For the Greene family, head lamps are sort of a love/hate relationship. I love them, and Colleen hates them, and mocks me mercilessly for wearing them. I believe “dork” is the term she uses to describe me. I am confident, however, that she will change hertune one day when one of the headlamps I always keep in our hiking pack saves us from certain doom when stranded on a hill someday after dark. I use them all the time for cooking when camping after dark, and have used them on our Moonlight BBQ Hikes on Mount Baldy when the moonlight was shaded by the trees on the hike back downhill. I’ve used them for years, because I recognize the value in having a light handy while leaving both hands free. I also always keep two in our hiking bag, in case of emergency, because again, you don’t want to have to hold a flashlight in one hand, while trying to use hiking poles, or holding the dog leash, or helping my wife (or vice versa) down a mountain after a knee or ankle injury.
So needless to day, I was thrilled when DORCY asked if we were interested in testing a couple of their headlamps, and I was very excited to receive one of their 120 lumen broad beam lamps and a 134 lumen spot beam lamp. Unfortunately, I received them when the summer days were at their longest, so I haven’t had to grill in the dark lately, and I haven’t had any good camping trips to test them on yet this summer, so I had to invent some other tests between the two of them and my other two. Fortunately, It didn’t take much testing to distinguish the two from each other and from the other two I already owned.
My headlamps I already owned (and likely to be never used by me again) lamps were an Energizer 30 lumens 3 LED headlamp and a Petzl Tikka Plus 2 50 lumen headlamp. All four are similarly sized, using 3 AAA batteries for power, 3/4-1″ adjustable stretchy headbands, and weighing between 2.8 and 3.0 oz. All four also have beams that can be adjusted up or downwards, depending on the angle you need them (whether for hiking or cooking).
The one thing the Energizer and Petzl models have that the DORCY lights didn’t is a red light mode, for low light situations. I have used that mode for climbing into the tent at night, trying not to disturb my fellow tent-mates, but it is a mode I can do without. The other thing is that both of these claim longer battery life than the DORCY–the Energizer claiming 28 hours of burn time, and the Petzl claiming up to an amazing 140 hours on economy mode! The two DORCYs only claim 12 hours of battery time, but it isn’t clear if that is on the highest mode or low mode. I’d certainly keep an extra set of batteries in your bag, just in case.
None of that matters, of course, if your headlamp repeatedly turns on in your backpack, and I have had that problem with the Energizer, finding its batteries dead several times in my bag over the years. The Petzl has a very protected switch, which has never turned on in my pack, and DORCY’s models seem to be fairly well protected from accidental turn-ons, though not quite so secure as the Petzl. Both DORCY models are listed as weather-resistant, as is the Petzl.
Outside in the dark, the DORCY models clearly stood out. I originally intended to take pictures of all four lights in my hand (working level), and at both 10 paces and 25 paces, but while I have used the Energizer for years without much complaint and it advertises a range of up to 32 meters, and I could see it with my naked eye, it didn’t show up sufficiently in the camera to take a picture at any of those lengths.
The Petzl, which I loved as an improvement over my Energizer when I got it as a gift a few years ago, showed up in the hand test and the 10 pace test, and claims to light up to 35 meters, but didn’t make a sufficiently discernable glow on my test wall at 25 paces for a picture to be included here.
Both DORCYs dominated in all three tests, with the spot beam giving a remarkably sharp light on the wall even at 25 paces, totally outclassing my two existing lights. The spot is almost too bright to use at close range for cooking or messing around in camp, but will be outstanding for hiking or walking in the dark when you need to light up the trail in front of you. The broad beam will be perfect for working in camp without blinding my family or camping buddies.
According to Amazon, price-wise, The Petzl is surprisingly the most expensive, at between $40-$60. Energizer is the cheapest, at $15. I was pleased to see that the DORCY lamps were very reasonably priced at between $16 (for the spot beam) and $20 (for the broad beam) online. My three minor criticisms of the DORCY are 1) I wish it had a red light mode for night vision, 2) I’m concerned about battery life, though extra batteries are lightweight and easy to pack, and 3) When turning the lamp off, it goes through all three modes, from bright, to dimmer, to a fully bright flashing mode which may be great in an emergency to attract attention, but is very likely to disturb tent-mates if trying to sneak into the tent after everyone else is asleep (compounding the no red-light issue).
Those three minor issues aside, I will definitely be taking both DORCYs on my annual “primitive” camping trip up to the High Sierras in a few weeks, where only one guy will have a “better” light than me. This is the kind of guy who always has the best, lightest, and most expensive of every piece of gear in the camp, and he has an LED Lenser H 14R, which is an amazing beast of a headlamp, which boasts 220 lumens that will light up an entire mountainside. Of course, it also has a separate battery pack on the back, weighs 1.1 lbs (over 5 times the weight of the DORCY), and costs almost $100, so I’ll let him retain his headlamp bragging rights, knowing that my lighter and much more affordable model can get the job done, and surprisingly look less dorky than his!
See DORCY’s website here: http://www.dorcy.com/