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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Short battery life
Best Uses: Anything from serious nighttime excursions to hanging out around camp
The Coast HL7 is our top scoring headlamp and an Editors' Choice winner. It has arguably the best close proximity lighting as well as one of the highest measured brightnesses. And somehow it did all this for only $58, 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. Its only stumbling point, and this is significant, is short battery life when in high beam mode. For this reason we gave a second Editors' Choice award to the Black Diamond ReVolt which does a better job of balancing brightness and battery life and can also be recharged.
RELATED: Our complete review of headlamps
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Coast HL7, in nearly every way, from unboxing to the most nuanced performance metrics, feels and works like a piece of high-end, expensive electronics. The price, smack in the middle of our test roster, is surprisingly reasonable for this slick and confidence inspiring design.
While the beam power of the Coast is incredible, the evenness of the light is a just little off, which prevented it from getting a top score. Interestingly, the light and lens is diffused such that the brightness is the same right up to the hard edge of the beam pattern. The best trail-finding lights, we found, are slightly brighter in the middle of the pattern and smoothly diffuse out to nothing at the edges. That said, this light lets you see almost 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 of the Coast goes further.
Only our Top Pick for Trail Finding, the Fenix HP25 is brighter overall. The beam of the Fenix is also fairly even, but focuses a bit more intensity in the middle of the spot. As noted above, we found this preferable in most action situations than the Coast's even distribution of light.
The difference between the Coast and another popular headlamp, the Black Diamond Spot is particularly dramatic as you can see below:
How does the Coast 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 2 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 gives as much control or made controlling the beam diameter so easy. As you can see below against the Spot, the beam pattern is perfectly even whereas the Spot, which scores high, can't match the Coast and puts more brightness in the middle.
Here the Coast falls flat: just a score of 5 since it only lasts for 3.4 hours in our measured high mode run-time test (ANSI). Check out this battery life vs. beam distance graph against the ReVolt and this matchup against the Black Diamond Icon.
The tradeoff is clear: the Coast is three times the brightness of the ReVolt but has less than half the battery life in ANSI measured high beam mode. This is why the ReVolt also earns a Editors' Choice award. Read our complete Headlamp Review to learn more about the ANSI standard.
The brightness numbers here are staggering: 131 meters. Compare that to 80 meters for the Icon (which weighs twice as much) and 56 for the ReVolt. Only our Top Pick winner, the Fenix HP25 exceeds the Coast in brightness. It is worth noting that the Fenix throws light 22% farther. No other light in any other category crushes the competition with such authority. That being said, the Coast has a pretty authoritative brightness victory over its next competitor too. The Petzl NAO is the next closest, but as we've pointed out already, is far heavier, more expensive, and chews through battery life much faster. In a matrix of cost per meter of light broadcast, the Coast would be in a league of its own.
At 128 grams, this is about 30% heavier than standard compact headlamps like the Spot, ReVolt, or Petzl Tikka XP. It also has a battery pack separated and placed on the back, which makes it even less compact. None of the truly compact headlamps have even close to the same brightness. Only the Petzl Tikka RXP comes close. However, it does so at the cost of battery life and the mass creeps up close to that of the Coast. If you compare the Coast to the next highest scoring headlamps with a high brightness score, the Petzl NAO or Fenix HP25, 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. The heavier Icon, also an overall strong performer, is twice the weight of the Coast.
Ease of Use
The score here is hard to beat. It features a simple on and off button and then a separate lever/dial on the back that adjusts beam power. Few headlamps are as intuitive to use. For gloved use, the Coast is slightly above most of its competition.
Not everyone loves the placement of the battery pack at the rear of the headband. We don't consider it a problem, but it is a factor to consider. One advantage of the battery-in-back design approach is that the front and back parts of the light are more equally balanced on the head, a feature we found to be a significant advantage in our Top Pick for Running Award winner, the Black Diamond Sprinter.
Curiously, with just one bulb, only the brightness is adjusted is with the lever. Other lights, including the Black Diamond ReVolt, have a primary big bulb for great distances and a secondary bulb or bulbs for close proximity use. This means that the bulbs can be projected over different angles for the different applications. The Coast is definitely the highest rated lamp with only one bulb. For most intense use, where the user is apt to switch between looking close and looking far, we've come to appreciate the ability to switch between two light patterns. The next strongest scoring lamp with one bulb is the Zebralight H602, which sits well down the hierarchy in our review.
Need power? Riding a trail at night or hiking through terrain with difficult route finding? This is the ultimate light because it is so lightweight 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 could be a contender for best buy just because of the 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 $58, 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 beam control, and is available 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 winner, the Black Diamond ReVolt. The ReVolt is not nearly as bright nor does it have the same easily controllable beam lever, but it does give impressive lighting power for a solid battery life, and can be recharged. It is also lighter weight and available at many more retailers.
Other Versions and Accessories
Black Diamond Icon
— Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 2, 2015
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