Headlamps are extremely useful items to have around. Being able to work with both hands, in dark conditions, is especially desirable for hunters and campers alike. Field dressing a Rabbit whilst holding a torch is not for the faint hearted and usually results in a torch covered in blood and guts. Perhaps you’re like me and you try the torch in your mouth trick in an attempt to free both hands for field use. Apart from being dangerous and awkward, you end up having to waste time cleaning off the dog drool that you left all over your expensive torch.
Camping uses are unlimited with headlamps and it’s in these situations that they really shine (sorry, I had to say it.) I don’t want to be fumbling with torches at the end of a day and I’ve lost count of the amount of times that a torch gets misplaced during dark conditions. It’s a little embarrassing asking someone if you can borrow their torch so that you can find yours. Headlamps are the answer to these problems and I’ve been trying to find a decent one for some time now.
I’ve tried several brands over the years but I’ve generally been disappointed with their performance. I could never afford to spend the hundred odd dollars for what seemed like a decent one, so it’s been a matter of finding the best valued headlamp, which has of course been a hit and miss affair. However, I think I’ve finally found one that is perfectly suited to my needs.
I am referring to the Coast LED HL5 Headlamp. Coast torches are the number one selling torch over in the United States so you can expect them to be quality items. The HL5 is no exception and there are some very impressive features that make it stand out from the rest.
The HL5 is rated at 140 lumens which is impressive for a headlamp. The lumen rating of a torch is basically a measurement of the total light output. Unfortunately some manufacturers have been more than just a little creative when advertising the lumens of their torches, which has led to the development of the ANSI FL1 standards. The standards set very specific methods of testing in controlled laboratory conditions, which insures that products conforming to the standards can be compared in both performance and features. The ANSI FL1 standards were developed by leading companies in the industry and Coast torches was one of them. In my opinion, the fact that Coast torches were involved in the process shows their dedication and commitment to the industry. The FL1 standards also apply to beam distance, run time, peak beam intensity, impact resistance and water resistance.
All Coast torches are in compliance with the ANSI FL1 standards so any figures quoted from here on in can be taken as true and correct.
The HL5 beam distance is rated at 58 meters. Basically, the headlamp will produce a useable amount of light at this distance. I found
that the light penetrated further than the quoted figures but of course in the field you start getting a lot of shadows at that distance which limits the amount of useful light. Headlamps aren’t designed for spotlighting and I prefer a wide beam over a spot beam for general headlamp use. The HL5 uses Coasts Max Beam optic, which is basically a very effective white flood beam.
The light housing is composed of six LED’s and is hinged for easy beam angle adjustment. The beam isn’t focusable which is how I prefer a headlamp to be. I don’t want a headlamp to be more complicated than it has to be and having an advanced focus system seems to defeat the whole concept of a headlamp. The same applies to different light modes. The HL5 has a simple on and off button and there’s no low light, strobe, SOS or Tactical modes to have to cycle through each time your turn the light on. Again it’s a matter of keeping it simple. Press the button to turn the light on and press it again to turn it off.
The battery housing for the HL5 is located at the rear of the headband and its light-weight and comfortable. It runs on three AAA batteries which are included with the lamp. It’s worth mentioning that the batteries are good quality Duracell ones and not the crappy “free” ones that normally get included with battery operated items. The runtime is rated at 4 hours and 25 minutes.
The entire headlamp weighs only 124grams and having the battery pack at the rear means that the weight is evenly distributed which is part of the reason the HL5 is so comfortable to wear. The elastic head straps also help with the comfort as they are wide enough to prevent pressure points. The plastic adjustment clips don’t have any exposed points to rub against your head which is usually my major complaint with cheaper brands.
The HL5 is rated to be impact resistant to 1 meter and also water resistant against splashing from all angles. As part of the FL1 standards, the water resistance has to be tested after the impact testing in order to ensure real life situations. Whilst I didn’t test the impact resistance of the HL5, I can confirm that the headlamp is indeed water resistant. I gave the unit a heavy spray with the hose and it didn’t affect the operation in any way. I removed the battery pack cover to check for water ingress but it was bone dry. I would have no problems with using the HL5 in heavy rain which is nice piece of mind when conditions turn for the worst.
One of the best things about the HL5 (or any Coast product for that matter) is that it comes with a lifetime guarantee to be free of defects in materials and workmanship to the original purchaser. The guarantee does not include normal wear and tear or damage resulting from misuse or neglect. So if you take proper care of your torch, you’re going to be happy in the knowledge that you have that lifetime guarantee should something go wrong. When purchasing something I always look at the warranty as a major selling point. If a company is willing to back their products with a lifetime guarantee, you can be sure that they are confident in what they are selling.
Of course no review is complete without looking at the negative aspects of the product. I can honestly say that I cannot fault the HL5 in design or performance. I had only one issue whilst using the headlamp which was with the cable that runs from the battery pack to the light. My head is on the small side which means that the elastic head straps need to be fairly short and it leaves an exposed loop in the power cable. I was concerned about the loop snagging on something so I simply taped it the elastic strap by using some electrical tape. From a design point of view, there is nothing than can be done about this as the lamp needs to cater for heads of all sizes.
Overall I am very happy with the HL5. The beam is fantastic and the design is simplistic and effective. The HL5 retails for under $70 AUS which based on performance alone is well worth the money. Throw the lifetime guarantee into the equation and you’ve got a headlamp that simply cannot be overlooked. Coast has other headlamps in their range which can be viewed by clicking on their link below.