Weight 41.1 g (excluding battery)



It is the blue-collar of headlamps...tough...simple...reliable...it…

Rating: rated 4 of 5 stars
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.


  • Simplicity
  • Durability
  • Versatility


  • Weight
  • Size

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.

David Drake

Very good review, Joseph!! This certainly helps in the standardization of utilizing AA batteries in all of our electronics (as you and I have discussed). Because I make a sincere attempt to go as light as possible, (yes, I do cut the end of my toothbrush) I use a petzl E+Lite. It weighs just 27g (with batteries) with only 26 lumens but utilizes two CR2032 batteries. I actually used two of these (one on my head the other in my hand) to get myself off a mountain on a day hike that lasted 2.5 hours after darkness set in. The two of them together weren't bad, they got me off the mountain but I certainly would have been better off with a stronger light. Of course, the E+Lite is marketed as an emergency light but, as a lightweight fanatic, I find it sufficient. I also have a Diamondback headlamp (model unknown, not written on unit), weighing in at a hefty 106g (without batteries), I purchased very many years ago that uses three AAA batteries. I found it too annoying to use simply because of the batteries. It hasn't been in my pack for at least 4 years and I'll probably never use it again. For simplicity sake, regardless of weight, AA battery standardization is most likely the way to go.

4 years ago
Joseph Renow

David...I am seriously considering revising a lot of my reviews for the gear I actually use...I think if I explained how and why I use the things I do folks would gain a lot of insight from my perspective (not that the way I do things is the right way...but it is often a different way). Needless to say the Fenix headlamp is one of the reviews I would like to start with. Weight is really important...like you...a lot of the trails I use have little to no water (one is dry for nearly 70 miles)...and in the summer this is death with a heavy pack. However...when it comes to electronics...I find that it is best to think of all my devices as one big modular electronic device. So when purging or adding to my electronic camping devices I put them (and all their power supplies and other required things) into a big pile (including water-proof cases and the like) and then make decisions based on this broader view. The idea being to make the total pile as small as possible...which sometimes means incorporating a somewhat heavier piece of gear than I might otherwise choose. For me...this is where the Fenix headlamp is a real performer...because I do not need to add any more batteries to the pile (borrow from the pool)...and it is an all-in-one light source capable of hiking at night as well as providing soft low levels of light for camp task after dark. True...the Fenix headlamp is not the lightest headlamp they make...but it weighs a respectable 62 grams minus the battery (which is how I carry it unless using it)...and the fact that it is a comprehensive part of a modular electronic system for that very minor cost in weight is something I am happy to sacrifice for...due to the fact that the sum is so much greater than the cost in additional weight. As if this wasn't enough to convince me to use the Fenix (which it is)...it uses AA batteries...which do to their ubiquity means that I have an inherent supply of power I can tap into built into the larger social infrastructure...I simply need to find a paved-road and I am more likely than not a few miles from additional power!

4 years ago
David Drake

This sounds like a great time wax philosophical about how, what and why we sacrifice. Your example here is perfect… you make a sincere attempt to maintain your electronic equipment by standardizing batteries, which alleviates the need for some question, etc. etc. I believe we naturally do this and for many reasons, whether it be good judgement, experience, desire, sound advice, attitude, and for the most part, personal preference. You prefer to frame your choices based on each of these factors and were all here, sharing our results, on Trailspace. Without getting in to the myriad of positions we all propose that have lead us to our decisions, our paths all lead to one very important destination… and that is the path we choose, no matter what, where, why and how that path became significant. And, regardless of that path, wherever we are, we're constantly re-evaluating, extensively contemplating, measure after measure, choosing destiny. There is a tremendous degree of thought and contemplation, decision and value, regardless of the topic, in your answer and the ideas you share with the Trailspace community, I needed to point this out. There's no better value than that!! Excellent response, Joseph!!!

4 years ago
Joseph Renow

Thanks David...the same goes to you! I do not know very much about arid and dry climates. I know what it is like to go long stretches without water...but the air is ALWAYS saturated with moisture where I am at...which means different clothing and other options. I would really like to do some mild desert trekking someday...but until then I hope to learn a lot from you and others who have valuable experience and insight. Thanks.

4 years ago

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Fenix HL21

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The Fenix HL21 is not available from the stores we monitor. It was last seen February 18, 2014 at SunnySports.

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