Sunday 2 May 2010

Gear Review: Zebralight H30

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.


Jay Dub said...

This exact light has been on my wishlist for months (maybe even a year). I just haven't pulled the trigger yet.

This is good motivation... :D

GeoffC said...

Ok, what's the big deal with Petzls?.
My Tikka Plus has been been satisfactory, I might upgrade to a Tikka Xp.

Marcus said...

Jay, that's interesting - what drew you to Zebralight?

Hi Geoff, there's nothing particularly wrong with Petzls, I guess I just don't seem to be so keen or turned on by them - if that's at all possible in the perverted world of head-torches!

Jay Dub said...

I think Zebralight has great attention to detail. I really like the full aluminum casing they use. And the "bonuses" that come with the light.... such as the glow-in-the-dark thing.

Nigel Gray said...

Well I have to admit to recently updating my old Petzl Tikka for a new Tikka XP2 which has small flip up disperser lens for a broader spread when you need it and a red led for night vision. One downside is that even on the lowest settings its too bright for inside a tent at night (I prefer subdue lighting!) so I use a mjni Black Diamond Orbit lamp which has adjustable output. The Zebralight looks good though!

Marcus said...

Jay, have you considered the new H31 just out? Its basically a combo of the SC30 and the H30 rolled into one. Paul is considering one but as with Nigel's problem I'm not sure it will fill the tent as well as the H30 does.

Marcus said...

Hi Nigel, I looked at the XP2 but it just wasn't doing it for me. There are lots of good things said about it but as always I like to go a little different - even if sometimes its a hard lesson learned!

Jay Dub said...

Actually since I put the H30 on my wishlist (a loooooong time ago), I haven't looked for a "better" one (once I decided, I stopped looking).

But since you put it right there in front of me I'm going to check it out! I like that it's CR123a (for the simple fact of the dimensions that makes the light, vs AA or whatever else).

Thanks for the tip!!

Jay Dub said...

I'm checking out the H31 now. Good call. It probably fits my bill better than the H30...

But honestly "the bill" for me is just to want something new since my trips are getting farther and farther apart.

The "package" of the H30 looks more robust (can't see a glowy band in the pictures of the H31?).

Anyway. Thanks for the tip!!

Anonymous said...

I have the zebralight H30 and agree totally it is a great light. a little tip - to stop it getting switched on in your pocket or pack, undo the base a 1/4 turn. switch it on then undo the base till it goes off. I keep it in my pocket as an emergency light and use it around the camp for cooking etc. It also gives a really good light for reading.


Steve D

Marcus said...

Hi Steve, tis a good tip and one I had to work out on the first trip! Glad to see others are using them in the hills too.

Anonymous said...

I also have the Gamma and Ion. This looks like it might make a good addition come next winter...

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great blog and for drawing the Zebralight to my attention. I currently have an old (2 led) version of the Ion which runs forever on a battery (one battery lasted 100 days on the GR5 in 2004) - I believe much longer than the newer, brighter single led version but am looking for a brighter torch and at the same time I am trying to standardise batteries. I have a neat setup with a flexible solar panel (7.2v, 200ma, 25g) + bits (70g total) which will charge RCR123s which also fit my Steripen. This setup will also charge my phone and camera.

Mark Fowler