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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Expensive, no spot light feature, and short battery life
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The Black Diamond Sprinter is our Top Pick award for Runners, showing the future of what all headlamps could bring: lighter, brighter, and more robust designs. While designed for urban use for running or biking, and by our own standard offers too short battery life to be ideal for backcountry use, we love this headlamp (even if it is a bit pricey).
RELATED: Our complete review of headlamps
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This is perhaps the most purpose-built lamp on the market. Its feature-set and design are targeted at a very narrow niche. While other lamps serve similarly narrow fields, the Sprinter is unabashedly targeted. It is almost like someone at Black Diamond wanted this product for him or herself and set out to make it. Nighttime runners win.
While the Sprinter is far from the brightest light in our test, scoring just 3 of 10, the immaculate lensing and bounce free headband make for a package that actually finds trails quite readily. We measured the beam to send light 39m out, which is more than enough for running most terrain, and certainly enough for running on roads, where the Sprinter is most at home. The even beam of the Sprinter compares favorably to our Editors' Choice winning Coast HL7 as you can see in the beam comparison photos below.
Also, compare the Sprinter beam to that of the other Editors' Choice winner, the Black Diamond ReVolt.
Finally, just for comparison, check out the absolute power of the Top Pick, trail finding fiend of a light, the Fenix HP25 and how it compares in trail finding ability to the Sprinter.
Also, feel free to play with our beam comparison tool. At that link you can compare distance, spot, flood, and battery life charts for any two of the lights we tested. As you narrow down your choices, this tool is perhaps one of the most useful things you can use. We can write all we want, but the visual feedback in that tool is invaluable.
If you use this light for its intended purpose of urban running, you will have little need for close proximity performance. However, should you need to use it for more mundane tasks, rest assured that the gently focused beam and even lighting optics will serve you well. With a score of 8 out of 10, the Sprinter is bested in this category by only 3 products. Each of those products performs poorer on battery life, but are much brighter overall.
Our final battery life scores are tabulated based first upon our ANSI standard (see the full Headlamp Review for a full explanation of our testing procedures and the industry standard) light coffin high mode run time test. Basically, we turn each light onto its highest mode and measure how performance degrades, and eventually stops, over time. Because the brightest lights all have lower modes, they will run longer in most usage than our hard numbers indicate. To reflect that, we adjusted scores to favor those products with the greatest brightness. Next, since a headlamp that comes on inadvertently in one's pack will run the batteries down too, we gave a bump to those lights with locking switches. Given all this, the Sprinter has pretty middling battery life performance. It lasted 5.1 hours in our light coffin. The best lamps lasted over 10 hours, while the poorest performers lasted less than one. One of our highest awards, the Editors' Choice, went to a product that lasted 10.6 hours, is super bright, and has a locking switch. Check out the beam comparison tool for a visual representation of how both of Black Diamond's rechargeable headlamps, the Sprinter and ReVolt compare in the run-time test. Clearly, the ReVolt is superior. The Sprinter is faster to recharge at home, and has a red, rear-facing light. For day-to-day running applications, the Sprinter is clearly superior for the attributes. For general use, however, the Black Diamond ReVolt is sure to be better.
The Sprinter sends a beam 39 meters. In a refreshing move, this is 30% farther than the manufacturer claims. However, it is quite a bit less than all the similarly priced lamps. All those lights that shined the same distance or less are basically half the price of the Sprinter. On this product you are paying for the convenience of recharge-ability and for the rear-facing red light. The extra expense does nothing for the overall brightness of the lamp.
In our view, compact headlamps weigh between 70 and 115 grams. Below that and you get into micro lights with limited utility. Above that and the product better be pretty darn good at lots of things to justify carrying around on our already eight-pound bowling noggins. The Sprinter, at 106 grams, falls smack in the middle of the compact range. While, because the battery runs out so quickly, you are unlikely to carry this on long, ultralight backcountry missions, the lightweight construction will be appreciated by the target running audience. Unique for its size and weight, the Sprinter is a two-piece headlamp. The battery pack (and in this case, the red light) is mounted separately from the light unit. This makes for a bulkier carrying package, but keeps the mass from bouncing around as much. Additionally, the light can be equipped with an optional top strap that further stabilizes the light in bouncy running.
Ease of Use
The Sprinter comes from Black Diamond all charged up and ready to go. Their innovative infinite beam adjustment wherein the user can choose the amount of lighting is helpful and clear to use. The rear light turns on and off with the main switch, or can be turned off on its own. This product has been updated a few times over the years. The latest version recharges with a standard micro USB cord. As compared to the earlier iterations and their dedicated charging cradle, this is a welcome change. In a world of cord proliferation, we can all use a little standardization and consolidation of our charging cables.
Enumerating the applications of this light is easy. It is best used for early morning and evening street running. It is absolutely purpose built for exactly these situations.
This lamp is not inexpensive, nor is it versatile. If you need and can appreciate a light like this, you'll know it. If you are on the fence, consider a more versatile, general purpose light. Either one of our Editors' Choice products are a better value. Our Best Buy product is a particularly excellent value. The Petzl Tikkina has far better battery life than the Sprinter and sends a beam just eight meters short of what the Sprinter does.
The Sprinter won our Top Pick Award for Runners.
This headlamp is optimized for use by the urban runner or biker after dark. It is rechargeable, simplifying daily use in an earth-friendly manner, and offers a front light and a rear-facing flashing red light.
While the actual Lux readings from this lamp are below average for the headlamps we tested, and way below for a headlamp in its price range ($79 retail), don't let the reading put you off too much. This is a bright headlamp that has a built in diffuser lens that spreads the light evenly over a broad swath. If this headlamp offered a spot mode, we expect it would come in near the top of our tests for brightness.
The Black Diamond Sprinter offers a great combination of features for the urban runner or biker. It's light, relatively bright (for such a diffuse beam), waterproof, and rechargeable. The absence of a spot light and short battery life prevent us from recommending it for climbing use, but you'll love this headlamp if you run or bike after dark, and it may become your favorite headlamp for everyday tasks around the house.
Other Versions and Accessories
Black Diamond Cosmo
Black Diamond Spot
Black Diamond Icon
Black Diamond ReVolt
— Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 12, 2014
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