Well, with spring just around the corner, and the daylight saving time coming, I’ve noticed how much less I need a headlamp to do morning and evening chores lately. I hadn’t really thought much about it before, but headlamps are a critical tool on the homestead. Feeding pigs, chickens, sheep and horses before the sun comes up or closing the chicken door after the sun has gone down. Checking propane levels or resetting blown breakers because you decided to turn on the electric kettle at the same time your wife was blow-drying her hair. Yeah, when you’re in the long dark grips of winter, a headlamp is an item that gets used multiple times per day, every day.
When I was a kid I thought headlamps were the coolest things but typically reserved just for mountain climbers, cave explorers and miners. And back then, it wasn’t all that easy (or cheap) to find a decent quality headlamp. Now with the major improvement with LED technology, a super bright, long lasting headlamp is easy to come by. Most local hunting and camping stores now carry a wide selection of headlamps to choose from. And if that doesn’t work, Amazon and other online retailers offer more choices than you could fully understand or care to for that matter. My favourite place to buy headlamps is Mountain Equipment Coop. They have a really good selection, do a lot of research and investigating before they decide to bring in a certain model of headlamp. A lot of the ground work of trying to figure out what is a decent headlamp has been done for you. Nice.
Here’s a look at the headlamps that we use on the homestead.
First up is the smallest and lightest lamp of the bunch. The Printon Tec Byte. This lamp only houses 2 AAA batteries, so it’s burn time is noticeably lower than other lamps, but it is still decently bright. Full power is 70 lumens with a lower power setting. One feature of this lamp that I loves the red LED. Why is red a good option? Red light preserves your eyes own night vision. Meaning that when using red light, and then looking into the dark without any illumination, your eyes don’t have to adjust to the dark. Green light has the same effect. This can be nice when reading maps in your car or while hunting. Also it’s much less noticeable and safer to use when you don’t want your location given away by a bright light say, when walking in to your favourite hunting blind before the sun comes up. Also that little red light gives just enough illumination to light the ground immediately in front of you when walking and enough for tasks that require close illumination. If you want to see what just went bump in the night, the red setting on this light isn’t all that useful. The nomenclature claims that this light has 146 hour burn time, but that has to be when only using the red LED. Using this lamp on high (which gives a really good amount of light for even cycling or running in the dark) will only last about 6 to 8 hours. Not the greatest burn time, but it is a very small and lightwheight light. This is an excellent option to keep in your car or emergency kit for sid of the road situation that you will want decent light, but won’t need it for hours on end. Due to the fact that changing out batteries all the time gets old, this light has been put into backup service in one of my vehicle emergency bags. But, this would be an awesome option for kids or a great running headlamp because of it’s light weight.
The next light on the list is one that I’ve had the longest and use the most. Unfortunately this model is no longer made in this style and the new versions bearing the same name are quite different. The Petzl Tikka XP. I bought this light 8 years ago when I was commuting by bicycle from Rockyford to Strathmore. At the time it was one of the best lights of this size (I don’t like the lights that have a separate battery pack that sits on the back of your head). I can’t give the exact lumen rating since all the info online the Tikka XP varies from model to model (even though they all bear the same name) and the current model XP is quite a different light. I can’t speak to the new versions of this light, but I’m sure they’re pretty good. This light has 3 power settings, uses 3 AAA batteries and has a great burn time. Probably 20 plus hours on high power. It also has a flashing mode which I used quite a bit during the dawn hours of my bike commutes when I didn’t need illumination but still wanted to be seen. My favourite feature of this light though is a frosted lens that slides over the main lens. This allows very quick changes between a spot beam (for seeing farther distances) and a flood beam which is great for working on tasks in close. The newer version of the Tikka XP do offer flood and spot patterns, but they are accessed by a sequence of presses of the button. I don’t like that. In fact I can’t stand having to go through a series of complicated button clicks to access different functions of a light. High, low, spot and flood. That’s pretty much all I like in a headlamp. Unfortunately, a good simple headlamp like this old Tikka XP is getting harder to find.
Next headlamp that gets pressed into regular service on the homestead is one I bought for my wife for Christmas this year. I figured that since she was using mine a lot (not that I mind sharing) she should have a nice pink headlamp for herself. It also is a Petzl and the model is Petzl Tikka +. A good light that is the brightest headlamp we have, and also runs on 3 AAA batteries. Max output is 160 lumens and on it’s lowest setting of 5 lumens it will run for 100 hours. That’s a lot! This light has a good mix of spot and flood lighting thought the same lens and 3 different power levels. To get to the different features you do have to go through a series of various button clicks. I’m sure that if you were to use this like regularly you would become familiar with the different modes and how to access them, but there have been times when Steph and I are walking down to close the chicken coop door for the evening and her light is wigging out putting on a show for us. Again, it just takes some time getting used to. The one thing I do like about this headlamp is that the red light option is quite nice and bright, much brighter than the Byte. All in all this is a pretty solid little headlamp. And; it pink!
And the last headlamp we are going got look at is the most simple and least expensive of the lot. It’s the Petzl TIKKINA. This is an exellent choice for task lighting and illumination while walking. The previous two Petzl’s I’ve talked about would both be good options for fast paced outdoor activities such as running or cycling (although for most cycling you use a headlamp as supplemental lighting to your main bike light) but this little TIKKINA would not be as useful for such activities. That isn’t what this light was designed for. The max output is 80 lumens which is plenty enough for daily chores around the homestead. Low power setting gives 20 lumens and the burn time for the high and low are 120hrs and 180hrs respectively. I really like this headlamp. Low, High and off. That all that 3 clicks of the button will do and really who need more than that. I keep this light in my toolbox. At around 20 bucks, it’s a great choice for crawling under your truck doing oil changes or when you have to change out a fan belt on your tractor. It has more than enough light for these tasks, built well and will take abuse and ultimately if it get wrecked, you’re not out a whole much of money.
This is just a listing of the light that we have and use, but there are tons of options out there. I would recommend staying away for the lights branded as energizer or cheaper versions found in your big box stores or lumber yards. I used to by these thinking that it would be better than getting a nice light all greasy and dirty. But after using them for several months, I became so frustrated with their lack of performance that I just dedicated one of my “good headlamps” to working in the shop. I’ll tell you this, it makes a huge difference.
The main things I look for in a headlamp are are:
- Size: Ones with a batter pack on the back of your head are going to drive you crazy. Trust me.
- Battery type: there is an increasing number of headlamps that are rechargeable. A lot with USB adaptors. This is a matter of personal preference, but the thing I don’t like about these options is that when the light dies and you’re halfway done chores, you can’t simply just pop in fresh batteries and keep on going. To me, rechargeable headlamps are just a hassle. I like AAA versions the best. They are light, powerful and spare batteries take up next to no room in your hunting back or emergency car kit.
- Simplicity : Again, this might not be a big deal to you but I prefer the simple lamps. Ultimately, I just want hands-free lighting and a few power settings is handy. I don’t care for a light that can morse-code for help or do other crazy stuff like that.
- Light output: I have this as one of my least important feature when looking for a headlamp for the homestead. The main use for a headlamp as discussed here is for helping do tasks around the homestead or farm in the dark. I have super powerful flashlights if I need to check fences lines across the field at night, but for a headlamp I just want to see where I’m walking and what my hands are doing.
If you’re doing chores and work around the farm and still using a handheld flashlight, do yourself a huge favour and consider getting a decent little headlamp. $20-$50 is all that you need to spend depending on the options you want, and like I stated about my oldest lamp; I’ve been using it for hunting, camping, shop work and my daily chores for 8 years and it’s still going strong. Well worth the price for the convenience it gives.