As backcountry hunters, we all strive to have a well-rounded gear list full of items that we know we can count on, everything from your spork down to your headlamp and boots. The less time you have to spend worrying about the excel spreadsheet means more time you get to spend hunting. In this review I cover the Black Diamond Icon 500 Headlamp.
Which headlamp is right for me?
Every now and then as outdoor enthusiasts, we find ourselves in situations that might call for a specialized item. In my case, this item is my headlamp. I’ve been using a headlamp since I was a young but dedicated decoy packer for the hike in to the duck blind. I’ve used everything from the cheap $5.99 gas station special (because I forgot mine) to one that is so dang small you lose it in your gear tub. There is a big selection in the market that will absolutely fit the bill on the majority of the hunts the West has to offer, so a little bit of research is necessary to find the perfect one for you.
A lot of night hiking
A group of guys, some friends prior and all friends after, have been doing a once-a-year hike, elusively known as the “Exo Death Hike”. In 2018 I was invited to go on my first. It was the longest hike I’ve done to date. We covered covered a total of 92 miles in just under 60 hours. After that experience, I knew there was no way I going to miss this hike in the future.
2019 was yet another challenging task. A spring bear hunt in the Frank Church Wilderness. But it wasn’t an ordinary bear hunt, there was a list of challenges/requirements that went along with each team of three. One of the requirements being that you had to hike a minimum of 40 miles in the allotted 48 hours. This meant a good amount of night hiking.
Time to talk to the experts
I consulted Kendall Card at Blackovis. He handles thousands of pieces of gear a year and I wanted his opinion. I knew I wanted a headlamp that had lots of lumens and great battery life. Switching batteries was something I did not want to do on this hike. The Black Diamond Icon 500 fit the bill.
The Icon Weighs in at 7.125oz with four lithium ion AA batteries, and is slightly heavier than your typical headlamp, however, we are sacrificing a few ounces for performance in this situation. With an advertised run time on high of 70 hours, this where the Icon separates itself from the rest. (I ran a test and found the 70 hour run time to be true. I put fresh batteries in and turned it on, leaving it in a dark closet until it died, keeping track of the time. The last glimmer of light was around hour 90.) 500-lumen output was plenty bright enough for me and the list of options for lighting was pretty impressive.
Hiking with the Icon 500
A quick read through the user’s guide will have you set up and using the functions to their best ability (such as the brightness memory). In regards to field time on the deathhike, I left the truck at midnight and used the headlamp on high for roughly five hours. It showed no signs of dimming. The quad power LED spotlight emits a great beam that is usable under all levels of brightness, but turn on the double power white LED and you get the full 500 lumens that lights up the darkest areas. Being able to easily switch between the two is handy. I continued to use it that night for setting up camp and cooking dinner. I only have one weekend of use so far, but I have confidence that longevity is not going to be an issue.
While heavier and bulkier than most items I would normally put in my pack for Western backpack hunts, the Icon will absolutely see field time for certain trips I have planned where I know I will be doing night hiking or possibly exploring new country that could find me in situations that require bright light for long periods of time. You can order yours from Blackovis here.
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