Headache or Headlamp?

Why we should have bought a good quality headlamp that uses common batteries:

A few months ago, my family and I did an off-grid, nine week, crisis response training replicating living in a disaster zone while ministering to others.  While doing this training, we realized the importance of good lighting — especially when the light switches do not work.  We had to do homework…after dark.  Who wants to read with a flashlight in their hands or with indirect light from a lamp night after night?  It's a pain and really puts a strain on your eyes.

That being said what did we use?  What do we use now?

For the training, to start with, we used a Harbor Freight headlamp that was only $3 … plus the necessary batteries and batteries and more batteries.  After about halfway through, Carrie and I agreed that we should upgrade our headlamps.  The cheap headlamps would go through a couple of AA batteries with every four hours of use.  The headlamps did have a couple of positives, though – it was easy to change the batteries and each came with an extra bulb.

While we were at the training, we started comparing equipment with the other people there.  After talking to most everyone, we determined that the ideal headlamp would have the following features: 

  • The light (lumens) would be able to be adjusted in intensity.
  • It would use common batteries.
  • It would run for at least ten hours on one set of batteries.
  • It would use multiple bulbs so if one burned out it would still provide some light.
  • It would be lightweight.
  • It would not cost an arm and a leg.

We ended up settling on a Coleman headlamp.  How does it measure up to our criteria?

  • It has three light intensities for the white light, as well as a blue light and a red light.  (It puts out more than three times the lumens of the Harbor Freight model.)
  • It runs on three AAA batteries.   
  • On the lowest setting, it has a run time of thirty hours and six hours on high. 
  • It weighs in at just under four onces. 
  • At our Wal-Mart it goes for the nice round number of twenty-four dollars and eighty-eight cents. 

Yes, I did find headlamps that were "better" but they also knew it (i.e. way more $$$).  Being a family of five, they were not really an option for our budget, so we went with this Wal-mart special.  With our limited use, it has worked great so far! 

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5 Responses to

Headache or Headlamp?

  1. Good blog post. I definitely appreciate this website – Packing for the GORUCK Challenge Blogger Hamlin. Keep writing!

  2. Matt says:

    Don't have any headlamps yet, though we do have several other lighting options. This is a good tip and I'll be sure to steer clear of the harbor freight juice suckers–batteries are far too expensive for that! By the way, if you're ever in the market for a key-chain sized light that's quite bright for its size, requires a standard AAA battery, and goes for just $15, I highly recommend the Fenix E01. I got one a few months ago and use it frequently. Battery life is good, hardly notice it in my pocket, simple design, and very rugged.

    • Andrew says:

      Thank you for the tip on the Fenix E01. Like you I really prefer to use equipment that use common battery types in order to help keep costs down and expecially so that I can get a battery without having to special order it.

  3. Kevin Mills says:

    Awesome post. I'm surprised you opted for a battery powered headlamp rather than a hand crank. I'm prepping for a time when the option of jaunting to the store to pick up spare batteries isn't an option anymore, so I nabbed me a pair of these on eBay:

    Dimensions: 3" Long x 1&5/8" W x 1&3/4" H (Lamp)
    Weight : 4 oz. (Including headband)
    Power source: Hand crank
    Operating time : 90 minutes of light after one minute of cranking
    Color : black
    Three super bright LED bulbs (50,000 hour life span)
    LED bulb luminosity : 50,000 mcd
    Four operating stages : Bright (3 LEDs on), Dim (One LED on), Flashing or Off.
    Please see pictures below for cranking instructions

    • Andrew says:


      To answer your question about going for a headlamp that uses batteries — I had not found one that used a hand crank or solar option that looked like it would hold up to heavy use. Thank you for sharing about this headlamp! From the pictures (from your link) it seems to be the best built hand crank that I have seen.
      All that being said, from my personal experience with hand cranks, they have a very weak beam, and they do do not last as long as they say they will for providing light per crank. Have you timed how long it runs on high with one minute of cranking?
      I am also courious about the lumens rating. LEDs lumens can vary greatly in range depending on the beam angle. An over simplified calculation for mcd to lumens is 1000 mcd = 1 lumen. Would you say that this is about right or is it brighter than that?
      Thank your for you information, and I hope that you can continue down your preparedness path so that you will be equipped to minister in a crisis.


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