Many companies have tried to make a headlamp for kids, but in that past, that has largely translated into a low-cost product in your choice of fun colors. But the Black Diamond Wiz
takes the idea of design for kids to a whole new level, by thinking through what goes wrong when kids have a grown-up light, and also added fun rainbow-color lighting. (And, not to be overlooked, it also comes at a low-price and in a fun section of colors).
Our favorite thing about the Wiz is that it offers a very diffused flood beam that is not too bright. Nothing is more of a buzzkill on your fabulous family camping trip, when you are just about to break out the Smores, than a sibling crying because their brother or sister blinded them with their headlamp beam on full-bright. And, this issue of one kid blinding another just keeps happening, more so now than ever before, because headlamps today are just so amazingly bright.
The Wiz is unique in offering a beam that is not very bright, only shining about 7 meters (or 23 feet) at its max setting, which is plenty bright for use around camp, yet not so bright that it hurts your eyes (much) if you look right into it. Even better, you can dim it a bit, and it remembers the dim level setting (which we definitely recommend for younger kids, since the default max level is brighter than necessary).
It is very easy to use, with a single large button and no fancy features. One click turns it on, and a second click switches it to color. Press and hold activates dimming, which is intuitive and easy. The one trick that you might not guess, is that if you switch to color lighting, a double-click activates a cycling through the full rainbow spectrum of colors; once you find your favorite color a single click locks it in. The Wiz remembers the dimming level and color you last used, making it easy to lock in the right brightness and color for your kids.
The biggest performance issue for the Wiz is battery life. It is powered by just two AAA batteries, which doesn't quite seem enough. Most lights offer a powerful spot mode with relatively short run-time and a low-intensity flood mode that offers longer battery life. The Wiz works only as a floodlight, and even when set to maximum brightness it puts out about the same brightness as other lights in their low mode. Yet while the $20 Petzl Tikkina lasted an amazing 223 hours in low mode, we found the Wiz lasted only 3.3 hours in our low mode run-time test. That is a disappointing run-time any way you look at it and very poor when compared to other headlamps as you can see in the chart below. Bottom line: bring extra batteries.
Another issue is the inability to use this headlamp as a kids nite light. We like to use a headlamp as a nite light by dimming it down to a low level, and/or switching to the red LED on lights that offer that feature, to provide a comfortable ambient lighting all night. The Wiz disables this functionality by building in an auto shut off after 2 hours. They do so, to avoid leaving the light accidentally on and draining batteries. But, for us, the issue of kids being afraid of the dark is a much bigger concern than the risk of dead batteries.
Last, and really not a problem from our point of view, the Wiz weak beam throw, only casting a 7-meter beam. This is not so much a dislike, as a feature, since it is by offering a soft lower intensity and well-diffused beam that the Wiz spares kids from accidentally blinding each other's eyes. The light level is plenty bright enough for walking down a smooth path or taking the dog for a nighttime walk, but this does limit the Wiz from offering similar all-around that other low-cost general-purpose headlamps deliver. One implication is that your kids will outgrow the Wiz overtime, when they are old enough to responsibly use a more powerful headlamp (i.e. not blind the eyes of their siblings), they will both want and love to use a light with a more powerful beam.
The Wiz is not perfect if you consider it as a general-purpose headlamp. But, when you think of it as a light just for young kids, the Wiz is a tour de force of thoughtful design. It is a great choice, our Top Pick for Kids, that will make for happier family adventures such as camping, family travel, or sleepovers. Just bring some extra batteries.