Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Incredible brightness and beam control. Great value
Cons: Short battery life
Best Uses: Anything from serious nighttime excursions to hanging out around camp
This is our top scoring headlamp and Editors Choice winner. It had by far the best close proximity lighting as well as one of the highest measured brightness. And somehow it did all this for only $36, trumping many of the lights that cost over $100 and were twice the weight. It comes in a lightweight package (for its brightness) and had the most intuitive beam control lever. It's only stumbling point, and this is significant, is short battery life when in high beam mode. For this reason we have a second Editors Choice award to the Black Diamond Spot which does a better job of balancing brightness and battery life.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
While the beam power is incredible, the evenness of the light was a little off which kept it from getting the top score. That said, this light lets you see as far as any other we tested. As you can see below in the beam comparison photo with the Black Diamond Icon, a headlamp that is twice as heavy and more than double the price, the beam goes further.
The difference between the Coast and the Spot is particularly dramatic as you can see below:
How does it compare against a 10 of 10 trail finding light? The comparison below shows the Petzl NAO being noticeably brighter. But, the NAO is 5 times as expensive, 50% heavier, and had an ANSI high-beam run time of only 1.3 hours vs. 3.3 hours for the Coast.
This is the best headlamp we tested at close proximity. Not only does it have the most even beam with no hot spots, it gives you incredible control of how wide and bright you want that beam to be. No other headlamp gave us as much control or made controlling the beam diameter so easy. As you an see below against the Spot, the Beam pattern is perfectly even where the Spot, which scores high, can't match the Coast and put more brightness in the middle.
Here the Coast falls flat: just a 3 score since it only lasts for 3.3 hours in our measured high mode run-time (ANSI). Check out this battery life vs Beam Distance graph against the Spot and this matchup against the Black Diamond Icon.
The tradeoff is clear: the Coast is three times the brightness of the Spot but has about half the battery life in ANSI measured high beam mode. This is why the Spot also gets a Editors' Choice award. Read our complete Headlamp Review to learn more about the ANSI standard.
The brightness number here are staggering: 128 meteres. Compare that to 80 meters for the Icon (which weighs twice as much) and 70 for the Spot. Only its near cosmetic clone, the LED Lenser H7 tops it on brightness the H7 has a much less even beam at close distance and is more expensive.
At 124 grams, this is about 30% heavier than "standard" compact headlamps like the Spot or Petzl Tikka XP 2. It also has a battery pack on the back which makes it even less compact. But neither of those lights have nearly the brightness. If you compare it to the next highest scoring headlamps with a high brightness score, the Petzl NAO or Petzl Ultra, it is a half to a third the weight. So this is really an ultra-light powerhouse if you are looking for a headlamp with a powerful beam.
Ease of Use
The score here is hard to beat. A simple on and off button and then a simple lever/dial on the back that adjusts beam power and width. Few headlamps are as intuitive to use. The gloved use score, a six, is slightly above most of its competition.
Need power? Riding a trail at night or hiking through terrain with difficult route finding? This is the ultimate light because it is so light and powerful. It is also ideal for around camp because the beam is so even that everything in your immediate vicinity is easy to see.
If this weren't the editors choice winner, it would be the best bye for serious light output. Most other lights that were even close to as bright cost 2-3 times as much and yet still had the same short battery life. At $36, this headlamp makes it hard to justify paying $80 or more for one.
This headlamp comes very highly recommended. It has incredible beam power, incredible bean control and is at an unbelievable low price.The only reason not to get it is the short battery life. If you need more than five hours of battery life, check out our other Editors' Choice the Black Diamond Spot. The Spot is not nearly as bright or have the same easily controllable beam lever, but it does give impressive lighting power for a solid battery life. It is also lighter and available at many more retailers.
The Coast HL5 retails for almost $27 and has 80 lumens of light and up to 80 hours of battery life, with a beam distance of 105 feet.
If you want a headlamp with long battery life and a powerful beam, check out the Black Diamond Icon. It is twice as heavy, but the battery life lasts about over twice as long and it has a better trail finding score.
It you just want an adequate headlamp and are on a tight budget, check out the Energizer 3 LED which costs a mere $12.50.
One downside to the Coast is that it is not available at many retailers. If you can't find it, consider the LED Lenser H7 which is very similar. The LED Lenser has a higher trail finding score but not as good close proximity lighting. It is wish generally a few dollars less expensive.
— RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: January 9, 2014
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