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budget caving light

PostPosted: Dec 16, 2019 8:26 am
by Jaray
Found my way back here from flashlight reviews (signed up years ago to research something but haven't been around since I'm afraid). Anyways, after looking through several months of posts and not finding an answer, thought I would just ask. What headlamp would you recommend for caving for someone on a budget?

Currently I have a RR .5 watt headlamp. It's okay, but I'm not real enthused by it. It started out good but dimmed fairly quickly with a new set of alkaline AAAs. By the time I had been in the cave for an hour or so, I was resorting to also using my primary handheld light as well (3 watt Luxeon model from Lowes), though it too had dimmed noticably by the time we left. I know the light is supposed to be regulated, but obviously it still leaves a bit to be desired compared to some of the Inovas, a Stenlight, et al. One of the guys from our local grotto I went with last time had a Stenlight and it really impressed me with it's regulation but I just can't justify that sort of price no more than I go caving at this point in time.

Something like the Fenix P1D-CE would be my ideal light, but I also realize they don't have a headlamp version. I've considered modding one (or two) to fit onto a helmet (duct tape anyone?) but it would probably look a little tacky, plus I would be afraid the light would end up covered with tape residue. Are there any other lights with similarly high brightness and flat runtime. A good regulator is a must, that much I know. I'm also not adverse to modifying something to make it work if it would expand my possibilities.

Re: budget caving light

PostPosted: Dec 16, 2019 4:50 pm
by chac
Hey Jaray,

I suggest you have a look at the Zebra headlamps. Most all models come with an adjustable elastic band for mounting on your helmet. I also suggest you consider a Zebra light model using 18650 a lithium-ion battery. Many cavers use these headlamps. Get the "warm" LED version for photography. Perhaps one of the folks from your local grotto can help you.

You will also need a reliable charger for these batteries. Extra 18650 batteries are cheap.

Don't forget your two backup lamps. A second Zebra lamp can be mounted on your helmet under the first headlamp. I am of the philosophy that all your backup lamps should use the same batteries and be similar to your primary lamp. You can carry a third Zebra in your pack. This is up to you, you can always buy your lamp systems incrementally. Just be safe.

Spend some time learning about lithium-ion batteries and then have a look at these headlamps. There are many excellent cave equipment providers online. Have fun!


Re: budget caving light

PostPosted: Dec 16, 2019 7:20 pm
by Steve_S
I personally like the princeton tec apex. They're bright, waterproof and have a lifetime warranty. And if I remember right they only cost around $80. Princeton Tec is awesome at honoring the warranty too. I have sent 2 of mine back after the hinge broke from some hard core caving and they replaced the whole unit free of charge. I hope this helps!

Re: budget caving light

PostPosted: Dec 16, 2019 10:08 pm
by bobby49
I think that the Zebralight headlamps are highly favored in my grotto.

On my helmet, one Zebralight headlamp is mounted on the front with hardware, so the head strap is unneeded. Then I carry a second one just like it in my pocket or in my cave pack. So, in a pinch, I could swap out those two. Then I carry one or two extra 18650 batteries in my cave pack.

Some of these have a spot pattern light, and I think that builds problems for cave photography. Instead, use the ones with a flood pattern light.

These are very efficient with three levels of light intensity. The brightest intensity is great if you have to search for something across a dark cave room. The medium intensity is good if you are moving in a normal passageway. The low intensity is good if you are sitting down to rest or eat a snack.

If you have the headlamp switched to the brightest intensity and then the battery starts to sag, the thing will automatically step down to the medium intensity to help save the remaining battery.

Re: budget caving light

PostPosted: Jan 16, 2020 8:01 am
by amyacker
Thanks, This is helpful.