Gear Closet: Princeton Tec Apex Headlamp

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As we saw in the Solite 250 headlamp that I reviewed last week, the use of rechargeable lithium ion batteries is becoming more common. The use of those batteries bring a higher initial price tag, but they also deliver an impressive level of performance, both in terms of light produced and overall battery life.  Princeton Tec, a company seems to make a headlamp for every person and every situation, is even getting in on the act with their new Apex Rechargeable model. While the Apex and the Solite 250 share a few things in common, they are also quite unique as well, with both having their appeal for outdoor enthusiasts and travelers.

Rugged and durable, the Apex Rechargeable comes equipped with a comfortable, easy to adjust headband, complete with crown strap, that holds the lamp and battery pack firmly in place, even while on the move. But if you find the battery pack too cumbersome to wear, Princeton Tec was thoughtful enough to include a 42 inch (106 cm) extension cable that allows you to wear it on your belt or place it inside a backpack. With five total lights (1 Maxbright LED, 4 white regulated LED’s) the Apex is capable of cranking out up to 200 lumens on its highest setting, which is incredibly bright but still falls below the Solite’s amazing 250 lumens. Also included in the box is a USB cable,  a plastic bracket for the battery pack and a velcro strap that allows the light to be attached to the handlebars of your bike.

Performance wise, the Apex shines both literally and figuratively. It has four different brightness modes that each have a direct impact on the battery life. For instance, when on its highest setting (the 200 lumens mentioned above) the spotlight beam is capable of reaching more than a hundred meters out, although it comes at the expense of battery life. In this mode the Apex can run for about five hours, which is twice the burn time of the Solite at its highest setting. On its lowest setting, the battery life extends to 90 hours as the beam is dispersed wider but not so far in front of the wearer. The higher settings are fantastic while riding a bike, while the lower settings are much more useful for casual use on a backpacking or camping trip. There is also an emergency blinking mode that comes in handy if you ever need to signal for assistance.

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Knowing that we’re likely to use this in some demanding environments, Princeton Tec made the Apex Rechargeable water resistant to up to 1 meter of depth. That means you won’t take it deep sea diving, but it should survive freak rainstorms or an accidental dunk in the stream. It is also built tough enough to survive more than its fair share of abuse while on the trail.

Recharging the Apex is a snap. Simply plug it into any USB port on a computer, external battery pack or solar charger. Recharge times vary depending on which method you’re using, but I managed to top the battery off using my laptop in in about four hours. A solar charger will take considerably more time, but is a viable option for when you’re traveling in remote places where you don’t want to take computer.

Princeton Tec added in a few extra features that help this product stand out from the crowd. For instance, it features two easy to operate switches for controlling the light, which can be adjusted nicely even while wearing gloves. The lamp itself can pivot up or down to place the light exactly where you need it and the high-tech regulation chip ensure that the brightness level of the lamp stays at a consistent level across the entire battery charge. All of those things help to round out an impressive package that climbers, backpackers and mountain bikers will absolutely love.

Those looking to shave ounces off their gear may choose the Solite 250 over the Apex. The Solite weighs in at a svelte 149 grams (5.25 ounces), while Princeton Tec’s offering tips the scales at 283 grams (9.9 ounces). Most of that difference comes from the more rugged construction of the Apex, which seems like it can withstand more punishment.

The two headlamps are comparable in price with an MSRP of $150. As I mentioned with my Solite review last week, that can induce a bit of initial sticker shock, but considering how much money these headlamps can save you in batteries, it should more than make up for itself over the life of the lamp. Both are extremely high quality products that should last you for years, no matter where your adventures take you.

Kraig Becker

5 thoughts on “Gear Closet: Princeton Tec Apex Headlamp”

  1. I used a borrowed Princeton Tec Apex headlamp at an AR back in March, and it was awesome. Far better than the much dimmer headlamp I typically use. It's definitely an investment I hope to make before my next 24 hr race.

  2. Yep, pay a little more up front for far better performance over the life of the lamp. Thanks for sharing your experiences Kate!

  3. The SoLite 250 has regulated output so it does not dim for the duration of runtime.

    The Princeton Tec Apex gets gradually more dim – which is why it can claim more run time – but the consumer does not get the same quality of light.

    Most headlamps lose 25% of their initial brightness within the first 30 minutes of use – UNLESS they are actually regulated.

  4. Actually Jacob, the Apex is also regulated, which is why I mentioned good performance across the life of the battery.

    I believe the Apex gets more battery life because it has a larger battery pack and doesn't shine quite so brightly. 200 lumens at max vs. 250 for the Solite.

    Both are great products though and easy to recommend to outdoor athletes and adventurers.

  5. I've been using the Apex in adventure racing for a couple of years now. Love it. The new re-chargeble looks fantastic!

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