Gear review |

Gear review

Allyn Harvey
Black Diamond headlamp.

Nothing like bad lighting to ruin your scene. That’s especially true for those who love to camp.It’s not hard for even the once-a-summer backpacker to recall a trip on which that miniature camping flashlight (which cost $40, to boot) was nothing but trouble.

You remember those insipid little things – too long to fit in the smallest pocket of most backpacks, they ended up swimming around with clothing or cooking gear, inevitably losing themselves until everything was taken out of the pocket in question. Once freed from the tangle of equipment and clothing inside your pack, those little buggers still remained inherently losable, as if they were designed to roll off the top of the log next to your fire and come to rest under the least conspicuous piece of whatever was lying around. And who hasn’t stepped out of the tent to conduct business at 3 a.m., swearing mightily because the flashlight has gone missing again? Nothing like wondering if the next step will take you down a hole or into some other hidden hazard when really all you want to do is get back to bed.

Well, for those of you still living in the 20th century, let me introduce you to the headlamp – and I’m not talking about your grandfather’s old miner’s light.Headlamps today are made for the camping set. Take, for instance, the Black Diamond Ion ($19.90). At less than an ounce, “it weighs so little you aren’t even aware of its presence,” as the company’s website touts.The Ion’s strap adjusts to fit anyone’s head, and the lamp itself can be aimed up, down or straight ahead, thanks to the swiveling, pivoting doohickey that attaches the light and its housing to the strap.

The two LED lights on this little model are extremely bright and are powered by a six-volt battery that lasts about 15 hours. FIFTEEN HOURS! Who can’t remember a time when the batteries in that camping flashlight ran out of juice just as it got really dark?While the Ion is perfect for around the campsite, Black Diamond and other headlamp makers, such as Petzl and Princeton Tec, also offer stronger LED lights more suitable for navigating a trail at night. Never again will you be required to hold the nasty-tasting butt-end of a flashlight in your mouth while trying to coax whatever it is you’re making for dinner into your tin cup. Who says it isn’t great to be an American?

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