Fenix HM50R Review: This Ultralight Headlamp Doubles As A Handheld Flashlight
The Long and Short of it: The HM50R is another awesome headlamp from Fenix, this time a compact, lightweight and ultra-durable headlamp designed to provide an ample amount of light without taking up a lot of space on your forehead or in your bag. Like it’s EDC counterpart, the PD25, it fits in the palm of your hand but is capable of 500 lumens – making it an excellent choice when traveling light and compact matter.
Like other Fenix flashlights, the HM50R comes in a solid plastic box, sitting in a molded plastic tray. Inside you’ll find a USB charging cable, extra silicone holder, an extra o-ring, user manual and the warranty card. An ARB-L16-700 Li-ion battery even comes installed (As we’ll see later, the HM50R can work with all sorts of different batteries, too).
Hold this thing in your hand, and – like other Fenix lights – you’ll feel the quality right away. The body is made from Fenix’s customary aircraft-grade aluminum, with a smooth anodized finish. For everyday use and basic hiking/outdoor missions, we have no reservations about this thing holding up.
It’s also rated IP68 standards, meaning you can dunk it in water up to 6.6 feet deep without fear. Our only test of this waterproofing included popping it in a full sink for a few minutes before pulling it out: zero problems.
For this to be the case, however, the USB charging port – located right next to the ON button and the lens – must be completely and properly closed and sealed (this is a secondary seal…the actual port is waterproof in itself). This is actually pretty easy, as the rubber flap is thick, high-quality and well-sealed. It closes solidly and stays that way during use.
As with all Fenix lights, the quality and build of this flashlight inspires confidence. The On/Off button has a satisfying click, and even the screw-on end cap feels high-quality and well-made. Fenix claims it can withstand temperatures down to -40F when using CR123 batteries. And the reinforced, shatter-proofed lens is coated with their usual anti-reflective coating.
We spoke of it’s compactness, and leaving out the headlamp, the HM50R is only 2.66” long. 1.3” around and weighs only 2.22 ounces without a battery. That’s even smaller than the PD25 and even more likely to disappear into your pocket or pack, barely noticeable and without adding any weight.
Let There Be Light: Modes, Functions and Brightness
As we all know, Fenix doesn’t mess around when it comes to giving you your own array of brightness or function, either. The HM50R boasts 4 different modes – Turbo (500 Lumens), High (130 lumens), Medium (30 Lumens) and Low (4 Lumens). Battery life with a CR123 battery is 2 hours, 14 hours, 48 hours and 128 hours, respectively. The HM50R does not include a strobe, which can be found on most other flashlights. This isn’t a deal-breaker for us, by any means, and some people would actually prefer no strobe.
As expected, 500 lumens is bright – super bright. You really won’t need that kind of light in most situations, and the High or Medium is usually enough for most jobs.
The Cree XM-L2 U2 LED gives off a cool white color that is bright enough to illuminate, and without being irritating in the way yellow lights often are.
The included battery is a 700 MAH 16340, which is rechargeable. With a 14-hour runtime on High, the flashlight should last an entire night without needing a single recharge when running from full.
Upon opening the flashlight and taking it out of the box, all you need to do is unscrew the cap, remove the plastic disc insert that keeps the battery from discharging, replace the screw cap, and turn it on.
Operation is simple – but not as simple as you might expect. To turn on, you need to hold down the button for several seconds (this is a safety feature so the light isn’t easily accidentally turned on while in your pocket or gear bag) to turn on the mode last used. Once on, a single click will change the mode to the next brightness, while holding it down again will turn it back off. A single short press, once off, functions as a battery test.
When charging, a blue light under the rubber cap serves to function as a battery indicator and to let you know you are charging.
The headband is a stretchy, high-quality and reflective, with small reflective strips placed in groups along the entire length. It also features a silicone strip in the middle, which keeps it from slipping around on your head.
The silicone light holder on the headband does an excellent job at holding the headlamp in place. It’s sturdy and extremely grippy and holds the entire thing in place without any kind of slipping. In fact, it’s very hard to move it around once in place.
It’s nice to be able to rotate and slide the flashlight around in the holder, and it essentially functions like an adjustable pivot/tilt for the headlamp – though not quite as accurate or precise as an actual tilt setup.
Still, the headlamp is easy enough to pull out of the silicone holder when you’d like to use it as a mini, handheld flashlight – which is a very handy feature to have. Keep it on your head when hiking or climbing but pull it out when you need something more accurate and handheld.
It’s comfortable on your head when properly adjusted, but thanks to its tight compression/stretch, can be a bit tight and uncomfortable when not worn properly. Fenix also markets it as “sweat-channeling,” though we didn’t notice anything different about the way sweat rolled off our foreheads in use.
In the Field: The Beam And Brightness
Using the beam in the field, you’ll be impressed with its brightness. The beam itself is well-focused and dense in the middle, while surrounded by a wide, bright flood. No tunnel vision effects or annoying, unfocused haze that spills everywhere. When out hiking, the entire path is clear and well-lit, and you don’t feel like you’re bumbling around in the dark, as you might with cheaper, dimmer headlamps.
Overall: What We Think
Again, no surprises here. Maybe we’re biased, but in our opinion, the Fenix HM50R is yet another excellent, lightweight and durable, and very bright, light from Fenix, who continues to prove themselves as one of the better flashlight makers in the game. With a retail price right around $60, this is an affordable headlamp that will last years of use. In fact, the Cree LEDs are rated to a lifespan of 50,000 hours. The removable headband is comfortable and relatively easy to use, and together they make a reliable companion for everything from long-distance hiking to climbing. What else could you ask for in something this small and inexpensive?