Headlamps & Lithium batteries

2:32 p.m. on March 8, 2007 (EST)
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21 forum posts

I have used a Black Diamond Zeniz IQ for several years now. I'm curious about how you folks think about using lithium batteries in it (2 AA). I'm trying to switch over to rechargeable batteries for “green” reasons. Anyone know if it will cause problems?


“The EPA estimates that 200 tons of cadmium and 260,000 tons of lead enter our landfills annually.”

7:38 p.m. on March 8, 2007 (EST)
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Lithium AAs are NOT rechargeable. They are a different chemistry from rechargeable lithium cells. The AAs are close to the "standard" 1.5 volts of any AA (actually slightly higher than alkalines when fresh, which can cause problems in some applications, like Garmin's 60CSx GPS receiver), vs close to 3 volts for lithium rechargeables. They do last longer, but you still end up throwing them in the landfill (or, here in Palo Alto, the recycling container).

The big advantages of Li AAs are 1. they work much better in cold temperatures (like -40 deg), 2. they last longer (depending on the application, but often enough to make up for the cost difference from alkalines), and 3. they have a much longer shelf life (10 years vs about 2-3 years for alkalines).

Your choices in rechargeables in the AA size for headlamps are NiCd and NiMH. The latter (NiMH) has a slightly higher voltage than the former (NiCd), but both are less than alkalines at full charge. NiMH will recycle more times than NiCd before you have to discard them (yes, you do have to discard them eventually, usually a few hundred charge cycles). The rechargeables come in various capacities (amp-hours), so look carefully at the packages when you go to buy them - you might still end up carrying a pack-full of spares on a long hike. Or, you can do like me and carry a solar battery charger. Oh, yeah, the fast charge versions (15-min) tend to have less capacity and require AC to get the fast charge (it takes as long as the regular rechargeables on the solar panel or anything other than the special fast-charge unit).

As far as problems with headlamps, there are no problems using lithium AAs with filament-type bulbs (standard or halogen) nor with most LED headlamps (none in my experience, but I wouldn't want to speculate on the newest special LEDs). The only problems I have encountered with lithium AAs have been certain Garmin GPS receivers and the strong caution Canon puts on certain of their point&shoot digital cameras (like Barb's 620).

8:59 p.m. on March 9, 2007 (EST)
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1,902 forum posts

I've got some 2000 mah rechargeables I got at Fry's cheap. I use them in my Canon A95 and my Panasonic walkman-style radio. They don't last all that long, but recharge fairly quickly-couple of hours on AC. No problems with them so far. A pack of 10 was about $10 on sale and the charger was maybe another $10. I've gotten a lot of use out of them.

6:21 p.m. on March 10, 2007 (EST)
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181 forum posts

I have a Princeton Tec headlamp, the Quad model, which has the low battery sensor on it. I started getting a conflicting problem where the lamp wouldn't change brightness levels, but the low battery indicator never came on either. The failure to change problem was mentioned in the owners manual as low battery condition. Princeton Tec never explained the confusing one-but-not-the-other condition, but switching to the NiNM batteries seemed to make it function OK. PT actually recommended going to the NiNM batteries over the Heavy Duty generic WalMart brand AA batteries I was using.

The other Princeton Tec Corona I have has no battery level indicator, and I never have had the brightness changing problem. It just gets dimmer and dimmer until I change the batteries. I have a feeling the difference is due to the electronics that each uses. I do know that those single chip LED controllers with current/voltage regulation sometimes display the problems of the Quad.

And Tom, my wife uses 2300 mah NiNM batteries in her A95 and it seems like forever before I get to quit smiling for a battery change break. We use the EveryReady brand. A great camera. I'd like to find a cheap A620 model for hiking.

I have a feeling a lot of the charged life of rechargeable batteries is dependent on the charger. Some probably quit charging sooner than others, resulting in less mAh.

Hope that helps


6:23 p.m. on March 10, 2007 (EST)
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181 forum posts

Another thing, don't use the copy/paste function too much - especially when you misspell NiMH as NiNM or whatever I did in the prior post.


10:40 p.m. on March 10, 2007 (EST)
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1,902 forum posts

Steve, One trick I did on my last Yosemite trip using cheap Alkalines (one set from Alberton's and one Panasonic set from the 99 cent store) was to just swap out two batteries when my camera quit working. I shot about 150 pictures on the two sets of batteries. Another trick, which I didn't use, is to turn off the screen if you have that option and just use the finder. Not all cameras even have finders anymore and on mine, the finder only shows about 80% of the image, so that may not be practical or even possible, especially when you want to change settings, but sometimes it is an option.

I always carry a spare set of batteries anyway. Plus with my camera, any AA's will do, which I think is a plus.

btw, from what I've seen, the prices on these cameras have come down quite a bit. Here's a good review site for pretty much every digital camera on the planet.

12:16 p.m. on March 12, 2007 (EDT)
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Tom says he "just swap out two batteries when my camera quit working".

Oooooooo, Tom, the battery makers and camera folks say to never, never, never mix partially used and new batteries or batteries of different brands or bad things will happen. Actually, this isn't just commercial hype to sell more batteries. A few years back I had a long talk with some of the tech people from Eveready (when that company still existed under that name, before the change to Energizer and several changes of corporate umbrella). Part of the problem is that when a battery gets used, the voltage drops and when there is uneven voltage more than some critical amount, the battery is being put into a "recharge" situation (I don't remember the exact wording they used). Anyway, depending on the setup (part or all in series or parallel setups), the probability of battery leakage is increased. Yeah, when running low on my battery supplies on long trips, I do the same thing - try various combinations of the used batteries until I find one that works to keep the headlamp going for that last couple of miles back to the car. But the discussion with the battery techs (and some of the battery gurus in our satellite division) converted me to making sure I always use fresh batteries of the same brand in critical widgets ("critical" = "expensive") and change them when they get to half their usage. And what do I do with the half-used batteries? Weelllll, I put them in headlamps (headlamps are much cheaper than cameras).

3:10 p.m. on March 26, 2007 (EDT)
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1 forum posts

Great info for batteries-
I have a more fundamental question- what headlamp for the price is most effective and efficient, weight, life of use, lumens. etc, to purchase? We are heading to ascent Kilimanjaro and have yet to decide on brand/model to purchase.

12:53 p.m. on March 27, 2007 (EDT)
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Headlamps are another one of those items that seem to have strong advocates of each brand and model. On Kili, I assume you will be going up by one of the trail routes - "CocaCola", "Whiskey", or the Breach, and not one of the technical climbing routes. If so, probably any of the better all-LED lamps is fine. You won't need a long-distance spot beam, so one of the more diffuse multi-LED with 3 light levels should work. Black Diamond and Petzl both make several models like this. Some people like Princeton Tec, though the one we got had some problems and not as uniform a light distribution. Kili is not likely to get cold enough to warrant the separated battery pack that you wear inside your jacket - the ones with the batteries in a compartment on the back of your head or in the headlamp unit itself are just fine. The all-LED ones have enough battery life that you probably can get along with just one extra set of batteries (2 total sets).

One thing about headlamps, though, especially the diffuse beam ones - if you have to hike through thick fog, you will be almost blind if you are wearing it on your head, thanks to the back-scatter off the fog. In that case, just hold the lamp in your hand at waist level. This puts the beam enough off the side to reduce the back-scatter a bit.

3:47 p.m. on April 16, 2007 (EDT)

a.k.a. James


I have a black Diamond Vectra headlamp which takes 4 x AA. Been using it with lithium cells lately and quite dissappointed...The thing is supposed to last literally years on standby with alkalines but the lithium cells seldom last more than 3 months on standby with occasional use. Pity because they are really light weight but too expensive to be worthwhile for this application.

However, my garmin 60CS (note, not 60CSx) can track for a bout 7 days of hiking/mountain biking on battery saver mode with a single set. Very impressive


June 22, 2018
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