It is the blue-collar of headlamps...tough...simple...reliable...it…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $30
It is the blue-collar of headlamps...tough...simple...reliable...it does everything you really need it to do over many hours of service.
When looking for a new headlamp a few years ago I was looking for two things 1) waterproof 2) AA battery power source.
To my surprise...I discovered that there really was not a lot of options for headlamps that use AA batteries...so I fully expected to be less than thrilled with the lamp I would ultimately choose. This expectation would however turn out to be fully unwarranted...as I have been nothing but satisfied with the performance of the Fenix HL21!
First, the Fenix HL21 is as waterproof as I need it to be. While kayaking at night by headlamp I suddenly found myself on the wrong-side of my boat...the lamp (having been briefly submerged underwater along with my head) worked flawlessly (the beam never flickered...not even underwater). I cannot testify that you could use this lamp underwater for any extended period of time (as I have tried to refrain from wearing my light underwater)...but this light has never stuttered in hours of use in the rain...and for my purposes it is all but waterproof.
The light is a little bulky by the standards of the day...and because it uses a single AA battery it is not the lightest headlamp...but the lamp doesn't bounce around or pull on my head at all...it stays snug to my head even when running (I use the lamp when I run at night in the summer)...and I hardly ever notice it is there.
Put simply...it is a little bigger than a lot of lights with equal output...but it is still a very small piece of gear that weighs very little. If you're cutting the ends of your toothbrush to save weight (not space)...then the difference in weight might matter...but for my purposes the small amount of additional weight is worth the added advantage of having all my electronic gear (camera + weather radio + lights) use the same power source.
As far as burn-time...I do not believe the lamp has either a particularly long or short one. I do not do a lot of traveling in the dark (try to avoid it actually)...instead I try to hit camp with about an hour of light which I find sufficient to set-up my shelter...eat...and get everything cleaned and put-away for the night.
In this capacity I believe the lamp to be just as good as any other quality lamp...as noticeable differences in burn-time become more difficult stretched out over so many months of use. However...if I did regularly use my lamp for traveling burn-time would likely become much more important and noticeable as the use of several batteries is over a much shorter period.
If you are someone who uses colored and flashing lights while outdoors this is not the lamp for you. The lamp has three brightness settings...which is at least one more than I need or care about. However...I am crazy about the small diffuser lens. This is saying a lot...because I prefer simple devices without a lot of features and pockets (lord don't get me started on pockets).
The diffuser lens is one feature that has converted me. I use it 90%-95% of the time...and on the lowest setting the diffuser throws out what I think is the most appropriate amount of ambient light. It does this all while weighing almost nothing (a small plastic disc)...and being easily removable.
In summary...if you demand a lot from your lights in terms of run-time or special-effects...then you might want to look for another lamp. This lamp is for folks who want a simple + durable + worry-free + effective device for activities around camp...which in my opinion the lamp is near perfect for. This light has been submerged...stayed put in a nighttime tornado (not cool)...and seen hours of service in the rain.
Using the brightest setting the lamp is capable of throwing out a long bright beam...is it a perfect beam?. I really don't know...but I can tell you that I can see as well as I need to at that distance...which is rare if ever necessary. More importantly...the simple but practical design will gain your respect and appreciation over the lamp's many hours (years) of easy and trouble-free service.