Gear Review: Coast FL70/75 Headlamp

At the end of last year, I did a review on the HL27 headlamp from  Coast, a company that I ran across at the Outdoor Retailer Summer show.  This product, while not marketed toward the running community specifically, caught my eye because of its economical cost compared to similar products from other vendors in the market.  As it turns out, I was super impressed with that product.  Since then, Coast has released a couple new products that I had the opportunity to review, the FL70 and FL75.  These two are similar, but there are a couple differences.  I will review both together and call out the differences.

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with Coast in any manner however, these headlamps were provided by Coast for the purposes of this review.

In The Box and Specs

In the box, you have the headlamp with 3 AAA batteries included.  The major design change with the FL70/75 is the combination of the lamp and batteries into a single unit (previous Coast models had a battery pack as a separate compartment on the back of the head — more about the advantages and disadvantages later in the review).  It also uses AAA batteries versus AA in other models.  The headlamp uses a single adjustable strap to hold it in place..  The lamp is a single LED center-mounted light, which tilts to adjust the aim of the light.  It includes a pretty simple interface, with an on/off button that allows you to quickly toggle the light output mode and a bezel on the lamp unit that allows you to transition between beam and flood mode.  Additionally, the FL75 as a second button that toggles on/off the low power red light mode.

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The $9 difference in price is likely to do with the added functionality of the red light in the HL75, because as you can see, they are nearly identical in specs otherwise.

Fit

The fit of this headlamp is actually quite nice.  Given the light weight of the lamp/battery box, the single strap is more than sufficient for holding it in place.  The box on the front has a relatively small footprint when compared with other products on the market.  Moving the batteries to the front allows Coast to bring a product to market for those that don’t like obstructions that rear battery packs can cause when carrying things on your back.

In Action

First, the back yard test.  I usually take this picture as a means of getting a general idea of the light output, range, and spread pattern.  The first three pictures below show the High, Medium, and Low lumen output settings.  I didn’t see a huge difference between High and Medium on spot beam mode to be honest, with only a bit of a drop off from Medium to Low (not very apparent in the pictures).  The next two pictures show the flood mode in Low mode, the first being 50% between spot and flood and the second being 100% flood.  You will see a large difference as you transition from spot to flood mode, with the light coverage favoring width over distance.  A lot of different views here to consider, but I found the sweet spot for me while running trails was about 40% spot / 60% flood on Medium mode.

 

Second, is the run test.  Winter is a great time to test headlamps…lots of darkness!  I mentioned my ideal sweet spot setting with this lamp, but found it to be a simple click of a button or twist of the bezel on the lamp to make on-the-fly changes.  It was really easy to do with gloves on too, which is not always the case with the smaller buttons on other products.  This allows you to extend battery life by quickly making qucik adjustments with changing outdoor lighting conditions.

A big trade off with this design versus past Coast models that I have reviewed is the dropoff in battery life.  For similar output and performance, the FL series offers less than half of the battery life as the previously reviewed HL series.  It also lacks a battery life indicator, so it is hard to tell when you are about to run out of light (although there is some dimming).

Overall Thoughts

Pros

  • Super light and compact with a small footprint.  It doesn’t feel bulky compared to “battery pack on the back” models do.
  • The light output button and flood-to-spot bezel offers full flexibility and control to the runner in regards to adjusting light output in real-time.
  • The strap is reflective!  This is a small detail, but still handy, particularly for light sources behind you that might not necessarily see your forward-facing beam.
  • Overall value.  For $50-60 depending on the model, this is solid headlamp.

Cons

  • Still would like to see Coast incorporate a battery life indicator on their lamps.
  • The dropoff in lumen output is significant from Low to Medium (53 to 230).  53 is a bit weak for the Low setting.  It would be more useful if it was somewhere around 80, which would allow me to operate almost exclusively in that mode.
  • Battery life at Medium and High is not really feasible for long periods of overnight running due to the drain on battery life.

Overall, the new FL series from Coast is solid as far as running headlamps go.  $50-60 for a max 405 lumen headlamp is a great deal.  They are price competitive to other comparable products and, in my opinion, the lamps on the Coast products may be the best on the market for light quality and output.  The battery life will be a challenge for some people on these, so the lamp is ideal for those races/runs where you only need it for a couple hours at the start or finish of your run or for use as a lightweight emergency backup.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

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