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.
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.
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.
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.
The Icon is waterproof which is important in winter, particularly when you’re hiking in freezing or regular rain.
|Make / Model||Lumens||Lock||Red Mode||Weight||Price|
|Knog Quokka||80||Yes||Yes||1.73 oz||$25|
|Biolite 330||330||Yes||Yes||2.4 oz||$50|
|Fenix HM50R||500||No||No||2.8 oz||$60|
|Petzl Bindi||200||Yes||Yes||1.2 oz||$60|
|Nitecore NU 32||550||Yes||Yes||3.5 oz||$40|
|Nitecore NU 25||360||Yes||Yes||1.85 oz||$37|
|Nitecore NU 20||360||Yes||No||1.82 oz||$30|
|Nitecore NU 10||160||Yes||Yes||2.3 oz||$25|
|Claymore Heady||600||Yes||No||3.7 oz||$80|
|UCO Air||150||Yes||Yes||1.6 oz||$30|
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.
- 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.
Updated 2017.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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