Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Good spot light capability, above average in almost every category
Cons: Less battery life than competitors
Best Uses: General use, camping, hiking, backpacking, climbing
The Spot was a close runner up for our Editors' Choice award because it has 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. With each new revision, the Spot has become brighter, and this release also brought a new feature called PowerTap to adjust brightness with a tap of the finger, which we found novel but not a major usability improvement.
We liked prior versions of the Spot, and we like this newer version even better. No headlamp tested has a better trail finding score while still delivering a long battery life and weighing less than 100 grams. With similar performance, and the option to use and refresh rechargeable batteries, we awarded one of our Editors' Choice marks to the Black Diamond ReVolt.
Besides other BD models, only one other brand sells a headlamp that scored better overall than the Spot. 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.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Black Diamond Spot is a solid product. The Coast is flashier with its strong beam, and the unique rechargeable function of the ReVolt pulls it ahead. If you are looking for something simple and functional, the Spot is an excellent runner up to the award winners.
The Spot has 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 Yalumi Spark Pro 120, 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 an 8 of 10. For example, the Princeton Tec Vizz has 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 in the Spot is about 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 full Headlamp Review to learn more about ANSI measurement standards. The ReVolt, with its rechargeable batteries, bests them both with a burn time of 10.6 hours.
We measured a max beam distance of 71 meters from the Spot, which is almost the highest number from a headlamp of this weight. The Yalumi light, which is about the same price and about the same weight, throws light basically the same distance. The Petzl Tikka R Plus is a little heavier than these but sends light half the distance. The Coast, on the other hand, blows them all away with 128 meters.
At 96 grams (3.3 ounces), this is the lightest headlamp to excel at trail finding. Much lighter weight headlamps 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 one third heavier (4.4 ounces) and, because it put the battery pack in the back, much bulkier.
Ease of Use
The score here is lower than the other top five overall point leaders, but an 8 is still respectable. The button could be designed a little more intuitively and could be a little easier to use with gloves.
New in the 2015 version of the Spot is the addition of what Black Diamond calls PowerTap Technology. The PowerTap feature allows the user to make rudimentary beam adjustments with a pretty casual bump to the side of the light housing. This feature bridges the gap in ease of beam adjustment between regular button pushes and the automatic adjustment of Petzl's Reactive Lighting technology. In actual application, our testers found PowerTap novel, but not super intuitive. Perhaps with even more use it would become second nature.
This is an ideal all around headlamp capable of just about anything, from demanding trail runs to lightweight backpacking. Only the rechargeable capabilities of the ReVolt make it marginally more appealing.
Considering the beam performance and battery life, $40 is an excellent value for this light. The 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.
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 beam control. However, the Coast's battery life is so short that it raises a yellow flag. In the past we filled the second Editors' Choice slot with the Spot. However, Black Diamond has since better tuned the battery life of the rechargeable ReVolt. That product now pulls ahead for our award. Nonetheless, the Spot remains an excellent product with a long and reliable pedigree.
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Black Diamond ReVolt
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— Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier
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Most recent review: May 10, 2015
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