Monday, November 19, 2012

Field Test: Black Diamond Storm headlamp

Lights have become something of a fetish among hunters, anglers, and other outdoor types. We can't seem to have enough. They accumulate in blind bags, they roll around on the floor of our trucks, they surprise us with their presence in fishing vests, unseen and forgotten since last season. When I was in Boy Scouts the Mag Lite was the thing to have; a heavy bruiser of a flashlight, more than a foot long that doubled as a side arm for police officers when teenage Boy Scouts weren't lugging it around. Lights have changed since then, getting ever-smaller. Of course, the smaller they are, the easier they get lost; I know of a few little camouflage models that were dropped from treestands into the leaves below, never to be seen again.

In my hometown there are a lot of flashlights hanging around in kitchen junk drawers or Chevrolet glove boxes that have company names like Bethlehem Steel and Western Electric etched into the side. They are durable things, heavier than they should be. Their scarred yellow tubes hold C batteries, and when you throw the switch you can imagine their strong beams hope to fall on a revival of the blue collar spirit that now seems lost in the dark. Many of these lights have outlasted the companies on their sides.   

These days though, small and bright are the measures of a flashlight. Brushed metal housings, a team of LED lights tucked into something not much bigger than a 3.5 inch shotgun shell.  You can spend a ridiculous sum on a flashlight, some of the brightest, tiniest, models stretch north of a hundred dollars. Where I come from, if a flashlight costs $150, you would be well advised to simply wait for the sun to rise or to take your chances in the dark.

But waterfowlers can't wait for the sun to rise. The best duck hunting is often found within a few minutes of dawn, and decoys need to be set in anticipation of sunrise. Setting decoys is most definitely a two-handed job, and as such, a flashlight just won't work. So in advance of the 2012-2013 hunting season, I was in the market for a new headlamp.

In the past I had relied on models that clipped on to my hat's brim. They were inexpensive, less than $15 dollars, tolerably bright, and served the purpose. But their cost was reflected in their flimsy construction and one model broke like a matchstick as I made a fairly normal adjustment to my hat's brim. It fell 20 feet to the ground from the tree I was in, and sent a cheerful beam of light off into the woods.

So I was prepared to spend some more cash this time around and was familiar enough with the Black Diamond brand from some of my rock climbing and camping-oriented friends. I knew they made a quality light, and after perusing the Pro Guide Direct website I decided that the Black Diamond Storm headlamp was the one for me.

Pro Guide Direct appears only to carry the Storm in its most flashy outfit, a bright green (one might say neon) head strap and a white housing for the light. It also comes in a matte black finish, and a mango finish. The matte black might be the presumptive choice for hunting applications, but color doesn't much matter when the light's main use occurs before the sun comes up.

It takes four AAA batteries, but the light avoids being uncomfortably weighty and doesn't slip down while being worn. The head strap is a wide and strong elastic, easily adjusted to stretch over a hat, knit beanie, or your bare dome. The light itself can be tilted, and even with a hat brim in the way, the light illuminates the gear I am working with.

Most hunting applications will require the two white light settings, one of which is a triple power LED light that appears to have the intensity of a luxury car headlight and the other comprises two single power LED lights and is best used for close-in operations (unwrapping decoy weights, fishing for the granola bar you know you put into your blind bag). There is also a strobe light for emergency situations and surprise party applications, and a pair of red LEDs for maintaining your night vision once you turn the light off.

One particularly good attribute of the the Black Diamond Storm is that the triple power LED light can be dimmed on the fly, to save battery power and to custom tailor the brightness of the light for your needs. You don't always need to illuminate a wheat field, and sometimes when working around others, your light can be too bright. By holding in the power button on top of your Storm light while in triple power LED mode, the light will dim, simply let go of the button when the lighting is sufficient.

This is a great light that wears comfortably and gives you incredible brilliance while keeping your hands completely free. Whether bringing in firewood from the woodpile, finding your treestand, or wading through a flooded corn impoundment, the Black Diamond Storm comes highly recommended from Kline Online.

Item: Black Diamond Storm Headlamp in Ultra White
Price: $49.95
Purchased from Pro Guide Direct
Score: Highly Recommended  

**Review Update: I took my hat off after I got up into my tree stand on December 2, and the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp slid off and fell about 20 feet to the ground with a thud. However, after I got out of my stand around lunch time and inspected the light, the Storm still looked brand new, and worked fine. The small screw on the battery cover kept the batteries from scattering, which was very helpful.  



River Mud said...

Ha! You'll see me wearing the next model down tomorrow morning - Black Diamond Cosmo ($34.99).

It's a nice light, not as powerful as I'd hoped.

Anonymous said...

@River Mud, the Cosmo will get updated in Spring 13 and will be brighter. The Spot is really the happy medium between the Storm and Cosmo. It's a bit lighter (3 AAAs vs 4) and not waterproof (although rated for "sprayed water from all angles"). The S13 ReVolt is really revolutionary as well: as bright as the Storm/Spot and runs off three rechargeable (via USB aka your phone charger) or three normal AAA batteries. The Voyager lantern just got released today as well. Super versatile for around the campsite, especially when cooking dinner.

River Mud said...

Thanks Black Diamond for the note! I have owned a lot of headlamps that have carried me from Costa Rica to Jamaica to Oregon to the Adirondacks. Look forward to seeing some of these new products!