Biolite Headlamp hands-on review

Biolite's new headlamp is brilliant -- and we're not just talking about the LEDs

The BioLite headlamp became our go-to light for outdoor activities at home and on the trail
The BioLite headlamp became our go-to light for outdoor activities at home and on the trail
The BioLite headlamp became our go-to light for outdoor activities at home and on the trail

Highs

  • Lightweight
  • Slim, comfortable design
  • Doesn’t bounce when running
  • Remembers your last setting when turning on the light

Lows

  • Easy to accidentally press power button when adjusting the angle of the light

Biolite is best known for its backpacking cookstoves and camping fire pits, but that is only a small portion of what the company produces. Not too many people are aware that Biolite also sells a line of LED lighting products for home and camp. Most recently, the company has jumped into the headlamp market with an innovative LED light, which it’s currently raising funds for on Kickstarter. We got our hands on a pre-production unit to see what it’s like.

A new take on headlamp design

The first thing we noticed about the Biolite headlamp is how lightweight and comfortable it is. Instead of attaching the light module to the band like most headlamps, Biolite incorporates the 3-ounce light right into the fabric of the band — a design the company calls 3D SlimFit construction. The battery is placed at the back of the band to balance off the light. As a result, the light doesn’t sag at the front, and the band stays firmly in place without being so tight that you get a headache.

The headband is also made with moisture-wicking fabric, and is designed to fit a wide range of head sizes thanks to easy-adjust clips that allow you to dial in the right fit. As you adjust the band, you can move the battery pack so it always sits comfortably on the back of your head.

It might seem like a small and insignificant design change, but this design is a game changer. Thanks to the battery-in-back design, the headlamp’s integrated light sits flush on your forehead and doesn’t bounce when you move. We can’t say enough good things about this design. Not only is this close fit lightweight and comfortable to wear, but it’s also incredibly useful because the light stays right where you point your head. There’s no bouncing or jittery light — even when you run.

Despite its slim construction, the Biolite headlamp also has a tilting function that allows you to direct the light to exactly where you need it. The tilting function is easy to use and incredibly stable thanks to notches that hold the light in place. Once you adjust the angle, it stays right there until you push it to change it again. When you are done, the light snaps right back into the casing with a firm click. All in all, this is a very thoughtfully designed piece of gear

Lighting your way, wherever you go

The Biolite pushes out an impressive 330 lumens, which is more than enough for most nighttime activities. We had no problems hiking or running on the forested trails near our testing area. We also found that we used the Biolite as much around the house as we did in the woods. The light was perfect for grilling and indispensable when we had to stack wood at night to beat an incoming rain storm. At home and on the trail, the Biolite was the first headlamp that we grabbed.

BioLite Headlamp
Kelly Hodkins/Digital Trends

The light includes four different modes, including a white spotlight, a white floodlight, a white strobe, and a red light for night vision. Switching between modes only takes a quick press on the raised button at the top of the light. When you turn the light off, it remembers your last setting — which is a feature we’d love to see in every headlamp. It’s incredibly useful to turn off your light in red mode and fire it up again knowing you will be bathed in vision-saving red and not blinding white light.

The battery on the light is respectable with 3.5 hours in full brightness and 40 hours in minimum light. We used the light at night for nearly three hours straight and didn’t notice any loss in intensity. As the battery drains, A handy meter on the battery pack lets you know how much juice you have left. The light recharges via micro USB so you can replenish on the go if you have a portable USB battery pack or access to an outlet.

Price and availability

The Biolite headlamp will launch in spring 2019 with a suggested retail price of $63. A select number of units are available now for pre-order on Kickstarter at discounted prices. Each headlamp includes a charging cable and a stuff sack that doubles as a hanging lantern. All Kickstarter purchases shipped to US and Canada addresses are expected to arrive in time for the holiday season.

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