Right from the start we had a few aims and at their core they haven’t changed much. Some of these have been real challenges to achieve and it’s easy to see why not every headlight manufacturer has all of these on their list.
They basically revolve around the rogaining / adventure racing aims and we were not willing to compromise in order to get into other markets. These lights won’t appeal to your average camper who wants to hold a beer in one hand and flip hamburgers on the BBQ with the other. So we’re missing out on a huge portion of the market, but instead we want to nail the niche. Of course, even though it’s been hard, designing has been a lot of fun because we are the niche market ourselves. We didn’t need to go and do surveys because we designed what we and our friends have been looking for.
This is what started it all. We walk miles and miles through the bush and try to find tiny checkpoints that the event organisers have hidden on some vague spur or in some dry riverbed. If your light can shine 30m then you have to navigate to within 30m if you want to find it. If your light can shine over 200m then you have a clear advantage. People have called it cheating! The headlight has to have a very long range.
We’re not always looking for a checkpoint in the bush. Most of the time you just want to see everything nearby. I don’t want to just see everything in a little circle of light in front of me, I want there to just be light everywhere around me so I forget that it’s 3am. I don’t want to see the edge of the beam. I want it to be smooth and without any bits being brighter or dimmer than the rest. I want it to be a nice colour that feels natural, not too blue, not too green, not too yellow. It has to feel right. Why do you think beauty-magazine photographers make sure their models have perfect lighting? It makes everything look nicer and it makes you feel better. I need that when the sleep monsters are trying to get me.
Long story short: High power LEDs give out more light at lower temperatures. They also generate a lot of heat themselves. So you have to get rid of that heat. Good materials for this are aluminium, brass, copper, etc. What is your car radiator made out of? So if you see a Headlight that is predominantly plastic, put it back on the shelf. A powerful headlight must be able to dissipate its heat.
Not really an aim, but we refuse to go cheap on the important stuff. It costs a few cents to make an injection-moulded plastic casing, it costs over $50 to get a set of aluminium parts individually machined for our headlights. A cheap 3W LED can be bought for under 50 cents and those little 5mm ones are much cheaper again. Meanwhile I’ve spent up to $60 on a single LED. When you see the difference you’ll understand why. The LEDs we use are top-shelf and usually hard to get hold of. I reckon there are enough cheap headlights out there and we could never compete with the Chinese on price. So we’re going for the best possible product and we’ll worry about the cost later.
I recently did a race with a guy who had to swap headlights every time the rain got too heavy because his brighter one wasn’t waterproof enough. Such a shame for him, but even rainproof isn’t enough. You’ve got to be able to paddle and swim and not worry about it. So we’re going for at least 10m submersion waterproof. Saltwater too. I keep seeing products that are only good for perfectly clean water, but I need to use mine in the surf and down rivers. Once I tried to surf at night by headlight. Stupid people like me need really waterproof gear.
Do you like stopping during a race? Of course you don’t. The battery has to last as long as possible. It has to be able to supply the full power to the LEDs. It has to keep working in cold weather.
You’ve got to be able to run with it. It can’t bounce around. This is a very critical factor to which everything else must submit.
I don’t want some stupid strobe mode coming on when I try to change from flood to spot. I don’t even want to think about it. I just want the right mode to come on first time and every time.
Want something different? Leave a comment or let us know. I can’t promise we’ll accept it but I am always interested.