Once the sole province of coal miners and spelunkers, headlamps have become de rigueur for savvy campers. And like other commonplace gadgets, the once simple devices have gone remarkably high-tech in recent years. Low-wattage incandescent bulbs have been replaced by high-power, low-cost LEDs, and smart functionality has been built in, including emergency signals, strobes, and night-friendly red lighting. The Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp is a full-featured model that adds even more welcome refinements, including the unique ability to use regular and rechargeable batteries.
The brightest headlamp we've had the pleasure of using (at a blazing 110 lumens, for lighting fans), the ReVolt has multiple modes to choose from for different situations. The main lamp is a TriplePower LED and is flanked by two SinglePower white ones, as well as two night vision–friendly red LEDs. (And in a particularly obvious yet rare design move, the night vision mode is accessible without having to cycle through all the other settings first, blinding everyone nearby.) There's also a lock setting so the unit doesn't accidentally turn on in your pack, and a three-level power meter that shows remaining battery power on startup. In order to further preserve juice, the ReVolt has a dimmed mode that sips from the batteries – good for when you're rummaging around in your bag or simply cleaning up your campsite.
The power issue is a key facet of any headlamp, and alkaline batteries, which are included, are way more powerful than the NiMH rechargeable ones. In practice, when using rechargeables, the ReVolt loses both throw power and burn time: A modest 12 feet (down to 198), but a significant drop in hours, at 12 versus 70. Still, we liked the ability to rely on rechargeables with regular AAA batteries as backup. And just being able to plug directly into the ReVolt and recharge the batteries (via standard micro-USB) without having to deal with some external charger was a welcome exception. After a night or two of heavy use, we plugged the ReVolt into our portable battery pack by day, and by the time the sun had set, so were we. [$60; blackdiamondequipment.com]