Gear Box: Black Diamond Icon Headlamp

I have a confession to make. I have a really bad habit when I travel. One that I am reluctant to share. It seems, almost without fail, I always end up leaving a piece of gear behind at the places I visit, and invariably, it tends to be my headlamp. Don’t ask me why, it just does. Because of this little travel idiosyncrasy, I always find myself shopping for a new light right before I head off on a major trip.

This was the case recently when I was preparing to go to Nepal to make the trek to Everest Base Camp. I knew that I’d need something that could light my way around the villages and teahouses in the night, perhaps do some reading before bed, and of course light the way on the trail should we find ourselves caught out after dark.

After shopping around a bit, I got my hands on a new Black Diamond Icon headlamp, and while I was put off by the size at first, I soon found that it’s advantages far outweighed any qualms I had about it’s larger footprint.

I’ll talk about the size of the Icon first, mostly because it was the first thing I thought about when I took it out of the package. The actual headlamp is quite small and actually isn’t much different from similar lights from competitors. But while most of my previous headlamps stored their batteries inside the lamp itself, the Icon has a separate battery pack that fits at the back of the straps and rests on the back of your head while worn. That battery pack is what gives the Icon its size, but it also proves to be its strength as well.

The Icon is powered by three “AA” batteries (or an optional rechargeable battery pack), which translate into plenty of bright light while out on the trail. Better yet, Black Diamond designed this headlamp to be very efficient in its battery use, and after hours of operation, I haven’t seen much degradation in brightness yet.

Speaking of brightness, this is easily the brightest headlamp I’ve ever used. With one large, TriplePower lamp, and four SinglePower bulbs, the Icon offers up 100 lumens on its highest setting. In fact, the Icon had no problems over powering the headlamps of other hikers in my trekking group, even before cranking it up to the highest of its seven brightness levels. It also includes two different modes for long and close range viewing, with a tight and wide beam respectively. It is easy to switch between these modes as needed as well.

The large pack that houses the batteries has some other advantages that aren’t necessarily apparent at first. For instance, the Icon’s design makes it easy to change the power cells even while wearing gloves, which comes in handy when you’re high on a mountain in the cold winds and snow.

Black Diamond also included LED’s on the pack to indicate the battery life as well. When lit in green, the Icon still has 50% or more of the life left in its batteries. When the light turns yellow, you’re down to 20% or more, and when it hits red, you have less than 20% of the energy left. The system works well, and lets you know when its time to change out the batteries.

Overall, it’s difficult to find anything bad to say about the Icon. It’s bright, it has a long battery life, and it illuminates the trail or tent quite nicely. The fact that it uses “AA” batteries means that you can find replacements pretty much anywhere in the world, and the large, elastic headband is easy to adjust and comfortable to wear. As a bonus, the large battery pack made it very hard to lose, and as a result, I actually came home with a headlamp for the first time in awhile. (MSRP: $64.95)

Kraig Becker