The ReVolt wins our Top Pick Award for Travel, as the best USB rechargeable headlamp for travel, and an overall excellent product. While it does not stand out for any one attribute, it is a solid performer all around. The ReVolt is a great option for extended trips where you don't want to carry extra batteries, as the ReVolt can charge off just about anything with a USB adapter: a solar panel, car cigarette lighter, a laptop, external battery, or a 110 wall outlet with a USB adapter. You can top off the charge every day if you wish, and start each activity with a full charge and piece of mind of how much battery life you have. With most headlamps, there is no way to tell how close you are to running out of juice, but the ReVolt has a simple battery indication LED to keep you informed. Adding convenience, the ReVolt also works with regular alkaline AAA batteries.
Black Diamond ReVolt Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Rechargeable, good spot light capability, above average in almost every category, works with regular AAA too
Cons: Medium length distance beam, battery rapidly degrades in high mode
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Rechargeable batteries can be a convenient choice for frequent headlamp users, and those who travel to remote areas, offering benefits of cost savings, avoiding the need to buy replacement batteries, and added ease of use. The ReVolt offers simple recharging via micro-USB, on a light at a reasonable price and with good all-around performance.
Happily, there are lots of rechargeable options for headlamps today, and the ReVolt faces a lot of competition. One compelling and economic option is to buy 3rd party AAA rechargeable batteries, like the well regarded Panasonic Eneloop AAA, and use them in a quality headlamp like the Black Diamond Storm. This works very well and also offers significantly better lighting performance than the ReVolt for about the same cost, but lacks the convenience of a USB charge connection. Another good option is to combine the $20 Petzl Tikkina with the $30 Petzl CORE Battery, which offers a good solution with USB recharging for $10 lower cost that the ReVolt.
With a 6 of 10 score, the ReVolt was a solid, but not exceptional, performer in the trail finding metric. It has a nice, even beam for seeing what's directly in front of you, but does not excel when compared to top performing lights.
Above you can compare the ReVolt (left) versus the Storm (right). This is a quite relevant comparison since the Storm works great with NiMH rechargeable batteries. The difference is somewhat subtle, but the Storm on the right shines brighter and wider than the ReVolt, with much better battery life.
The ReVolt is excellent at close proximity, scoring an 8 of 10. It casts a wide, even beam with very few bright hotspots or dark shadows. This makes it ideal for finding things in your car, hanging around the campfire, reading, and general use.
The ReVolt offered disappointing battery life performance in high mode. While it starts off well, it rapidly degrades and within 1.1 hours it has lost 90% of its original brightness level.
The above chart compares battery run time in High mode of the ReVolt (blue line) versus the Storm (green line). Note how they start off similarly, for the first 20 minutes, but then the Storm enters a regulated lighting level and holds it for 1.5 hours, while the ReVolt drops dramatically.
This headlamp is not heavy, but it is 0.5 ounces heftier than the BD Spot, yet 0.4 ounces lighter than the BD Storm.
Ease of Use
The ReVolt is quite easy to use for basic functionality, and the battery light tells you if it is charging or not and how much charge you have left. Advanced functions suffer from the same issues as the siblings Spot and Storm, namely that there are so many functions loaded under the single button interface, that accessing things like the red LED, dimming, and power lockout can be confusion.
Ever get annoyed that a pack of AAA batteries at the convenience store can cost more than a diner breakfast? This is the ideal headlamp for the person who is plagued by constantly replacing batteries or just wants to be able to use it every day and know how much battery life they have left. It is also an ideal emergency light to keep in the car (along with a charging cable and usb source) because it can be recharged by many different power sources.
The ReVolt is more convenient than it is a great value. It offers a convenient way to get USB rechargeable capability, in a solid, quality headlamp. But, if you don't need USB charging, then combining the BD Storm with quality batteries like the Panasonic Eneloop AAA will provide a higher performing solution, at about the same price. Or, you can save a bit of money, with USB recharging and similar performance, by going with the Petzl Tikkina and their CORE battery pack.
One thing we don't love about the ReVolt is that they lock you into using Black Diamond brand rechargeable batteries. We feel there are better battery values available from manufacturers like Panasonic, and find this restriction unfortunate. While 3rd party NiMH batteries do work just fine to power the ReVolt (as do Alkaline batteries), you can't recharge them with the convenient USB charging port. Some people have figured out ways to hack 3rd party NiMH batteries to make them work (but we don't recommend doing so).
The ReVolt delivers solid (but not remarkable scores) in general, and is an excellent headlamp with convenient USB recharging.
— RJ Spurrier