On most backpacking trips last year, I carried the Black Diamond Iota headlamp. Its 150 lumens were plenty for three-season conditions, and it weighed only 1.9 ounces and packed away small. I loved that it was rechargeable, so I could keep AAA batteries out of the waste stream and recharge it midtrip using the same portable charger I use for my phone and InReach.
For spring 2020, Black Diamond has introduced the Sprint 225 ($ 45). While it is technically new for this season, it’s essentially a brighter and updated version of the Iota, which will be dropped from the line. The brand sent me an early-production version of the new model last fall for review.
- 1.9 ounces
- One LED bulb with a nonadjustable oval flood beam
- Up to 225 lumens of light output
- Rechargeable lithium battery
- IPX4 waterproofness rating (resistant to splashing from any direction)
Over the winter, I found the Sprint 225 to be ideal for night running on bike paths, streets, and some very easy trails in and around Boulder, Colorado. Last fall I carried it as a just-in-case light on long trail-running loops in the Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park. Going forward, I plan to carry it on most of my backpacking trips, which typically occur between April and September.
My only complaint about the Sprint 225 for backpacking is that it lacks a red light. This night-vision-saving feature is wonderful on group trips to prevent you from blinding your companions, and in camp it’s often the only light I use. Because of this omission, the Sprint seems more optimized for moving (trail running and day hiking) than camping.
The Sprint 225 is not to be confused with the Black Diamond Sprinter 275 headlamp ($ 75), which is also new for spring 2020. That model is slightly brighter, powered by three AAA batteries (single-use or rechargeable), and has a second head strap.
The Sprint 225 uses one LED bulb. Its light pattern is wonderfully smooth, with no distracting rings. It seems almost perfectly optimized for night running and night hiking—it focuses most of the light ahead but still manages to illuminate the periphery. It’s a nice happy medium between a spot beam (which makes you feel as if you’re running in a tunnel and which can be dizzyingly bouncy) and a flood beam (which doesn’t throw enough light out ahead).
Black Diamond reports that the Sprint 225 can maintain its maximum 225-lumen output for 1.5 hours and its minimum six-lumen output for 20 hours. This seems roughly accurate—I learned the hard way that the Sprint 225 has enough power for one 60-to-90-minute night run, but it needs to be recharged before a second outing.
How does the Sprint 225 compare to other headlamps?
Let’s start by pitting it against its predecessor, the Iota. They are comparable in price, size, and weight, have the same operating configuration, and share many features, like the three-LED battery meter and PowerTap, which allows the user to switch between full and dimmed modes with one touch. The Sprint is 50 percent brighter (225 lumens as opposed to 150), and it has a few small improvements. For example, the Sprint remembers its last brightness setting when it’s turned back on, whereas the Iota has an adjustable default. Black Diamond also reports that the Sprint’s lens is more efficient at transmitting the light from the bulb to the environment.
The Sprint 225 is brighter and less expensive than the Petzl Bindi, which has only 200 lumens and retails for $ 60. However, the Bindi has a red light. Because of improvements in LED technology, it’s also likely that Petzl will soon release an updated, brighter version of this headlamp.
The Nightcore NU25, which puts out 360 lumens and has a red light, weighs the same as the Sprint but costs ten dollars less. If Nightcore updated its 1990s-era computer-age aesthetics, maybe it’d be onto something.
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