Understanding Headlamp Brightness | REI Co-op Journal


The Trouble

Headlamp packaging has a lot of hard-to-decipher numbers and icons, but there are two specs that definitely matter: lumens and run time. Most headlamps have involving 25 and 500 lumens, which measure how a great deal light is emitted (aka brightness). Run time (also referred to as burn time) is how extended the light will final on a complete set of batteries at a set brightness level. So when a headlamp says it can pump out 300 lumens with a run time of 100 hours, you’d be forgiven for linking these two information points and assuming you’d have 300 lumens for 100 hours. In actuality, you will only have 300 lumens for a small although following loading in a fresh set of AAAs prior to the energy drops off considerably.

So exactly where does that 100-hour run time figure come from? Effectively, till not too long ago, important brands utilised one thing referred to as the moonlight protocol to calculate that quantity. It is reasonably very simple: Turn the headlamp on at complete energy, and as soon as it is dimmer than a complete moon two meters in front of you, quit the clock. But not only is that quantity abstract, for recreationistswho want to see farther out than two metersit is type of useless. 

The Option

Here’s exactly where the new common comes in. PLATO, a trade organization for transportable lighting companies, created the ANSI/PLATO FL 1 Typical, which Petzl, Black Diamond, Princeton Tec and other people started introducing this summer season. 

Along with establishing firm guidelines and procedures for how brands measure issues like a headlamp’s lumens, beam distance, effect resistance and waterproofing, it sets the clock-stopping point for run time at 10 % of the light’s original brightness. So, if a light begins at 300 lumens, its new run time, according to the FL 1 common, is the quantity of time it requires for the headlamp to dim to 30 lumens (which is brighter and far more usable than the light of a complete moon). 

That indicates that run time figures on headlamp packaging will begin to look a lot reduced than they have in the previous. (For instance, the Petzl TIKKA, which utilised to show a run time of 60 hours at max energy, now advertises just two hours, although it is even far more potent with 300 lumens, alternatively of 200.)

For our component, at REI we’re aiming to train our staffers on the distinction, so you, as a purchaser, know which metric your new lamp goes by. And anytime probable, we’ll note the relevant testing common on new solution pages as effectively. 

Additional Credit

Nevertheless with us? Great. Then you will, of course, have picked up on a caveat: The arithmetic puts a headlamp with a higher quantity of lumens at a disadvantage. Take Black Diamond’s higher-powered, 500-lumen Icon. “At 10 %, there’s nonetheless way far more usable light readily available,” points out Black Diamond’s Lighting Director Joe Skrivan. Employing the FL 1 standard’s 10-% rule, run time would be determined by when the headlamp drained to 50 lumens—which is far more than sufficient required for hiking, operating or even cycling at evening. (Some headlamps max out at 50 lumens.) 

To standardize a minimum quantity of light usable by outside enthusiasts particularly, each Petzl and Black Diamond are such as a “Reserve” run time in addition to the FL 1 run time on headlamp packaging (you will not see that on REI’s solution pages really but). This new quantity assumes a headlamp might be usable beyond the FL 1 standard’s 10-% rule but nonetheless improves on the moonlight protocol by primarily saying that you have to have to be capable to see four meters in front of you (alternatively of two meters). So, the reserve time represents the extra time you will have beyond the FL 1 common. In the case of the ACTIK CORE (which has 450 lumens), shoppers will see a burn time of just two hours, but a three-hour reserve.

The updated figures might be confusing to shoppers, in particular if they notice the considerable drop in run time (like in the Petzl TIKKA), so be certain to appear for a clear “FL 1 Standard” marking on the packaging. And do not overlook that the diminished numbers do not reflect a lower in performance—they basically give customers a far more realistic breakdown of how a great deal light they can anticipate and for how extended. 

Seeking to get a new headlamp? Verify out our Headlamps Gear Guide, as effectively as these employees and client favorites: Black Diamond Spot325, Petzl ACTIK CORE and BioLite HeadLamp 330. All 3 are up-to-date with the new specs per FL 1. 

Find out Additional: How to Decide on Headlamps


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