Alex Roddie tests a versatile headlamp, great for everything from general use to big, cold mountains
The Great Outdoors Awards 2017 SHORTLISTED – Camping category
Our Gear Editor Chris Townsend tested this headlamp for the November 2017 issue of The Great Outdoors, concluding that it was one of the best tested in that issue – with one flaw. Alex Roddie has used this lamp extensively over the last few months. Here is his long-term review.
The ReVolt is a good headlamp offering a broad range of features, making it suitable for most purposes. It’s compact, fairly lightweight, easy enough to use once past the initial learning curve, and can be configured to suit the task at hand. The beam can be broad and dim for camp use, red for map reading, or focused and bright for off-path night navigation. It’s waterproof too, and it can be powered either by rechargeable batteries or replaceable AAA cells.
In short, unless you have specialist needs – much lighter or much brighter – the ReVolt will probably tick most of your boxes.
I have been using the ReVolt since late summer in a variety of situations from hillwalking and backpacking to Alpine mountaineering. While most of my impressions are positive, it isn’t without some drawbacks.
Most headlamps I’ve used in the past have used a single button or dial to switch modes, but the ReVolt has two controls: a large rubber button on the top, and a touch-sensitive panel on the side. Although I found this a little confusing at first, it isn’t too hard to get used to. The top button switches between modes and is used to lock the torch, while tapping the side toggles between the current mode and maximum brightness (although it doesn’t do anything when in red mode or strobe mode). With some practice it’s easy enough to get used to this, however.
I was initially dubious about the touch panel in challenging mountain conditions, but it has worked fine for me even in sub-zero conditions or when wet. It works ok if you’re wearing thin gloves but not with thicker gloves on.
The control system allows precise control of brightness. While there are several pre-set levels that will be enough for most people, you can also hold the top switch down then release for fine-grained brightness control – a nice touch.
The ReVolt comes with three rechargeable cells that can be charged directly in the unit via a Micro USB port, concealed beneath a rather fiddly waterproof cover that can be a faff to close properly when wearing gloves. However, being able to charge the torch directly is a great feature for general use – you can use an ordinary phone charger or powerbank. Battery life with NiMh cells is ok but not outstanding – on anything more than low beam it drains within a few days of normal use, and on high beam you could see the batteries depleted in only a few hours.
Chris Townsend picked up on an issue here in his review: “The specifications that are emphasised on the packaging and the website are those for use with alkaline batteries that last longer and give a brighter light. This is misleading and I do think Black Diamond should make the rechargeable battery figures the prominent ones.”
Battery life and brightness with the included NiMH cells are significantly worse than with alkalines – something I can confirm from my own testing, and rather sneaky because most users will likely prefer to use rechargeables most of the time.
Luckily, the ReVolt also accepts standard AAA alkaline or Lithium cells. Why might you want to do this?
- Better performance: up to nearly double the brightness on max power
- Better battery life: alkalines offer well over double the battery life of NiMH cells, and Lithiums last even longer than that
- You can’t easily recharge the ReVolt while out walking, but swapping a spent set of cells for some backups is easy
- Lithium cells offer significantly better performance in cold weather
I used Lithium batteries in the Alps, and enjoyed a much brighter beam, coupled with battery life that seemed almost inexhaustible. This torch is ideal for cold, high-mountain adventures. Lithium cells give it endurance and cold-resistance, the beam is powerful enough to pick out distant objects, it’s waterproof, and the battery compartment has a large, glove-friendly latch. These are all great qualities for general hill use too, with the only real drawback being the limited usefulness of the touch control when wearing thicker gloves (but the lamp does remember the last-used setting, making this less of a disadvantage than you might think).
The only other downside I noticed in general use is that the strap on my sample had a tendency to slacken a little after a few hours of use.
Ultralight backpackers may be looking for something simpler and even lighter, but for the rest of us there’s a lot to like about the ReVolt and very few downsides – but do be aware of the difference in performance and battery life with alkalines versus the included rechargeables.