Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fenix HP01 Headlamp Review

Click on any of the photos for a larger view
The new Fenix HP01 Headlamp

I've been an avid outdoors guy for years, fishing, hunting, herping (snake hunting) and wildlife photography. For some reason, many of my pursuits take me outdoors at night, especially the herping.  For years I resisted headlamps because for lack of a better term, they looked like birth control to me. Then one day while fishing with a friend about 8 years ago, we arrived before sun up. As we put our boat on the water in the dark, he slapped on a headlamp and started doing his thing while I fumbled with my handheld light trying to pull out back lashes, tie on lures, etc. He finally said, "here, try this". I reluctantly put on his headlamp and I've been a believer since then. Soon after, I went out and bought a cheap headlamp at my local WalMart and used it for many things but I longed for something better, more powerful. So I at the recommendation of a friend, I got on Amazon and bought a Petzl Tikka headlamp; much better. While I loved the Petzl Tikka and it worked great for small chores around the house, reading in bed, great for early morning and evening fishing and as a focus assist light for photography, it still didn't have the power I was looking for. I tried it looking for snakes at night in the wilds of West Texas and it just didn't have enough juice. So after lots of research and recommendations by others in the herping (snake hunting) community, I bit the bullet and picked up a Princeton Tec Apex; now we're talking. This light did it all. For years as a snake hunter, I carried around a florescent wand powered by a big, heavy 6V battery and always wished for something lighter but provide the light I needed, the Princeton Tec Apex provided that and worked great for all aspects. It even completely replaced the florescent wand for snake hunting. It would take a heck of a light to trump the Apex; enter the Fenix HP25 . I've had the HP25 now for a few months and thus far, it has exceeded my expectations and completely replaced my Princeton Tec Apex as my favorite. Recently, Fenix released the Fenix HP01 headlamp and of course I was happy to run this one through the ringer as well. Read on...
Princeton Tec Apex (left) and the new Fenix HP01 (right)
Old guard vs. new:  The Fenix HP25 (left) and the Fenix HP01 (right)
The Petzl Tikka and the Fenix HP01
The head of the HP01 looks like an amputated L2D flashlight head (bottom) minus the orange peel reflector
 The Fenix HP01 is a two AA (NiMH orAlkaline) powered Cree XP-G (R5) LED headlamp with a nifty Nichia red light LED on top for low light tasks so as not to ruin your night vision; more on that later. The actual light head of this lamp looks like an amputated flashlight head. The power comes from two AA's mounted at the back of the headband and the light is digitally regulated. For those that do not know, digital regulation prevents gradual lowering of the lights power from the "get go". It pretty much retains it original brightness longer with sudden drop off at the end of the batteries' life span. 


As with all Fenix flashlights that I have used and tested, this headlamp feels very well made. A new feature that I haven't seen before and I REALLY like is the quick release tab on the two AA battery compartment. The will allow the user to do something I've not seen before with a headlamp; be able to change the batteries while never removing the headlamp. Very cool! The compartment itself is made of very tough hard plastic as is most of the head itself. The light head is made from aluminum alloy just like most tactical flashlight these days. In the first photo below, you can see the quick release tab. It's large enough to be easy to find in the dark and simple enough to remove with a quick flick.
The HP01 2 AA battery compartment with the quick release tab
To remove/replace the batteries, you simply flick the tab, pull out the carrier, replace the batteries and reverse the process. A quick flick of the tab securely closes the water resistant, O-ring protected compartment. Very well done Fenix. A photo of the battery carrier removed from the compartment is below.

As you can see from the photos above, the contacts are gold plated for longevity and better connectivity. The compartment is also protect from reverse polarity for folks like me that tend to put the batteries in backwards.

The head of the lamp is very well thought out and put together much like the HP25 . It pivots from two connection points at the bottom of the head with a clicky style bracket. The pivot goes to about 60 degrees; good for most all applications. It feels very solid and well put together as expected with most all Fenix products.


The power switches on the Fenix HP01 are much like the power switches on the HP25 . The are at the top of the head lamp and there are two switches (diagram below).

To power the light or the LED on, you simply depress the appropriate clicky switch. There is no delay like there is on the HP25 for powering on either light. The switch for the red LED merely powers it on and off with a single click. The switch for the head light, turns on with a click but each subsequent click scrolls through the various power settings (Low-4 Med-45 High-105 and Turbo -210 lumens). Another nice feature is that whatever power level that you turn the light off on, it returns to that power level when its turned back on.  To activate the SOS setting on this light, you turn on the headlight and depress the LED switch for approx. three seconds. The LED will turn off and the light will go into SOS mode; a cool feature if you are lost and the people that see it from a distance understand Morse code :) Like the HP25, the HP01 has a protective lip that covers the switches when returned to the uppermost/fully closed position.


Well this is where it all matters for most folks. Just how well does it work, how bright is it and how usable it it for various applications? Well, I've had it now for 4 weeks and I can report it works GREAT, depending on the intended application. Thus far I've used it for night-time photography, a little exploring and even one search and rescue type operation. The best description that I have for the HP01 's light is that it seems to lie somewhere between the spot and the flood on the HP25; not quite a spot light but not quite a flood. For herping, I think I'd prefer the HP25 , for general exploring or camping, I'd prefer the HP01. For law enforcement or search and rescue I give a slight edge to the HP01; mainly because (and I hate to use this word) it's tactical red LED. Anyone in law enforcement or in the military who works at night knows, the best thing to do when going out on night ops is to give your eyes time to adjust to the conditions of darkness. Once they have adjusted, any bright lights ruin that advantage instantly and it takes a while for them to readjust. The little red LED fixes that problem. It's dim and it's red; the preferred light for NOT screwing up your night vision. The HP25 lacks this feature. One word of caution though, if you forget which switch is which, you may wish to cover the light with your hand before you test it, lest you might screw up your own vision. A photo of the activated LED is below:


Comparison shots below:
Fenix L2D 2-AA Powered handheld flashlight (older model) vs. HP01 2-AA powered headlamp
As you can see, the HP01 while it has a good throw, it also adds some flood...nice
The Princeton Tec Apex headlamp (older 4 -AA) vs. the HP01 2-AA powered headlamp

Next the HP25 spot only on bright (4-AA's) vs the HP01 on Turbo mode (2-AA's)
Note that the HP25's spot is tighter BUT it has a second light for flood.
Lastly, just to show the power comparisions between Low, Mid, High and Turbo; a comparative shot. NOTE: These will look much different than the ones above because they were shot with a 2 second exposure vs 8 seconds. I only did it to show the difference between the power levels. In hind sight, I probably should have done them at 5 seconds so the low wouldn't look so dark. Rest assured, you can read with it on low.


Fenix has again put out another product/headlamp that I really like. I REALLY like the HP25 for the main things I do off duty such as herping (snake hunting) and night-time photography. In these scenarios I will prefer the HP25 mainly because of the flood only option. This doesn't mean I wouldn't use the HP01 for these purposes as well, I just prefer the HP25. In fact, I'd easily choose the HP01 over my old favorite, the Princeton Tec Apex for herping and photography; it's that good. In fact, using only two AA's and being able to carry s few more sets gives it a slight advantage (in a way) over the 4-AA powered HP25. A few extra AA's would easily get you through a couple night of snake hunting, frog gigging, fishing, etc. For law enforcement or military, I'd prefer the HP01 mainly because of it's versatility, uses only two AA's (which are easily changed out) and of course the tactical red LED light.
Click on the photo to see the HP01 in all it's glory :)

The run time on low is advertised as 135 hours. I put mine on turbo and clocked it to first obvious dimming at about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It did dim very slightly after about 10 minutes; maybe due to the LED heating but nothing very obvious. After the first dimming, it went to about the "mid" setting for about 10 minutes then the low for about 5 minutes before blinking. This is very good in my book for such a bright 2-AA powered light. It's brighter than my old 2-AA powered L2D and lasts about 30 minutes longer on it's brightest setting. At the 105 lumen setting it is advertised at 3.6 hours. If it is even close to this amount of time, this is going to be a big hit with the outdoorsmen. 105 lumen is VERY usable for most outdoor applications and I prefer this brightness when fishing or exploring. I haven't had a chance to test the run time at this setting yet but they were pretty much spot on for the turbo setting so I would expect the same for the 105 lumen setting as well. If you are looking for a 2-AA powered headlamp that's a bit lighter than the bulky  4-AA powered lights, this is the best I've used thus far. Fenix has another winner...

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