05 Jul A Hands-On Review of the Fenix HL40R Headlamp
The Fenix HL40R is a powerful headlamp at an affordable price. While it’s not the lowest priced headlamp you can find online, it’s also definitely not one of the most expensive-0and boasts more power than most of these more expensive ones, anyway. With a maximum 600 lumens in a very small, compact package, it’s a solid contender with virtually any other headlamp.
It also sets itself apart by using a rechargeable Li-ion battery, that can be charged quickly and easily via USB. Throw in a dead-simple operation, the ability to focus the lamp, and a durable, plastic body, and you have a worthy headlamp that holds its own against higher-priced opponents.
We’ve been playing with it and testing out over the last few weeks, and seeing how it stacks up against our usual pieces of kit. Read on to learn more.
Build Quality and Materials: What’s The Fenix HL40R Made Of?
First, build quality. The HL40R’s quality is apparent as soon as you open the box. While the headlamp itself is quite compact, it feels sturdy and substantial in your hand, and the quality of the materials is evident.
The front panel, containing the lens and the lamp, are made from aluminum, while the rest is made from hefty plastic. The whole thing feels tightly constructed and sturdy in your hand, and we have no reservations or doubts that it will hold up to heavy use.
It’s also rated to IP66, which means it is entirely dustproof, as well as waterproof against heavy rain and splashes. It’s also impact resistant for drops of up to 1 meter.
The strap on the HL40R is as simple as it gets. An elastic band with a second layer that overlaps and keeps the headlamp tight and firm around your head, ensuring it doesn’t flop around or slide off when you need it most.
Size and Weight
Brightness and durability aren’t the only factors to look at in a headlamp’s construction. Also pay attention to size and weight – the lighter, the better, as long as you’re not sacrificing brightness (which you aren’t with the HL40R). Heavier, larger headlamps will move around more as you do, sliding and flopping around your head.
The HL40R clocks in at 2.7″ long, 2.1″ wide, and about 4.6 ounces (130g) including the headband. That’s a good chunk more size and weight than the Black Diamond Spot, which measures only 2.2.5″ x 1.25″, and weighs only 3.1 ounces – whole 33% less. You can easily feel the difference in your hand and on your head; the Black Diamond feels almost not-there, while the Fenix feels substantial. They both feel quite secure, however, and neither flops around or becomes unfocused as you move.
Overall, the Fenix is a sturdy-but-not-hefty headlamp that inspires confidence in its build and when you pick it up and use it.
The Lamp: How Bright Is It, and How Long Does It Last?
The HL40R’s lamp is a CREE XP-L HI V2 White LED, rated to 50,000 hours of battery life. To put that into perspective, 50,000 hours is about 5.7 years, meaning that you will likely never burn this bad boy out as long as you use it. As mentioned, it puts out a bright 600 lumens at top power. That’s capable of 161 yards of distance and a beam intensity of 5426 cd.
The lens is also compatible with 34mm filters, of which Fenix sells several – such as Red, Green and Blue. Filters are especially helpful for hunters and fishers, as the softer light and colored tint do not alert wildlife of your presence and all you to maintain concealment.
Function: How to Use This Thing to Light Your Way
So, it’s bright. How does it work? To start, the HL40R has 5 different light modes: Burst, which puts out the full 600 lumens and has a battery life of 1 hour 20 minutes, as well as:
— High: 300 lumens / 4 hr 30 min
— Medium: 130 lumens / 11 hr
— Low: 70 lumens / 22 hr
— Eco: 30 lumens / 50 hr
— Reading: 4 lumens / 200 hr
— SOS: 30 lumens / 100 hr
To turn the light on, all you must do is hold down the rubberized power button on the top of the headlamp, and the light will automatically turn on to the Low setting. From there, each successive click will be step up in brightness, and it will automatically cycle back down to Low once you have reached the highest setting.
Next to the Power Button is a “Functional Switch,” labeled with a Lightning bolt. Hold the Functional Switch down, and the light will turn into Reading Mode, which gives a nice soft, focused 4 lumens of light that is just enough for checking your map, or heck, even relaxing with a good book. We haven’t actually sat down around the campsite with a book but can imagine it’s a nice way to wind down after a day hiking in the mountains.
From Reading Mode, the Functional Switch lets you toggle through to SOS Mode, which actually flashes the light in Morse Code – that’s something that most headlamps do not have.
The HL40R also has burst mode; to activate it, simply hold down the switch for about 1.5 seconds, and the lamp will emit light in short bursts of 3. It will stay this way for 1 minute.
We really appreciate how easy it is to access all the different functions of the HL40R; just two buttons to cycle through. It’s all very intuitive, unlike many headlamps with this many functions, where you can never really figure out exactly how to get to all the different modes and brightness levels.
Focusing the Beam
Another cool feature that Fenix included with this headlamp is the ability to focus the beam and toggle it from Spotlight to Flood practically effortlessly. Just twist the focus ring around the lens, and it will slide in or out, adjusting the size and scope of the beam as it goes.
On Spotlight, Fenix says it has a range of 147 meters, while Floodlight illuminates up to 43 meters away and with a field of view of about 75 degrees.
You can also tilt the lamp down anywhere up to 60 degrees, focusing the light exactly where you need it to be for any task.
Charging the Battery
Unlike most headlamps and flashlights, which run off batteries that must be replaced, the HL40R is powered by an internal 2000MAh Li-Ion battery, that is rechargeable via Micro USB. This eliminates the need to buy batteries all the time, and to remember to pack them and change them out. At the end of the day, simply connect it to the included Micro USB cable and charge it up. Three little blue lights on the front of the lamp tell you how charged the battery is and how much is left.
It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that this also means when the battery is dead, it’s dead. Recharging it on the trail will of course necessitate a power source. On multi-day trips, you’ll probably want to include a solar (or other type of) charger to ensure your headlamp stays bright and functional the whole time.
Thankfully, the battery has a pretty long effective life. Fenix says it will get about 1 hour, 20 minutes on 600 lumens and 4.5 hours at 300 Lumens. We haven’t tested the 600 Lumen burst for that long, but the 4.5-hour mark is right on the money. In our test, it lasted over 4 hours without technically even being at full charge.
Stop it down to 130 lumens, and the light will last you about 11 hours – enough to get through the night – without needing a recharge.
Performance: How Does This Puppy Hold Up In The Field Compared to Other Headlamps?
To summarize, the HL40R performs exactly as you would expect a headlamp of its caliber to perform. It’s bright, illuminates the immediate area in front of you for easy walking, and casts a long beam for seeing far ahead.
To get a better idea of just how well it performs, we decided to compare it to our other favorite, everyday headlamp; the Black Diamond Spot, one of the more affordable more popular and still powerful headlamp models out there.
The Spot and the HL40R are similar size, but the HL40R stands out for a few reasons. First, it’s brighter and more powerful, with a total of 600 lumens vs the Spot’s 300. Of course, those 600 lumens are available on burst mode, so the two are essentially the same brightness in actual use on High. But we still found the Fenix seemingly brighter. (Bear in mind, there is also a 200-lumen version of the Black Diamond Spot, which will obviously be significantly less bright).
We also found the HL40R’s beam to be more focused; It casts a longer distance than the Spot, which gets about 80 usable meters) and does an overall better job of illuminating the path in front of you at night.
The Spot just feels a bit dim compared to the Fenix, which feels bright and confident as you’re trudging through trails after dark; you feel as if every step is properly lit and illuminated.
(Pictures don’t do it justice, but we’ll try to get some to show you).
The Spot is also more durable. The design is sleeker and slimmer, and the body is rated to IPX8 (submersible down to 1.1 meters for up to 30 minutes) as opposed to the HL40R’s IP66 rating (splashproof, but not submersible).
In terms of operating and light modes, they are similar. The Spot includes different brightness settings, but also includes a strobe, an included red night vision mode (useful for when you need illumination, but not too much brightness) and a reading mode.
We also prefer the HL40R’s internal rechargeable battery. Yes, you can’t just pop in new batteries when it dies in the field, but we don’t like messing around with batteries and prefer this system.
Overall, the Fenix HL40R is an excellent headlamp perfect for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing and survival situations – as well as more than enough for any use around the house or farm. It’s compact, durable enough (though we do wish it was more waterproof) and very bright, with a focused, effective beam and more modes and functions (Burst, Reading, SOS!) than you may ever need.
If you need a headlamp that is completely waterproof, dustproof and weatherproof, and can be submerged under water for long periods of time, then you may want to opt for another headlamp. If, however, you’d like a headlamp that can compete with bigger, more expensive headlamps without costing quite as much, the HL40R is an excellent choice at a good price. We believe it will last quite a long time and through heavy use, enabling all kinds of adventures and after-dark exploits along the way. You can pick one up right here on Gear For Life.