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Black Diamond Iota Review

A budget alternative for night running use
Black Diamond Iota
Photo: Abriah Wofford
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Price:  $40 List | Check Price at Amazon
Pros:  Lightweight, rechargeable, well suited for night time running use
Cons:  Below average beam throw, poor battery life, not competitive with general-use lights
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By RJ Spurrier ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 28, 2018
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51
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#22 of 27
  • Trail Finding - 35% 3
  • Close Proximity - 20% 6
  • Battery Life - 15% 3
  • Weight - 15% 8
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The $40 list Black Diamond Iota provides night time and early morning runners with a much lower cost alternative to the amazing Black Diamond Sprinter at $80 list. But, that cost savings comes with a big reduction in performance. The Sprinter offers better lighting, is much more comfortable to wear when running, and includes a red tail light that makes you more visible to cars and might just save your life. Serious runners will be wise to pass on the Iota and buy the Sprinter instead. But, for the occasional runner on a tight budget, or someone who runs exclusively on trails, the Iota is a contender.

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Black Diamond Iota
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Black Diamond Iota
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $40 List
Check Price at Amazon
Check Price at REI
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$39.95 at REI$29 List$19.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Lightweight, rechargeable, well suited for night time running useExcellent trail finding and close proximity beam, waterproof, above average battery lifeExcellent spot light capability, wide evenly lit flood beam, above average in most waysGood performance for the price, 94 meter beam throw, easy to useSuper easy to use, inexpensive, solid performance, compact, and reliable
Cons Below average beam throw, poor battery life, not competitive with general-use lightsMore expensive, heavier than average, claimed battery life is very misleadingBelow average battery life, claimed battery life is wildly misleading, single button hard to use, lame waterproofingAverage in most waysGood but not great spot beam for trail finding, slightly below average flood beam optics
Bottom Line A budget alternative for night running useA durable light that will last for years with a bright high-quality beam, slightly higher in cost and weightA quality, durable, and bright light that hits the sweet spot for most people's needs, despite dubious marketing claimsThe Yalumi is a good light, at a good price, that provides basic functionalityFor $20, the Tikkina offers impressive performance at a great price, that will meet most people's needs
Rating Categories Black Diamond Iota Black Diamond Storm Black Diamond Spot Yalumi LED 140-Lumen Petzl Tikkina
Trail Finding (35%)
3.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Close Proximity (20%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
4.0
Battery Life (15%)
3.0
6.0
4.0
6.0
7.0
Weight (15%)
8.0
5.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
8.0
6.0
6.0
9.0
10.0
Specs Black Diamond Iota Black Diamond Storm Black Diamond Spot Yalumi LED 140-Lumen Petzl Tikkina
Measured Beam Distance 37 m 91 m 94 m 94 m 62 m
Claimed Distance 40 m 85 m 80 m 90 m 55 m
Measured High Mode Run-time (ANSI) 1.8 hrs 5 hrs 2.9 hrs 4.3 hrs 3.5 hrs
Claimed High Mode Run-time 2 hrs 40 hrs 30 hrs Not specified 60 hrs
Measured Low Mode Run-time 69 hrs 42 hrs 9.7 hrs 47 hrs 223 hrs
Claimed Low Mode Run-time 40 hrs 120 hrs 175 hrs 100 hrs 220 hrs
Measured Weight 1.9 oz, 53 g 4 oz, 112 g 3.1 oz, 89 g 2.7 oz, 77 g 2.9 oz, 83 g
Battery Type Rechargeable lithium ion 4 AAA 3 AAA 3 AAA 3 AAA
Water Resistance IPX4 splash proof IP67 waterproof to one meter and dustproof Splash proof (dubious IPX8 claim) IPX4 splash proof IPX4 splash proof
Manuf Claimed Lumens 150 lumens 350 lumens 300 lumens 140 lumens 150 lumens
Beam Type flood, dimmable flood/spot flood/spot flood/spot flood
Red Light no yes, red/green/blue night-vision modes yes yes no
On Switch Lock yes yes yes no no

Our Analysis and Test Results

The BD Iota is a good light for those who love to take regular runs at dusk, dawn, or at night. Its big advantage is that it sells for half the price at $40 of the light you'd really want for running, the Black Diamond Sprinter which costs $80.

Photo: Abriah Wofford

Likes


The lighting level of the Iota is pretty good when viewed for the special purpose as a runner's headlamp. The beam is wide, evenly lit, and lights up the path ahead sufficiently. While we much prefer the Sprinter's brighter and wider beam (as well as the Sprinter's rear tail light), the Iota is good enough to get the job done on well-defined trails, roads, and paths.

Beam Distance Photos
Beam photo of Black Diamond Iota
Beam photo of Black Diamond Sprinter

Black Diamond Iota
Black Diamond Sprinter

The Iota is pleasantly small and light at only 1.9 ounces or 53g. It is reasonably comfortable to wear when running, although the band is narrower than we'd ideally want to see (much narrower than most other BD headlamps, and it is no match for the stability and comfort offered by the Sprinter's balanced design and supportive top band.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The light's lithium-ion batteries are easily recharged using a micro USB charging cable. Rechargeable batteries are great for a runner's headlamp since it eliminates the hassle and cost of buying replacement batteries.

Photo: Abriah Wofford

Dislikes


Battery life is relatively short, at 1.8 hours in our test, which stacks up poorly against most general purpose headlamps but will meet the needs of most runners.


Poor beam distance makes the Iota a compromised solution for general-purpose use, where the ability to switch into spotlight mode is core functionality.


Beam Distance Photos
Beam photo of Black Diamond Iota
Beam photo of Black Diamond Spot

Black Diamond Iota
Black Diamond Spot

The Iota beam just doesn't stack up well against stronger general-purpose lights like the BD Spot (shown above, right), or even versus the $20 Petzl Tikkina.

No Rear Tail Light for Road Safety


We consider the red safety tail lights on the Sprinter to be a very valuable feature for anyone who runs on the road, a feature that could literally be a lifesaver. While those who run exclusively on dedicated trails may find the red tail lights unnecessary, if you run even part time on the road, or in an urban environment on sidewalks with frequent road crossings, we think the tail light makes the Sprinter well worth the extra $40 over the Iota.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Conclusion


The Iota does a good job at creating the budget light for runners. If you are a runner who frequently runs in the early morning, at sunset, or at night, the Black Diamond Sprinter is the light we recommend and think you'd really want to use. But, the Iota provides good-enough performance at half the price, and so if you are on a tight budget, it just be might be the right solution for you.

RJ Spurrier