Just arrived is Black Diamond's 2012 Icon Headtorch, a top-end, multi-LED light that's fully waterproof, has a claimed range of 100 metres at full blast and a claimed burn time of between 75 and 250 hours.
Headband-mounted Battery Box
In some ways it's a bit of a throwback with a traditional headband-mounted battery box that holds no fewer than four AA batteries. That makes it a bit chunky compared to some modern, all-in-one lightweight torches with the complete ensemble weighing in at 230g. The pay-off though is a burn time quoted at a minimum 75 hours even with the full 200 lumen output in use and up to 250 hours if you stick to lower levels.
In short, that means it should be very useable on multi-day trips and expeditions without fretting over battery life or regular recharging. The other muti-use friendly feature is massive adjustability in output. The main central LED gives a whopping, focussed 200-lumen main beam, but holding the switch down gives a gradual fade right down to a mere 4 lumens - you can simply stop at the output you're happy with.
And if you need a more diffuse beam for general pottering about the tent or hut, just toggle onto the two, lower-powered side LEDs which give 35 lumens on max, but again fade down to 4 lumens seamlessly leaving you the option of any level in between. We like the versatility, no fixed steps, just whatever you fancy and a quick play suggests it works really well.
Finally, on the light output front, there are two red LEDs so you can preserve your night vision, say, when reading a map. They again feature the fade function just as with the main and side white LEDs. There's also a power meter LED on the base of the light to let you know how your batteries are faring.
Overall then, you can ramp up the power for, say, night navigation with a darkness-cleaving main spot beam, fade things down when you need less light - maybe for running or walking on more even terrain - or opt for a gentler, wider flood for more general use. So with one torch you can equally well picky out abseil points in the dark or simply read a book in your tent.
It's true that 230g isn't light, but the torch sits comfortably on our head anyway with the battery box featuring a ribbed pad that gives added cush on the back of the head and a top strap for more stability. The single switch sits on top of the headlight unit and is easy to find and use - you can lock it off electronically as well - and generally build quality feels solid. The battery box opening is straightforward as well.
Waterproof To IPX 7
One very welcome touch is proper waterproofing to the international IPX 7 standard down to 1m of submersion for 30 minutes, so it should cope just fine with UK conditions unlike some so-called 'water-resistant' units.
Overall first impressions are of a serious workhorse of a torch, which should be versatile enough for multi-day mountaineering use, but thanks to the stepless fade and lower-powered side LEDs, just as happy around camp and for more general duties. Burn time looks ace on paper and it's comfortable and stable on the head.
A lithium polymer rechargeable battery would cut wait, but then you'd lose the versatility of having easily replaceable and available AAs.
Suggested UK price is £75 and we'll report back. More information at www.blackdiamondequipment.com.