Recently, I received a Fenix HL60R Rechargeable Headlamp for review. For the last month, I’ve used it on night outings for photography and for night riding a fat bike. Due to the time of year, I haven’t had a chance to use it while paddling at night — something that I seldom do — but I have used it for camping. The HL60R is the highest end light in Fenix’s headlamps lineup and one of the brightest headlamps on the market.
This is Fenix’s description for this headlamp:
Featuring a micro-USB port for go-anywhere charging, the Fenix HL60R Headlamp delivers a maximum output of 950 lumens, beam distance of up to 381 feet and a runtime of up to 100 hours from just one rechargeable 18650 Li-ion battery. This feature rich headlamp is equipped with neutral white LED for better color rendering, a side switch to activate the five brightness levels and the red night vision mode. The HL60R is an all-season headlamp designed with an all-metal housing and waterproof up to 2m underwater.
My favorite features are its waterproofness and the ability to recharge via micro-USB. While I didn’t use it this way, having a rechargeable light while on long expeditions makes it easier than having to deal with batteries. You can charge it via a solar panel system and you don’t have to juggle extra batteries just for your headlight. Plus, it’s great not to have to throw away batteries after exhausting them. Rechargeable is the way to go with a headlamp.
Important for paddling is the ability to remain waterproof up to six feet underwater. Fenix claims a IPX-8 rating. An IPX-8 rating means that it’s rated for continuous immersion. Assuming you are in the water and the headlight stays on your head, it should continue to work until the battery runs out. That could be handy in an emergency. With this high of a rating, you could even snorkel at night with it on. To test it, I put it in a sink full of water for about an hour. It worked the entire time while in the sink.
The battery life holds up to Fenix’s claims. While I didn’t measure it exactly it does seem to last for the 48 minutes on the turbo setting — the brightest setting. On turbo it puts out a bright 950 lumens. On the high setting of 400 lumens, I seemed to get 3 hours out of it. One thing that I noticed is that when you start the headlamp, if you select a setting that it doesn’t have enough battery juice for, it’ll stay in that brightness for just a second until it drops down to the next level. That’s a good way to know that your battery needs topping off. In my testing, I didn’t exhaust the battery completely, but I drew it down below 20%.
The switch to turn on the Fenix HL60R is on the side and my instinct is to search for the switch on the top of the headlamp — I can’t remember having a switch that wasn’t on the top of the headlamp except for an old one that switched on by rotating the ring. After 25+ years of using headlamps with the switch on the top, my muscle memory always had me searching for the on/off switch on the top unless I was thinking about where it was. If you don’t have that muscle memory or can adjust quickly, it won’t be an issue for you. I think if I was able to use it longer before the review was due, I would have probably adjusted as well. To turn it on and off, you have to hold the switch down for about 1 second. I much prefer a headlamp that comes on instantly when you press the button, but an advantage of the Fenix is that because it takes a long press it won’t accidentally turn on in a drybag or your portage pack and leave you with dead batteries. I’ve actually had that happen to me. Habits are hard to break and when a company comes out with a light that functions differently than what you’re used to, but there are good arguments for the way Fenix does this.
As mentioned above, the Fenix gives you clues when the battery is getting low. When the battery is less than 20% the two red lights flash while the main light is lit. Another way to tell is to just tap the power switch when the headlamp is off. If the white LED flashes then you have more than 70% remaining. If the white LED and two red LEDs flash alternately, then you have somewhere between 30% – 70%. If just the two red LEDs flash, then you have less than 30% remaining. This is handy for knowing when you need to recharge. If you find you need more battery life than what you’re getting, there is a 3,500 mAh replacement battery available. It replaces the included 2,600 mAh battery.
With the battery, it felt heavy on my head. At a weight of 5.6 ounces with the battery, you can tell that it’s made out of metal. With that bulk and because the battery is about the same size as an AA, the headlamp has to be wider than those that use AAA batteries. The weight felt fine when I had a hat on, but with a bare forehead, the wide plastic plate — even though its rounded — bit into my forehead. Fenix does include an additional strap designed to go directly over the top of your head to support the headlamp better. This also makes it work great with a bike helmet and I tried it with my whitewater helmet and it fit it fine, although you’d have to rig up something to keep it on the helmet. I suspect it would stay on my climbing helmet, because the climbing helmet is designed to hold a headlight.
The beam that comes off this light is not only bright — bright enough to ride a bike at night on single track and be able to see everything — it’s also wide. Much wider than I expected. It lights up a huge area when on turbo or high. It’s truly impressive at how bright it is. For a sport enthusiast, this brightness can mean the difference between picking a safe route, staying on a trail or navigation at night and remaining calm or to trying to peer into the darkness without knowing what’s ahead. In turbo mode, there is no problems seeing what’s ahead.
That said, for a photographer who likes to make Milky Way or night sky selfies while shooting a headlight into the sky, this headlamp isn’t the one I’d use for photography — albeit this will concern only those people into night photography who like to put headlamps into the shot. The broad beam and blueish color temp doesn’t work well in night sky images. Fenix claims a neutral color temperature, which it is because it’s in the middle of the color spectrum. I’d guess that this is around 4000K, which is in the blue spectrum. Most people would call this a blue light vs. neutral. The advantage of the 4000K lights is that they render color correctly at night vs. warmer or colder lights. There’s research out that links bluer color light with sleep problems and that’s something to take into account if you use your headlamp for reading at night, especially blue lights near 6000K. While this isn’t as blue as some of the bluer LED lights, I’d rather see a color temp of around 3000K or warmer.
Overall, the upsides with the Fenix HL60R are it’s waterproofness, its brightness, long battery life and its ability to recharge using a micro-USB. The downsides are its weight and how it digs into a bare forehead. If you need a lot of light for a fast moving sport, it is a headlamp you should consider. It’s a headlamp that if I wasn’t a photographer I’d consider carrying with me on all my trips. It turned into my goto light for night fat biking and for hiking to photography locations and if I was paddling at night, its brightness would make me want it with me. Fenix also makes bike specific handlebar lights with similar features to this light. Those bike lights are lights I’d consider buying, because this headlamp works great for biking. This is a light that I like despite the few nitpicks I have with it.
More info: Fenix HL60R Headlamp
Note: Disclosure of Material Connection: I received HL60R for free from Fenix as coordinated by Outdoor PR firm Deep Creek PR in consideration for review publication.