Aspen Times Weekly: Fenix HL55 Headlamp | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: Fenix HL55 Headlamp

by Stephen Regenold

Rugged, waterproof and bright, the HL55 headlamp by Fenix is a workhorse of a light. Its anodized aluminum body houses a single large LED capable of igniting a dark trail (or burning a retina if carelessly aimed at a face).

Indeed, from a small lens the headlamp can blaze up to 900 lumens of night-piercing light in "turbo" mode. Fenix cites a shine distance of nearly 400 feet.

I tested the HL55 over the past two months, including hiking, running, and biking at night. I also reviewed it during night orienteering events, where visibility is needed to read maps, follow dark trails, and find checkpoints in the dark.

As headlamps go, the HL55 is small for its brightness. Just a couple of years ago a 900-lumen light would have required a large lens, multiple LEDs, and a big external battery pack on a cord.

The Fenix, in contrast, houses all its power and light technology in a slim, 3×2-inch metal box. An elasticized band keeps it centered on the forehead even if you're running hard and bouncing down a trail.

Its light is more a bubble than a beam. Click through the settings, from "eco" low to its highest brightness, and the night ahead is confronted with an increasingly larger orb of pure white light.

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I like the "bubble" effect for hiking and general use. There is no beam adjustment, however, meaning you cannot spotlight the unit for a sharp beam if reaching to see detail at a pinpoint ahead.

At about 6 ounces with a battery, the HL55 is heavier than other headlamps of its size. The weight was noticeable at first, but Fenix's over-the-top band spreads the load over the head and keeps the unit in place.

The headlamp uses rechargeable 18650 or CR123A batteries. Run time between charge-ups ranges from 150 hours on the lowest setting to a bit under four hours at max brightness.

Overall, I was impressed with the HL55. I have been testing products from Fenix since 2010 and am happy to see the evolution of its headlamp line to brighter and more rugged builds.

The metal case sets this unit apart. Most cases in the category are plastic. It's waterproof, too, garnering an IPX-6 rating for use in rain or quick submersion.

Look to this light as an all-around performer. Its max brightness is overkill as a basic campsite light source, but at $77 retail the Fenix is a good value and a solid choice for anyone needing to move fast through the night.

Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at http://www.gearjunkie.com.

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