A little while ago I got handed two of Black Diamond’s new offerings to the headlamp family to review for SA Mountain. And two headlamps more different from each other would be hard to find. The Icon is burly, very bright, with lots of bells and whistles, while the Onsight is a slimmer, lighter model with basic, but essential functions. Let’s look at each one separately.
As the name implies, the new BD Icon throws a powerful beam of 700 lumens for a staggering 140 metres when on its brightest setting. But that is just the beginning of what this multi-functional lamp can do.
The lamp is operated by two switches on the top of the light unit: the main switch, which is nice and broad, making it easy to operate with gloved fingers, and a small round switch that operates the coloured light functions. The main light is divided into two beams – medium and bright, and the lamp always switches on with the medium beam, then you can adjust from there. You can dim right down for intimate use in your tent, like reading or ‘other things’, or you can switch to super bright (by either pushing twice on the main switch, or by using BD’s famous tap switch on the side) for route finding and trail running across mountains in the black of night, or adjust the brightness to anything between.
The main beam can also be converted to strobe mode on any brightness setting (by simply depressing the main switch twice in quick succession), and – this is something I haven’t seen on any other headlamp before – by tapping the side switch while on strobe mode, the strobe converts automatically to an SOS flash setting.
The Icon also comes with three ‘side’ lights – red, green and blue. I know! I also thought the same thing. What is that all about? Why so many different colours? Well I Googled it, and besides the red light that many other headlamps have, which is good for use when around camp so you don’t blind each other, and also makes it easier for your eye to grow accustomed to the dark when switching off completely, the other two lights, according to quite a few different sites and forums I visited, have to do with hunting and tracking – there is mixed opinion on what animals can and can’t see. So there you have it! But I must say, I quite like the green light over the red for campsite use – it gives a better light, while still being soft and kind to your mate’s eyeballs.
All these different lights are activated by depressing the small round button next to the main switch. Each depression moves it on to the next colour, and all the different colours have strobe activation and an automatic SOS mode, all activated the same way as the main beam. Seems complicated, but after a few minutes of playing around I got it waxed, and the unit comes with a very well laid out explanatory pamphlet.
The Icon also comes with a beam lock and battery-power meter, as well as the option of using alkaline batteries or the Icon rechargeable battery. The Icon is also pretty weatherproof, being submersible to 1 metre for 30 minutes, which I think is more than you would need in even the wildest rain storms out there.
Having a fairly sizable battery pack, you have the option of wearing the unit on your head in the conventional style, or extending the cord and moving the battery pack to your belt, or into your back pack. The Icon comes with 3 x adjustable elasticated straps and is compatible with all helmets.
Weighing in a bit on the heavy side, the Icon would not be my first choice for a mountain trip where you want to go light and fast, but with such impressive brightness and great battery life, it is certainly a headlamp for just about every other use, from car camping to expedition use, and everything in between.
Beam distance: 140 m (max); 12 m (low)
Burn time: 7 h (high beam); 190 h (low beam)
IPX rating : 67 (waterproof and dust proof)
Weight with batteries: 236 g
Batteries: 4 AA (included)
Icon rechargeable battery (sold separately)
In total contrast to the Icon, the Onsight is a real climber/mountaineer’s piece of kit. It is light, robust and super effective – it’s even got a special ‘climbing’ beam (more about that later). It is also super simple, which I really like – no bells and whistles, and no coloured lights.
Operated using the same broad top switch, making it easy to use with gloves, the Onsight switches on with a single beam and can be dimmed or brightened by holding the switch down. The interesting thing about this single beam is that the lens is designed to throw the light at a wide angle, making it easier to see your feet, for instance, while climbing, without having to specifically train your beam in the exact direction you are looking. So basically, giving you a broader pool of light. To activate the other beam, tap the two power tap sensors on either side of the lamp. This will give you your full 375 lumens, for extra brightness while route-finding, etc. Simply tap again to switch between the two beams.
A strobe function can also be activated by depressing the power button twice in quick succession, and the Onsight also comes with the auto SOS function which is activated by again tapping both the power tap sensors on either side of the lamp.
The unit comes with a beam lock and battery-power meter and, like the Icon, it also has the option of using alkaline batteries or a BD rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The Onsight is also pretty weatherproof, being submersible to 1 metre for 30 minutes, so good for rough weather use.
Complete with two adjustable elastic straps and compatible with all helmets, the Onsight is an exciting new addition to BD’s stable and is a serious contender if you are looking for a light, compact and effective headlamp for your mountain trips.
Beam distance: 88–110 m (max); 8 m (low) – depending on batteries
Burn time: 4.5 h (high beam); 72–110 h (low beam) – depending on batteries
IPX rating: 67 (waterproof and dust proof)
Weight with batteries: 135 g
Batteries: 3 AAA (included)
Rechargeable battery (sold separately)
Available at www.blackdiamondequipment.co.za