2016 – The Search for the Best Headlamp Begins
Over the last nine years in Thailand I’ve tried a couple of cheap headlamps for night herping (looking for reptiles, amphibians, arachnids and other wildlife. I’ve been disappointed, mainly I guess because I just didn’t spend enough money on the headlamp. I’ve used only flashlights for the last seven years.
This year changes all that. I spent a week researching different headlamps. I ordered four (three different models) – including two of the Fenix HP25’s because I was pretty sure I’d like them. The HP25’s came first and I’ve already had a detailed look. I went out last night and found a Malayan Pit Viper and Calotes emma on the road next to our home.
Is this headlamp REALLY that good for herping though?
Most reviews look at the light for whether it is any good for runners or hikers. I’ve done that too if you’re interested in the Pros and Cons of using the Fenix HP25 for those activities.
Here is the breakdown of reviews at Amazon for this unit…
But what makes a good herping headlamp? I haven’t seen the question tackled in as much detail as I want to get into here, so I’m spending two days writing this, taking the photos, and shooting the video you can find below if you don’t care to read a lot right now.
What Are the PROS and CONS of Using this Headlamp for Night Herping?
FENIX HP25 HERPING PROS
- flood beam is awesome for close distances on ‘Turbo’ mode (< 5m)
- flood beam shows dog eye-shine from over 100 meters away (tested)
- spot beam is great for road cruising
- flood and spot on med-to-high settings are great if looking in trees
- easy to use buttons with good mechanics
- very waterproof from pounding rain from any direction (Ingress Protection Marking (IPX)-6)
- well made battery compartment not likely to break quickly
- heavy duty wires – not likely to break quickly
- adjustable 60 degrees down to match your activity
- slightly shockproof (1 meter drops)
- decent battery life at full power both beams (2 hours)
- easily replaceable and easy to find rechargeable Eneloop Pro AA or any store-bought AA batteries
- reasonably priced at $60 USD – cheap enough to carry one for backup
- 2 year warranty
FENIX HP25 HERPING CONS
- flood beam is near useless (not bright enough) for anything far distance on the ground
- spot beam is far too tight to be helpful for herping at close distances
- when both lights on, the spot beam is so bright it wrecks night vision ability for where the flood is shining – wish spot was wider
- a bit heavy, but I think everyone can get accustomed to it
- unit is not so comfortable on the head – no pads
- there are brighter units on the market, though if well made they are more expensive
- replaceable proprietary Ni-MH batteries with longer life would be preferable to AA’s
And, just for laughs…
TEST #1 – ROAD CRUISING AROUND MY HOME
Last night at 8:00 pm. I was anxious to get out and see what this headlamp could do. I rode the motorbike on the streets around our home. We have a couple big palm plantation areas, a rubber tree plantation, pineapple fields, etc. Within twenty minutes I had already spotted a Malayan Pit Viper crossing the road (Calloselasma rhodostoma), and a Calotes emma lizard sleeping in a pile of dead branches off the road. A first impression doesn’t get much better than that!
FLOOD BEAM VS. SPOT BEAM
There are two very different beams on the Fenix HP25 lighting system. One is a flood light, the other is a spotlight beam. Each one tops out at 180 lumens at their peak power levels.
The FLOOD BEAM is absolutely amazing for looking at short distances at the feet or in the trees – if the branches are within ten meters or less. It would be VERY easy to spot snakes in the branches using just the flood lamp. I am looking forward to testing this out in the next few days. I mean, I’ve tested it, but I really want to find snakes with this light. My favorite place for looking in trees is currently closed off because they’re shooting a film there. I really hope they don’t leave a bunch of trash on the mountain, as they are prone to do. I’ll go as soon as it opens up.
The SPOT BEAM is super bright, and very tight in diameter. I found it incredible for driving the motorbike and looking far up the road. It has a 50 meter reach, and yet, I STILL wish the beam was a bit wider. It’s super tight. It is so tight that it’s virtually useless for me when looking for snakes in the forest while walking around. By itself – it would be useless and a chore to search for snakes using just the beam because you’d have to scan like mad to cover any ground, turning your head left and right like a twitching bird.
In combination with the flood light – the spot beam is slightly helpful, but also annoying because it’s just so damn tight and bright. When both beams are enabled at high and “Turbo” mode, the spot beam is so bright that it ruins the eyes for anything except what is seen in the bright spot of that beam. If you look from the bright of the spot to the flood area – your eyes can’t adjust. It hurts. It wrecks your night vision and so it’s not helpful to use the spot on high mode when the flood is on. That sucks because then you drop down to just 90 lumens on the high spot beam instead of 180 lumens at high power.
THE IDEAL HEADLAMP FOR NIGHT HERPING?
The ideal night herping light for me would be a headlamp with two flood beams, both of which could crank up to turbo mode. This would make finding snakes and other animals in the trees or on the ground – very easy. But, then you wouldn’t have the spot beam for road cruising. Or maybe you could have the ultimate spot beam headlamp as an alternative to switch to when road cruising?
I will be taking apart one of my HP25’s in the next couple days to see – can I swap over one of the flood beams from the extra headlamp to join the flood beam in the first unit? And, can I put that spot I removed back into the other unit so I have one headlamp with two spots, and one headlamp with two floods?
I’m only slightly excited about the idea, because realistically I’m ready to be disappointed. If it works, I’ll be jumping up and down. If not, well, no matter – I’ve prepared myself for it!
Now, a Fenix HP25 with two flood lights would almost be perfect, but really if I have to be particular – I’d say that the flood light is too wide. I’d reel it in by another 20 degrees or so. This would make it brighter and come closer to my natural range of vision while I’m looking for snakes on the ground.
IS THE FENIX HP25 WORTH GETTING FOR NIGHT TIME HERPING?
If you frequently look in the trees for snakes and other animals, and if you frequently do a lot of road cruising – yes, you will love this headlamp. Even if you frequently look at bushes and at your feet a lot – within a close distance – you will really like this headlamp.
The problem is – for going much past five meters away from you on the ground, the flood beam is just not powerful enough, and the spot beam is too damn bright. That is one area where I often find snakes – from zero to around seven meters away from me on the ground.
AM I GOING TO KEEP BOTH OF THESE FENIX HP25’s?
I’ll probably keep one. If the Petzl blows it away, I’ll get rid of both of these Fenix and order another different headlamp to test.
I do like this Fenix headlamp for a lot of reasons. I’ll see if a buddy wants the other one. I have another two different lights coming in the next few days – a Black Diamond Revolt, and a Petzl Tikka I think it’s called. I’ll compare this Fenix light to those headlamps and see which I like best for what reasons.
While wearing this Fenix HP25 I will also carry in my hand a flashlight (torch) for spotting wildlife in the five to seven meter range that I cannot see well with this headlamp.
FENIX HP25 HEADLAMP REVIEW – COMPREHENSIVE, INCLUDING BEAM COMPARISONS:
HAVE YOU TRIED the FENIX HP25 HEADLAMP?
What do you think about it?