Head Lamps for Sportsmen: Flood the Night With Light!

Head Lamps for Sportsmen: Flood the Night With Light!


Headlamps are finally getting more attention from the public and the general sporting community. This might be because we often see movies with special forces troops wearing headlamps over their helmets. Now a days, even the headlamps you find in a hardware store can out class the best head lamps that were sold in a mountaineering store several years ago. This advancement and the increased popularity of headlamps is due to the increased use of the new bulbs we call LED’s.

LED (light emitting diodes) are the new standard in head lights replacing old halogen bulbs. LED bulbs do not heat up and much better burn times – much greater than the fold fluorescent bulbs that we used to use. LED”S bulbs can last up to 100,000 hours at 50 % of their original power. But for all practical purposes, Petzl, a leading manufacturer of headlamps states that 5,000 hours is a better estimate at which the bulb is still bright enough for distance work and signaling at night. LED’s are more shock resistant than glass. The power of the headlamp has to do with two factors (at least): the number of LED bulbs and the focusing lens in the headlamp. A headlamp may be rated in “lumens” which measures the total quantity of light emitted in all directions by one light source (REI). To put it in perspective, 300 lumens is the same light given by a 20 watt light bulb that one might use in a reading light. We wouldn’t consider that very powerful. But if you put that amount of light into a housing like a headlamp and team it up with a focusing lens which all headlamps have than you do have massive power to focus a beam 100 yards. As with all gear, the more you spend, the more powerful the product – especially headlamps. The Petzl NAO headlamp is rated at 300 lumens and throws a 108 meter beam! It can rechargeable batteries and has an automatic sensor that adjusts the light for up close work (Proximity Lighting). A headlamp is not just for doing chores around camp. It can mean survival itself when the situation calls for it.

One evening around 6 pm I tore my ACL on the backside of Vail Mountain. With darkness coming, I duct taped my knee together and headed to the Shrine Mountain Hut a few miles away. I did find the hut around midnight. I was shocked to find that is was marked with only one tiny 2 inch blue reflector! I must praise my old Petzl zoom halogen lamp for finding that tiny speck of color in the darkness. Talk about luck! Thank God the weather was clear. A good headlamp with both a close and far beam is a must for night travel, rescue signaling, or just plain cooking. It must be able to operate in low temperatures. A lamp using standard AA batteries (especially rechargeable batteries) should have a battery pack that is worn inside the clothing for use in very cold conditions. Head lights that use rechargeable lithium batteries seem to fit the bill since they can be used over and over and are not affected by cold. Naturally, you should test your batteries before leaving the house and always bring backup batteries and bulbs for emergency use. Lithium batteries are very reliable in extreme cold and have unlimited shelf life. For tent camping or hut use, a small hanging tent light can be valuable while preparing meals and will save your headlamps for more important uses. The same size batteries for all electrical appliances should be used for maximum interchangeability. Place a piece of duct tape over on-off switches to prevent accidental activation while in a pack if they don’t have a locking switch. Another good feature is a strobe light feature that will allow the light to blink on and off for hours in case there is a need to put out a distress signal.

Head lamps may seem expensive. But you have to remember that when you need a head lamp it is probably not for fun. It might be dark and it might be snowing or raining. You are probably not out in the dark by choice. You might need to read a map, use a GPS or help someone who has fallen. You need it to work the first time and it better be bright! Get an expensive headlamp and don’t look back. You will be making a good decision that will pay off many times in your outdoor future.



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