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Black Diamond Icon Headlamp

Black Diamond Icon Headlamp
Black Diamond Icon Headlamp

I upgraded my primary headlamp this winter to the new, redesigned Black Diamond Icon headlamp which throws out a beefy 200 lumens of light with a burn time of 75 hours on a high setting and 175 hours on low. I do a lot of hiking and cooking in the dark in winter and having a bright, dependable, and long-lasting headlamp is a must-have piece of gear. Reliable lighting is so important in winter that I carry a second headlamp.

I also own the previous version of the Black Diamond Icon which was equally bright, but not nearly as full featured. I’m not sure why Black Diamond reused the name Icon for this new model because there is really no comparison between the two lights. In addition, the battery pack from the old model is also not compatible with the new one, which is sort of upsetting. Still the new Icon is a such a better headlamp that it was worth upgrading. The new icon also only uses AA batteries, so at least Black Diamond got rid of the proprietary battery pack. That’s progress.

Lighting Modes

The new Icon has 4 lighting models: spotlight (they call it QuadPower), proximity (2x SinglePower), red light, and strobe. The spotlight. wide beam, and red light modes are all dimmable which preserves battery life. I don’t particularly care about the strobe light, but I did want a red light to preserve my night vision for watching shooting stars, which the old model didn’t have.

The new model also comes with a lock mode to prevent the light from coming on in your backpack and draining. I love this feature because it means I don’t have to turn one of the batteries around in the battery pack to prevent the light from burning when not in use. There’s also a blue light which flashes on the headlamp face indicating that you’ve set the lock mode, so you get some feedback that it’s set.

Ease of Use

The Icon headlamp is easy to use and it’s easy to remember how to switch between the different modes even if you don’t use it every weekend. This is a real problem with a lot of headlamps out there. Here’s a video from Black Diamond that shows how to switch between the Icon modes. I could write an explanation, but this covers all the bases.

Straps

The new icon has a strap that wraps horizontally around your head and one that loops over it, a useful feature if you need to wear a climbing helmet. It’s also possible to get a very good fit even if you have a small-sized head, something I appreciate. Otherwise, the straps are fully adjustable using the same elastic band system you find on most other headlamps.

But none of the straps can be completely detached from the headlamp, which I consider desirable. I’ve owned lots of cheesy headlamps where the strap threads through a slot behind the light/LED housing and keeps popping out-of-place – which is a real PITA if you need to fix it in the dark. That kind of strap malfunction cannot happen on the Icon.

Battery Meter

When the light is powered on in white mode, a battery meter on the lower front of the headlamp face will illuminate for 3 seconds. A green light will appear if the battery level is greater than 75%. An orange light indicates that 25-75% of the power remains, and red light appears if less than 25% percent of power remains. The amount of power remaining applies to the headlamps current setting and mode – something to remember. If you want to extend the battery life, use the dimming feature and/or switch to proximity(2x SinglePower)  mode.

The Icon comes with 4 Alkaline AA batteries so you can use it out of the box. I use lithium batteries in cold weather because they don’t drain in cold temperatures, but I think it’s great that the Icon comes with batteries so you can use it right away. That seems like something new.

Lumens, Burn Time, and Distance
Lumens, Burn Time, and Distance

Waterproof

The Icon is waterproof which is important in winter, particularly when you’re hiking in freezing or regular rain.

Recommendation

I am very pleased with the new Black Diamond Icon Headlamp and really like its dimming capabilities for preserving battery life and the fact that it only takes batteries, which simplifies my life because it means one less proprietary power charger. When I’m hiking after dark (especially in winter) or sitting around melting snow, I tend to use the 2X SinglePower proximity mode to conserve battery life, but if I’m up front leading, I switch to the QuadPower Spot mode so I can see what’s coming ahead.

If there’s one thing I wish I could change on this light, it would be to make the control switch a bit wider and bigger so it can be controlled more easily when wearing a fat mountaineering glove. Otherwise, I really like the new Icon and consider it a very worthwhile upgrade to my winter headlamp system.

Technical Specs

  • Max Burn Time :  [High] 75 H; [Low] 175 H
  • Max Distances :  [High] 100 m; [Low] 35 m
  • Weight With Batteries :  220 g, 7.8 oz, 4.0 oz without batteries
  • IPX Rating :  7
  • Lumens :  200
  • Batteries :  4 AA (included)
  • LED Type :  1 QuadPower, 2x SinglePower

 Disclosure: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) purchased this Black Diamond Icon Headlamp with his own funds. This post contains affiliate links.

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12 comments

  1. Looks like a nice headlamp for winter or wet conditions. Come summer though would you keep this in your pack or switch to something a bit more lightweight?

  2. I like the Icon and it’s cold weather counterpart the Icon Polar.

    I am using a Petzl Myo RXP that I have had great luck with(205 lumens on burst mode.)

    The Icon would be a headlamp that I would definitely consider purchasing.

  3. That Petzl looks pretty good, but I like the longer battery life on the Icon. Of course, it also uses 4 AA batteries instead of the 3.

  4. I am using the Surefire Saint headlamp which can be used with a single battery or a remote battery pack. The Saint is no longer part of the Surefire line but it has worked perfectly for me. The price can be somewhat prohibitive. You will be hard pressed to find anything built to the standards of a Surefire. The other somewhat prohibitive aspect of the Surefire Saint is the battery type used. The Saint uses a lithium 123 cell which is expensive when sourced at your local CVS or camera store. However it is possible to find 123 cells for $1 each on the internet.

    I like most things Black Diamond makes and the Icon is one of them.

  5. Got mine a lot cheaper on amazon. Great review

  6. I have been using one of these Icons since last summer and also really like it. I purchased it for hiking and found it amazing with it’s long run times and ultra bright output. However, I discovered that I use it even more for tasks around my home such as working on equipment, taking care of animals, etc.

    With regards to backpacking, the weight of the Icon is not an issue, at least for me. I would rather have a more robust and high output light like the Icon in exchange for the few ounces more that it weighs. Most of my gear is already ultralight like my pack, alcohol stove, and tent, so a luxury item like this headlamp is a non issue.

  7. I bought a previous model based on your recommendation a couple of years ago and was very happy with it until it quit working after about 15 months. Since I live 70 miles from my closest REI, it is on my list to take that thing back and hope REI will accept ah exchange after the year deadline for returns. Like others, I used it more around the house. It could light up the entire backyard, which made it great for exercising one of my dogs – the tennis ball was suddenly visible at all hours!

  8. I’ve got a similar headlamp that I’ve owned for several years. I no longer take it backpacking because I don’t want to carry the half pound, although I use it for everything else. After your recent review, my wife bought me a Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp for an anniversary present. I used it extensively the last couple weeks on a winter trip and really liked the reactive lighting and face that it was rechargeable (which I thought at first would not be so handy).

    I did buy online a 10W headlight that uses rechargeable 5000 mw 18650 batteries. The headlamp cost about $18.00 and ten batteries were approximately the same. I also got a couple battery holders for a buck or two each that hold a 18650 battery and have USB ports for recharging themselves and cell phones, etc. So far, that system has worked pretty well. The 10W headlamp is too heavy in my opinion for backpacking but it sure lights up the night for car camping and chores and the 18650 batteries will go for hours before I need to recharge them.

  9. I have used the polar version for about a year or so. Absolutely love it. The separate battery pack keeps the weight off my head and is one less thing I have to worry about when I am adjusting face masks, hats, balaclavas, and so on for winter hikes.
    Oh and the red LED lights look cool and don’t attract a ton of bugs – nice feature.

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