Gear Review: BioLite HeadLamp 200
Thanks to LED lighting, night-hiking has become a much more viable option than the days when your only choice was gripping a heavy flashlight that threw only a pale, yellowish cone of life onto the trail before your feet. Modern headlamps continue to get brighter, lighter, easier to use, and affordable.
Still, with margins for improvement (presumably) ever shrinking, it’s remarkable to come across BioLite’s latest model, the HeadLamp 200, which trims a third of the already light weight of the HeadLamp 330 without sacrificing too much, performance-wise.
BioLite HeadLamp 200: The Basics
Weight: 1.6 ounces
Battery life: 40 hours max, 3 hours on high
Lighting: 200 lumens max
Water resistance: IPx4 — resists splashing, rain
Modes: White flood with dim setting; red flood with dim setting; white strobe; red strobe
Form and Fit
It’s hard to exaggerate how comfortable the HeadLamp 200 is to wear. At just 1.6 ounces, it hardly seems to battle gravity at all, even if you’re running. The 330 featured a separate battery unit attached to the back of the strap, but the 200 is a single, compact, front-facing unit. Adjusting the headlamp is quick and easy. As with anything, you’ll need to tighten it up from time to time, but that’s just a matter of reaching up to tug the clips just a bit. The strap is hand-washable, moisture-wicking, and surprisingly comfortable even when pulled tight against your head.
There is a single button atop the lighting/battery unit to control modes by pressing repeatedly. Hold down in any mode to adjust dim/brightness, with a helpful “flash” indicator to let you know when you’ve hit top or bottom. There’s also a much-needed lock function to prevent the headlamp from accidentally turning on and draining the battery while in your pack.
The display and battery unit is made of super-light transparent polycarbonate. In “spot” mode, the lamp can illuminate the trail as far as 50 meters ahead, while in “flood” mode you should be able to see about 8 meters, or around 25 feet. I’ve never quite figured out what I might use the strobe on a headlamp for, except, I suppose, if trying to get someone’s attention in an emergency, but the HeadLamp 200 offers both red and white strobe modes.
Illumination/power is the primary difference between the Biolite Headlamp 200 and the company’s popular 330 model, besides weight. The 330 can throw a flood beam 16 meters, twice as far as the 200, and cast a spot beam up to 75 meters, about 50 percent farther. While being able to see more than 200 feet up the trail is nice, I found that between the flood and spot modes, I was more than happy with nighttime visibility of up to about 150 feet.
I didn’t put the HeadLamp 200 through its paces by, say, night-hiking for eight hours. But I did use it for night-running and the charge more than handled and hour-plus at full power. BioLite indicates that it will hold out for three hours at full power, but offer as much as 40 hours of illumination at lower levels. One of the best features is that the 700-milli-ampere (mAH) headlamp charges via a USB cable, so you’re not having to mess with batteries. On the other hand, when juice is at a premium on a long stretch of trail you’ll have to decide whether to expend your charge on the headlamp, phone, or whatever.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Lightweight, extremely comfortable, and does not bounce. Easy to adjust in terms of size, lighting mode, and brightness. Compact. Lock mode prevents accidental battery drainage. Adjustable angles. Extremely affordable. Four different color choices. USB recharging. Great for running as well as hiking.
Cons: The water-resistance rating at IPx4 seems a tad low, given that the cable port has a rubber cover. USB charging is an advantage … until it’s not, e.g. if your charger happens to be low on juice. Slightly difficult to use the button if wearing thicker mittens or gloves.
In all honesty, the “cons” mentioned above are barely worth mentioning, considering everything this headlamp has got going for it. I plan to use it on an upcoming long section hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. That BioLite managed to slim down its already admirably light HeadLamp 330 without sacrificing much of anything except a half-hour of battery when used on full (3 hours vs. 3.5) is astonishing, but for all I know, the company is already hard at work on the next iteration, lighter, brighter, and who knows what else.
Weight: 0.9 ounces
Brightness: 30 lumens max
Power source: Non-rechargeable lithium batteries with 10-year storage life
Weight: 3.0 ounces
Brightness: 325 lumens max
Power source: Three AAA batteries
Weight: 2.8 ounces
Brightness: 500 lumens max
Power source: USB recharging
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