BioLite HeadLamp 425 Review
I‘ve been using the same Petzl Zipka headlamp since 2012. Yes, really. It’s simple, it doesn’t get tangled with any other gear, it’s bright enough, and—due to the design—it automatically fits over whatever I’m wearing on my head without any readjustment effort on my part.
But it takes AAA batteries. And it gets dim pretty quickly. (To be clear, there’s a newer version that is compatible with a rechargeable battery, but mine is old school.) So I was excited to try out something that is brighter, more versatile for performance, and rechargeable: the BioLite HeadLamp 425.
BioLite HeadLamp 425 At-A-Glance
Weight: 2.75 ounces (78 grams)
Battery: 1000 mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
Battery life: 60 hours low / 4 hours high
Max Output: 425 lumens
Beam distance: 15 meters flood, 85 meters spot
Water resistance: IPX4 (resistant but not submersible)
Modes: 5 modes front (red & white), 2 modes back (red only)
This headlamp is perfect for backpacking trips and long day hikes. It’s also a great choice for the daily commute if you cycle to work and for trail running, road running, and mountain biking if you’re out early and/or late. Honestly, it would also be great for someone who just has to walk their dog early in the morning, especially if you need passing traffic to know you’re there. The BioLite HeadLamp 425 is pretty versatile.
Circumstance of Review
I tested the BioLite HeadLamp 425 during early morning runs, several long day hikes, a few backpacking and camping trips in North Carolina and Virginia. I was mostly on the Sea-t0-Summit Trail and the Appalachian Trail.
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Front and rear lights: The BioLite 425 features a front light and a rear red light. The front light is ultra-thin (9mm) and nested in the strap for an extremely comfortable fit, but also has an articulating bezel so that you can angle the light to fit your activity needs and lighting preferences. The rear light is larger and bulkier, but it also contains the battery for both lights.
The front white light has a flood lens for wide-angle light at up to 125 lumens; there’s also a setting for red flood light on the front. The front light also features a spot lens for task lighting and/or illuminating the path ahead at up to 300 lumens.
The rear red light is designed to enhance visibility from behind with two settings: strobe and flood.
7 lighting modes: Between the two of them, the front and back boast seven different lighting modes (front: red flood, white spot, white flood, spot + flood, white strobe; rear: red strobe, red flood). I was so pleased with how versatile this range of settings is.
High lumen output: The white light is extremely bright, making night hiking feel much less dreadful than it usually feels to me. (Anyone from PCT desert travel can attest: I dislike it immensely). The rear red light is also pretty bright, which is great for hiking with my partner and early morning runs in town when I need traffic to know I’m there.
Moisture-wicking, adjustable band: The 425 features easy-adjust clips that slide to match various head sizes (from children to adults) and helmets, as well as a super-soft, moisture-wicking fabric that can stand up to both your own sweat and the elements.
Rechargeable battery: The headlamp runs on a rechargeable battery via USB-C. The battery is in the back light and supports pass-through charging. Conveniently, you can connect to a power bank and actually recharge the headlamp while it’s in use.
BioLite HeadLamp 425 Pros
Comfortable: As mentioned above, the design of the ultra-thin front light really does make for a very comfortable experience.
Rechargeable: I don’t know how I’ve lasted as long as I have with alkaline batteries. They are a hassle to dispose of properly (especially on a thru-hike). You also always have to keep extras with you on a thru-hike in case you need them.
And if you don’t have spares on hand when your battery dies, it’s a hassle and waste of money to buy a whole pack of batteries in town, only to leave the majority of the pack behind. Hurray for rechargeable batteries.
Bright: The settings with maximum brightness, especially for the front white light, were more than sufficient for illuminating whatever I needed to illuminate.
Versatile: This aspect of the 425 is especially attractive if you’re a multi-sport person. It’s also great if you’re someone who’s just starting to get into camping/backpacking and trying to justify the cost of all the gear you’re buying: if you have a dog to walk, a bike to ride, or frequently find yourself on pre-dawn runs around town, this headlamp would be useful in your daily life as well as the backcountry.
READ NEXT – BioLite HeadLamp 325 Review
BioLite HeadLamp 425 Cons
Overly complex for thru-hiking: While the range of settings is a pro for the above-mentioned reasons, there is also arguably one function for which this headlamp may not be the best choice: thru-hiking. It’s on the heavy side, and I rarely need a light on the front and back of my head when thru-hiking. Once, on a PCT side trip up Mt. Whitney, I deeply wished the person ahead of me had a light on the back of his head, but that’s it.
The BioLite 425 is also kind of hard/awkward to hold in your hand, which reduces its versatility. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t always want to have my headlamp actually on my head and often use it in other ways.
Bulky/clunky: While the front is super light and nice to wear, the back light/battery is heavy and slowly slips down over time. It’s not a huge drawback, but it was a little annoying sometimes.
Confusing lighting modes: Which button do I press? Wait, how many times do I press it to get to that one? Do I have to hold it down? Because there are so many modes, it’s hard to keep them straight and remember how to get to each one.
Most of the time, I didn’t mind messing with it until I found what I was looking for. But sometimes, it was a nuisance that slowed me down when I needed to be moving.
This issue was compounded by the tiny button on the front light. Because the design is so sleek, the button is very small. My hands are very small and this is fine for me most of the time, but with cold fingers, working the button was a little rough.
I’m not sure if I’d take this on a long-distance hike with me due to how clunky it is to hold in my hand. But overall, the BioLite 425 is a comfortable, efficient light that is absolutely worth your dollars, especially if you need a headlamp for multiple activities.
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The BioLite HeadLamp 425 was donated for purpose of review.
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