If I had to put money on it, I’d wager that almost every overlander owns a headlamp. I know I’ve owned dozens over the last 20 years, most of them produced by a brand I’ll just say rhymes with the word––pretzel.
Earlier this year our Overland Journal editorial team started discussing the idea of compiling a review of headlamps and that in turn got me looking into the market’s current offerings. One of my mountain biking friends, a paid professional rider, is sponsored by Fenix. He made a compelling argument for the brand by saying, “Even if they hadn’t given them to me, I would have bought them at full retail.” We mountain bikers never pay retail for anything, so that declaration carried some weight.
With a quick trip to the Fenix website and a dispatch of $45, I had their HL25 LED headlamp on route. That was about four months ago and I have had the chance to use it extensively. I dare say I’ve even abused it with almost malicious intent. As a loyalist to the pretzel brand, I wanted the Fenix light to be lousy.
Not to spoil a good product review; it’s anything but.
The HL25 is unlike nearly every other headlamp in this price point and is constructed of aluminum. Not just a little bit of aluminum, but effectively all-aluminum. The mounting plate that retains the lamp is made of high density plastic, but the lamp itself is good old metal. With a tightly sealed battery and lamp compartment, the HL25 is even submersible to 2 meters, and judging by my ham-fisted abuses, is more durable than any plastic bodied lamp I’ve used.
Built around a Cree XP-G2 R5 LED powered by 3 AAA batteries, the 3 output modes produce 4 lumens for 140 hours, 50 lumens for 12 hours, and 150 lumens for 4 hours. The burst mode, not something I use very much, produces an impressive 280 lumens. Fenix claims the burst mode can throw light out to 223 feet, but I haven’t actually confirmed that measurement. It is certainly bright.
Over the course of testing the Fenix headlamp, I came to realize there are elements to my once preferred lamps that I now dislike. Toggling through the various modes of some lamps is complicated and annoying. The Fenix has one small rubberized button that is easy to locate, even with glove hands, and cycles through the settings predictably with a tactile click. It is also recessed enough to not inadvertently get turned on inside my pack or pocket. Adding to the user features, it has an “Intelligent Memory Circuit,” which automatically enters the previously used light level when switched on. That seems like a non-benefit, but it is handy.
Considering some headlamps of similar performance push well beyond $200, I have to concede the Fenix HL25 is a smoking value and every bit as good as any headlamp I’ve ever used.
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- Excellent value
- All-aluminum construction
- IP68 Rated to 2 meters
- Excellent battery life
- Projects a nice even light pattern with no dark spots
- Easy to operate rubberized button
- Superb durability
- Uses easily found AAA batteries
- A few grams heavier than similar lamps in the category
- Replacing batteries in the dark is nigh impossible with the unusual configuration