Tim’s been running around in the dark with the new BioLite HeadLamp 750 strapped to his noggin’. So how’s the new light from the ethically-minded company stack up?
Who Are BioLite?
You might’ve heard of BioLite. The company started back in 2006 when two mates decided to make a wood-fired camping stove that didn’t rely on fossil fuels.
Along the way they discovered the clean cookstove movement and the ways fuel for cooking can harm the users, in fact, open fire cooking is responsible for over 4 million deaths a year.
In 2015 the company expanded to lighting and power solutions, as access to electricity is an issue for over 1.2 billion people worldwide.
But what’s this have to do with a head torch? BioLite are set up in a pretty cool way, the company uses ‘parallel innovation’ to develop technology that it uses for two very different markets: off grid use in emerging markets (read: developing countries) and outdoor recreation.
By buying a BioLite product you’re helping the company work towards its mission, which put simply, is giving everyone access to clean energy.
The BioLite HeadLamp 750
I feel weird writing the word ‘headlamp’. In Australia we call it a head torch because that’s what it is, ‘lamp’ makes me think of strapping a huge bedside table ornament to my dome.
To be fair though, BioLite have really kept it simple with the HeadLamp 750, so simple that you might be wondering what’s so special about this new addition to the confounding world of head torch tech.
I’m not complaining by the way. Back in the early 2000s I remember using a head torch for the first time on school camp. It put out a light slightly brighter than a candle and died in two nights. We’ve come a long way baby.
The BioLite HeadLamp 750 is a lightweight, well-balanced head torch aimed at people really getting after it in the dark. It’s part of BioLite’s ‘pro’ line, but because you probably only want to buy one head torch, I’m going to review it with more casual use in mind as well.
Beam & Brightness
The ‘750’ in BioLite HeadLamp 750 refers to the amount of light this head torch can put out. This is a pretty hard concept to visualise, so just use the rough formula of 12.5 lumens equals one candle, then imagine 60 candles burning at once and voila, that’s the max output.
Or if that’s insane (it is) I can safely assure you that this head torch is damn well bright enough.
You can only access the max power for 30 seconds at a time, so it’s great for blinding galahs or seeing things 130m away, but any longer would suck your battery and probably overheat the LEDs.
The BioLite keeps it pretty simple: on the front there’s a white spotlight, a white floodlight, a combo mode and the ubiquitous strobe and red light. I found the lens construction, which has a clear centre and frosted edges, gave a really nice even light in all modes. No hard edges or bright spots to distract you from what you’re looking at.
While running on trail at night I found the white spot mode to be a wide enough beam and I kept the brightness on high, which starts out at around 500 lumens (you can keep it there, but more on that under the ‘battery life’ heading).
For more general use I preferred the combo mode and could easily drop the brightness right down, which would send my runtime over 10 hours. I can’t say I got close to running down the battery on this thing. The floodlight mode was great for things like reading and cooking at camp, where you really want a nice even light.
I said ‘on the front’ earlier, which would normally seem a bit strange, but that’s because there’s a red light on the back of the battery pack. It can flash or stay static and it’s a nice little safety feature for running on the road at night.
The battery on the BioLite 750 is where things get innovative.
First up is the option to switch between constant and regulated runtime. Regulated runtime is basically what you’ve got on a normal head torch, it starts off bright and slowly dims to get the most efficiency from the battery.
But holding down a button on the battery pack (the same one you tap to get your burst of 750 lumens) you can switch into constant mode, which will give you the exact same amount of light until the battery drops dead. Pretty neat, especially for things like night running, hiking or climbing where a steady decrease in light output could lead to a dangerous mistake.
Unfortunately the constant mode has the potential to kill the battery far quicker. Luckily BioLite have a solution for this too, it’s called ‘Run Forever’.
I really like this feature. The BioLite 750 came with a 0.9m cable that plugs into the back of the head torch, allowing you to hook into a much larger or spare battery in your backpack or pocket. You can run the head torch while it’s charging, hence ‘run forever’. For ultramarathon athletes and night hikers this will be a very welcome addition, and I reckon it’s a great example of the thought and research that went into the product.
Batteries do die though. In that case the BioLite 750 drops into ‘pre-reserve’, which will give you 100 lumens for 10 minutes to think about your choices. After that you’ve got 8 hours of reserve power on hand at a very cute 5 lumens. This sounds minuscule, but it’s enough to light the ground in front of you on spot mode. And speaking from experience, it’s waaaay better than nothing.
Ease of Use
I actually think that this is the most important thing for a head torch to nail. A great head torch with tricky buttons or annoying settings is a nightmare and you will avoid it.
Luckily the BioLite HeadLamp 750 nails this part of the brief. There’s a single button that cycles through the modes. It remembers what mode it was on and the brightness from when you last used it, and after 1.5 seconds of being on, the same button just turns the light off. Hold the button down and the light will dim or brighten. I didn’t need to use the manual or learn any strange combos, love it!
The buttons on the back for boost mode/battery mode and the red light are pretty straightforward too. There’s also a light that indicates how full the battery is (important!).
Does it have any flaws? Well yeah, kinda. The beam angle is adjustable to one of four positions, but rather than clearly clicking into place, the lamp kinda sponges its way to the next spot. I found it a bit fiddly and the most angled setting (looking towards my feet) didn’t always seem to lock in.
For the most part, once I settled on an angle things were dandy, but if you were constantly having to adjust your beam I think you’d want more confidence.
One thing you can be confident in is running in the rain. The BioLite750 isn’t claiming submersible waterproofing, but with an IPX4 rating it’ll resist sweat and a downpour. We love to see it.
Design & Comfort
The BioLite HeadLamp 750 is definitely built with running in mind. The construction with smart wicking fabric feels nice against the skin, even when it gets a bit sticky under there. There aren’t any pressure points and by balancing the light at the front with the battery at the back there really is minimal bounce, even when trail running.
While the weight is dispersed nicely across your dome, you’re going to know it’s there, but this is hands down the comfiest head torch I’ve ever worn. Also, at 150g this is a very light head torch for the amount of light coming out of it. I see the main target market as runners and hikers, people who know every gram counts, so this weight matters just as much in your pack as on your head.
The design looks snazzy and feels snazzy-er, but it’s definitely meant to be worn directly on your head. While the BioLite 750 does fit on my climbing helmet, it feels a little awkward and doesn’t fit under the clips designed for simpler elastic straps. That being said, a few cable ties would prevent you from sending it to the valley floor.
The BioLite HeadLamp 750 comes in with an RRP of $179.99 (though I’ve already seen it cheaper here). I haven’t seen a head torch this bright, light and ridiculously good looking at this price point.
I reckon the BioLite 750 is going to be a winner for runners and hikers thanks to its great blend of sleek design, bomber battery, bright light, and intuitively designed features. Even better, BioLite are a company out to make a difference, so you’ll be supporting their work with your purchase.
Tim was provided with the BioLite HeadLamp 750 to review and got to keep it. The views are entirely his own.
Photos by @eandrewsphoto