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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Low spotlight, expensive
Best Uses: A light to take for any outdoor activity in case you get caught out after dark
This micro headlamp, the size of a small stack of quarters, is the lightest headlamp we know of and by a large margin. It wins our Top Pick award as the best lightweight headlamp. The only close contender was the Black Diamond Ion, which is twice the weight and has a slightly more powerful beam, but shorter battery life and fewer beam modes. It's hard to think of a more useful $30 you can spend on an outdoor product. Why? The e+LITE is so small (less than the volume of a ChapStick) it eliminates the question "Should I bring a headlamp?" So it can be seen as either an expensive headlamp considering the light is not that bright or, as we see it, a really inexpensive insurance against getting caught out at dark with no light.
RELATED: Our complete review of headlamps
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Petzl E+LITE is a compact powerhouse for emergency back up lighting.
The trail finding score of 3 is pretty low until you consider just how small this light is. With good planning, you will seldom use this light for extended trail finding. Predominantly, a light like this is for emergencies or for the occasional late exit from a day trip. That being said, you will do well to see the difference between this tiny emergency light and a proper, good trail finding light. For example, in the beam comparison photo below observe how it differs from the Editors' Choice winning Coast HL7.
There is no way around the fact that this is not a trail finding powerhouse. It will get you out of a jam, but if you plan on hiking long distances at night, get a true trail finding specialist like the Coast HL7, or even better, the Fenix HP25.
As compared the its closest competitor, the Black Diamond Ion, the e+LITE does not have as strong of a beam for trail finding. What it lacks in beam strength, it makes up for in light weight and a compact package.
Passable short distance performance is a big reason we like this headlamp so much. It casts a nice even beam around you and is surprisingly effective for how small it is. It compares favorably in close brightness and beam shape and integrity. Earning a score of 4 out of 10 isn't excellent, but again, remember just how small this thing is.
This is where the e+LITE gets is revenge on the Coast and many other headlamps. In this battery life vs. beam distance graph, you can see how the high powered Coast is out after 4 hours while the e+LITE goes strong for almost ten. We feel it is essential that an emergency light give you prolonged performance, which is a big reason why the e+LITE wins an award. It has noticeably better battery life than its ultralight rival, the Black Diamond Ion.
It takes tiny 3v lithium batteries that are a little hard to find at a gas station or supermarket. However, we ordered 25 online for $6 which is enough battery power for over a year of regular use. These are much less expensive than the 6 volt batteries most other lithium ion headlamps we tested require.
With 28 meter measured max beam distance, this is not the brightest headlamp. By comparison, the similarly priced Coast HL7 shines a beam over 130 meters. That said, it has pretty solid beam distance for its size. It shines a beam about the same distance as our best buy winner, the Petzl Tikkina which is three times the weight and a third the cost. The e+LITE's brightness for its weight is impressive.
At 30 grams, this is by far the lightest headlamp in our review. Even more impressive is the size. Because it uses a retractable string headband, it is in the most compact package imaginable. The string headband is surprisingly sturdy and keeps the light steady even when jogging. However, we recommend being careful when using it with a helmet. In this context it is more prone to both slippage and improper installation than standard elastic headbands.
Ease of Use
This uses a different light selection button than any other product tested. Instead of a button, it uses a type of lever/dial. This is a little harder to figure out at first and is nearly impossible to use with gloves. Once accustomed to it, however, every user found it a simple and clear way to activate the different modes. Notably, the e+LITE has a red mode. The next heaviest light with a red mode, the Black Diamond Ion, suffers from other issues.
This is the ultimate emergency headlamp. It is so light that you can toss it in your daypack (or even in your running sock) and not notice it. Since it weighs less than 3 AAA or AA batteries, it can serve as an alternative to bringing spare batteries and gives you the option of having two headlamps (for your friends who forget theirs. Our lead tester has used it in this capacity countless times). Because of its micro size, it is also nice to just have around. It takes up almost no space in a glove box, kitchen drawer, or pocket.
At $30, this is a premium priced light, especially for its brightness. Spend just another $6 and you get the Editors' Choice Coast HL7 or the brighter Black Diamond Spot. That said, this light is well worth every penny because of its potential to get you out of an emergency situation. The comparison to other similarly priced lights is a bit inappropriate as the e+LITE is such a specialized product.
The Petzl e+LITE is our highest rated micro headlamp. At less than one ounce, it is by far the lightest and most compact headlamp we tested. It is durable (we put it through the washing machine by accident and it still works) and it scored surprisingly well for beam quality and close proximity, considering how small it is. Even though this headlamp (understandably) scores very poorly for beam distance and trail finding, we are still impressed with it. It comes with three different lighting modes, including a red light mode. It comes with a handy waterproof case that will ensure it stays dry. However, the best part of this light is how small it is so we never used the case. It is small enough to put in a sock or keep anywhere.
Its main competitor is the Black Diamond Ion, which used to be the same weight and size. The newest version of the Ion is twice the size of the e+LITE and its previous versions. Even with the changes made for 2015, the Ion has a better spotlight but the e+LITE has much better close proximity light and battery life. Considering the main reason to have this headlamp is for emergency or unintended backup use, the better battery life of the e+LITE makes it the clear winner. That said, at $30 the e+LITE is $10 more expensive than the Ion and puts you in the category of much more capable three-ounce lights like the Petzl Tikkina.
Even though its total score was not that high, we still consider this a must-have headlamp for anyone who does serious activity in the backcountry or away from the car (trail running at dusk, etc). It weighs basically nothing so there is no reason not to bring it everywhere. If you have an extra $30, there is no reason not to buy it. It could be the most useful light you ever buy. That said, if you are on a budget and don't mind a headlamp that weighs two more ounces, go with the Tikkina or the Energizer 3 LED, which cost less, perform much better, and are still pretty darn small and light.
Petzl Tikka XP
— Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 18, 2015
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