Monday, February 18, 2013

Gear Review: 2012 Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp

Sometimes, I catch a product on the way up.  Other times, I catch a product on the way down and out.  The 2012 Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp  represents the latter, as far as serious outdoor uses are concerned.  On paper, the Cosmo is a sleek, lightweight, moderately powerful 3x LED headlamp that looks like an obvious primary lamp for a serious hiker, hunter, or angler.   It's a good looking lamp.

Just several years ago, a 55 lumen LED headlamp, powered by just 2 AAA batteries, would have been a game changer for outdoorsfolk. In fact, my best headlamp prior to this purchase cost $50 and featured a 39 lumen xenon bulb that requires 4 AA batteries, if that's any indication of 2005 technology.  I hadn't bought into the LED craze (except for a few backup LED headlamps I keep laying around), so when I saw the Black Diamond display at my local REI, I was able to compare the models, from least to most powerful.  The Cosmo, $35 at the time, was in the middle of the group and seemed like a great compromise.  Spoiler alert: it's now available on Black Diamond's website for $20.   Click here to see.

The Cosmo has a dimmer switch on the primary bulb - a new and useful feature to me - would be very useful for camping, in particular.  The secondary bulbs are what - mathematically - make the difference between a 40 lumen and a 55 lumen light.   One annoying thing about the Cosmo (I have no idea if other Black Diamond lamps are this way) is that it's impossible to assemble in a pinch.   My first chance to use the Cosmo was "one of those situations" where I absolutely had to get it out of the box and on my head ASAP.  And I couldn't.  I couldn't get the strap to thread the two bars on the back of the lamp.  I came ridiculously close to breaking the lamp while doing this in the dark, and ultimately gave up, having to carry the lamp in my hand while I wandered about in the rain, in the dark.

However, the main problem is that I'd bet the Cosmo was really designed to be a tight quarters lamp.  At close range, the 55 lumens really shine well (is that even a thing?), and was more than bright enough once inside the duck blind or under the truck or up in the tree.  Crisp, unfaltering, white light.  I really liked it.  But for walking a trail at night, or seeing what's in front of the boat, or even looking from the boat's stern to the bow, the light's power trails off quickly and becomes quite unhelpful.  As a result, I've re-enlisted my 30lb xenon headlamp until I can afford a brighter LED lamp.   Here's a lamp comparison chart from (who currently offers this lamp for $29).

Prior to starting this review, I was having this very discussion over at Steve Kline's blog, when a Black Diamond staffer or product rep chipped in with the following information:

The Cosmo will get updated in Spring 13 and will be brighter. The Spot is really the happy medium between the Storm and Cosmo. It's a bit lighter (3 AAAs vs 4) and not waterproof (although rated for "sprayed water from all angles"). The S13 ReVolt is really revolutionary as well: as bright as the Storm/Spot and runs off three rechargeable (via USB aka your phone charger) or three normal AAA batteries. 

So, now you have all the pieces to the puzzle.  At its current price ($21 via Black Diamond, $22 via Sierra Trading Post), I recommend that the 2012 Black Diamond Cosmo as a fully capable headlamp for "car camping," tent duty, and home and auto repairs.  Given its extremely light weight and water resistance, I also recommend it as a backup headlamp in your pack.  However, I cannot give it an adequate rating as a primary headlamp in wide open, dark places, particularly at its suggested retail value of $34.99.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this review or provided this gear at any discount, nor did I unsuccessfully solicit free or discounted gear.  This is a fair and honest review of an outdoor product that I have used. 


Samantha said...

Excellent timing. I'm starting to think about gear for the spring camping season

The Reverend Fowl ™ said...

I had the Energizer head lamp 5 years ago. Energizer would not work when wet. I discovered this while trying to reach a hunting position, predawn, in a light rain.

Nowadays, my favorite lamp is the Rayovac Sportsman.

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