Barry Washkansky, blogger from www.hikecapetown.co.za and www.livecapetown.co.za, is one of Cape Town's top Mountain Guides and Trail Runners. He tested our brand new XPh Headlamp and wrote this awesome review.
The first time I did a night run of any real distance was the Bat Run in 2003. I used a basic hand torch which didn’t quite last the distance. My three team mates, two guys and Moon Shadow, the Border Collie, took our time, finishing last at 4.10 am, my torch didn’t last that long. Soon after that I bought my first headlamp and over the years have collected quite a few. Most of them are entry level and I more often than not land up with a dodgy light, with poor batteries and barely enough light to follow the path, I kind of liked it that way, believing excess light to be intrusive on other night runners or hikers.
But seeing as I do enjoy my night time outings, and there isn’t always a full moon to provide additional light, this is not ideal. There were also multiple problems with many of the lights, limited battery life, uncomfortable, difficult to adjust straps, wobbly lights, and a switch that regularly switched on while still in my back pack, leaving me with minimal battery life when needed. Rain was also an issue, often causing havoc with my non waterproof light. When given the opportunity to test drive Extreme Light’s new headlamp, I jumped at it. Finally a head lamp worthy of my limited, albeit enthusiastic, night running and hiking ability. The light sounded great on paper but the best way to test a pudding is to eat it.
The first opportunity to test the headlamp came in the Hex River Mountains. We were hiking the iconic Hex River traverse, and we were pretty sure we would still be out at nightfall. Having started at 7am, it was a spectacular but tiring day on these amazing mountains, and finally after watching the magical sunset still high up on the mountain I could break out my head lamp. Now it was time for the proverbial light/pissing contest – who had the brightest light?
With darkness having descended, we started our descent to Thomas Hut, focussing on a dim light far below us in the valley. I tried my light on its strongest beam and it nearly blinded a few of my hiking buddies. Having said that, one of the group’s own extreme light was technically brighter than mine on its fullest beam but mine lit a bigger surface area – i.e. his was more concentrated and mine offered a wider circumference of light. I had no need for the brightest light – and don’t think I ever will – the second setting was more than ample for my needs and I comfortably walked down to the hut. I tested the lowest setting and it was not bad either, reminding me of my previous lights with poor batteries, only better. A few weeks later and a couple of buddies and I headed up India Venster on a beautiful warm, wind and moon free spring evening, Again I was super impressed with the light and it did its job more than adequately.
I have done numerous testing on it in the past month or so and here are my findings. Battery life First up the battery is a common form rechargeable li-ion battery, allowing you to recharge without removing the battery, even better it also takes triple AAA batteries as backup, the best of both worlds. This battery is common form and easy to find, and should last anywhere from 2-4 years, depending on usage. Comfort While rechargeable batteries can be heavy and cumbersome, this one is just light enough to be comfortable, it sits firmly on my head without a wobble when I run and is easily adjustable.
My colleague with long hair tried it on and she did complain that with her pony tail it was difficult to make the strap comfortable. I have no such issues. The battery is not too large, meaning it doesn’t look like I have a car battery attached to the back of my head. Light This is the first head light in South Africa that uses the new Cree XP-L led. This is cutting edge technology, which can produce more light from less power than any other LED in the world. The lamp has four settings.
- High Way too bright for my needs, don’t know when I would use it, I only used it when trying to spot a couple of porcupines on my way down Table Mountain. (Editor's note: SYNERGY DRIVE TECHNOLOGY starts off very bright and then gradually decreases for about 15 minutes, where after it maintains its strength. This allow your eyes to gradually adjust to the light and prolongs battery life in the process.)
- Mid More than adequate light for my needs. When testing, it lasted in excess of 3 ½ hours, I believe this could be less bright and last longer, which would be perfect.
- Low A decent enough light for a low setting. When I tested it, I let it run consecutively and it lasted for more than 50 hours on the trot. Truly impressive. I believe if this was slightly brighter and could last a minimum of 24 hours, it would be the ideal setting for me and most night runners and hikers.
There is also a flashing light for emergencies.
Waterproof The lamp is fully waterproof, a huge bonus for any adventure race or night runner who likes to spend time on Table Mountain in the middle of an infamous Cape storm. I submerged the headlamp completely for a good few minutes and it worked perfectly. Apparently you cannot operate it under water, i.e. change any settings or switch it on or off while submerged, but when I dunked it, it had no issues with the wet stuff. In theory this light can be submerged to 1m for 30min without affecting the working of the light. It is rated IP67. Overall I think I may have found my prefect headlamp, or let’s say with a few tweaks it could be perfect.
I have used it numerous times, in various conditions and in terms of comfort, lighting and durability it has passed all tests.