Need 200 lumens strapped to your head? How’d you like to get that light weight, compact package that only costs $40? The Black Diamond Spot headlamp is one of the best lumen-to-dollar values in the headlamp market today. Read on to find out why. (But also check out their latest, the Iota, with 150 lumens and a rechargeable lithium battery.)
The Spot has been the highlight of Black Diamond’s headlamp lineup for years. The 2016 iteration is a big upgrade from previous versions while maintaining a sweet spot price point. Compared to the 2015 version, you get an extra 70 lumens in a smaller, lighter and more waterproof package.
Black Diamond includes one triple-power LED and two single-power LEDs – one red and one white. We’re not sure of the brand because, unfortunately, the Spot is not at all user serviceable and we couldn’t take it apart. It runs off three AAA batteries and comes with a set of Energizers to get you started.
The Spot is IPX8 rated, meaning it can be submerged to 1.1 meters for 30 minutes and still operate. Black Diamond accomplished this by sealing the circuitry separately from the battery compartment, which is why we couldn’t get to the LEDs. Last year’s Spot was IPX4, so it could take some rain, but couldn’t handle being submerged. IPX8 is a big upgrade! The battery compartment is not sealed at all, so if your headlamp does take a dunk, be sure to pull the batteries out and let the battery compartment dry completely. A simple rubber seal around the battery compartment would be a cheap and welcome upgrade.
We’d call the Spot a one and a half button headlamp. For the most part, the major functions are controlled by the single button on top. A quick tap turns it on and off. Hold it down while off to switch modes. Hold it down while on to cycle through the entire range of brightness levels. Where does the half come in? Black Diamond carries over their PowerTap technology from last year which lets you instantly switch to full brightness with a tap on the right side of the headlamp housing. PowerTap works in both red and white modes.
One thing we were worried about, before we knew how it worked, was whether the PowerTap would work while wearing gloves. It does! It would be a pretty useless feature if it didn’t. PowerTap is actually pretty simple – BD just puts a small light sensor on the side of the headlamp, under the housing. When you touch it with your finger, the blocked light sensor tells the headlamp to switch modes. So, you can use your tongue, a stick, whatever, to activate PowerTap. If you can hit the side of your headlamp with your tongue, please send a picture. (On second thought, please don’t.)
The Black Diamond Spot disappears on your head. At only 3.2 ounces, with batteries, you can go for an evening trail run without the lamp bouncing up and down on your forehead. With 200 lumens available, you’ll be able to see all of the features of the trail in front of you.
Both red and white LEDs provide ample illumination. Adjustments become intuitive after just a bit of practice. The main button is big enough that it’s easy to hit wearing gloves as well. PowerTap is quick and intuitive and works almost every time.
We dunked the Spot in a bowl of water for an hour and it still lit up when we pulled it out. So, that works. We didn’t see any water in the lamp housing, but it definitely leaked into the battery compartment.
There really is no headlamp on the market that can compete with the Black Diamond Spot. You’d have to spend $10 more to get similar lighting out of one competitor’s lamp. Another competitor costs $10 more and comes with 20 fewer lumens. But, the Spot outlasts both competitors by a factor of two. Make sure you get the 2016 version. We’ve picked them out for you right here:
The Black Diamond Spot is the headlamp to get right now. Unless you have specialized needs – ultralight, cold-resistant, etc. – there’s no reason to look elsewhere. The Spot combines great lighting, battery efficiency, and light weight comfort into a headlamp that will work well for just about everyone.
UPDATE – Be on the lookout for the 2017 Black Diamond Spot headlamp with 300 lumens!