Hands-on Gear Review

Surefire Saint Minimus Review

Surefire Saint Minimus
Price:  $179 List | $168.06 at Amazon
Pros:  Exceptional close proximity beam evenness and very easy to use.
Cons:  Short battery life, low brightness and distance scores, expensive.
Editors' Rating:   
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Measured Max Beam Distance:  32 m
Claimed Distance:  42 m
Measured High Mode Run-time (ANSI):  2 hrs
Manufacturer:   Surefire

Our Verdict

The Saint Minimus blew away the competition in some ratings and fell way short in others. It scored perfect 10s for both close proximity and ease-of-use. It is easily the most intuitive headlamp to use, having just one control and the quality of the diffused beam at distances up to 50 feet were amazing. However, it was also one of the lowest scoring headlamps for battery life and brightness. It does not have a real spotlight feature for finding things in the distance. With a hefty price tag, this headlamp is for a person who just wants a perfectly even beam directly in front of them.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara

Last Updated:
Sunday
May 10, 2015

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Performance Comparison


Surefire Saint Minimus
Surefire Saint Minimus

Trail Finding


The incredibly even beam makes this ideal for trail finding directly in front of you. However, for finding those objects beyond 50 feet, it is not as effective and therefore it only gets a 6 of 10 score. The measured beam distance of 31 meters was by far the shortest for a headlamp that cost more than $100. As you can see in the beam comparison against the coast HL7, while the lighting is even with the Surefire, it is not very strong and you can't see very far. Just count how many more fence posts you can see with the Coast which scored an 8 of 10 for trail finding.

Close Proximity


This is where this headlamp excels. It scored a perfect 10 and as you can see in the beam comparison below against the Coast HL7, which also scored a 10, the Surefire has an even more perfectly even light delivery.

Battery Life


This had one of the shortest battery lifes we observed while the headlamp was in high beam mode. In our ANSI measured high mode runtime tests, It lasted just two hours. By comparison, in high beam mode, the Spot lasted 5.2 hours and the Black Diamond Icon lasted 8.2 hours. Even the Coast HL7, which does not great high mode battery life, lasted much longer and at a much higher brightness as you can see in this battery life versus beam distance chart. To learn more about the ANSI standard, check out our headlamp review.

A single 123A lithium 3v battery is used to power the Minimus. It is easily accessed by unscrewing the tube end.
A single 123A lithium 3v battery is used to power the Minimus. It is easily accessed by unscrewing the tube end.

An additional strike against the Surefire: the 3 amp 123 lithium Ion batteries generally cost three times more than the equivalent power from AA and AAA batteries. The combination of short life and expensive batteries means heavy users need a big battery budget.

With the red light filter in place  the Minimus is suitable for night uses like star gazing and hunting. However  unlike lights with an efficient red LED  battery life is the same (short) as with white light and some brightness is lost with the filter.
With the red light filter in place, the Minimus is suitable for night uses like star gazing and hunting. However, unlike lights with an efficient red LED, battery life is the same (short) as with white light and some brightness is lost with the filter.

Brightness


The measured max beam distance of 32 meters is quite low and earns the Surefire a paltry 2 of 10 brightness score (the same score as the $12 Energizer 3 LED ). By comparison, the Spot shines 70 m, the Icon 80 m, and the Coast shines a whopping 128 m. The Surefire is plenty bright for seeing what is immediately around you, but very hard to see items in the distance.

Weight


This headlamp scored in the middle for weight: a 5 of 10 score. At 98 grams it is a little heavier than the Spot (93 grams). That is not that heavy but also not close to being an ultra-light like the Petzl e+LITE (26 grams).

Ease of Use


This was one of the highest scoring headlamps in the ease-of-use test and gets a perfect 10 of 10. It has one very intuitive knob that perfectly and evenly adjusts the brightness intensity. It was also very easy to use with gloves.

Best Applications


This is the ideal headlamp for seeing what is close around you. It was at one point a favorite of some firefighters involved in the testing. Why? It was easy to use with gloves and had a perfectly even beam for going inside dark rooms and making sure that you weren't distracted by a spotty pattern. It also doesn't have the the over-the-top strap, which makes it easily go over large helmets such as a fire helmet.
Surefire St Minimus works great on firefighting helmets because it does not have the extra strap over the top.
Surefire St Minimus works great on firefighting helmets because it does not have the extra strap over the top.

Value


This is one of the more expensive headlamps tested in the review and 3 to 4 times the cost of Editors' Choice Coast HL7. The Coast beats the Surefire on all tests except for close proximity, weight and ease-of-use, where the Surefire just barely edges ahead. As mentioned above, you will also have to pay a lot more for batteries and deal with the fact that lithium ion batteries are harder to find. Unless you are a camera enthusiast, you generally don't find 123 lithium Ion batteries in your kitchen drawer.

Conclusion


If your top priority is having the perfect beam within 50 feet of you, this is an awesome headlamp for a premium price. However, most folks want the option of having a long distance beam mode such as is delivered in the Coast HL7, especially if dropping a lot of case. If battery life is a priority, we lean toward the Black Diamond Spot that scored much better in most categories and only slightly lower in close proximity and ease-of-use. The Spot is three times less expensive.
RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara

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

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (2)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Person Icon

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   Feb 16, 2014 - 11:42am
Noah
One key thing not covered in the review is durability. The Saint is extremely rugged and reliable. Unlike just about all other lights (and the reason for the cost), the Saint is housed in a machined aluminium body. The stats on water proofing are incorrect, it is IPX-7 (3ft for 30 minutes). I never have to worry about this light getting crushed in my pack, and it has survived many caving and technical canyoneering trips, taking abuse that most lights would not. Reliability is Surefire's big selling point.

If you use your light in the winter, you will appreciate the controls. I can control the light even with heavy mittens on, very useful.

If you are on foot, 95% of the time you want your headlamp to be a flood. You get a much wider field of view, not tunnel vision. It is not good for route finding. I tend to use a hand held light with a tight beam for this purpose.

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


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