I’m getting old — there’s just no way around it. Funny thing is, I get older by the day! Here’s a dirty little secret that you discover when you reach, oh, around age 45: all of a sudden one day you’ll wonder why you can only read the newspaper at arm’s length — but arm’s length is too far away to see the print!
That’s a sign that it’s time for bifocals… I resisted that concept for many years; surely it was a sign of Old Fogeyism. Hey, that’s just not me! The Eye Doc finally convinced me that with these new-fangled progressive lenses, nobody would know the difference.
He was right! But one of the drawbacks of losing close up vision is that it seems like it takes 2-3 times the brightness to see anything. Maybe that’s what is subliminally feeding my obsession with finding the perfect flashlight?
The latest copy of the REI catalog gave me an idea. They offer some nice-looking LED flashlights that mount on your head, like for people who work in coal mines or something.
I guess the REI customers use them for exploring caves or for being able to hang on at night with two hands when their only shelter is hanging from a cliff or something. “Wow!”, I thought, “something like that would be great for working on bikes!”. Hands-free lighting — move your head and the light points where you want it…cool!
But being the cheapskate that I am, I didn’t want to pay the $30 to almost $60 that REI is getting for their deluxe models. So I put off the purchase, until one day I was walking through Home Depot and there it was, hanging on a shelf and calling out to me — the Energizer Headlight! And only $9.94, so I took the chance.
The Headlight works pretty much as intended, but mounting it on your head does take some getting used to. The problem is that it’s fairly heavy (no, I still don’t have a scale; I must get one soon!), and the weight feels like it is centered way out in front of your forehead.
This means you have to lash it down pretty tight to stay in place (the better headlamps have their battery packs located remotely, either mounted in back of your head or in a case you can put in your pocket).
It has a simple elastic strap with a couple of those friction buckles that are used to make it tight. The Headlight comes with plenty of extra elastic — I can’t imagine a head too large for the Headlight to fit! There’s actually more of a problem fitting smaller heads.
We found that it is difficult to fit the Headlight on head sizes of around size 7 or smaller. My wife, who wears a size 7, finds that by time she gets it tight enough to stay on her forehead, the strap is uncomfortable.
Nevertheless, the Headlight works pretty much as intended; you have to be a bit careful to keep your head steady once it’s on, because if you swing your head too quickly, it feels like it’s slipping out of place.
The Headlight takes 4 AA batteries (Energizers are included), which slip into the side of the ABS plastic unit. I’m not a big fan of AA’s, because they seem to lose power pretty quickly, but if you use rechargeable batteries, you’ll probably be fine.
As you can see from the photo (top left), the battery cover includes an O-ring, so there is probably some modicum of water resistance, although they don’t make any claim for the product. The Headlight is available at REI, and their description of the product claims that it’s waterproof.
Be careful when you install the batteries, because that O-ring comes off very easily, and it has a very small diameter, so it’s easy to slip off and get lost.
The Headlight’s lamp can be positioned up or down; it swings through about an 85-degree arc, starting from a level position and declining.
It has 8 positive click-locked positions through its rotation, which is a nice feature, because you can hear each click and you can easily find a favorite position. The downside is that there aren’t any finer adjustments, but I found that its range was fine for my use.
I keep it on the second click down from the top for work that’s about an arm’s length away, and one or two clicks down for very close work.
The black button (bottom photo, above) is the on/off switch. Energizer claims that it’s a “lifetime push-button switch”, rated for over 30,000 cycles. That’s pretty impressive!
It also has a bright Krypton bulb (4.8 volt, 0.75 amp.). I’m glad that they finally found a peaceful use for this stuff instead of hurting Superman with it. 😉
The problem I’ve noticed with some of the modern flashlights that use Krypton or Halogen bulbs is that the reflector designs don’t seem to have kept up with the the power of the bulbs.
It’s my impression that many modern flashlights don’t throw an even light — there are usually too many hot spots that I find distracting. I really crave a flashlight with a nice, bright, white, even beam. I’m going to ask for one of REI’s dual bulb, LED/halogen headlights for Christmas and see what happens!
The Headlight’s beam can be focused. Photo 4 (above) illustrates the beam on the most focused setting.
Photo 5 (above) illustrates the Headlight’s beam opened up to the widest position. There’s quite a bit of dark space in the middle; this type of beam might be alright for illuminating something at a long distance, but not for up close work.
I use the Headlight mostly on its narrowest beam, as illustrated in Photo 4.
The Energizer Headlight has a lifetime warranty (excluding the bulb) on materials and workmanship. It’s interesting to note that I could not find any reference to the Headlight flashlight on the Energizer web site; so either this is a very new product, an older product that is being discontinued, or they haven’t gotten around to posting any information about it yet.
I’m not sure about the value of this product. While it does provide hands-free illumination, I think it would probably be worthwhile to spend a bit more money to get a product that has a better design. My feeling is that a head mounted flashlight needs to have less weight, and the the weight should be centered closer to the forehead. The light beam should be more evenly focused; possibly an LED bulb with the ability to focus the beam would be a better choice.
Check out the variety of head-mounted flashlights on the REI site; you’ll notice that the higher priced headlamps have the battery pack located remotely, either so that they are located in the rear of the head, or in a separate battery pack. I’m sure this is to even out the weight distribution and help keep the headlamp more secure when it’s in place on your head.