Fenix HM50R Headlamp Review | Average Hiker
This Fenix HM50R Headlamp Review is easy due to the quality of this rechargeable headlamp. Recently, I purchased the Anker 20,000mAh power bank. Even though the bank weighs 16 ounces, not having to constantly search for outlets to charge my electronics makes it worth the additional ounces. On my recent Arizona Trail hike I never worried about having enough juice for my iPhone and InReach.
One thing I realized on the hike though, was that I need to stop carrying batteries for my headlamp, so when the battery cap broke I had yet another reason to purchase a new rechargeable headlamp. If I'm going to carry the larger battery bank, I'm certainly not carrying batteries!
My hiking style is not that much different from a lot of other hikers. If hiking long distances, the days are long, and I often spend time hiking in the dark. Shorter section hikes mean I am probably going to be in camp more, but still up after dark.
In either case, I need a headlamp for different needs – puttering around camp, and moving briskly down the trail to find a spot to camp before night falls.
Fenix HM50R Headlamp Review Criteria
I've never used a rechargeable headlamp, and was a little skeptical of weight and burn time, so I did quite a bit of research before making my choice. This included reading too many headlamp reviews, and squinting at A LOT of tiny little manufacturer specifications. After literally hours of research, I've decided my primary criteria are those listed below.
- Lumens/Light Beam
- Burn Time
- Water Proof
There are of course other criteria, like how it looks, comfort, durability, red light, beam focus, beam direction, will it constantly get taken by family members for NON-HIKING activities, etc. All of these things are important also, but not quite as critical – although close in some cases.
A lumen is the technical measurement used to determine the amount of light emitted by a light source. Basically, the lumen rating indicates how bright a headlamp shines with a fully charged battery. The more lumens, the brighter the headlamp.
Lumens aren't the only thing to consider. You should also consider the beam's focus and distance. Do you want a wide beam to use around camp, or a more focused beam for climbing or working on small tasks? If running or moving fast, you may also want a beam with more distance. All of these things need to be taken into consideration.
The final consideration for the beam is the ability to adjust the light. Some lights are fixed, while others allow you to tilt and move the beam up and down. This is especially important when hiking in the dark on varied terrain.
Headlamp Burn Time
Burn time can be a tricky measurement on many headlamps. Today's lamps are becoming more and more sophisticated. There are lights that will now adjust your light based on your environment. They will also reduce the amount of light based on time and heat levels, with the ultimate goal of conserving your battery life.
It is also tough to compare lights. Some lights that indicate 500 Lumens max for 2 hours may actually only provide the 500 Lumens for the first few minutes before dimming the light, and ramping down. The lamp may provide the maximum number of Lumens, but not consistently.
The Petzl NAO is a good example of a self-adjusting headlamp that senses ambient light, and adjusts based on lighting needs. This is done to preserve the life of the battery.
Weight is not a show stopper for me, but all the ounces do add up. Over long distances these can make a difference in fatigue and basic wear and tear. I've used lights as small as the little key chain tabs, that weigh less than an ounce, but these are a PIA if hiking or working around camp. Weights vary greatly, but there are now a lot of very good headlamps that are 3 ounces or less.
Water Proof Headlamp
For many people waterproof is not a big deal, but I've gotten caught in many rain storms at the end of the day. I've also had to make mad dashes for the bushes in the middle of the night, and I won't mention how many times I've dropped my light in puddles. If I could not have waterproof, I at least want water resistant.
The IP rating determines how resistant a headlamp is to solids and liquids. My goal is a headlamp that is at least resistant in both categories.
Not Headlamp Priorities For Me
Priorities differ by hiker, and just because something is not important to me does not mean it is not important to another hiker, climber or runner. Headlamp priorities are often influenced by the sport or activity for which they are used. A couple of additional important features that are important to many hikers, bikers, climbers, etc., are listed below.
Camping or hiking with a group of people makes a red light setting a priority for many people. The red light on your headlamp will help prevent you from blinding your neighbor. It also helps you retain your own night vision, including your peripheral vision.
The number of meters a light is thrown, or it's distance, is very important for runners and people moving fast. This is also the case for climbers judging that next pitch at night or early in the morning. In these instances, having good beam distance is critical.
Fenix HM50R Rechargeable Headlamp Choice
Without further ado, I give you the newest addition to my Backpacking Electronics & Gadgets kit – The Fenix HM50R Rechargeable Headlamp. I've tested this headlamp, and am pleased with it's performance. It is a high quality headlamp that is well made. There is not much I don't like about this headlamp, and I'm looking forward to putting it through it's paces on a longer hike.
Fenix HM50R Headlamp Headlamp Review Structure
Fenix HM50R Headlamp Decision
I researched a lot of headlamps before making a decision. Gear is important when you are miles away from the closest town, and the town probably has no outfitter anyway, so I need a dependable headlamp.
After researching all of the headlamps with good feedback, I listed the specifications important to me and began to sort. By the end I had an interesting looking little headlamp that raised my eyebrow. I looked forward to bringing it home and taking it out for a drive.
Sorting Out the Winner
- Lumens – 300 Lumens is the minimum amount of Lumens I want in my headlamp. When I am hiking fast in the dark, or running fast (hopefully not too often while backpacking) I want to be able to see the rocky ground. I sorted all 13 candidates by Lumens first
- Burn Time (BT) low – After sorting by Lumens I sorted by burn time next, to narrow the field to 8 headlamps. I used “low” when sorting because this gives me a better idea of what my real burn time will be. When I say “real,” I mean the settings I will actually use most often.
- Weight – The weight sort left me with five candidates. I liked each one of these headlamps, but wanted to keep my weight under three ounces.
- Waterproof – The final sort indicated the champion. In this case it was the Fenix HM50R Rechargeable Headlamp! Not only did it meet my other criteria but it also had a top notch IP68 rating for solids and liquids! A 3 ounce rechargeable WATERPROOF headlamp. Yes!
Fenix HM50R Headlamp Review Specifications
The Fenix HM50R Rechargeable Headlamp was made just for me. It meets the specifications that I need, and has a few more that I appreciate. The headlamp has a durable metal shell, is very easy to use. It was built with quality in mind. Also important, it was different looking, so my family would probably keep grabbing the Petzl. They certainly would not take the time to charge the Fenix HM50R! Perfect…
HM50R Headlamp Package Contents
Package contents include the headlamp, which is already inserted in the lamp holder and mounted on the head strap. The battery is also installed, with a small plastic cover to keep it from discharging.
Don't forget to remove the little piece of plastic film or the headlamp won't work. Unscrew the cap to the battery holder, and you will find the small round (black) piece of plastic lying on top of the battery. I missed this at first and thought I had purchased a defective headlamp.
Accessories include the Micro USB rechargeable cord, spare lamp holder, extra port cover, and instructions and warranty. The instructions are easy to read (becoming an anomaly), and they have 5-year free repair on normal use items as part of the warranty.
HM50R Headlamp Materials/Components
The lamp itself is made of a solid aluminum casing, and one of the things I like the most is the ease with which I am able to access the battery. In the first picture above you can see the cap on the right side of the lamp that easily screws on and off. The ridges on the left side also make it very easy to grasp and turn the lamp in it's holder.
The XL-L2 white LED bulb has a reported lifespan of 50,000 hours. The aluminum casing and toughened glass cover are shock resistant.
The headlamp comes with a ARB-L 16-700 Li-ion rechargeable battery. It is also compatible with a CR123A and 16340 battery. The 16340 provides additional battery life when on the Turbo setting.
The USB port cover is thick rubber, and waterproof if secured properly. If loose though, the micro USB port is also waterproof.
Finally, the sweat resistant headband is comfortable. The manufacturer claims the headband is sweat resistant, but I did not sweat enough to determine if this was accurate or not.
Fenix HM50R Headlamp Review -Performance
This headlamp performed as well or better than my other headlamps. This was a pleasant surprise since I was not sure what to expect from a rechargeable headlamp.
The ON/OFF switch is simple to use. Depress the button above for about a half second to turn on the headlamp. It comes on at it's low setting. The button also has a nice solid click, and is easy to use. After you turn it on, simply click one more time for each setting. Holding it for another half second will turn it off.
Determining the battery status is also easy, and uses the same “ON/OFF button. Give it a quick click and you will see a colored light.
- Green Constant = >80%
- Green Flashing = 50% – 80%
- Blue Constant = 20% – 50%
- Blue Flashing = <20%
Headlamp beam adjustment is as simple as twisting the headlamp in it's rubber holder. Removing the headlamp from the holder and using it as a small flashlight is also a nice to have. The rubber holder is very secure, but it is also easy to adjust and remove the headlamp if necessary.
Charging the headlamp is easy with the USB Charger cord. It took about 75-90 minutes to get a full charge, which was less time than I had anticipated.
One thing I like is the comfort after extended wear. Many of my other headlamps irritate my forehead, but this one does not. The soft rubber lamp holder is very comfortable, and after the sky lightened I forgot I even had the headlamp on my head.
The headlamp does warm up while in use, but even on Turbo or High I never feel the heat until I grab the lamp to take it off. Heat is not an issue.
Light Beam Settings
There are four settings on the headlamp (Turbo, High, Medium, Low). Below is my opinion on each setting.
- Low – 4 Lumens are fine for sitting in my tent and puttering.
- Med – 30 Lumens are adequate for camp routines, and casual hiking.
- High – 130 Lumens are more than enough for brisk hiking.
- Turbo – 500 Lumens are blinding, and allowed me to spotlight the bushes around camp to try and determine what was growling.
The Turbo setting is interesting. I left the light on Turbo while I hiked, and it down shifted to high on it's own after 17 minutes. I was able to leave it on high for about 10 minutes before resetting it to Turbo again. This time it ran on Turbo for about 7 minutes before dimming again.
Having the headlamp down shift on it's own was initially a little disconcerting, but expected since the instructions state the lamp will down shift after it reaches a certain temperature. I eventually quit noticing the shift in light levels.
Light Beam Distance/Focus
The light beam itself is a nice white light. There is nothing glaring or abrasive about it, and it does not have that yellow color I've sometimes experienced with other headlamps.
Most importantly the light beam is true to it's distance. The light was also well focused in front of me, providing a strong centered beam and good light radius. Twenty meters @ 30 Lumens is plenty for night hiking, unless sprinting, which would probably mean I am running FROM something. In this case, 130 Lumens or even 500 Lumens would work just fine, and the 500 Lumens might just blind my pursuer.
Fenix HM50R Headlamp Review – Final Thoughts
This is a very well made rechargeable headlamp, and at 2.8 ounces I am impressed with the quality. From the metal casing, to the sharp click of the responsive ON/OFF switch in this waterproof little light, Fenix does not cut any corners. This headlamp will be a pleasure to take on my next long hike.
Post Hike Thoughts
I have now used this headlamp on several trips and had nothing but positive experiences. It has been dropped on rock a couple of times and the steel casing has definitely protected the headlamp.
The lamp is also VERY bright at it's highest setting, but I rarely need it. I mostly use the medium setting around camp and when night hiking. There is plenty of light and battery life at this setting.
One of my favorite things about the lamp is how fast it charges to full strength. I got caught out after dark on one hike and had not charged the lamp. I was able quickly charge it in about 30 mins., and have the battery life I needed to easily finish the hike.
This is a great light weight headlamp, and is definitely my go-to headlamp now.
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