The Black Diamond Icon is a top scoring headlamp in our trail finding test due to its unique combination of a 90meter beam distance and excellent battery life. But newer lights, using more modern tech batteries, like the Fenix HP25R and Zebralight H600w Mk IV offer more power, at a better power to weight ratio, than today's Icon. The Icon offers a bright wide beam that has excellent optics, providing an evenly lit light that was one of our favorites for trail finding, and also a favorite in its low-setting for around the campsite. While heavy and bulky compared to most headlamps, and this limitation will rule it out for ultralight backpackers, it offers excellent battery life powered by 4 AA batteries in a durable waterproof package.
Black Diamond Icon Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Bright, wide spotlight, clear/smooth optics, long battery life, robust design
Cons: Heavy, bulky, and expensive
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We tend to be optimists in our adventures, assuming that we are not going to get caught out after nightfall. But imagine yourself at sunset, separated from camp by miles of a poorly defined trail, with a storm coming in, and with an injury or equipment failure that makes travel slow. These kinds of situations do happen, and are just the kind of pickle where you would be most grateful that you brought the Black Diamond Icon along.
Waterproof to 1 meter (tested in full submersion for 30 minutes), and boasting nearly the best trail finding performance of any headlamp we tested, the Icon is unique in also offering the battery run-time firepower to get you back to camp, with adequate lighting, even if it takes an all-night epic effort.
The Icon scored an impressive 8 of 10 in our trail finding tests.
The Icon ranked near the top with a 8 of 10 score for close-proximity use, such as around the campsite or reading. Used in its low-power mode that conserves battery life, it produces a very nice, evenly lit beam that we found very good for close proximity use.
We rated the Icon 6 of 10 on battery life, which is above average. While it did not have the absolute longest run time, it was much better than many of the headlamps with high powered beams. Many headlamps gain long battery run time in their brightest mode by not having a very bright beam. Not so with the Icon, which manages relatively long run-time with a very bright beam.
By modern standards, the Icon is heavy at 233 grams or 8.2 ounces. It scored 2 of 10, one of the two worst scoring lights on weight.
Ease of Use
The Icon landed a middling 5 of 10 score. It is easy to switch between spotlight and close proximity/LED mode. But, access to advanced features is a complex series of single, double, triple clicks and press-to-hold actions.
The Icon offers variable dimming. This is easily done by holding down the button (dims down, and then up if you keep holding). Dimming works in all three of its lighting modes: high-power spot, low-power flood, and red-light. This allows you to fluidly tune the brightness to exactly meet your particular needs. For example, we found that either the flood or red light, dimmed down to the lowest level, makes a perfect night light for family camping situations with young kids.
Even though the Icon is heavy, we found it surprisingly comfortable to wear. The headband is 1" wide and is complemented by a removable 3/4" wide top band. The battery sits at the back of the head and seems balanced nicely with the light in front. Even for active use, it sits comfortably and is stable.
Stargazers and hunters will appreciate the choice of red, green, or blue light mode, which provides an evenly lit light and is also dimmable to get to just the right lighting level you desire.
We found the Icon easy to operate with gloves, and it would be a good choice for backcountry ski use or other activities where gloves are often worn.
The Icon's combination of trail finding, battery life, and durability make it a good light for those who need a heavy-duty, high-performance headlamp, although we'd pick the Zebralight instead based on our testing. For years, many climbing and mountaineering guides have considered the Icon their go-to headlamp due to the long battery life, easy use, and durability. The current version is even better, but the competition hasn't stood still. Today, the Icon remains a terrific light for those who need durability, a bright light, and excellent battery life. But, it isn't the only one.
The Icon is heavy and bulky, making it a very poor choice for ultralight backpacking, and a dubious choice even short duration backpacking trips.
For many people, we think the expense of the Icon will prove a barrier. Why not buy our Editors' Choice Black Diamond Storm at half the price? The Storm with an extra set of batteries offers almost identical performance, with less weight and bulk, for half the price of the Icon. Or, step up to the much more capable $89 list Zebralight H600w Mk IV and get much more firepower, for about the same price?
Overall, the Icon is a strong performer in the "serious headlamp" category. While it wasn't the absolute best in any of our testing metrics, it was near the top across the board, which resulted in a high overall score. But, strong competition makes it unclear who this light is exactly right for.
— RJ Spurrier