I’ve not bought anything new for a while (at least not for backpacking!) and before I knew what was happening I was looking quite extensively for a better lighting solution for the hill.
My current lighting options are my Alpkit Gamma and the Black Diamond Ion which have done the job fairly well to date but with room for improvement. The Gamma is nothing short of a pocket disco but I now find it a bit cumbersome with the separate battery compartment and its not the lightest around at 118g with batteries. The Ion is better in terms of simplicity and weight at 30g all in, but the brightness drops off quickly and the batteries are a pain to get hold of locally and never seem to last very long.
The solution I wanted then needed to be light, bright, efficient and easy to use – oh, and not a Petzl of any kind! The criteria got a bit more specific from here too as I wanted a light that was great in the confined space of the tent, good for pottering around the camp and suitable for a bit of night walking should the need arise or the mood take me.
After a bit of internet searching it was not looking good and I even started to consider scrapping some of the criteria and getting an e-lite! The offerings weren’t bad but they were either too heavy, had an unsuitable beam pattern, bad battery life or had Petzl plastered all over them. Fortunately I stumbled across a forum which led me on a merry dance looking at mini led torches and whilst this wasn’t immediately fruitful it led me to the seedy underworld of task lighting….
The initial problem was that whilst generally very bright with efficient LEDs these task lights generally work in a wide flood mode to illuminate a wide area and weren’t always configured to wear as a head torch - so wouldn’t be overly suitable for use on the move or for night walking. More searching revealed some tests with various torches showing their flood beam and throw distance and here’s where I found Zebralight H30.
The majority of their torches have 3 simple modes, are incredibly bright and efficient and are fairly light but suffered from a wide flood beam of around 110-120°. The H30 however comes with an 80° beam and so I was interested enough to contact a UK seller with queries……
In brief the specs are as follows:
- 80° flood beam
- Q5 LED
- 4-80 lumen range
- 3.7 days runtime on low (4 lumens), 21 hours on medium (20 lumens and 2.5 hours on high (80 lumens)
- 40g with battery
It comes with a few accessories like a headband, a silicon sleeve with clip and a glow in the dark holder so you can find it easily.
I know that it doesn’t immediately appear to be the most obvious choice but its quirky and meets all of the criteria. It takes CR123 camera batteries which are easy to get hold of and keep the weight and size of the torch to a minimum.
Construction is high quality anodised aluminium and comes with o-rings galore to make it waterproof – which is handy. I’ve already replaced the standard black rubber pushbutton with the supplied glow in the dark one and it works just enough so you can find in pitch darkness.
The lighting modes are easily accessible with 1 button press for on and holding it down toggles between all three lighting modes. Low is great for reading or just messing about in the tent not least because of the wider flood pattern compared to standard head torches. As there is no reflector I wasn’t expecting medium or high modes to be anywhere near as bright as they are and am pleasantly surprised with just how much light it throws out. The highest mode (at 80 lumens) gives off a wide flood that reaches just far enough for those night walks in to camp – probably reaching out to 15m or so.
What I find most useful is the lack of hotspot given off from the Cree LED which delivers a very useable and friendly light in all modes. Battery life remains to be tested but the quoted figures are respectable in my opinion.
I got mine from a UK supplier called Flashaholics, who were nothing but helpful and even tested the throw distance to make sure it would be suitable. The torch arrived the next day and on tearing open the envelope I was greeted with a free Photon Microlight, which really was a nice touch. Not everyday I get service like that and so I thoroughly recommend them.
It won’t be to everybody’s tastes as 80° is still quite a wide flood but its very usable with the both the headband and lapel clip and its surprising how much better it is having a bit more peripheral light to a standard reflector torch. It not the lightest yet I think it justifies its weight in the pack and adds value to my kit to boot.