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July 23, 2012

Black Diamond Sprinter and Spot 2012 Headlamp Reviews

One sure sign that you’re an ultrarunner is that even in the middle of summer, when the sun rises early and daylight stretches well past dinnertime, you still use headlamps on a regular basis for your training runs.

That’s been the case for me this spring and summer, when I've had lots of opportunity to test two updated Black Diamond favorites: the Sprinter rechargeable headlamp, and the Spot compact headlamp.  I typically use the Spot when heading to the trails before sunrise, and the Sprinter when I’m running on dark roads – for reasons I’ll explain shortly.

Truthfully, the new lamps don’t represent significant changes from the previous models; rather, they are mainly refinements of products that were already pretty darn good.  There are still a few recommendations I have for improvement, but overall they provide a very strong feature profile for a great price, which has always been Black Diamond’s forte in lighting systems.

2011 Sprinter on L, 2012 Sprinter on R

The Sprinter is Black Diamond’s green marvel: it’s a super lightweight, rechargeable lamp that is versatile enough to handle any number of conditions.  This year’s model burns a bit brighter – 75 lumens compared to 68 on the previous version – but otherwise has virtually identical specs.  It weighs 3.7 oz (105g), with 5 hours of burn time at the highest setting, and has a water resistance rating of IPX7 (immersion in up to 1m of water for 30 minutes).



A double power LED beam projects a very nice, even oval flood beam through a wide perimeter, and illumination stays constant throughout the battery life.   There’s a red taillight strobe to improve your visibility from behind, which is the reason this is my #1 choice for road running.  The rear strobe can be turned off with a simple push button if necessary. 


AC charger (last year) on L, USB (this year) on R

Another difference between last year’s model and the current version is that instead of recharging from a standard outlet, the new Sprinter charges with a USB cable.  This is great if you charge everything from your computer, but I ended up using a cheap AC-to-USB adapter so I can recharge the lamp in my bedroom and  grab it when I roll out of bed on dark mornings.



One change I wanted to see was a more stable interface between lamp and charger; the lamp doesn’t always lock into place real firmly, and it’s sometimes difficult to tell from the LED indicator if you’re getting the charge you think you are.  The only other downside of the new Sprinter is the same as the original version: you only get one type of beam, so if you like to flip back and forth between spot and flood mode, the Sprinter can’t help you there.

**
If spot mode is what you like, Black Diamond’s Spot is one of the most powerfully compact lamps you’ll find.  A triple-power LED increases the brightness of last year’s model from 75 to 90 lumens, without changing the battery requirement (three AAA) or overall weight of 3.17 oz  (90g).


2011 Spot on L, 2012 Spot on R

Its overall shape and dimensions are unchanged as well, so the light is still perfect for tucking in a waist pack after sunrise.  90 lumens is more than bright enough to illuminate the trails, and the variable dimmer function can customize the level to whatever your needs may be, whether running under moonlight or reading in your sleeping bag.  Burn time is 50 hours on the high setting, or 200 hours with the dimmer LEDs



The Spot is chock full of other cool features as well: two red night vision bulbs, a three-level battery life indicator, a strobe setting, and a lock mode to prevent accidental battery drain.  Water resistance is IPX4, so it’s no problem to run through a storm.

Like with the Sprinter, my downsides to the new Spot are unchanged from the old version to the updated one.  If you prefer the flood setting (which I do), you have to use the single power LEDs which only shine at 16 lumens.  Also, even though the Spot is compatible with rechargeable batteries, I’ve been hoping that Black Diamond would develop a version of this lamp that can be recharged by a plug-in like the Sprinter (or like Petzl’s CORE battery pack).

I happened to mention this point in an e-mail to my BD rep, who gave me the following reply: We will be showing something at Summer OR [Outdoor Retailer convention] that will be of interest to you.  That's all I can say for now.  So keep your eyes peeled for some kind of announcement in the next few weeks – and I’ll let you know as soon as I’m in the loop as well.

[**UPDATED: See the bottom of this post for a sneak peek at Black Diamond's upcoming rechargeable lamp, called the ReVolt.  Big thanks to my reader Luke for passing this along.]

In the meantime, Black Diamond’s 2012 lamps provide an outstanding combination of performance and value, especially as the days start to grow shorter again this fall.  Here are your product links:

Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp retails for $70, but is discounted to $56 at Amazon.com.

Black Diamond Spot headlamp retails for $40 from Amazon.com.


*Products provided by Black Diamond.  Affiliate sales support Running and Rambling.
**If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.

**Here's the sneak peek video of Black Diamond's ReVolt compact headlamp, available in Spring 2013 (click to play):



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7 comments:

Unknown 7/24/12, 12:20 AM  

Running with my LED headlamps and a non-LED flashlight has left me feeling like LED isn't the best option for trail-running in the dark. It seems to give "flat" light, and is hard to discern obstacles (like descent grades or small rocks/ruts). Is this a problem with LED headlamps in general, or am I just using one that doesn't work well?

JimDog 7/24/12, 6:57 AM  

I bought the BD Sprinter last time you reviewed it. LOVE IT!

Donald 7/24/12, 7:23 AM  

@unknown: It could be the quality of the bulb, but I suspect the difference you're seeing is also attributable to carrying the flashlight in your hand, closer to the ground. The higher the light, the harder to discern bumps and roots down below. I know runners who strap headlamps around their waist instead of their head for that very reason.

Weimerunner 7/24/12, 9:03 AM  

I picked up two new Spots for this weekend at the TRT, and they worked great! It was good to run into you out there past Snow Valley Peak. Thanks for the great product reviews.

Luke 7/24/12, 10:06 AM  

New rechargeable BD headlamp for next year:

http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/journal/climb/all/rechargeablereimagined-the-revolt-coming-spring-2013

Looks like a sightly modified Spot with rechargeable batteries.

Donald 7/24/12, 5:08 PM  

@Luke: Sweet find! Thanks very much for passing it along. I've updated the post to include the video as well.

Adam B. 12/17/12, 11:26 AM  

I read about the ReVolt in this post and have been awaiting its arrival, and it has been released a few months ahead of schedule simply for the holidays through REI exclusively: http://www.rei.com/product/840008/black-diamond-revolt-headlamp
Ordered one for my dad and myself for Christmas, woohoo!

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