommet on the side of the battery pack, and the wire is encased in a flexible vinyl sheathing. The power lead is attached to the circumferential strap on the right-hand side with two adjustable clips, and there are a couple of inches of extra wire to accommodate larger sized heads.
The Yukon HL's packaging claims that the unit is "water resistant", and we don't doubt it. The Yukon HL seems to be very well made, and the combination of O-rings and grommets leaves us to believe it should be very resistant toany water intrusion.
REI's information page for the Yukon HL states that the headlamp is waterproof, but there's a technical difference between "water resistant" and "waterproof", and I believe the REI information is slightly optimistic.
The lighting module seems to have the same high quality as the rest of the product. The lamp has a soft rubber-like cover that holds the clear lens. It unscrews using a fine thread and it has an internal O-ring to keep out moisture. The body of the lighting module is made from a blue translucent plastic material, and the LEDs inside are mounted on a spring-loaded system to help ensure good contact to the power lead when the cover is screwed on.
The module has a friction hinge that allows it to be tilted through a 90-degree arc, from straight ahead to straight down, and we seem to have no problems locating it in the correct orientation to provide good light on the work area.
The Yukon HL has a dual-range LED lighting system. Press the covered button on top of the lamp unit once, and three 5 mm LEDs on the outside of the reflector will turn on. Press again and these 3 LEDs will turn off. The fourth press turns on the "high-output" 1-Watt LED in the center of the reflector, and the next press turns it off again.
The button is the only thing we really didn't like on this light. The problem is that the button is both recessed and covered with a thick rubber-like shroud to keep out water, which makes it difficult to press with a fingertip. You have to sort of dig a fingernail in there to activate it, and it seems to always take a couple of tries to get it to click.
The light output of the 3 radially mounted LEDs is about average, and Princeton claims up to 120 hours of battery life when only using those lights.
They work well for general use around the motorcycle at night; for example, when packing or when giving the bike a quick once-over.
But the real gem of the Yukon HL is the 1-Watt centrally mounted LED. It throws a very bright light for an LED, and it's one of the brightest LEDs we've tried.
It's certainly brighter than any other LED headlight we've used, and it rivals the brightest LED flashlights, such as the Gerber Reactor 3 we recently reviewed.
Princeton TEC claims that the 1-Watt bulb can burn for about 25 hours on its set of three AA batteries.
This animated photo illustrates the Princeton Yukon HL in action. The first photo is the control photo taken in ambient light, during the day with the garage door closed.
The next photo illustrates the Yukon HL using the 3 radially mounted 5 mm LEDs, and the final frame shows the 1-Watt centrally mounted LED.
By the way, there apparently is no standardized labeling system for the hybrid headlamps or flashlights that use both LEDs and incandescent bulbs, so make sure you read the marketing materials carefully so that you know what you're buying.
An incandescent bulb can usually generate lots of light at the expense of dramatically reduced battery life.
Also, there is a version of the Yukon that uses an incandescent bulb in the central location. We haven't tried this one, but it's about $20.00 cheaper.
Twenty bucks will buy a lot of batteries, so you'll have to decide for yourself whether or not the benefits of LED lighting outweighs the cost. I'm sure that in the near future that LED flashlights and headlamps will be the only way to go, and their cost will probably drop dramatically even as the technology improves and the light output increases.
I really like the technology of LEDs, and I also like not having to worry as much about battery life. We've found that LEDs can take the abuse that often occurs in the garage from dropping, banging and general mishandling much better than an incandescent light with a flimsy filament.
The Princeton Yukon HL is more expensive than other headlamps, but it's the only one we've found that has the lighting equivalent of an incandescent.
It also seem to have much higher quality than the imports. Princeton offers a lifetime warranty with this product. If you can only own one headlamp - and you should own at least one! - this is the one to get. Until, that is, technology improves the breed...
July 2012 - I recently had the opportunity to "test" the Princeton Tec lifetime warranty for the Yukon HL. After using the headlamp for many years, one day I discovered that the Energizer batteries had leaked and corroded the terminals and plastic in the battery pack.
I had forgotten all about the lifetime warranty, but after going online to see if I could get the headlamp repaired at Princeton Tec, I realized it was still covered. I sent an email to Princeton Tec, who quickly responded with a return authorization and a few days later, I had a brand-new Yukon HL mailed back to me. Fantastic!