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Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond ReVolt Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Headlamp

  • Currently 4.5/5
Overall avg rating 4.5 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: January 21, 2016
Price:   $60 List | Varies from $51 - $60 online
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Pros:  Rechargeable, good spot light capability, above average in almost every category, works with regular AAA too
Cons:  Medium length distance beam
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ May 10, 2015  
Overview
The ReVolt wins our Editors' Choice award as the best rechargeable headlamp by far, and an overall excellent product. While other than in battery life it does not stand out for any one attribute, it is a solid performer all around. Additionally, the battery performance, both in our objective testing and in terms of versatility and usability, is head and shoulders above the competition. Get this model if your top priority is to avoid the waste and time of constantly replacing batteries while using a headlamp in all but the most extreme situations. It's also a great option for extended trips where you don't want to carry extra batteries, as the ReVolt can charge off just about anything with a USB adapter: a solar panel, car cigarette lighter, a laptop, external battery, or a 110 wall outlet with a usb adapter (not included). You can top off the charge every day if you wish, and start each activity with a full charge and piece of mind of how much battery life you have. With most non-rechargeable headlamps, there is no way to tell how close you are to running out of juice. This an ideal feature for heavy headlamp users.

RELATED: Our complete review of headlamps

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

With rechargeable batteries, excellent battery life, bright-enough beams, and a totally reasonable weight, the primary competitor to the ReVolt is the Petzl Tikka RXP. As we'll outline below, the ReVolt overall exceeds the RXP's performance, as well as surpasses most of the rest of the field. Only the Coast HL7 scores better overall in our rubric. Because of the depth of this field, the variety of applications people find for head-mounted lights, and the basically tied performance of the ReVolt and the Coast, we have given an unprecedented two Editors' Choice awards. While comparing the ReVolt to the RXP, we will also sprinkle in occasional comparisons between the Black Diamond and the Coast.

Performance Comparison


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The ReVolt, our Editors' Choice winning headlamp, has a powerful beam, long battery life, and can run off of regular batteries or rechargeables.
Credit: Micah James

Trail Finding


With a 7 of 10 score, the ReVolt was a solid, but not exceptional, performer in the trail finding metric. It has a nice, even beam for seeing what's directly in front of you, but does not excel once looking out more than 50 feet. In this case, the Petzl Tikka RXP edges slightly ahead, with a score of 8 of 10. The beam distance photo below shows how the RXP has similar optics but simply a brighter light.


Beam Distance Photos


Black Diamond ReVoltPetzl Tikka RXP

As compared to the Coast HL7, nexther the RXP nor the ReVolt send a beam as far. The Coast is the second brightest light in our test.


Beam Distance Photos


Black Diamond ReVoltCoast HL7

As for its beam shape, there may be some personal preference in how it affects your trail finding. Both the Tikka RXP and the ReVolt have a fairly traditional beam and lens pattern. These lights cast the brightest light in the center and fade it out evenly to zero near the wearer's periphery. The nature of the lens on the Coast gives an even beam across a wide radius, with a hard edge to that light beam. Some love this, others aren't impressed.

Check out our beam comparison tool and all its possible comparisons to fully investigate the differences between headlamp beam shapes and strengths.

Close Proximity


The ReVolt is excellent at close proximity, scoring an 8 of 10. It casts a wide, even beam with very few bright hotspots or dark shadows. This makes it ideal for finding things in your car, hanging around the campfire, reading, and general use. The even light means your head does less twitching around to find things and makes it generally easier on your eyes. It also has a variable dimming feature, which can be useful to save batteries or avoid blinding your campmates when less light is needed.

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Close proximity of the ReVolt's beam.
Credit: Shellay Glatz

Battery Life


With its included rechargeable batteries topped off, the ReVolt's high-mode run time exceeded all but the Best Buy Petzl Tikkina. In this test, however, such a comparison is basically a moot point. The ReVolt is so much brighter than the Tikkina that in a lower mode comparable to the Tikkina's brightest and tested mode, (which we did not actually test) the ReVolt may last two to three times as long.

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The ReVolt uses 3 AAA Rechargeable Batteries or standard alkaline or lithium batteries, a versatility that is unmatched.
Credit: Shellay Glatz

Additionally, adding confidence to the already strong battery performance of the ReVolt is the rechargeable attribute. Because you can recharge at anytime, you always have a good idea of how much juice is left. Additionally, a battery life indicator on the side of the headlamp indicates roughly how much power remains. You can also grab a charge easily in the field. For example, if you are on a road trip, you can just plug the ReVolt into you cars cigarette adapter and recharge rather than having to pull over and purchase batteries. Finally, the rechargeable battery in the ReVolt is actually three aaa-sized pieces. These can be easily replaced with standard aaa batteries should you wish. We tested the light this way, and found that it didn't burn as long as with the rechargeables. Incidentally, the light is about 20% brighter with non-rechargeables.

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Charging the ReVolt headlamp from the Bushnell Solar Panel.
Credit: Chris McNamara

As compared to the Tikka RXP, the ReVolt is in an entirely different league. The RXP is a little brighter, but burns through its proprietary rechargeable in less than one fifth the time. The visual comparison of battery life graphs (below in brightness section) is far more telling than anything further we can say. Additionally, while the RXP can run on standard AAA batteries just like the ReVolt, this requires an aftermarket adapter.

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In a world ever crowded with chargers and cords, every one of our testers came to appreciate Black Diamond's move to integrate a battery charger right into the ReVolt. All one needs is a standard (and included) Micro USB cord. One can also replace the rechargeable aaa sized batteries with standard aaa batteries; a brilliant solution.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Brightness


As compared to the entire field, this model does not have a very long beam distance: 56 meters.

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Beam distance photo of the BD ReVolt.
Credit: OutdoorGearLab Staff

However, if you eliminate from comparison all products whose batteries last even half as long as those in the ReVolt, our Editors' Choice nod becomes more clear. While 12 headlamps are brighter than the ReVolt, only two (and both of them are Black Diamond products: the Icon and the Storm) of those have batteries that last longer than half what the ReVolt does. Neither comes actually all that close to the battery life performance of this Editors' Choice winner. Both of the products that best compare to the ReVolt, the Coast and the RXP, are quite a bit brighter, but burn through batteries at a more than corresponding rate. See the comparison graphs below for a graphical representation of the difference between the battery life in the Coast and in the ReVolt.


Beam Distance Photos


Black Diamond ReVoltPetzl Tikka RXP

Beam Distance Photos


Black Diamond ReVoltCoast HL7

Weight


This headlamp is not heavy, but it is much weightier than the ultra-light models. It scored right in the middle for both size and weight. It is just a little lighter than the RXP and noticeably lighter and less bulky than the Coast.

Ease of Use


The buttons are simple to use and the light tells you if it is charging or not and how much charge you have left. At first it's not clear how many times to hit the button for each mode, but after a few minutes you figure it out.

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When the moon isn't quite enough, but one doesn't wish to ruin her night vision, the red mode on a headlamp can be quite valuable. Here, Meagan augments a full moon with the red bulbs on the ReVolt.
Credit: Jediah Porter

This model is a solid but not exceptional glove performer. The one button is relatively easy to find and operate with ski, bike, or fleece gloves.

Best Applications


Ever get annoyed that a pack of AAA batteries at the convenience store can cost more than a diner breakfast? This is the ideal headlamp for the person who is plagued by constantly replacing batteries or just wants to be able to use it every day and know how much battery life they have left. It is also an ideal emergency light to keep in the car (along with a charging cable and usb source) because it can be recharged by many different power sources.

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While Petzl produced the first widely available compact LED headlamps, Black Diamond currently leads their french competitors. Headlamps in this size range only get better and better with time.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Value


While this light is not cheap, it becomes a great long-term value because you do not have to buy batteries as often. Eventually you will need to replace the rechargeable batteries, but that will be much less often than replacing non-rechargeable batteries.

Conclusion


This is a solid award winner because it is our top scoring rechargeable model and has amazing battery life. The ReVolt delivers solid (but not remarkable scores) across the board, and figuratively outshines all the others in terms of battery life and versatility. In overall scoring, only the co Editors' Choice winning Coast scored better overall. The ReVolt largely eliminates that constant dance of hunting through the house drawers for fresh batteries or having to pay too much money for AAA's at the nearby convenience store. Best of all, you can always know that you are starting with a full charge. To have that luxury with nonrechargeable headlamps requires the costly and wasteful ritual of buying bulk battery supplies and constantly tossing them out when the beam intensity starts to dim.

If rechargeable batteries are not a priority, we recommend you check out the Black Diamond Spot which scored high across all beam performance metrics and costs about $20 less. Here is a beam comparison of the two that shows the somewhat improved brightness of the Spot.

Other Versions


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Black Diamond Spot
  • Cost- $40.00
  • Weight with batteries- 3.4oz
  • Measured Max Distance- 71m
  • Measured Run-time- 3.7 hours
  • Excellent all around, general use headlamp, from camping to alpine climbing

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Black Diamond Sprinter
  • Cost- $70.00
  • Weight with batteries- 3.7oz
  • Measured Max Distance- 39m
  • Measured Run-time- 5.1 hours
  • Rechargeable battery with red blinking rear light
  • Top Pick award winner for runners

Click to enlarge
Black Diamond Icon
  • Cost- $90.00
  • Weight with batteries- 8.2oz
  • Measured Max Distance- 82m
  • Measured Run-time- 9.4 hours
  • Contender for Top Pick for Trail Finding due to beam distance and excellent battery life

Jediah Porter and Randy Spurrier


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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 21, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 75%  (3)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 25%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 3 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jan 21, 2016 - 12:57am
TJ F · Backpacker · California
Great job with this review. I have a ReVolt and you're right on with the assessment.

Rechargeable is the only way I'll go from now on. I love eliminating the cost, hassle and environmental damage that comes from disposable batteries.

The ReVolt hasn't let me down after roughly 150 nights and has some great features like the dimmer, red light, lock, lamp adjustability and emergency strobe. Comfortable too.

The only con with this lamp is that it casts a yellowish spot when in the high mode that becomes particularly noticeable in the snow. That bothers me but the trade off is worth it. Charge it and go.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 6, 2015 - 11:02pm
Temeraro · Climber · Pennsylvania
I have owned the ReVolt for slightly under a year. While it lasted it was by far a top of the line headlamp. The problem with this lamp that will not be noticed for quite some time is the lamp literally dies on you. I did not get even close to as much use out of it as I should have. I thought the problem was the lamp just needed recharged. I fully recharged my ReVolt and it died within being turned on a mere few minutes. I thought the batteries might be the problem. Maybe they need replaced. My buddy who has the same lamp had the same problems. The lamp itself is the problem, not the batteries. I was told that Black Diamond put these on recall because there have been multiple reports of them going bad.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 10, 2015 - 05:36pm
Dangalla · Climber · Eau Claire, WI
Awesome lamp! Great for the ones who use their lights a lot so charging is made easy with the plug in. Can charge in my car, laptop, wall, and solar panel.

If carrying in backpack make sure to use the lock feature to ensure the light dose not accidentally turn on.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Black Diamond ReVolt
Credit: Black Diamond
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