Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $30 - $40 | Compare prices at 8 resellers
Pros: Good spot light capability, easy to use with gloves, above average in almost every category
Cons: Less battery life than competitors
Best Uses: General use, camping, hiking, backpacking, climbing
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The Spot wins our Editors' Choice award because it had the best beam performance and battery life for a compact headlamp that only costs $40. Many headlamps that cost more than $80 couldn't match its brightness and close proximity scores. No headlamp tested had a better trail finding score while still delivering a long battery life and weighing less than 100 grams.
Only two headlamps scored higher. The Black Diamond Icon had a better trail finding score, is brighter and easier to use. However, it also costs twice as much and weighs more than twice as much for a similar close proximity beam and battery life. The Coast HL7 has a much more powerful and even beam with better control but it is 1/3 heavier and has a fraction of the battery life. The choice really comes down to: do you want the ultimate beam performer that chews through batteries with the Coast or do you want a more all around performer with great battery life with the Spot.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Spot had the best trail finding score for its weight: an impressive 8 of 10. This is what separates it from other compact headlamps in the $30-50 range like the Petzl Tikka Plus 2 which gets a 6 of 10. As you can see in the beam comparison photo below, the Spot shines much further.
However, you can also see, when put against the burly brightness of the Coast, it is not in the same league. Just look how much further down the bike path the Coast shines below.
This is another metric where the Spot stands out from similarly sized lights and gets a 9 of 10. For example, the Princeton Tec Vizz had a similar trail finding score, but does not have nearly as even a beam in close-distance mode and gets a 6 of 10. See below where the Spot casts a wide even beam and the Vizz concentrates it in the middle.
Battery life is well above average and noteworthy for a headlamp with such good lighting quality scores. This is where the Spot really blows away the Coast HL7 as you can see in this battery life vs. beam performance graph. If you want a great beam with a long battery life, its hard to beat the Spot.
The ANSI measured high mode time for the Spot is 5.2 hours compared to the Coast's 3.3 hours. Read the Headlamp Review to learn more about ANSI measurement standards.
We measured a max beam distance of 70 meters from the Spot which is the highest number from a headlamp of this weight. The Petzl Tikka XP 2 which is $10 more expensive and about the same weight only went a max of 59 meteres. The Coast on the other hand blows them all away with 128 meters.
At 93 grams (3.3 ounces), this is the lightest headlamp to excel at trail finding. Much lighter lights like the Petzl E+LITE (0.9 ounces) traded weight for beam power. Considering the lighting abilities of the Spot, its low weight is impressive. The Coast HL7 is a third heavier (4.4 ounces) and, because it put the battery back in the back, much bulkier.
Ease of Use
The score here is lower than the other top five overall point leaders but a 7 is still respectable. The button could be designed a little more intuitively and could be a little easier to use with gloves.
This is an ideal all around headlamp capable of just about anything from demanding trail runs to lightweight backpacking.
Considering the beam performance and battery life, $40 is an excellent value. The other editors choice, the Coast is $4 less expensive and has a brighter beam. However, it burns through batteries and therefore is not as good of a long-term value. Sadly for other headlamp manufacturers, the fact that Black Diamond gives you so much here for $40 makes paying any more harder to justify.
For a cheaper alternative, consider the Black Diamond ReVolt, $60. The Revolt can charge off just about anything with a USB adapter and wins our Top Pick award as the best rechargeable headlamp.
The Black Diamond Sprinter, $70, is our Top Pick award for runners, showing the future of what all headlamps will bring: lighter, brighter, and more robust. While designed for urban use for running or biking, and by our own standard offers too short a battery life to be ideal for backcountry use, we love this headlamp (even if it is a bit pricey).
The Black Diamond Icon is the highest scoring headlamp in our tests and our Top Pick for Trail Finding due to its unique combination of a 80 meter beam distance and excellent battery life, $80.
The Black Diamond Spot is the welter-weight headlamp champion in our review for beam distance. It has the brightest spotlight mode of the 3 AAA battery headlamps we tested. It stood out for how consistently it scored above average in all our tests. Most other headlamps had a category they scored below average on but not the Spot.
Normally we only give one Editors' Choice award. In this case, that would have been just the Coast HL7 which has a much brighter beam and better bean control. However, the coasts battery life is so short that it raises a yellow flag. The Spot gives you awesome lighting performance in a lighter package and still has a long battery life. So you can choose between the ultimate power beam with the Coast or the ultimate all-around light with the Spot.
Compared to the Petzl Tikka XP 2 it scored lower for battery life and ease of use but had a more powerful beam. The Tikka XP 2 is also an awesome light but hard to justify paying an extra $15 for.
If you want the most lighting for your dollar and don't use your headlamp that much, we recommend checking out our Best Buy winner, the Energizer 3 LED which costs a mere $12.50.
The Black Diamond Spot offers a terrific combination of bright spot light, affordable price, light weight, and great battery life. If you only want one headlamp, and don't want to spend the money or carry the extra weight for a top-of-the-line model like the Black Diamond Icon, then this is the headlamp to buy.
— RJ SPurrier and Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 8, 2014
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