Hands-on Gear Review

Princeton Tec Apex Review

Princeton Tec Apex
By: RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara  ⋅  May 10, 2015
Price:  $90 List  |  $40.48 at Backcountry - 55% Off
Pros:  Amazing bright light, waterproof to 1meter, robust design,
Cons:  Heavier than alternatives, expensive, short battery life
Manufacturer:   Princeton Tec
  • Trail Finding - 20% 9
  • Close Proximity - 20% 7
  • Battery Life - 20% 3
  • Brightness - 15% 7
  • Weight - 10% 2
  • Ease of Use - 10% 6
  • Gloved Use - 5% 3
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Our Verdict

The Apex is a quality light that offers a very bright and high-quality spot beam, and a better than average close-proximity light. It is also differentiated by being waterproof to 1 meter. On the downside, it is fairly heavy with four AA batteries, and battery light was relatively poor when you use the bright spot mode. Princeton Tec also makes another version of this light, called the Apex Pro, which uses two lithium-ion batteries, and is a bit lighter.

Our Analysis and Test Results


Performance Comparison

Shown with spot light turned on
Shown with spot light turned on

Trail Finding

This is one of the top scoring headlamps for trail finding with a score of 9 of 10. The beam is powerful and even over distance, especially when the batteries are new. It's on par with both our Editors' Choice, The Coast HL7 (8 of 10) as you can see in the beam comparison photo below and it's closest rival, Black Diamond Icon also 9 of 10.
Beam Distance Photos

Close Proximity

While the 7 score here is solid, this is where the Icon (9 of 10) and Coast (10 of 10) pull ahead. See the photo below against the icon. The Apex has too much intensity focused in the middle in close proximity mode. The Icon has a nice even beam.
Close-proximity Beam Pattern

Battery Life

The battery life score of 3 of 10 is low and highlights the key difference between the Apex and the Icon and you can see in this battery life versus being distance chart. Yes the Apex starts out with a more powerful beam, but in less than an hour it is down to the same power as the Icon. After three hours, we stop the clock for measuring high beam run time with the ANSI standard and the Icon carries on for antoher 5 hours. Learn more about ANSI in the Headlamp Review.

We did not measure low mode run time. The manufacturers claim 150 hours for the Apex, 200 hours for the Black Diamond Spot, 175 hours for the Icon, and 76.5 hours for the Coast.

Uses 4 AA batteries
Uses 4 AA batteries


In high beam mode, the Apex shines and impressive ninety four meters. As mentioned in the battery life paragraph. This headlamp has a very impressive beam when the batteries are brand-new and outshines it's closest competitor, the Icon, which starts out at 80 meters. However, this brightness is not sustained. The beam immediately tapers down to match the Icon. While 94 meters is impressive, it well behind the Coast with a maximum beam distance of 128 m.


This is one of the heaviest headlamps tested banquettes just ate two of 10 score here. At 271 g, it is almost 20% heavier than the Icon and more than double the weight of the Coast.

You can reduce the weight with the Princeton Tec Apex Pro which uses lithium-ion batteries. That said, the Apex Pro is not THAT light and doesn't stack up that well against similarly priced competitors. It also requires 123 lithium ion batteries which are much more expensive and harder to come by.

Ease of Use

This does not have as good and ease-of-use score as its competitors because the button that clicks through the different lighting modes is not the most intuitive. It requires a lot more clicking then seems necessary. It is also difficult to use with gloves.


At $90 this is one of the more expensive head lamps in the review. It is $10 more expensive than the Icon, which scores higher. It most than double the price of the Coast.


This light casts an incredibly powerful beam at first, but other than that falls behind the competition. The Black Diamond Icon is lighter, has a more even beam, $10 dollars less, and has a much longer battery life. The Coast HL7 is less than half the costs, half the weight and also has better batter life and beam distance.

RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara

You Might Also Like

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: May 10, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Average Customer Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

50% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 33%  (1)
4 star: 33%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 33%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Oct 23, 2010 - 11:39am
Russ Walling · Climber · Poofter's Froth, Wyoming

I bought two of these after a PTPP spray-down. I would not buy them again, and here is why:

Both units acquired cracks in the plastic housing where the screws hold the main body together. This was after virtually zero use, and certainly with no rough handling. I called the manufacturer and they said to send the things back. I did and a replacement was sent for one unit, with a promise of a new case to be sent for the other. That never happened. Mine is still cracked and not getting any better.

The on/off function buttons are hard to use if you have hands that resemble anything you might find on a man. Forget about it in gloves.

Both units have a strange habit of going into random flashing mode during use. I have been told this is a known problem with the brains inside the units.

They will turn on in a pack when poked with a cam, and the old battery flip flop is hard to do without some sort of implement.

Sure, they may be bright and all that, but I would not trust one of these as my go-to light on a wall or even stumbling back to Camp 4 from the bar.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.


  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Aug 30, 2010 - 10:31pm
Gagner · Climber · Boulder

I've been using this headlamp for about a year and absolutely love it. I agree with Pete's comments. The only downsides are that I have had it turn itself on once or twice, and the bolt to open the battery compartment requires a knife / coin / or screwdriver. Man is it bright for climbing or hiking, and in the low light mode it works great around a camp.


Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

Have you used this product?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...