I refrain from giving any gear too much praise, but I have to applaud Black Diamond for coming up with one of the best headlamps available on the market. The Black Diamond Spot Headlamp comes equipped with more features than your standard headlamp, yet its price rivals those without them. Before we get started with its review, know that this is written for the 2017 model Black Diamond Spot Headlamp.
Black Diamond Spot Specifications
Weight w/ batteries: 88 g (3.1 oz)
Max distances: [High] 80 m; [Low] 16 m
Max burn time: [High] 30 H (est.); [Low] 175 H (est.)
IPX rating: IPX8
LED type: 1 QuadPower, 1 DoublePower, 1 SinglePower
Batteries: 3 AAA (included)
My thoughts and review
White light brightness & intensity
The decision to upgrade the new Spot Headlamps to 300 lumens was the right call by Black Diamond. While I don’t have any personal experience with the 2016 model, which was 200 lumens, I do have plenty of experience with a variety of dimmer headlamps. Low lumen headlamps don’t help much when the sky is black and you find yourself in the dense parts of the wilderness. Some of those lights are so dim that you are better off turning off your headlamp and relying on your natural night vision instead. The Spot Headlamp provides enough light to illuminate a comfortable distance ahead; you can see where you’re going and nothing will take you by surprise.
In case you didn’t know, red light is better than white light for preserving your night vision. Red light and white light interchangeability might not matter much for civilian use, but it sure does for military personnel. If you ever had another soldier who didn’t know how to work his headlamp ruin your night vision, you know exactly what I mean. While your Spot Headlamp is off, holding onto the on/off button will turn on the red light without ever transmitting white light during the process. The Spot Headlamp also saves the last used setting when you turn off the headlamp, so it will continuously use red light until you revert back to white.
Most headlamps offer a combination of light outputs. At the very least, you will likely have a low setting, high setting, and possibly a strobe setting as well. What I found convenient about the Spot Headlamp was that you can hold the on/off button and it will steadily increase/decrease the brightness of your light output. When you turn off your Spot headlamp and turn it back on, the brightness memory feature will use whatever brightness level you left it on.
This Black Diamond headlamp also uses the PowerTap feature. By tapping the PowerTap symbol on the side of the headlamp, it will immediately switch to its max brightness. Tapping it again will revert it back to your dimmed setting. As great as this feature is, it turns out it can also be inconvenient. I found several users complaining about the unreliability of the PowerTap feature. At first, I did think that the PowerTap feature was a bit faulty. However, after some extended use, I discovered that the key is to not do a “quick” tap, but to do a deliberate tap; make contact between your finger and the PowerTap surface for almost a full second. I found that using a deliberate tap makes the PowerTap feature work 100% of the time. After some time to get familiarized with the headlamp, it was no longer an issue for me.
Battery life indicator
A useful feature of the Spot Headlamp is the battery life indicator, but I have yet to see any retailer highlight this feature. The battery life indicator is a simple feature, but is almost unique as most headlamps don’t have it. The battery life is indicated by three different lights: green (100%–50%), yellow (50%–25%), and red (25%-0%).
I don’t believe the Black Diamond Spot has any serious drawbacks. My new Spot Headlamp is my trusted go-to headlamp for any nighttime activity. However, as I illustrated in this review, the Spot Headlamp can be confusing and difficult to learn at first. After all, it has its many great features and functions, but only one button. In fact, the majority of negative reviews and criticism come from users who are frustrated with its intricacies. Fortunately, in an effort to aid the learning process, Black Diamond has released a short two-minute video on YouTube last month detailing its operation. In lieu of writing out meticulous instructions (manual available here), I invite you to watch the aforementioned video as the visuals far exceed what I can illustrate on pen and paper.
-High-value headlamp for a great price
-300 lumens (2016 model was 200 lumens)
-Memory brightness feature
-Battery life indicator
-Controls might be confusing to use at first
At the time of writing this review, the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp has an MSRP of $39.95. For its price, the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp is one of the best headlamps you can get. Just be sure you know whether you’re purchasing the 2016 model or the new 2017 model. It is difficult to use at first, but as with all things, it gets easier once you familiarize yourself with it. If you prefer a simpler headlamp, you might consider something like the Princeton Tec Sync, which uses a turning knob. While my first impressions of this headlamp are great, I am eager to see how well it holds up after some long-term use. You can expect an updated review from me down the road.