Black Diamond SPOT Review:
I never really liked the Black Diamond Storm. It is popular in the Spartan/GORUCK/Ultra community because it has decent specs and is waterproof. I always thought it was OK, but never really liked it. I always got by with my cheap water-resistant Energizer headlamps (that I still love – going on 10 years of reliable service!) and thought the Storm was unnecessary. Finally I signed up for a GORUCK HCL (48 hours w/ multiple trips into the water) and I knew I would need a heavier-duty headlamp than the Energizer. Resisting the urge to follow convention, I found a dive lamp – the Underwater Kinetics eVision. This headlamp is the perfect GORUCK headlamp – its low output (so you don’t blind your teammates), crazy rugged, and super waterproof. I was 1 of 2 people to survive my event with their headlamp intact. Still though, as I plan on doing more mixed events and night time trail running, I needed something that was waterproof and rugged, but also had some serious lumens and battery life. Just as I was about to finally succumb to the Storm, the new Black Diamond SPOT 2016 came out with even better specs and a style that caught my eye. At $39.99, it is not a cheap lamp, but it’s performance makes the entry price seem low.
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I am going to compare the SPOT with the other headlamps I have hanging around. From left to right: Black Diamond SPOT, Energizer 7 LED (with some electrical tape on it to reduce light bleed), Energizer 6 LED, and the Underwater Kinetics eVision.
BD SPOT: 200 Lumens
E7: 115 Lumens
E6: 95 Lumens
UKeV: 65 Lumens
In a side by side comparison, I could tell that the lamp was brighter, but it only seems marginally so. I was expecting that the jump from ~100 lumens to 200 lumens would be quite a bit more noticeable. Once I got outside in the woods however – the lamp seems MORE than 2x as bright!! Super impressive.
The light dims progressively if you hold down the power button, allowing you to pick the perfect brightness. Its a really nice feature that none of the other lamps have.
I stood about ~5 feet away from the same spot on the wall, each lamp on max brightness. The white modes don’t seem to change too much between lamps, but the red modes are wildly different. The SPOT lamp had the warmest light coloring by far, while the other lamps were much cooler. I think the warmer color would probably be better for night vision. Additionally, the spread on the red light of the SPOT was almost 180 degrees.
On max brightness is rated at 50 hours. This seems very high, so I decided to try it out! I turned the headlamp on max and left it that way until it died. I checked on it regularly, and noticed that the light output significantly decreased in the first 10 hours. I would estimate to about 50% of the brightness. After 20 hours the brightness seemed about the same. After 30 hours the brightness seemed to decrease more. At 50 hours the brightness was about 25% and I stopped the test after 54 hours. NOTE: At 54 hours the lamp was still putting out light! I stopped the test for the sake of getting on with the review.
I am extremely impressed that the device was able to output light for that long, but a bit disappointed at the brightness at 50 hours. I realize this is largely a failing of the batteries. I would be interested to see if I had different results with lithium ion batteries. I tried to take a picture of the dimming but my camera is doing all kinds of algorithms to thwart my efforts.
For this test I took the tallest vase my wife had (1.5ft) and filled it with water (only to 15″ so I could get my arm in there to pull the lamp out!), then threw the lamp in. First I threw it in with the light off and left it for 5 minutes. I wanted to see if water got into the battery compartment since it does not seem to be sealed.
WOW!! The SPOT blows the other lamps out of the water. Seriously, super impressed! Unlike my indoor tests where it didn’t seem that the lamp was that much brighter – once out in the woods, it really makes a huge difference. The other lamps light couldn’t even reach the tree, but with the SPOT you could see the ants crawling on it. NOTE: The red LED on the SPOT is 100% useless. It has the range of ~5 feet, so the most I could illuminate with it was my feet! Weird given how impressive the main lamp is. Best red mode is the 7 LED Energizer
In the last portion you saw that the other lamps couldn’t even illuminate the tree, so I wanted to see how far the SPOT could illuminate something. Again I am very impressed. The jungle gym is well over 50 feet away and I could see it very clearly.
Light bleed comparison:
Nothing kills your night vision like light bleeding out of the bottom of the lamp. Energizer is know for this issue (I always where a baseball cap with them).
Again the Black Diamond SPOT impresses. ZERO bleed of any kind! Really nice, makes the bright lamp feel even brighter when you are wearing it. The lamp with the most bleed is the 7 LED Energizer, and that one already has a 1/2 of a roll of electrical tape on it to reduce the bleed!
Operating the lamp with thick winter gloves:
The stupid power tap feature doesn’t work as best I can tell. The main button takes a second to find as its not particularly pronounced, but I was able to successfully operate the lamp in the dark with gloves. Of course that’s impossible to take a picture of, so I turned the lights on and replicated the experience:
I haven’t taken this thing on a GORUCK or Spartan adventure yet, but you can be assured the next time I go on an adventure this lamp will be my go to! Stylish and lightweight, it is super bright, with impressive battery and watertight to >1 meter for >30 minutes. What not to love?
This is the best lamp I have ever owned, and by a wide margin. Every test (except the red LED) really impressed me! I have always said buy cheap headlamps and don’t worry if you destroy them, but I think this lamp might have just have changed my philosophy! If you found my review useful, and are planning to buy the lamp – please click below!! Helps me to keep writing reviews like this!