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This week, BioLite snuck out a Kickstarter campaign to launch their new low-profile HeadLamp to the public. A company mostly known for impressing the ultralight camping crowd with its smart backpacking stoves, BioLite has decided to show some attention recently to lanterns and other outdoor lighting products. We had a feeling that a lightweight headlamp was bound to come, and our suspicions were confirmed with a pre-release peek at their first entry to this segment.
The campaign fired up late at night on September 17th, and was funded almost immediately. The HeadLamp’s crowdfunding campaign will run through October 19th with the bonus benefit to backers of assured delivery in time for “Holiday 2018” gift season. Beyond the Kickstarter, a full commercial launch of the product is planned for Spring 2019. (See the Conclusion for an update on its retail release.)
So that’s how you can get one. But do you want one? We got our hands on a pre-release sample to help you decide.
There are plenty of small headlamps out there, but BioLite is taking a wise approach to the genre with this new unit. If you're anything like us, you've got a closet full of lights. This would include at least a few you don't use, because they're dim, uncomfortable, or flop around on saggy elastic when you move your head. BioLite is calling their construction “3D Slim Fit” which to them means the following:
It's not just lightweight — there's already plenty of light… lights… but this unit stays put to an impressive degree. It's not a tight head-grabber torture device either.
When BioLite makes their pitch that they're using “smart fabrics,” that means it's more than an ordinary elastic band that sags and bounces around. And we found this to be a legit claim. The fabric is definitely a modern feel, super soft, without any hard seams or abrasion points. It feels like the high-quality, seamless fabric you'd find on athletic apparel. The LED lamp portion is integrated directly into the headband, not just clipped to it. Most of its cabling is seamlessly channeled through the band to prevent snags. The multiple low-profile adjustment buckles don't get in the way or stick out at all.
As we've mentioned it's really light, tipping scales at 2.4 ounces. It’s not just the weight though: the whole design philosophy is about integration and modernization of the system.
BioLite’s co-founder and CEO Jonathan Cedar says, “You look at where wearables have evolved, like headphones and footwear, and you can see real strides in design and how these products integrate onto a users’ body. The headlamp category has been stuck in the same basic design for decades, and it was time to look at it with a fresh perspective. If you forget you’re wearing our HeadLamp, we’ve done our job.” The whole unit shows low-profile design cues throughout: you can definitely wad this up and fit it in a pocket with nary a tangle.
The BioLite HeadLamp is USB rechargeable, with decent run times as well as output levels for how small it is. They’re claiming 330 Lumens, with a 3.5 hour run time on high output. Or you can squeeze out 40 hour run time on low.
A rubber door covers the charging port, and the whole system is IPX-4 water-resistant. Although you won't be snorkeling with it, it will keep sweat and moisture from zapping the electronics. There are also tiny indicator lights on the battery pod, showing the remaining power level and charging status.
The battery is a lithium-ion setup. It can recharge via any micro-USB power source, eliminating the need for wasteful alkaline batteries. While some users might value the ability to pop disposable batteries in to assure (and extend) operation whenever, BioLite’s eco-friendly side made the call to opt for less waste and batteries in the trash. If it’s really an issue for you, the option is always there for you to recharge it with a portable USB powerbank in your pack that weighs the same as a bag of AA’s. In truly off-the-grid settings, the battery can also be charged via a solar panel.
One button handles all the the light selections. There's a narrow white spotlight as well as a wider soft white flood. You can max out lumens by turning both white lights on at once. A soft red mode is great for hunters, or if you just don't want to phosphene out your night-adapted eyesight. Conversely, if you're signaling that you're lost (or want a backcountry rave), there's that near-seizure-inducing strobe mode.
Brightness for each of the white lights is adjustable — just press and hold down the button to gradually brighten or dim the active light. The lights blink once when you've reached the end of the minimum or maximum output level. As for the red mode, it only offers a fixed low-level of output.
The lamp itself has five positions of adjustment, allowing the user to point the light down at work surfaces or ahead to the trail. The LED head tilts downwards in solid increments, each with a tactile “click”. Both the button and the little ridge used to click the head into positions are on the tiny side, so the HeadLamp might be a little hard to operate with gloved hands. On the plus side, there’s a lockout feature where you can hold down the switch for a few seconds and it won’t turn on accidentally in a pack, draining the battery, etc. if the button is pushed unknowingly.
The LED light element itself is slim at less than half an inch thick, and the battery pod is right at one inch thick. When donned, it balances nicely. The whole unit really feels like you're wearing a second-skin headband, not a bouncy head lamp. No center headstrap needed, nor headache-tightness to keep this in place. Metal fans in need of illumination are in great luck: headbanging and jumping up and down did not result in the light shifting around. In fact, our two testers reported zero movement, and the band was not torqued down — all was comfortable. Good fit, good kit.
The BioLite HeadLamp will be offered at an MSRP of $50, which should put its street price at a decent point for what looks like a really smart piece of gear. The unit pictured is a pre-release sample, but the HeadLamp will be available for everybody in Spring 2019 through normal retail channels. If you go the Kickstarter route, you get first crack at them now, delivering soon. The Kickstarter backers also get a freebie carry bag that also doubles as a hanging “lampshade” you can string up in a tent for diffused light.
UPDATE 2/23/19: The BioLite HeadLamp is now known as the BioLite Headlamp 330. It’s no longer only available on Kickstarter, and can be purchased at select retail outlets including REI, Amazon, and BioLiteEnergy.com.
Weight: 2.42oz (69 grams)
Output: 330 Lumens
Run Time: 3.5 hours on high, 40 hours on low
Battery: 900mAh Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
Beam Distance: Flood – 16 Meters, Spot – 75 Meters
Modes: Dimmable White spot, Dimmable White Flood, Dimmable Spot/Flood, Red Flood, and Strobe