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Black Diamond Spot Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Headlamps

  • Currently 4.2/5
Overall avg rating 4.2 of 5 based on 11 reviews. Most recent review: December 8, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $32 - $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
User Rating:     
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 (3.9 of 5) based on 10 reviews
Recommendations:  70% of reviewers (7/10) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: RJ Spurrier ⋅ Senior Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ January 4, 2014  
Overview
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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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Performance Comparison
Click to enlarge
Spot mode light turned on
Credit: Shellay Glatz
Trail Finding
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.


Beam Distance Photos


Black Diamond Spot Petzl Tikka Plus 2

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.


Beam Distance Photos


Black Diamond Spot Coast HL7

Close Proximity
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.

Close-proximity Beam Pattern


Black Diamond Spot Coast HL7

Battery Life
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.

Click to enlarge
Easy to access battery pack holds 3 AAA batteries
Credit: Shellay Glatz

Brightness
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.

Weight
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.

Best Applications
This is an ideal all around headlamp capable of just about anything from demanding trail runs to lightweight backpacking.

Value
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.

Other Versions
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.

Conclusion
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.

Bottom Line
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
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.9)

70% of 10 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
11 Total Ratings
5 star: 55%  (6)
4 star: 9%  (1)
3 star: 18%  (2)
2 star: 18%  (2)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 10 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Dec 8, 2014 - 12:18am
Couchmaster · Pacific Northwet
Studly recommended this to me a couple years back, claiming that BD had hit the price/performance sweet spot (seeing his review below is dated 2011, it was most likely before that even). I got one then and totally agree with his assessment. Chris and RJ nail in in the last paragraph upthread there. They said: "offers a terrific combination of bright spot light, affordable price, light weight, and great battery life." Right on the money. Since then they've actually improved it and they are even better. REI closed out the 2013 version for $19.93 and I bought oddoles of extras for Christmas gifts and emergency car headlamps. Great score on a great headlamp.

I will note that if you can find the Princeton Tec EOS LED 80 Lumens Headlamp on sale, it would be as good or better. (Botach just had them on special for $19.95 and sold out within a day) Note that Outdoor gear lab has not yet reviewed the EOS, but it's been a reliable headlamp for years and there is plenty of info out there on it explaining how the circuitry is better.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 7, 2014 - 08:48pm
Fearghas Lenna · Climber · Challis, Idaho
In short, I am dumbstruck at how the BD Spot is an annoying technological overkill. Instead, there should be one button that toggles from off to high power to off in white light only. And the button should be easy to activate but not so sensitive that the light will accidently be turned on whenever you throw it in a pack.

I bought the BD Spot to replace one of my 7+ year old Petzl Zipkas with a sticking zip cord and a loose forehead patch that I was not able to restick with 3M 77 spray adhesive. I discovered the Petzl zip cord works just as well as the BD strap, and the 130 lumens for the BD Spot in the real world surprisingly appeared similar to the 80 lumens for the Petzl Zipka.

I gave the BD Spot to a friend because I did not like having to constantly fiddle with the button and tapping on the side of the headlamp to get the only thing I ever want from these types of headlamps — maximum power of white light. There is no need for energy conservation modes is these tiny LED headlamps, and I do not find the red light mode useful.

You nearly always need to hold the button on the BD Spot for the extended time to turn the light on and off (travel mode) as the on/off button is uber sensitive. In doing so you will annoyingly switch into the red light mode, then stuggle holding down the button for various time periods to switch the light off and try to switch the light on in white light mode.

Then when the light comes on to half power you have to start tapping on the side (was it the right side or the left side or maybe both sides will work?) of the headlight to get full power (which is not meaningfully different from medium power in the real world), or hold the button down to activate a rheostat mode to slowly increase to full power (and if you go too far then decrease all the way, wait, and increase to try again to stop at the flash indicating maximum power).

I replaced the BD Spot with the Petzl Zipka which I was happy to find now has no red light function and a simple three mode button — medium power, high power, off. Having the first mode be high power would be even better.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 25, 2014 - 09:52pm
Bright As advertised, would like to recommend to others

There is one L2 Headlight I've bought only half the price, 800 lumens headlight at http://ledshoppe.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=60_74&product_id=514

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 4, 2014 - 07:23pm
Based on Outdoor Gear Lab's evaluation of the Spot, I purchased one at the beginning of the summer. Luckily the Spot was purchased at MEC and after 4 months I returned it. For the right user it might work, but I did not find the operating routine to be intuitive. I carried the instructions on how to operate the lamp like a cheat sheet and after two longer trips still struggled to get the right setting. The final straw, I did not activate the 'lock' before putting it in my pack and it turned itself on in the pack and wore down the batteries. Prior to this purchase I owned a Petzl Zippka for 7 years. The Petzl was not difficult to operate (I did not carry instructions when backpacking) and the lamp never turned on in my pack?? I remember thinking why does the Spot need a lock…obvious now. Still looking for a good strong light but for camp chores, the superbly designed Petz elite has been awesome!!

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 29, 2014 - 10:01pm
sweerek · Backpacker · OH
Just as the author and other pro reviewers state, this is one solid, trustworthy light. Its the only one I carry for ultralight backpacking.

Tip: because of its many features, you'll want to also pack the instructions.

The only other light I've bought more than twice was the $10 adjustable spot, 220 lumens headlight at http://ledshoppe.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=60_74&product_id=371

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 15, 2014 - 12:50am
johngenx · Climber
Excellent compact headlamp. Much more usable distance than other little lamps, and the up close beam is nice and even. It's also feature rich with red LEDs, a distance LED, and two small proximity LEDs. You can also dim each of the LEDs.

The batteries are a lot easier to swap than my old Tikka. The button is easy to use with gloves on.

The best part? The low price.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 25, 2012 - 10:51am
Phil · Backpacker · Montana
I also recently bought the new version of this headlamp and I can't complain. I took it backpacking along the Chattooga river in Georgia and was surprised at how well its beam cut through the ridiculously humid air. I'm not sure if the previous version had a red light feature but the latest one does and it comes in handy when you don't want to compromise your night vision.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jul 9, 2011 - 03:41am
WML · Climber · Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
bright, lightweight, and has some serious longevity. Nike slogan - just do it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 27, 2011 - 01:13pm
Studly · Climber · WA
I have the new version of this headlamp and love it. Very bright, long lasting, compact, and lightweight. Never had a problem with it in many trips caving and climbing.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 5, 2010 - 02:27pm
Aussie Dave · Climber · Stanford, CA
I bought this to replace the tikka XP that I lost. The specs sound great but this light fell apart within a month. The plastic tabs that stop the light falling down and shining into your eyes broke after light use. This caused several other parts of the torch to break and mine now looks like a non-adjustable lamp covered in duct tape. Piece of crap! Get the Tikka

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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Black Diamond Spot
Credit: Black Diamond
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