Over the last few months, I’ve been using a couple of Dorcy LED headlamps that they sent to me to review. I’m a bit of a headlamp geek, so I’m always excited when I get a chance to use a new headlamp. But, I’ve settled into using two high-end headlamps that I really like (see The Petzl Zipka Plus vs. the Princeton Tec EOS Headlamp shootout), so I haven’t played around with any new lights lately. High-end headlamps aren’t for everyone and not everyone wants to dish out $40 for a headlamp. Some people would rather spend around $20. The problem with lights at that price is that they’re usually dim and not durable. Dorcy has attempted to make a bright headlamp that runs around $20 ($16 on Amazon: Dorcy 41-2097 Headlight). For this review, I used the headlamps for night photography, for walking to the car before sunrise and after sunsets. I also used one of the headlamps on a week-long kayak trip in the Florida Keys.
The two headlamps that I used were the Dorcy 41-2096 Broad Beam headlight and the 41-2097 Spot Beam headlight. Both headlamps are based on the same body, 3 AAA batteries and an LED light for 12 hours of battery life. The claimed weight is 2.9 ounces, and the broad beam version came in at that weight. The spot beam version weighed 2.8 ounces. Both lights have three brightness modes: full power, half power and strobe. The construction is plastic, and the LED housing is separate from the battery house. The bulb housing rotates allowing you to aim the beam anywhere from straight ahead to straight down at the ground. Dorcy claims that the broad beam puts out 120 lumens and casts its beam 157 feet. They claim the spot beam puts out 134 lumens and casts its beam out 357 feet. The only difference between the two that I could figure out is that there is a plastic diffusion lens over the LED on the broad beam headlamp, and the color of the ring surrounding the LED is different.
In use, I found myself reaching for the 41-2097 Spot Beam more often than the broad beam light, because it was brighter. That said, it’s really bright! Its half-power brightness setting is also really bright. Basically, its settings boil down to super bright and really bright. The strobe flashes very quickly, and while it might get someone’s attention, you’re much better off in buying a PFD-mounted strobe specifically designed for signaling help in an emergency and one that can be seen from at least a mile away, such as the ACR Firefly Plus. Just to testify how bright this light is: when camping in the Keys, on one occasion while eating dinner under a tarp at night, I took the light off and pointed it towards the tarp. It lit up the area well enough for all of us to see and even read by. It’s bright.
While I don’t think that I really put this light through the amount of usage my other lights have seen, it held up fine over the week-long trip in the Keys. Compared to high-end headlamps, it feels a little flimsy. The plastic battery cover and hinge feels particularly so. While I haven’t used many headlamp entries in this sub-$20 category, I suspect that the Dorcy stacks up well against the competition.
My biggest problem with the headlamp is the battery life. It’s claimed to last only 12 hours and that’s about what I experienced. Compared to other LED headlamps, I found the 12 hours of battery life too short. For example, albeit for twice the price, Princeton Tec Remix Headlamp gets 200 hours of battery life, weighs the same and kicks out 100 lumens. Still, the Dorcy has a $16 street price and that’s hard to beat.
So, in the end, for the price the Dorcy seems like a nice light. It won’t replace high-end lights for me, but if my nieces were coming up for a kayaking or canoe trip, I’d be more likely to buy a $16 headlamp instead of a $30 headlamp, and it has perfectly fine battery life for a five day trip.