Product Review: Coast HX5 Flashlight

While at Outdoor Retailer in early August, I stopped by to see my pals at Coast to check out their latest light products to see if they had anything new that may resonate with the trail running crowd.  I have reviewed, and generally raved, about a couple of their headlamps over the past year, but I have been wanting to try a handheld for the longest time and decided to focus my attention to those.  I ended up walking away from their booth with the HX5 handheld, which is the one I thought would best fit into what we do.

DISCLAIMER: Coast provided me with a HX5 for the purposes of this review, however, I will always strive to remain neutral in my reviews for the benefits of my readers as well as the company in the effort to improve and innovate their products.

Product Overview

coast_hx5_master

First off, the headlamp versus handheld argument is largely one of personal preference.  Proponents of handhelds say that having the light source originate closer to the ground provides better depth perception on the trail.  Of course, with a headlamp you can keep your hands free and not disrupt your arm motion.  Whatever your preference may be, the flexibility offered with the HX5 can provide a solution for everyone.  It is one of the smaller handhelds in their product line, but still offers the right amount of functionality.  Here are the specs:

Light Output / Distance / Runtime:

  • Alkaline: 130 lumens / 79m / 03:45 (hh:mm)
  • NiMH: 125 lumens / 77m / 01:15 (hh:mm)
  • Li Ion: 345 lumens / 130m / 00:45 (hh:mm)

Length:

  • 4 in (10.16 cm)

Weight:

  • 2.5oz (70 g)

Additional Key Features:

  • Two-way clip allows you to clip it to anything, such as the bill of your hat, pointing forward or backward.
  • Simple slide interface to transition between spot or flood mode (or anything in between).
  • Water resistant for use outside in inclement weather.
Price:
Performance
I found the 130 lumens to cast out enough light for most hiking and running situations, although it might be best suited during sunrise/sunset or when there is a brighter moon in the sky.  It is comparable in light output to some entry level running lamps, such as previous versions of the Black Diamond Spot.  I also found that the quality of the LED light was consistent with previous praises I have given to other Coast products.  In short, I was more than comfortable running on dark trails with this light as my primary source.
I did play around with spot versus flood modes and found that spot was more suitable while running whereas flood was better when I needed to stop and look around as it casts a wider light.  Here are a few samples of what the light output looked like:

Spot/Flood/Hybrid

Lastly, I wanted to see if I could realistically use it as a headlamp by clipping it to the bill of my hat.  I usually run with a hat on, but the bill of a hat tends to block light from a headlamp requiring me to either take off my hat or turn it backwards.  By clipping the HX5 onto the bill of my hat, it casts the light beyond the bill and thereby is unobstructed.  I also found that because there is not much weight to the light, it didn’t cause my hat to bounce or move while running.  I found it funny that although I started to test this as a handheld, I actually began using it more as a headlamp.  In fact, I have been using this exclusively for the past three weeks on all of my runs that I start in the early morning because it is so convenient to use and then take off mid run and stuff in my pack.

Conclusion

Pros:

  • Versatility to be used as a headlamp (by clipping to your hat) or as a handheld is a great feature.  As a trailrunner, this was probably the most important because it allows me to carry something light and with a small footprint on me as a backup and to use it in the matter that is most suitable for whatever my needs may be.
  • Variable beam control that allows you to transition between flood and spot mode, depending on what kind of light you need to cast out.  If you prefer something in between, the HX5 can do that too.
  • Only requires a single AA battery so you won’t be churning through tons of batteries if you run a lot at night.

Cons:

  • No variable light output controls…instead, it requires you to swap to a different battery type.  While I find 130 lumens to be sufficient for my intended use, if you like more light output, you will need to put either a NiMH or Li Ion battery in the light.  In doing so however, you also drastically reduce the run time.  And let’s be honest, with the weight, size, and price point of this flashlight, it is a fair trade off.
  • I found it comfortable to hold, but for those with bigger hands, it might feel a bit small.  I think they could add another half inch without increasing the weight and it would be perfect.

At a miminum, every trail runner that runs in the dark should give a serious look at picking one of these up 9at least as a backup light).  It is lighter and smaller than carrying a backup headlamp and can be used headlamp style or as a handheld.  Also, at half the cost of a headlamp with similar performance, it really is a no brainer.  Given the low cost, I would also consider this for road running where you typically have more ambient light and a more consistent terrain.

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