- Buyer's Guide
BioLite HeadLamp 200 Review
When you think BioLite, usually stoves and charging equipment spring to mind. But make no mistake, they do produce some cool lighting gear, and the newest one is the ultralight BioLite HeadLamp 200. I had an opportunity to use it during the last couple of weeks in the mountains. And here it is, a winter mountaineering test. So grab your coffee and check it out.
Who It Suits
This is an ultralight and compact headlamp, which could be carried anywhere, anytime. It would suit all kinds of outdoorsmen, hikers, hunters, bushcrafters, mountaineers, trail runners and campers. Great for kids too. It’s the kind of lamp you want to keep close at hand at all times. It could be in a pack, car, country cabin or just in your pocket.
Who It Doesn’t
It’s not a pro-rated lamp so not recommended for S.A.R. tasks by military personnel, professional cavers or mountain rescue teams. For such uses specialised equipment is required, always standardised within the team with unified battery packs, fully submersible, etc. Awesome stuff, no doubt – but also heavy, expensive and obviously overkill for outdoorsmen.
There is a lot of good here. First of all size and weight vs. performance. It’s a really small package, and I like how flat it actually is. Most headlamps with similar performance seem to be small on paper, but are usually twice the weight and far from being flat for comfy pocket carry. At just 50g (1.7 oz) there’s no reason not to EDC the BioLite HeadLamp 200 when exploring the world – just put it in your pocket and forget about it until dusk comes.
The main LED pumps out a healthy 200 lumens of light. I can’t measure it but compared to my other lamp (250 lumens on paper) it’s just as bright (to my eyes) and has even more reach, so I assume the claimed 200 lumens is correct. That power level is really what one needs in real life for camping and hiking – it’s a camp / path / workbench illumination tool after all. You know what? I still have my SureFire L1D LumaMax Gen.V with a whopping 22 lumens on high, and that was HOT just a decade ago (with a $150 price tag!). But lumens are not everything; beam is important too. The BioLite HeadLamp 200 gives a nice long range spotlight surrounded with soft flood light for peripheral view. This kind of dual beam is exactly what I want in my hiking headlamp – good reach combined with overall lighting for use around a camp. Obviously brightness is fully adjustable, with multiple middle steps and with ‘max’ and ‘min’ indicated by LED blinks.
The small LED is primarily used for red floodlight (adjustable) to avoid a blinding effect on you and people around you when your eyes have gotten used to the dark. So it’s great for map reading, land navigation, checking the time, setting up a camera, tent or boat illumination, etc. That small LED is also used to check the energy level of your battery (blinks green) and works as a charging indicator too.
On the top a rubberised button is used to switch between colors and illumination modes (continuous / strobe), to adjust brightness and to lock / unlock the lamp for transport. It works with gloves too, which is quite crucial for winter outings. The closed construction with a fixed battery pack keeps weight down and makes the headlamp reasonably waterproof (IPX4 rated). On paper there’s enough power for three hours on max setting – and yes, I checked that myself and can confirm! No visible power loss for the first two hours, then slight loss for another hour, and finally the lamp switches off at about the 3 hours 15 minutes mark. Of course it’s on max – with reduced light output you can expect up to 40 hours of continuous light. Not bad for such a tiny headlamp. Charging via micro USB is fast and easy, you can use your phone charger, laptop, car, etc. Or even a small powerbank when on the go, like the Goal Zero Flip 10 or BioLite Charge 10 – it won’t weigh you down and should give you another full charge or two. The cable was included and the USB gate is sealed; all good.
The head of the lamp is fully articulated, with an integrated elastic woven strap. It’s nice and soft, with quick adjustment buckles, and keeps the lamp securely in place. And it’s moisture-wicking too, so runners should be more than happy. BTW, I’m so glad BioLite went for a full-width band and not just bungee cord – it’s so much more comfy! The strap length is helmet compatible, which was crucial for me personally. That head integrated with the strap is robust enough for any hiking adventure. I tried it in the mountains this January, in icy snow, strong wind and down to -12 deg C. Bumped quite a lot, carried in a pack or simply in a jacket pocket, it still looks and performs as on day one.
Not So Good
I didn’t experience any real issues when using the lamp, even that fine woven strap holds up great. Maybe I’d add a small rubberised spot on the forehead area, just to prevent accidental slipping off when using on a helmet. But most outdoorsmen would use it bare-headed anyway or just on some sort of hat.
Others to Consider
Petzl Tikka CORE – a real classic and probably the most well-known headlamp today. Field proven. More bulky than the BioLite though.
Black Diamond Storm – similar to the Tikka, even more powerful but considerably more bulky (120g vs only 50g).
Petzl Bindi – also a good ultralight and rechargeable option too, a favorite among runners. The BioLite HeadLamp 200 features a more comfortable strap and 50% more run-time for just 15g of extra weight. So you decide, based on your personal priorities.
I have no doubt the BioLite HeadLamp 200 is a good lamp for virtually any outdoor enthusiast. Offering 200 lumens for three hours at just 50 grams is really nice! It would also make a good emergency headlamp to keep in your ride – finding AAA batteries in a forest can be challenging, but if you get there by car your vehicle is full of juice to top up your lamp many, many times. So if you enjoy hiking, camping, mountaineering, etc. and you’re in the market for a multipurpose compact headlamp, this one should definitely end up on your shortlist.