Disclaimer: I personally believe the more light the better when running at night. It may be a boy thing to compare beam size but I don’t want to be left stumbling around in the dark – ever! More is almost always better in this case! I would also advise to buy the most powerful headlamp that you can afford.
So it was with a fair bit of sceptisism that I tested the Black Diamond “Urban Inspired” Sprinter. From a design perspective the Sprinter looks fantastic and rather futuristic compared to most headlamps or as Mel likes to call them: “doos liggies”. The Sprinter fells balanced on your head with the battery pack on the back. It also does not feel too heavy.
Features which set the Sprinter apart include flashing red backlight (which can be switched off if somebody is running behind you) and the main beam has a really nice seamless dimmer switch which I have not seen before. Basically hold the switch down and it quickly gets brighter, flashes briefly when at its max then dims to its dimmest setting (another quick flash). The biggest unique feature is that the battery is a rechargeable mobile phone style battery. It is more eco friendly in that you don’t have loads of disposable batteries. The problem is that with longer runs at night you are not able to exchange batteries and keep going. The other minus for me was that the beam has a diffuser lens in front of it but more of that below. The beam on the Sprinter is bright enough for most things. Certainly good enough for aspirant Comrades warriors needing to see and be seen for long training runs during the wee hours. Also perfectly adequate for many trail adventures where navigation or seriously technical terrain is not an issue. In fact my test model seems to claim its space quite nicely on the recharge console on my desk at work- right next to the Blackberry, I pod and Laptop! This is exactly the niche market I see the Sprinter doing really well in.
As far as the physical testing goes it is sometimes best to take an item to be tested way out of its comfort zone to find its real limitations and plus points. So off we were on a late night run up Devil’s Peak in pretty bad weather. Comfort, ease of use, light weight, nods from other runners all get a +. The big problem was that under the really bad conditions of our run. The diffuser did not give me enough shadows to make me feel steady enough on my feet. In more normal conditions at an average paced run it would probably have done ok.
+ Design and integration of elements like connector from battery to LED into the head strap.
+ The seamless dimmer is awesome.
+ I like the fact that the rechargeable battery is more environmentally friendly.
– Rechargeable battery. Cannot deal with all night runs. I have not tested the exact duration of the lamp to its limit but it was absolutely fine for a couple of hours.
– Diffuser on the beam does not give adequate shadow in adverse conditions.
Who should buy this: The runner (and cyclist) who wants to be visible on the road and do moderate trail runs lasting a couple of hours.