Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $15 - $30 | Compare prices at 4 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.
Manufacturer: Princeton Tec
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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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
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.
The difference is even more dramatic compared to the Spot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
$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.
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
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