By Brian Andrews
There is little doubt that little headlamp has drastically changed how we spend time in the outdoors, no matter what you do. With the risk of sounding like an old timer, I remember when these handy little gadgets were not available. I pretty much used mag lights of various sizes. When you needed your hands free, you could get a fancy strap that would hold it attached to your head, and could also point it at one predetermined angle. If you didn’t have a strap, you could try holding it in your mouth, propping the light on a log, or try standing it up on its own. With today’s headlamps, tasks in the dark, not even necessarily outdoors, are now made so much easier. Technology keeps bringing brighter lights, longer run times, and a lot of other cool new features. With that in mind, I am going to be reviewing the Olight H35 Wave.
Before I get into the specifications, how I used this products, and my impressions of its use, I first wanted to talk a little about the fact that this particular model uses an external battery pack. When I saw my first headlamp of this style, my first thought was “Why would you want a big battery to carry around?” Well, the answer is, not everyone does. For specific uses though, they can be exactly what you want. Let’s take a look at a couple of those cases.
Most obvious and useful to me is cold weather use. There is no doubt that lithium batteries outperform old alkaline batteries in cold temperature and for the most part, they have solved most cold weather issues. However, the truth is that even lithium batteries will perform better when kept a little warm. Especially in cases of lower current draw, such as the lower power setting on a head lamp. Lithium batteries work better, down to colder temperature in higher current applications because the high current self heats the battery, but many uses for a headlamp can be at the lower power settings. With that in mind, the advantage for battery pack is that it is easily stored on a belt, underneath your jacket where it is kept nice and warm. The cord can me snaked up to your collar, and the pack can be kept warm regardless of if you have the headlamp on your head or not. This is a big difference compared to a headlamp that is usually stored in your pack until you are ready to use it at night.
A second use case for an external battery pack light is when a large volume of light is needed. For example, this particular headlamp, on high is 800 lumens (they offer a 1500 lumen light as well). It is difficult to generate that much light for a significant period of time, without some major battery power. Who may want that much light? The people that I have had experience with using these types of lights are into things like mountaineering, caving, and Search and Rescue (SAR). They may not need high power all the time, but when they do want to have high power, they have it at their disposal.
Finally, another good reason for an external battery light is simply run time. For extended periods outdoors, away from power sources it can be easier to have a full charge on your pack, than worrying about how many sets of spare batteries you need. Also, with a chargeable pack like on this light, you can get an indication of battery life remaining, and adjust your usage accordingly to conserve battery power. While using this light, I also find another neat reason for the battery pack, but I will share that later.
Let’s get on with the review. Before I get into the use, I want to talk at little bit about the construction. Starting with the battery pack, working our way up the cord, and then on to the headlamp.
The battery pack is a solid feeling, well built brick, with a very robust belt clip. There doesn’t seem to be a need to worry about bending or breaking the belt clip. On the outside, is a clear lens with an LED below than is used to indicate when the battery pack is charging, cut also to indicate the battery status. Green indicates a battery level of 70% or greater, orange between 70% and 20%, and red indicates a battery level below 20%. In order to find out the battery status, you have to hit the battery status button, which is located below a rubber sealing strip. The rubber strip is solid, well made, and seems to seal very well. While I definitely think it would stand up to heavy rain, I wouldn’t go dunking the battery pack. As designed, it meets IP6X ratings, and if you want to find out more about that you can google the term, but basically it means “heavy splashing and rain.” Also under the rubber cover is a USB port, meaning the battery pack can be used to charge other electronic devices.
The power cord is permanently attached to the battery. About six inches up the cord is a connector. The overmold on the connector has a thick ring that locks the two parts in places and it fits together very snug. So, it is unlikely that the two parts are going to come apart unless you actually intend them to. In fact, they require a very firm pull to get them apart.
As you continue up the cord, it is again permanently attached to the lamp and swivel base. The swivel base is plastic, with foam where it rests against your head. The front of the lamp assembly (which is less than 1/4 of the assembly) is plastic. The rest of the lamp assembly is aluminum, and is probably being used for a heat sink. There is a rubberized switch on top of the lamp assembly, and I will get to that more in the use section.
The head strap is a two part one, where one strap goes around your head, and it connects to another strap that goes from the headlamp swivel base back to the other strap to go over the top of your head. On the strap that goes around your head are two plastic clips that can help you route the power cable wherever you need it to go.
What about all the techie stuff? Everyone always wants to know the specs. You are best served by visiting the manufactures website (http://olightworld.com/product/h25-wave/?bc=6) but I will quickly run down the some of the specs here for you.
This particular model (the H25 Wave) as three levels of light output, 800 lumens, 250 lumens, and 35 lumens. The run time for each mode is 5 hours, 12 hours, and 60 hours respectively. The battery pack is a 7.4V pack and is 5200 mAh. The head swivels approximately 90 degrees, and produces a beam that reaches 696 feet. The lamp that is used on this like is the Cree Xlamp XM-L2.
All right, enough of that stuff. Let’s get into actually using the light. Besides how ridiculously bright this thing is, one thing that is generally important to note is what the light pattern looks like. A lot of tactical lights have a hot spot in the center where most of the intensity is focused, but still surround the other areas with a “flood” type of light as well. This particular light has “floody” optics and light up a lot of area around you. The hotspot in the center is very large, and transitions well into the side spill areas. For a general purpose outdoor light, I think the light pattern is outstanding. Now that we have talked about the quality of light, let’s talk about how it was to use it.
One thing that always surprises me about using a detachable battery head lamp is how comfortable they are. There is no need to have one, two or even three batteries mounted to your head. The LED housing and associated electronics is so much lighter than other versions that it is a lot more comfortable to wear for extended periods.
The user interface on this headlamp is extremely straight forward and easy to use. Hit the button and it turns on the light. Hit it again, and it changes to the next brightness level, etc. Keep doing that, and you cycle through the power settings. Stop hitting the button on a certain level and if you stay on that level for a few seconds, the next button press will turn the light off. On this particular light, no matter what level you were on when you turned it off, when you turn it back on again it will go back to High, then medium, low, then off. It would be nice if it went back to the last level you were on, but the hands free feature more than makes up for that.
The hands free “wave” feature allows you to turn the light on and off with a deliberate hand wave in front of the light using an infrared sensor. In this wave mode, the light does remember what level it was on and returns to that level. Here is an example.
You want to use the light on low power. So, you hit the button on the headlamp, it starts on high power, you hit the button again and it goes to medium, and then you hit the button again and it goes to low, where you want it. You use the light in low power mode. When you are ready to turn the light off, you wave your hand in front of the head lamp and it shuts off. It stays that way until you wave your hand in front of the light again and it turns back on to low power, remembering what setting you had it on. Never having a light like this, I think that is pretty awesome.
My biggest fear of the feature is that it sure worked great playing with it in the living room and in the back yard, but how would it work in the woods? Would trees, branches and other objects keep turning my light on and off and annoying the crap out of me? In my use, I found that it worked really well. The wave in front of the lamp had to be about 6 inches away or less. Objects further than that (or your hand) will not trigger the light. Also, it has to be a fairly deliberate “wave.” You can’t flash you hand by it super fast and have it turn your light on and off. Which also meant that the branches that tend to come across your face, and even hit you in the head do not seem to affect the light at all. The only instance I did notice was my head brushing against a low entry tent while entering, and I would surprise myself by turning the light off. That was quickly fixed by looking down slightly, and overall I am extremely happy with the way the wave feature works.
In conclusion, this light is a solid deal. Online stores are selling at about $120, at least at the time that I am writing this. Most of the brands that I would normally drool over, easily sell for double the price. This being my first experience with Olight, and being half the price I would expect, I was also expecting the quality to be much less. I am happy to say this is not the case, and I am very pleased with the light. The quality of the battery pack, sealing, cables, connectors, and light pattern are all great, especially at this price point. The hands free wave feature is so useful that I am pretty sure I will not be able to use a normal push button head lamp again.
Our test light was provided by Going Gear. Check them out if you’re interested in this light or for all sorts of other outdoors gear too!
To look at more pictures please check out the slideshow below!