I See the Light! – Bosavi Headlamp Hands On

Yesterday my long awaited Bosavi headlamp arrived, and tonight I shall post about it! For those who didn’t catch it, I interviewed Dan Freschl some time back when he launched his Kickstarter campaign to fund his dream. Dan was great about keeping all of his backers updated as the project progressed, including the obstacles he ran against, how those challenges were addressed, and why he made the key decisions that he did. There really is a certain intangible aspect to funding a project and following it from an ‘insider’ perspective, especially when the finished goods are in hand. But neatness aside, it’s time to start evaluating the headlamp.

First Generation Bosavi Headlamp

First Generation Bosavi Headlamp

Out With the Old…

When it comes to outdoor lighting solutions (that’s some fancy tech-talk, hoo boy!) I’ve been pretty crusty about upgrading from my cheapo Black Diamond Gizmo to something… well, something else. Despite the fact that its light output is abysmal, despite the fact that I’ve walked past trail junctions in the dark, despite the fact that it falls off the headband once in a while, I’ve kept the thing. It’s the dawn of a new era, out with the old, in with the new. That’s my point of reference, just so you know.

First Impressions

The fit and finish on the Bosavi are very nice. The orange color (I can’t recall but I think we chose this color) should be difficult to lose as it’s very bright. The headband is secure; I believe it comes apart somehow, but at this point I’m not trying to get it apart. The front half of the light tilts downward on a hinge (a critical area that Dan focused on making strong) while the back part stays fixed. The battery is not accessible. In front there are one each red and white LED’s which sit on opposite sides of a larger white LED in the center. On top there is a micro USB port for charging and one button. There’s also one mysterious button that is only accessible when the lamp is tilted forward.

Zero Tilt

Zero Tilt

Full Downward Tilt

Full Downward Tilt

Trying to turn it on yields a couple of blinks of the white and red LED’s. Ok, read the manual… actually the manual is a simple one page instruction set, with directions on the back to make an origami lamp from the box (fun for later). So, it turns out the lamp is locked in the off-position; the button in between the two halves of the lamp controls that feature. Pressing it down for a couple of seconds unlocks the power button. Cool, we have light!

The power button cycles the modes, which are:

  • White Economy
  • White Flashing
  • Main Optimized Brightness
  • Main High Brightness
  • Red
  • Red Flashing

Double clicking the power button activates the main LED boost which puts out a whopping 110 Lumen floodlight for up to 1 minute, then it returns to whatever mode it was running in. Holding the power button down turns the lamp off. When turned back on, the previous mode in use is restored – nice! I was also able to quickly disable the both flashing modes since I tend to not use them; now I can cycle through the other modes with less button pressing.

Charging

Since we purchased 2 lamps (one for me, one for Tenacious Sandra Dee) I decided to charge each in different ways. Holding the power button down for a couple of seconds while the lamp is off provides a battery level check. Both lamps indicated 1 flash, meaning around 20% charge. 4 flashes indicates between 80% and full charge. So I connected the first headlamp to the computer USB and it reached a full charge in about 1½ hours. I connected the other headlamp to my newly acquired Solio Bolt (will cover that gizmo in the near future) which took about 2 hours to charge and lowered the Bolt’s stored charge by about 25%.

From a quick chat with Dan Freschl, I learned that the battery charges from 0 to 80% in about an hour, it takes an additional hour to reach 100% charge. This is a smart feature designed into the circuitry of the lamp; it’s similar to Apple’s charging approach with their iPhone, etc… Incidentally the Solio Bolt has a dedicated Apple device charging mode, hmm….

The Bosavi instructions mention to not charge when the temperature is below 32º F. I asked Dan why this is, to which he responded that the internal resistance of the battery is increased around (under) freezing temps and may lead to issues if charged under those conditions.

Versus the Competition

Here’s a quick look at a couple of competitors. The Petzl Tikka XP2 CORE features a rechargeable battery while the Zebralight H51 uses a single AA battery and is a popular choice among lightweight backpackers. The weights listed below include the headband and battery.

Side by Side Comparison
- Bosavi 1st Gen Petzl Tikka XP2 CORE Zebralight H51
Retail Price: $79 $79 $64
Battery Type: Proprietary Proprietary AA
Recharge Via: USB USB N/A
Charge Time (hrs): 2 3 N/A
Charge Cycles: 500 300 N/A
Output High/Max (Lm): 60/110* 60/80 100/200
Runtime on High (hrs): 23 35 3
Waterproof?: Water Resistant Water Resistant Submersible 2m
Weight (oz): 2.2 3.1 2.7
* Bosavi lumen output has not been independently verified.

Field Report

As an update to the original post… I have had my headlamp out on multiple hikes. A few trips this past winter with temps down to zero posed no problems for me. When charging the lamp I kept it in a pocket as to not risk damaging the charging components in cold weather (which is advised against by the manufacturer). The only minor issue I’ve had is the release that holds the headband in place is somewhat too easy to release on one side. I’m not sure if it’s just a minor defect, or if something happened on one of those cold weather trips as I noticed the problem immediately following a trip and it has continued since. Visually I can’t see anything problematic, so not sure. It’s not too big of a deal but a few times it has come apart when I was fumbling around for it in my bivy in the darkness.

The beam blows away my old cheap BD Gizmo. I really want to put it side by side against the BD Tikka XP just to show what it can do. We did some night hiking (I do a lot more of this then I really want to) up around Donner Summit and with the high beam on I could see way ahead, which was comforting when walking on ridge lines and wanting to know what’s up ahead.

The red light is just a little dim for my taste, but it’s perfect in close quarters (for reading for example) which I’m sure is its intended purpose. All in all, I’m very happy with the Bosavi out in the field.

Why a Rechargeable Headlamp?

I just deleted a couple of paragraphs which I wrote. This may be the most important point, and the answer is simple – you either find convenience in a rechargeable headlamp or you don’t! For those of us carrying one or more rechargeable devices already this becomes a more tempting proposition. For those sticking to AA or AAA powered devices, hopefully you’re at least using rechargeable batteries; there’s no logical reason to be throwing batteries away. Convenience aside, there’s some security in knowing you can charge up any time. On the other hand, once the proprietary battery has lived its life that’s the end of it, and you can’t run into town and get another one. These are a few of the things you’ll be weighing out when considering going in this direction.

Famous Last Words

Setting aside the rechargeable aspect, Bosavi is worthy of consideration on it’s merits as a fully featured headlamp. Whether you’re looking for a rechargeable lamp, and how you feel about supporting cottage companies will likely be major factors in your decision.


3 comments to I See the Light! – Bosavi Headlamp Hands On

  • […] Solio Bolt is a portable solar-powered charging device. I received my Bolt as part of the Bosavi Headlamp project that I backed a couple of years ago on Kickstarter. It was an package option at one of the backing […]

  • Hey Jacob,

    You still feeling good about this light? Any more thoughts a year later?

    • Hi Adam. I like the light. I’ve had two little issues with mine. The first is that the rubber plug for the charging port fell out and is lost. I need to contact Dan at Bosavi to see if I can get a replacement. The second issue is that the clip which attaches the lamp to the headband is slightly loose on one side (it attaches at each side of the lamp). I may have inadvertently cracked it last winter on a very cold trip as that’s when I noticed it, although I can’t see any physical damage.

      I like recharging via USB and being able to check the charge via the lamp itself. Battery life has been good. Having the ability to program out the flashing mode (or any mode for that matter) is cool… but if I ever need it for some reason, there’s no way I’ll remember how to get it back. Lastly, I’m able to turn it back on in whatever mode it was in when I shut it down. The light output has a great range. The lowest setting is pretty good for reading and the bright setting is great for hiking at night. The boost is just ridiculous bright. I haven’t been in the market for a headlamp in the last year, there could be something out there that incorporates a similar set of features but I don’t know what it is.

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