Gear Review: Coast HL27 Headlamp

As I was walking through Outdoor Retailer back in August, I was passing by the Coast booth and their product line up caught my eye.  Having never heard of them before, I decided to stop by and have a chat.  They had a very interesting looking suite of light products, including the Coast HL27.  As it turns out, they don’t specifically target their products toward the trail running crew…you are more likely to find their product line up inside of a Home Depot than your local running store.  Still, the product design and specs all looked promising and the $60 price tag is hard to beat, so after a conversation with their Director of Marketing, I decided to pick up a HL27 to test and review.  Let’s have a look shall we?

DISCLAIMER: None to note.  They were selling them at Outdoor Retailer for a discount, so I decided to buy one to review.  Afterall, you can never have too many headlamps!

In The Box and Specs

In the box, you have the headlamp with 3 AA batteries included.  The design of the headlamp is a three strap harness with the battery pack on the back of the head, similar to the Petzl NAO.  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 and a dial, which allows you to quickly adjust the light output.

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Price: $60 Retail

Light Output: Variable, 1 lumen -> 330 lumens
Runtime: 93 hours -> 8:30 hours
Beam Distance: 7 meters – 129 meters
Weight: 6.9 ounces

Fit

The fit of this headlamp is actually quite nice.  It’s three strap harness approach fits securely to the head with no movement, all the while not feeling too tight or restrictive.  The light unit on the front has a relatively small footprint, which is also nice.  It is slightly curved to conform to the shape of the forehead as opposed to having an awkward boxy feel like some others I have tested.  If I was to complain about anything regarding the fit, it would probably be the battery pack.  I like that they don’t use a proprietary battery pack because of the flexibility.  At the same time, the tradeoff is that standard batteries tend to take up more space, resulting in a larger battery pack.  In my use of this, it didn’t get in the way of anything (like my hat or Orange Mud rear bottle pack), but it definitely feels a bit bulkier in the 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.  As you can see, the light output is pretty solid at the max 330 lumens.  It has a super wide light spread and throws light outward to a decent distance.  The HL27 does not have a beam mode, offering only a flood light option.  [UPDATE on 10/15/2015: Even the best reviewers make mistakes, especially when they rip open the product out of excitement and don’t thoroughly read the instructions.  The HL27 does have a spot mode, controlled by turning the bezel right in front of the power button.  In fact, it is great, because it also takes a dimmer approach that allows you to go from flood mode to beam mode and anywhere in between depending on your need.  Apologies for missing this initially.  I have updated the pictures to include one of spot beam mode.]  In the comparison pictures below, you will quickly notice the difference between the HL27 and the Petzl NAO (at 535 lumens).  You can definitely see a difference between each of the pictures, but my feeling here is that this comes down to a matter of preference; Assuming that the distance that the light casts forward is acceptable, I kind of prefer the wider light coverage because it gives me a more comfortable feeling of my immediate surroundings.

 Coast HL27 (Flood)

 Coast HL27 (Spot)

NAO Light Output Petzl NAO

Second, is the run test.  I took this out on a few runs, including the first part of the Bear 100 recently and I would say that for a lamp that was not designed specifically for running, it did a fantastic job.  To revisit the flood vs. beam light approach, I found the lamp in flood mode to provide ample light output.  I never felt like I couldn’t see obstacles in my immediate path without having to adjust my speed and was always able to a good bearing on where I was.

My absolutely favorite part of this lamp is the way in which you can adjust light output on the fly.  Most lamps I have used either allow you to program in a few light output modes or automatically adjust the light output for you (i.e., reactive lighting).  The HL27 incorporates a dial, right behind the on/off button, that acts as a dimmer switch.  This dial allows you to quickly go from 1 to 330 lumens and everything in between…I love this flexibility and level of control.  The second great aspect is the battery life, which provides 8+ hours of use on max output.  I do wish it had a battery life indicator though so I didn’t have to use fully charged batteries on each run to feel comfortable that I wasn’t accidentally running on low batteries.

Overall Thoughts

Pros

  • 8+ hour battery life on full light output is hard to beat.  In most cases, if you are also tuning the light output throughout the run based on what you need, it should last the duration of the night.
  • The light output and flood-to-spot dials offer full flexibility and control to the runner in regards to controlling real-time light output.
  • Overall value.  For $60, this is a feature-packed headlamp!

Cons

  • No battery life indicator to tell you when you are close to going dark.  This is key for many trail runners since the last thing you want is to be caught in a remote area in the dark.
  • Large battery pack adds bulk and a little bit of weight to the lamp (about a half an ounce heavier than the Petzl NAO).
  • Although I didn’t experience any issues in my initial use, the tilt mechanism on the lamp seems to be a bit fragile.  We will see how durable it is with continued use, but worth calling out.

Overall, the Coast HL27 is solid running headlamp.  $60 for a 330 lumen headlamp with 8+ hours of battery life is phenomenal.  At half to a third of the cost of other comparable brands on the market, this lamp is a great option for the cost sensitive trail runner that isn’t necessarily bothered by the specific con’s that I called out.

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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Product Review: Gargoyles Recoil Sunglasses

Overview
For this review, I am taking a look at their Recoil model.  If you read my past Gargoyles review, you know how highly I speak of the company and their products.  I whole-heartedly believe in the principles that they follow in designing their products.  In fact, I believe in their quality and performance so much that since I had the opportunity to review some of their other products for my previous review a few months ago, I have used them almost exclusively.  I look forward to their continued growth in the high-end running market and will continue to provide you with an overview of their products along the way.

DISCLAIMER: I am currently supported by Gargoyles and they provided me with these sunglasses for this review.

Description
Recoil is a functional, light-weight sport frame who versatility caters to a number of different uses, whether driving, running, biking, hunting, or catching a baseball game.  It features locking hinges so that the stems stay open or shut.  The half-rim design minimizes obstruction in the viewing area.  The Recoil comes with polarized, treated lens designed to minimize glare, reduce smudging, and repel water.

Recoil 2 - Brown      Recoil 1 - Brown     Recoil 3 - Brown
(Click to enlarge)

Price: $175.00
Product Page: Gargoyles Recoil Black/Bronze

As with most of my eyewear reviews, I like to break down my review into five main categories and rate them based on their performance while running:

Comfort/Fit (3.5 / 5.0)
This may really be the only category for which I can mark down the Recoil as it was a bit tight around the ears, which resulted in a little bit (not much) of discomfort after about two hours of wearing them.  Of all Gargoyles models that I have tested in the past, these may have the least amount of rubber grip on the stems of all of them.  You can feel the plastic on the stems as you are wear them.  I suspect that adding a bit more rubber padding to the stems may alleviate much of the issue here.  Still, they caused no issues on sub-two hour runs or during everyday wear.

Here are a couple pictures showing the fit on my face.

Recoil Fit Front Recoil Fit Side

Lens Quality/Clarity (4.5 / 5/0)
As typical with every other pair of Gargoyles that I have tested, they excel in this area.  I tested the bronze polarized lens model, which I think is becoming my preference for trail running.  The bronze lens provides the perfect color and contract for running on trails and spotting obstacles and the clarity is as close to perfect as you can get.  The advertised treatments on the lens worked as promised to maximize clarity, with no smudging or glare that would otherwise be a problem.  Lastly, I experienced a bit of fogging at times.  The lens, given its wrapping face coverage, could benefit from more of a vented design.

Performance/Ride (4.5 / 5.0)
The performance of these glasses were great on the run, especially since I group these in more with a multi-purpose model.  There was only a hint of bounce on some faster downhills, but it was minor.  Like the feedback I provided in the comfort section above, I think this would also be easily remedied with a bit more rubber on the stems.

Durability/Quality (5.0 / 5.0)
The Recoil have a thick and sturdy frame, which gives them a very solid feel.  The lens are thick and virtually indestructible, which is also nice in the event of the inevitable fall.  No issues in this area here.

Aesthetics/Looks (4.5 / 5.0)
Overall, they look great for everyday wear, although they looked a bit big on my face.  This is a great thing for protecting the eyes, but when wearing them around, I prefer something a little smaller to match my somewhat smaller face.  Aside from that, they have a sporty look to them.

Conclusion

Overall Score: 4.4 / 5.0

I would liken the Recoil the half-frame version of the Havoc, which I previously reviewed.  They are very similar in design, with the Recoil being a half frame (which I prefer for running trails because of its less-obstructed viewing area).  I said the Havoc is a very versatile pair of sunglasses in that you can wear them while driving and then immediately on the trails without ever taking them off of your face…the same goes for the Recoil.  I think these are a great option for everyday wear and shorter runs.

Pro’s:

  • Maximum eye coverage which should do nicely protecting the eyes from debris, tree branches, etc.
  • Versatile; caters superbly to multi-purpose usage.

Con’s:

  • Definitely not enough padding on the stems, which takes away from the comfort during extended periods of athletic use.  I will use them for everyday use and for shorter runs, but not likely during an all-day ultra race.

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Product Review: Gargoyles Performance Eyewear

Company Overview

G_VIPER_PE_Horiz_b-w LOGO

About 35 years ago, Gargoyles was founded on the back of innovations that revolutionized lens technology. Since then, you have seen them being used everywhere, from the US Army to Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator.  Gargoyles has made a name for itself by bringing the highest quality products to the market that are known for durability, high clarity, and aesthetics.   By following the most demanding industry standards, such as ANSI Z87.1+, they are able to bring to market products that meet anything thrown at them (literally).  To get even more detail on the care and innovation that goes into their products, you can take a look at the technology overview on their website:

Gargoyles Technology

Despite their prominence among military and police, they have not been a huge player in the endurance athlete realm in recent years.  I was intrigued to talk to them because I believe that many of the same standards for durability and quality that they meticulously incorporate into their products apply directly to the world of trail running and obstacle course racing.  When I synced up with them, I soon discovered that they are indeed very interested our world and wanted to find out how their products held up.

Below is my attempt to put these to the test.  As always, I will test them from the perspective of a trail and mountain runner, perhaps with some other activities mixed in for good measure.  I intend to focus on a few main areas:

  • Durability/Quality
  • Comfort/Fit
  • Lens Quality/Clarity
  • Performance/Ride
  • Aesthetics/Looks

My hope is to provide you with an accurate assessment of the products that I tested as well as to provide feedback to Gargoyles to aide in their effort to make the perfect running and OCR sunglasses.

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with Gargoyles.  However, they provided me with product for purposes of this review.

In The Box:

Each pair of glasses comes with a hard case and lens wipe cloth (pictured below)

Gargolyes Case

Product Overview:

Assault
The Assault ended up near the top of the models that I reviewed…overall, they were awesome!  The Assault is a half-frame model. The lens are vented in the upper outside corner. The stems have a nice fit with rubber grip running along the back half. They also curve downward slightly toward the back preventing discomfort when wearing a hat.

Breakaway
In all of the models that I reviewed from Gargoyles, I found the Breakaway to be the best option for running.   The Breakaway is a half-frame model. Similarly to the Assault, the stems have a nice fit with rubber grip running along the back half. They also share the same nose pad. Overall, they have a very similar fit.

Flux
The flux offered a slightly more fashionable (versus sporty) look to them, but don’t let that fool you, they are still high performing sunglasses. The Flux is a half rim model. They have less rubber on the stems, limited only to the back. The nose pad is also a deviation from the rest of the models I tested, and seems to be a bit grippier.

Pursuit
When I look at the Pursuit, I immediately get the impression that they are targeted toward the world of cycling/triathlons…they just have that look to them.  They have vented lens, good wraparound coverage, and are super light.

Havoc/Squall
I have mentioned in previous posts that I am not a fan of full frame sunglasses when running on trails as I tend to glance down by tilting my eyes instead of my head, which results in the bottom of the frame partially obstructing my view.  At the same time, not everyone shares my opinion so I wanted to give them a shot.

The following chart provides a side-by-side review of each model (click to enlarge).

Gargoyles Product Review Chart v2

Conclusion

During my exhaustive testing, I was able to jump immediately to a single revelation: Gargoyles KNOWS how to make performance sunglasses!  Sure, not every pair fit my face perfectly, but we all are shaped differently and that is to be expected.  What I mean is that they are everything and more that you would expect from a high end product.  With Gargoyles, it all starts with their lens.  They are engineered to provide the highest level of durability and clarity.  Beyond that, it is clear that they care about bringing well constructed products to the market and it shows from the time you first hold a pair.  While their current product line was not engineered purely from a running perspective, they can compete with other high-end brands and their increased focus on this market segment should result in future models that excel even more.

Gargoyles Brand Pro’s:

  • Polarized lens are high quality, they blow every other brand I have tested out of the water.  This probably stems from the fact that they are owned by Foster-Grant, one of the top lens makers out there.  In fact, the lens quality, clarity, and durability in general is second to none in my opinion.
  • Very light yet durable frames that are made from high end materials and constructed to last.
  • Hinged stems on the frames are a nice feature on all of the Gargoyles I tested.  They keep the stem from opening up accidentally, preventing them from getting caught on things.  This is a small detail that helps decrease the chance of breakage.
  • Brand history and reputation.  Gargoyles and their parent company Foster Grant are leaders and innovators in the space.  They are a brand that has built loyalty, and they have done that with great products.

Gargoyles Brand Con’s:

  • While many of the products I tested performed well during running activities, they could knock it out of the park with a few minor tweaks geared specifically toward runners. Many of these were called out in the individual reviews above, but the most common were:
    • Better nose guard with more grip to prevent bouncing/movement.
    • Vented lenses to prevent fogging and improve air circulation.
  • Completely absent from the product line was photochromic lens option.  This NEEDS to be there in my opinion, particularly for trail runners that are used to running through areas that alternate between covered to exposed.
  • Price is going to cause people to shy away from these.  For those that take their eyewear seriously though, it shouldn’t.  You get what you pay for and there is a ton of value in Gargoyles despite the price range due to their quality and performance.  Aside from losing them, you can expect to have them for a long time!
  • Color options.  I might be getting nit-picky here, but I have seen a trend toward more colorful, fashionable sunglasses.  Outside of the Flux and Pursuit, many of the color options were limited to darker colors, black or brown.  Color has nothing to do with performance of course, but it does have to do with appealing to a broader audience.

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!