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Hands-on Gear Review
Black Diamond ReVolt Review
Cons: Medium length distance beam
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
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The New Colors for 2016
This Editors' Choice award winner is now available in new colors: Spectrum Blue, Vibrant Orange, Matte Black, Titanium, and Ultra White. Black Diamond did confirm that the color update was the only update to have taken place since we last reviewed this headlamp. Check out the side-by-side comparison; the headlamps (and their colors) are pictured below in the order mentioned above.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As compared to the entire field, this model does not have a very long beam distance: 56 meters.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Black Diamond Spot
Black Diamond Sprinter
Black Diamond Icon
— Jediah Porter and Randy Spurrier
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Most recent review: October 2, 2016
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