My compact headlamps with mini reviews

Jul 20, 2006
About a year ago, I purchased a small headlamp at Radio Shack. It was an impulse purchase, and at the time I didn't realize it ran on coin cell batteries. After making that realization, I decided to keep it and give it a try. The headlamp has 3 different lighting intensity modes, and 2 flashing modes. I've used it on a few camping trips, and found it to work extremely well for basic task lighting around camp, walking trails, etc. Soooo...

I thought about acquiring a few other compact lamps. Here is what I have so far:

CLockwise from top left are the Radio Shack unit, a Cyclops Atom, Petzl e+lite, and a Coast LED Lesnser runner's headlamp.

The Radio Shack unit ($10) has 3 LEDs and provides 5 modes of flood lighting actuated by pressing a single button switch. I found the low intesity setting to be more than adequate for lighting around camp away from the fire. This unit does not pivot, but the aiming angle can be adjusted by rotating the lamp in the base. The lamp is removable from the base, as well. Battery duration is unknown. I probably have 8 hours on the unit already and haven't noticed any drop off in intensity. It uses CR2032 batteries (2).

The Cyclops Atom ($10) is a magnified focused beam from one LED, with only on and off modes. The lamp pivots up and down, and the base has a spring clip for attaching to a hat visor, jacket lapel, etc. Although focused, the beam isn't all too intense, but does appear to be adequate for general tasks. The drawback to the focused beam is that it creates a circle of light about 3" in diameter when you are about 15" away from whatever you are working on. I haven't used this unit in the field yet. I imagine it will work fine for general task light, trail walking, etc., but the focused beam will take getting used to. This unit used CR2016 batteries (2), and I think I read it was maybe a 15-20 hour battery life.

The Petzl e+lite (about $30) is my favorite. The e+lite offers 3 modes (economy intensity, high intensity, flash) of white light from 3 LEDs, and two modes (steady and flash) of red light from a single, smaller LED. The e+lite operates via a rotating switch which has a an off position at each end of it's range of motion, plus a lock position. The lamp is mounted on a ball joint and can be swiveled into a mulitude of positions. It can also be turned around 180 degrees so the lamp face is against the base for added protection. The base also has a built-in clothing/hat clip. It came in a nifty little hard case, it runs on 2 CR2032 batteries, and per Petzl it has a run time of about 40 hours on econo mode.

e+lite swivel action:

e+lite clip action:

The Coast LED Lenser runner's headlamp ($15) is my newest acquisition. It offers floodish illumination from one LED recessed into a pivoting tube. I say floodish because there is a noticeable hot spot in the center of the light pattern. There are no fancy modes of operation, just on and off. This lamp is powered by one AAA battery, which is housed in box that rides on the back of the head. The battery housing has two blue LEDs that light when the lamp is on. There is a hunter's model of this lamp that has green LEDs on the battery housing, and it tends to be about $5 more than the runner's model. As this lamp is new to me, I haven't used it in the field yet, although I imagine It'll work fine, and I'll enjoy using more than the Atom. I have no info on battery life expectency.

The coin-cell batteries will keep for a good while when stored, which is a plus. They are all pretty small, and can be easily stashed in a glove box, jacket pocket, BOB, etc. and mostly, they're just fun, fun, fun!
Nice review mate,

I still have a slight concave groove on the bottom of my two front teeth from holding a mini-maglite in them during the two years I spent installing rooftop baloons at night. Lightweight headlamps are such an obvious idea but no-one had thought of them in those days.

My current fave is the Petzl Tikka Plus.