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Fenix HL21

rated 4.0 of 5 stars
photo: Fenix HL21 headlamp


Price Historic Range: $34.95
Reviewers Paid: $30.00
Weight 41.1 g (excluding battery)


1 review
5-star:   0
4-star:   1
3-star:   0
2-star:   0
1-star:   0

The blue-collar of headlamps...tough...simple...reliable. It does everything you really need it to do over many years of service.


  • Durability
  • Waterproof
  • AA Powered
  • Diffuser


  • Size
  • Runtime



If you are someone who uses colored and flashing lights to create your own discotech while outdoors this is not the lamp for you. The Fenix HL21 has three brightness settings of 97/47/3 lumens in white well as the ubiquitous SOS mode...which is at least two more options than I need or care about. To its credit the Fenix HL21 uses a simple plastic and aluminum alloy construction which has withstood years of abuse and wear. There are bits of dirt cemented into some of the smaller crevices...and the elastic strap shows some signs of wear...but after years of hard use the Fenix HL21 continues to perform admirably on uneven trails and bouncy runs.

Size and Weight

The light is a little bulky by the standards of the day...but the lamp doesn't bounce around or pull on my head. Fenix list the weight of the headlamp at just over 41 grams without the battery...which is on the lighter side of headlamps. Headlamps with comparable run-times and lumens typically use 2-3 AAA batteries which are heavier than the single AA battery the Fenix HL21 uses...while providing essentially the same amount of power. Unfortunately the Fenix HL21 is not lithium compatible...which would drop the weight of the lamp further while increasing its versatility. However...the HL21 is alkaline compatible...and that is far more important in cases where I might want to "recharge" my headlamp with a new battery at a convenience store in a town along the way.

Lumens and Duration

If you are not into the social construction of measurement...or really into probably missed the drama around the ANSI standard for run-times. In a nutshell manufacturers have lobbied and been given some rather favorable terms...but all you really need to know is that the ANSI standard is highly susceptible to manipulation by manufacturers...and this makes it difficult for consumers to know how many lumens they are getting over a certain period of time.

Fenix is a reputable company who would have a lot to lose if they came to be known as deceptive. Moreover...I have not detected any obvious drop in lumens when putting in fresh batteries which would indicate the most egregious kind of absent a way to measure lumens I believe the 2h3m/5h43m/53h run-times are reasonably accurate. This might not sound like a ringing endorsement...but given the state of the market it really is!



I tend to prefer simple devices without a lot of rickety rack that can fail and add weight/bulk/cost...but the tiny diffuser lens which changes the somewhat ridiculous 93m beam into a flood while in camp is a win for me. I initially had some reservations about a piece of plastic hinged to the outside of the lens...but after years of use it has never got in the way...and thanks in part to a bevel design which allows the lens to be turned so that it never works against gravity...the thing functions as well today as it did the day I got it.

Like many other headlamps the Fenix HL21 tilts somewhere in the 50 to 60 degree range...made possible by a simple plastic locking device that like the diffuser I initially had some reservations about...but again after years of heavy use it shows no signs of fatigue and locks in the angle light right where you need it.



Exceeding the IPX-6 or less common IPX-7 of most comparable headlamps...the IPX-8 rating of the Fenix HL21 is a standout feature of the lamp...and along with the diffuser lens explains why I choose it more than my other headlamps that are lighter and have longer run-times. While kayaking at night I suddenly found myself on the wrong-side of my boat...the Fenix HL21 (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 the lamp underwater for any extended period of time...but I use it worry-free on all my paddling adventures and rainy runs. In fact...if the Fenix HL21 had a couple more hours of run-time it would likely be the only headlamp I is that good!



If you demand a lot from your lights...want or need a bunch of special-effects...then you might want to look for another lamp. The Fenix HL21 is for folks who want a simple + durable + worry-free device that can light up a path or your way around camp. This light has been submerged...stayed put in a nighttime tornado...and seen hours of service in the rain on runs and hikes alike.

Unless you're a gram counter...the only true weakness of the Hl21 is its rather short run-time of approximately 6hrs...but unless you plan to do a lot of trail-walking at night the 6hr run-time is more than enough to get you through a weekend at camp...and then some.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $30

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.

8 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 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) 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!

8 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!!!

8 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.

8 years ago

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