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July 12, 2021 Comments (0) Featured, Gear Reviews

Fenix Headlamp Review

There are many different brands of headlamps runners can use as they tackle the dark hours of training or running through the night an an ultra. Knowing which is the best brand and/or model can be very challenging. We have partnered with Fenix Lighting to review a couple of their newer headlamps. We were sent the HM65R-T and the HL18R-T. Specs are listed below:

HM65R-T: $99.95
Lumens: up to 1500 (Spot- 1300 + Flood – 200)
Burn Time: 4 hrs (on Highest mode), 300 hrs (on lowest Flood mode)
Weight: 3.1oz
Material: metal casing

HL18R-T: $54.95
Lumens: up to 500 (Spotlight mode)
Burn Time: 3 hrs
Weight: 2.23oz
Material: plastic

First off, let’s dive into the Fenix Lighting USA HM65R-T. My initial impression was that it’s pretty great. At full power it boasts 1500 lumens with a battery life of up to 4 hours (closer to around 3.5). At half power on the main Spotlight, it’s 400 lumens for 12 hours (battery life is more accurate at this level), which seems like plenty when running through the night in an ultra.
I used this light for part of the time while running a 100 miler in Canyonlands National Park. What I immediately realized was that I don’t need 1500 lumens. It’s a “nice to have” when you are in a tricky spot and really need to broadcast some serious light. For me, when running through the night, 400 is plenty. And knowing that I can make it through the entire night without a battery swap is amazing, so using it on the middle setting seemed to be just about perfect! The other great thing about this model is that it has a lock-tight strap. Basically, like the Boa brand, with a turn of the knob you can get the perfect fit. I can’t believe it’s taken so long for this technology to hit the headlamp market. And Fenix has seemed to really dial it in and perfected it for their headlamps. Finally, I love the natural light LED it gives off. It seems more like daylight than a yellow or orange light, like a lot of headlamps.
What’s the downside? It has an all metal casing (ultralight magnesium, but still), so it’s heavier than most headlamps, which gives me a headache after a couple of hours. In my defense, I get headaches with most headlamps, but I could definitely tell the difference with this one because of the weight. And because of the weight it also has a tendency to bounce if you are running downhill and any decent speed other than a trot. The only way around that is to tighten it, which then just compounds the headache problem I already mentioned. If they were to make this more of a waist-belt light, it would be unbeatable! The back of the casing could also use a tiny strip of foam padding, for comfort. Other than that, it’s incredible.
So then, let’s look into the HL18R-T. This is a much more traditional headlamp, with a casing very similar to that of a Petzl. Like its brother, it has the same SPORT headband fit system and is super easy to adjust (seriously, it might be my favorite thing of all). It’s lighter than the other lamp, and the buttons are very easy to use. While it has a 1300mAh Li-polymer battery, if that drains you can also replace it with 3 AAA batteries. WHAT!? There is nothing scarier than having your headlamp run out of batteries. Knowing that you can just thrown 3 AAAs in your vest instead of carrying a whole second headlamp is the best!
All of that said, there are a couple of drawbacks with this lamp. When used on High you only get 3-4 hours of battery life (depending on which batteries you use). While that’s fine for training, it doesn’t work, at all, for anyone who needs to spend hours in the dark. At half power, 200 lumens, you get 8-11 hours, which is more accommodating, but at 200 lumens there isn’t much that sets this apart from it’s competitors. In fact, most other brands can produce 200 lumens for 10+ hours in a much smaller package. So, something to think about. Additionally, the light color has a much more yellow hue than it’s partner. On its own you may not notice it, but paired together (I ran with one, my brother ran with the other) you can really tell the difference and I much prefer the light hue of the HM65R-T. Other than that, it’s a great headlamp.
Two Final Thoughts
Fenix is an exceptional company and you can count on the quality of their products. I tested Fenix headlamps many years ago and, at the time, their quality was not up to the standards of their flashlight line. I believe that has all changed and they are now equal. I’m very impressed with the direction they are going, overall, and can’t wait to see how the develop more models in the future. So overall we give them a huge thumbs up!
While the “industrialized” naming system might work ok for their flashlights and bike lights, it doesn’t work well for the hiking/running community. I’d recommend giving them proper, more memorable, names. There is nothing recognizable about the naming structure and when people ask about what model I have and I rattle off a bunch of letters and numbers, there is no way they will be able to remember it and go find the product themselves. Just something to think about.

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