Being an avid after-dark off-trail navigator, hiker, camper, and loving sunsets in remote locations, I depend on my headlamp to get me where I’m going and back, and still have some reserve power in the lightweight batteries. For the last several years I’ve relied on the Black Diamond Zenix IQ headlamp and it has served me well, but the time has come to find its replacement.  In searching for the newest best headlamp, I found two that looked promising. The first was the highly regarded, well-known, and very expensive “Petzl MYO RXP”. The other, the “Icon IXP107A Irix I” was very cool on screen, but there was no real information online about its performance.  For the full scoop on this new Icon Irix headlamp, just read on:

©Michael Cline

The Good:

  • Very bright light and very efficient use of power –  Output on high consumes about 1W, and appears slightly brighter than my now discontinued 1.6W consuming Black Diamond Zenix IQ.
  • Great water resistance – Looks totally waterproof based on rubber seals and design.
  • Lightweight – Weighs only 75 grams without battery, or 100 grams with battery, sits securely on your forehead and does not have a clumsy battery compartment on the back.
  • Uses just one AA battery with a voltage tripler, increasing flexibility and reducing weight.  It is compatible with Alkaline, Lithium, and NiMH.
  • Overall very good build quality, one possible exception being the plastic pivot mount.
  • Has the ability to prevent accidental power on, which can otherwise kill your batteries while a lesser lamp sits in your pack.
  • Color fidelity of the light is ideal.
  • Light/beam evenness is excellent.  There is a tiny dark splotch in beam mode which, because it looks almost like dust on the lens, is slightly annoying when lighting a smooth surface.  It’s subtle, if you don’t notice the three fine black wires crossing the screen in Trinitron monitors you won’t notice this either.
  • Headlamp can be detached from the headband for use as a flashlight.
  • Price with shipping is currently about $35, more expensive than cheap 3-cell unregulated headlamps, but much less expensive than the Petzl MYO RXP considered the flagship of regulated headlamps.
  • The lowest power setting is VERY dim, which is great for when you want almost no light but still need to see.

The Bad:

  • Contrary to claims on Icon’s website, light output is apparently not regulated, a higher voltage battery produces brighter light.  An Alkaline or Lithium battery produces over 25% brighter light than with a NiMH battery, and with either battery the light fades as the battery fades.  Being unregulated is common to most lower-cost headlamps.
  • Does not have a “battery power remaining” indicator of any type, meaning if you don’t carry a spare you could be left in the dark with little warning.
  • Vertical pivoting is provided via a fairly cheap-feeling plastic bracket, and the tension is not very high and not adjustable.  In addition, this bracket allows you to disconnect the headlamp from the headband so as to use the unit as a flashlight.  It’s lightweight, simple, and clever, but I worry about the lamp pivoting on its own, getting pulled off accidentally, or the bracket breaking if crushed or after a few years of use, etc.  Despite my skepticism of the longevity of this bracket, it seems to work well at least for now under normal conditions.  I hope they tested it especially in extreme cold.
  • Because of the continuously variable output power instead of discrete modes, it’s hard to know exactly how much power you are using at any given time.  Carry an extra AA battery and you should be fine however.
©Michael Cline

The Informative:

  • There are 32 power levels of diffuse light, and about 16 levels of beam light, all controlled from a single large analog dial. It makes a smooth transition from diffuse light to beam as you turn up the power, and when in beam mode it leaves the diffused lights at reduced power to provide nice fill without consuming much additional power.  Based on my amperage measurements from the battery, if you assume 2Ah of battery power, and assume regulated light output, one AA battery would last about 100 hours on the very dim lowest power setting, or 10 hours on the highest diffused setting, or 2.5 hours on the highest beam setting.  In actual hiking usage I expect it to last from 5 to 10 hours with conservative usage of beam mode.   Because the brightness is actually not fully regulated, this means a single AA battery will power the lamp longer than the times estimated above, albeit with constantly declining output.
  • The lamp does produce a high-speed flickering on any output setting other than full power beam, which is caused by PWM at around 200 Hz to control the power of the lamp and improve efficiency. The efficiency gained by this is well worth it however and most people will only notice the headlamp works great.

 

Conclusion:

I would recommend this headlamp to a friend, and will probably buy myself a second one as well.  I would rate this lamp in the top 5-10% of headlamps out there for backpacking, hiking, and around the house usage, but there are certainly better ones out there as well since it lacks some of the higher-end features.  For instance, at almost 3X the cost and higher weight check out the Petzl MYO RXP, or for about $25 pick yourself up a discontinued Black Diamond Zenix IQ if you can still find one.  The Irix does not earn a full 5-star rating due to a few failings and un-met claims, but all things considered it is better than a 4 star rating would imply and is a great little headlamp.

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