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Princeton Tec Fuel 4 Review

   

Headlamps

  • Currently 2.4/5
Overall avg rating 2.4 of 5 based on 3 reviews. Most recent review: February 25, 2015
Street Price:   Varies from $25 - $30 | Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Easy to use, compact, good trail finding for a small light.
Cons:  Low brightness, difficult to use with gloves, so-so battery life for its size.
Best Uses:  Around camp and around the home.
User Rating:     
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  • 5
 (1.5 of 5) based on 2 reviews
Recommendations:  0% of reviewers (0/2) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Princeton Tec
Review by: RJ Spurrier ⋅ Senior Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ January 11, 2014  
Overview
The Fuel is a solid headlamp in a light package at a good price. But there are many other lights that match that description. For example, the Petzl Tikkina 2 scored a hair higher for $10 less and the Black Diamond Spot and Coast HL7 scored much higher for $6-10 more. In the fiercely competitive $20-40 headlamp market, the Fuel gets edged out.

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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

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Credit: Shellay Glatz

Performance Comparison


Trail Finding


This scored above average for trail finding but below most headlamps that cost the same or more. The beam comparison below highlights how the Black Diamond Cosmo is much brighter than the Fuel for trail finding and its distance beam.

Beam Distance Photos


Princeton Tec FuelBlack Diamond Cosmo

The difference is even more dramatic compared to the Spot.

Beam Distance Photos


Princeton Tec FuelBlack Diamond Spot

Close Proximity


The Fuel had a much more even beam than the Cosmo, as shown below, making it the better headlamp for finding things immediately around you.

Beam Distance Photos


Princeton Tec FuelBlack Diamond Cosmo

But when compared to a light like the Black Diamond Spot, which is only $10 more expensive, the Spot had a much better spread out light pattern with no bright spot in the middle.

Beam Distance Photos


Princeton Tec FuelBlack Diamond Spot

Battery Life


Battery life was slightly below average. For example, the Cosmo and Fuel both have the same beam distance scores (shining 46 meters) brightness score, but the Cosmo battery lasts almost twice as long. The Cosmo lasted 14 hours for ANSI measured high mode run-time and the Fuel lasted 7.4 (learn more about ANSI in the Headlamp Review). In addition, we had difficulty removing and replacing the batteries in the Fuel. You really have to get your fingernail under a little plastic latch, which can be tricky, especially if your hands are cold.

This battery live vs. beam distance graph shows how the Fuel powers down much faster than the $12 Best Buy winner, the Energizer 3 LED.

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Uses 3 AAA batteries
Credit: Shellay Glatz

Brightness


The Fuel is below average for brightness. We measured a max distance beam of 46 meters compared to the Spot which shined 70 meters and the similarly priced Coast HL7 which shined 128 meters.

Weight


This is a very compact headlamp. At 77 grams it is at the lighter end of compact headlamps, for example it is 14 grams lighter than the Spot. However, it is not to be confused with an ultralight headlamp like the Petzl e+LITE which is a third the weight at just 26 grams.

Ease of Use


Other than changing the batteries, the Fuel is very intuitive and easy to use. It scored low for gloved use score it's difficult to feel the on-off switch.

Best Applications


This is a good lightweight camping and general use light. It's compact enough to fit in just about any drawer and can be stashed in the glove compartment without taking up much space. It's better for around the house and around the campsite then hiking, biking and backpacking at night.

Value


$30 is a pretty good value for what is a pretty good light. The challenge is that for $20 you can get the Tikkina 2 or for $12 the Energizer 3 LED that both score higher . Or if you're willing to spend $10 more you get a light that is much much higher performing like the Coast or Spot. The Fuel is a good light for the money but there are better values out there.

Conclusion


This is a solid performer but it can't keep up with the increasing competition. For less money there are headlamps that perform as well or even a little better like the Petzl Tikkina 2 or Energizer 3 LED. And for just a little more money, there are headlamps that score much higher. If there is one thing that stands out about the light it's that it is a pretty good trail finding headlamp for how lightweight it is. Then again, if you just add in another 12 grams and $10 you can get the Black Diamond Spot, which is great at trail finding. Or for another $6 and 45 grams, the Coast HL7 is a beam distance powerhouse with great close beam quality.

RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: February 25, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 4
  • 5
 (1.5)

0% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 33%  (1)
2 star: 33%  (1)
1 star: 33%  (1)
Sort 2 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Dec 4, 2014 - 03:44pm
Denis · Runner
This is an otherwise reasonably well made light with a serious flaw - under-engineered battery compartment lock. The compartment door latches onto the body of the light via a plastic lock that is ~ 2mm thick and breaks very easily. I am not brutish with my equipment, but I managed to break this light just by tapping it. Once the lock is damaged, the electrical contact is broken and there's no easy way to fix the lock. The battery door would be better served it it were secured with a bolt.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Feb 25, 2015 - 06:56am
WidgetEngineer · Other · Australia
Okay, as a single use light it is great. It is easy to user, the light is bright and has a decent reach. However and this is a big however. The build quality it bad, really bad.

I originally bought this light back in 2009. I used it a few times and then put it away in a drawer for a year. When I went to use it again, I opened the battery compartment and immediately the battery compartment plastic hinge broke. Well it more like crumbled and from what I could see was definitely too thin.

Managed to get it replaced under warranty, which is much shorter here in Australia. Anyway, the new one had a thicker hinge compared to the previous model. Fingers crossed.

Today, I went to replace the batteries (second set since I got the replacement lamp) and used the small plastic tool to open the battery. Well the clip, that holds the door closed literally shattered with the piece that holds the latch closed flying across the room. Now I am left with a very new looking (as I hardly used it) but useless headlamp. And probably out of warranty.

Princeton Tec, if you are listening. It is time to use a better plastic for your headlamps. I expected a better build quality for a $50 head lamp.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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Princeton Tec Fuel
Credit: Princeton Tec
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