Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Exceptional close proximity beam evenness and very easy to use.
Cons: Short battery life, low brightness and distance scores, expensive.
Best Uses: Application where perfect beam evenness is crucial.
The Saint Minimus blew away the competition in some ratings and fell way short in others. It scored perfect 10s for both close proximity and ease-of-use. It is easily the most intuitive headlamp to use, having just one control and the quality of the diffused beam at distances up to 50 feet were amazing. However, it was also one of the lowest scoring headlamps for battery life and brightness. It does not have a real spotlight feature for finding things in the distance. With a hefty price tag, this headlamp is for a person who just wants a perfectly even beam directly in front of them.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The incredibly even beam makes this ideal for trail finding directly in front of you. However, for finding those objects beyond 50 feet, it is not as effective and therefore it only gets a 6 of 10 score. The measured beam distance of 31 meters was by far the shortest for a headlamp that cost more than $100. As you can see in the beam comparison against the coast HL7, while the lighting is even with the Surefire, it is not very strong and you can't see very far. Just count how many more fence posts you can see with the Coast which scored an 8 of 10 for trail finding.
This is where this headlamp excels. It scored a perfect 10 and as you can see in the beam comparison below against the Coast HL7, which also scored a 10, the Surefire has an even more perfectly even light delivery.
This had one of the shortest battery lifes we observed while the headlamp was in high beam mode. In our ANSI measured high mode runtime tests, It lasted just two hours. By comparison, in high beam mode, the Spot lasted 5.2 hours and the Black Diamond Icon lasted 8.2 hours. Even the Coast HL7, which does not great high mode battery life, lasted much longer and at a much higher brightness as you can see in this battery life versus beam distance chart. To learn more about the ANSI standard, check out our headlamp review.
An additional strike against the Surefire: the 3 amp 123 lithium Ion batteries generally cost three times more than the equivalent power from AA and AAA batteries. The combination of short life and expensive batteries means heavy users need a big battery budget.
The measured max beam distance of 32 meters is quite low and earns the Surefire a paltry 2 of 10 brightness score (the same score as the $12 Energizer 3 LED ). By comparison, the Spot shines 70 m, the Icon 80 m, and the Coast shines a whopping 128 m. The Surefire is plenty bright for seeing what is immediately around you, but very hard to see items in the distance.
This headlamp scored in the middle for weight: a 5 of 10 score. At 98 grams it is a little heavier than the Spot (93 grams). That is not that heavy but also not close to being an ultra-light like the Petzl e+LITE (26 grams).
Ease of Use
This was one of the highest scoring headlamps in the ease-of-use test and gets a perfect 10 of 10. It has one very intuitive knob that perfectly and evenly adjusts the brightness intensity. It was also very easy to use with gloves.
This is the ideal headlamp for seeing what is close around you. It was at one point a favorite of some firefighters involved in the testing. Why? It was easy to use with gloves and had a perfectly even beam for going inside dark rooms and making sure that you weren't distracted by a spotty pattern. It also doesn't have the the over-the-top strap, which makes it easily go over large helmets such as a fire helmet.
This is one of the more expensive headlamps tested in the review and 3 to 4 times the cost of Editors' Choice Coast HL7. The Coast beats the Surefire on all tests except for close proximity, weight and ease-of-use, where the Surefire just barely edges ahead. As mentioned above, you will also have to pay a lot more for batteries and deal with the fact that lithium ion batteries are harder to find. Unless you are a camera enthusiast, you generally don't find 123 lithium Ion batteries in your kitchen drawer.
If your top priority is having the perfect beam within 50 feet of you, this is an awesome headlamp for a premium price. However, most folks want the option of having a long distance beam mode such as is delivered in the Coast HL7, especially if dropping a lot of case. If battery life is a priority, we lean toward the Black Diamond Spot that scored much better in most categories and only slightly lower in close proximity and ease-of-use. The Spot is three times less expensive.
— RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: February 16, 2014
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