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!

New for 2015: Gargoyles Performance Eyewear Zulu and Classics

Some pretty exciting new additions have been released over the past few months into the Gargoyles sport and lifestyle product lines.  While there are several new models (half a dozen or so), as a runner, it was the Zulu and the Classics that caught my eye (for different reasons…more on that in a moment).  If you have read any of my past reviews, you know that I LOVE Gargoyles products, which I find to be unmatched in terms of clarity and durability.  I am stoked to see them experiencing a resurgence and expanding the product line to give people even more options to choose from.  In past reviews, I have exhaustively commented on their high level of quality, durability, and clarity.  I can say right up front that both of these new models did not deviate from that same standard of excellence.  So instead of rehashing the same info, let me take a different approach to each.

DISCLAIMER: I run exclusively for Team Gargoyles in 2015.  They provided both of these models for my personal use and review.  As always, I will make every effort to remain impartial in my feedback for the benefit of you as a potential user and for Gargoyles in the spirit of continuous product improvement.

Zulu
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Price: $160 ($120 for non-polarized)

Key Features:

  • Full-rim design
  • Aluminum frame construction
  • Polarized, mirrored lens
  • ANSI Z87.1+ certified durability and protection standards
  • Anti-reflective and water repellent
  • 100% UV Protection

I have stated pretty openly in previous reviews that I don’t particularly care for full-rimmed frames while running because they tend to obstruct my view.  That being said, what caught my eye about the Zulu is that the bottom of the frame seemed to be fairly thin in comparison to other models.  I wanted to try them out to see if my observation was true and was glad to find out that it was.  If you are a bit picky like me when it comes to this, these might be a good middle ground for you.  I did not find them much obstruction at all and have even gotten so used to them that I don’t really notice anymore.  The aluminum frame is a super light alternative to plastic that adds durability without the weight.  One thing to definitely point out is the fit.  If you have worn Gargoyles before, you should know that they made the Zulu slightly more narrow compared to other models.  The plus side to this for me is that they hold super secure to my head and face and do not bounce at all, even on a fast downhill.  The down side is that if you gravitate toward a wider fit, these likely are not the best model for you.  If you are thinking of picking up a pair of these, I would definitely suggest measuring your face and comparing it against the specs on their page.  With that said, I have been running almost exclusively in these since I got them a little over a month ago, mostly on runs under 3-4 hours long, and am pretty satisfied with them.  So, other than ensuring that the fit works for you, I don’t really have anything negative to say about the Zulu.  This is definitely a solid add to the product line…if the fit is right.

Classics
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Price: $100

Key Features:

  • Rimless design
  • ANSI Z87.1+ ANSI Z87.1+ certified durability and protection standards
  • Anti-reflective and water repellent
  • 100% UV Protection

They are back! Yes, that was a miserable attempt at a Terminator reference, but how can I avoid reminding you that it was the original Classics that graced the faces of both Arnold’s model T-101 as well as Clint Eastwood’s old school tough guy Dirty Harry!  Gargoyles really made the right decision when they decided to re-release the Classics, which come complete with some subtle design updates (to stay true to the originals) while also incorporating some of the latest technology.  For me, it took some getting used to “the look” since I don’t generally wear aviators or other large-lens styles, however, if aviators are your thing then you will love these (so says my wife).  From a running perspective, I also tend to run in sport style models.  So while you can run in these, and those of you that prefer to run in aviators will love them, they fit more into the lifestyle category for me.  They didn’t bounce like I expected…in fact, the didn’t really bounce at all while running.  All of that aside (because that was really nothing more than a rant about my personal preferences) I love wearing these around.  They provide phenomenal, unobstructed viewing, but that is not what stood out to me the most.  No, with the Classics, it was the clarity.  I know, I said I wouldn’t beat the “clarity” dead horse, but these far surpassed even the stringent lens quality standards that I have become used to with Gargoyles.  In fact, I can honestly say that I saw more clearly with them on than I did with my naked, LASIK-enhanced eyes.  So yeah, while I may gravitate toward other Gargoyle models that better suit my preferences on the trail, I will be rocking the Classics everywhere else…and looking like a complete bad ass while doing it!

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!

Gear Review: RAD Roller

I would like to think that I am no different than most ultra runners; I too am always trying to find the best way to deal with those little aches and pains that come with pushing your body to the limit.  Yoga works great for stretching and the occasional massage is great if I can afford it, but most days I tend to rely on my foam roller and “The Stick” to get the job done.  The problem I have always had with these though is in my ability to really get to the most troublesome spots.  I seem to never feel totally rejuvenated after using them.  I have always thought of the foam roller as an idea that someone in a manufacturing plant came up with when they were trying to figure out what to do with scrap packaging foam.  Sure, it fulfills a basic purpose, but I tend to get more frustrated than not while I am rolling around on the floor looking for the best way to use it.  The Stick, for all of its usefulness, has it’s shortcomings too.  For one, I actually don’t like that it flexes, which prevents me from getting deep into the muscle.  Second, I am tired of getting my leg hair stuck in between the small rollers…ouch!  It just seems to me that we athletes have become complacent when it comes to self massage and myofascial release.  We love how it aides recovery and helps with the sore spots, but seem to have really low expectations in what they are able to do for us.

While I was cruising around Outdoor Retailer, I ran across the team at the RAD Roller (www.radroller.com) booth (probably my best discovery at OR this year).  It seems we no longer have to settle for rudimentary tools.  This is a company that definitely took an innovative, problem-solving approach by looking at the frustrations we athletes have with everything else on the market in order to develop products that focus on the best ways to deal with our various ailments.  After watching a demo, I left with their full kit so that I could see just how well it worked.

DISCLAIMER: RAD Roller provided me with their whole kit for the purposes of this review. As always, I will do my best to remain unbiased in order to provide YOU with an informative review and THEM with honest product feedback.

Overview

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The RAD Roller kit consists of a number of tools, including:

  • RAD Roller
  • RAD Rounds
  • RAD Block
  • RAD Rod
  • RAD Helix

Price: $140 for everything listed above as a kit

You can purchase these pieces separately, but get the most bang for the buck my buying the kit.  They also have different kit configurations if you don’t want to get everything.  Together, this replaces a number of tools in the typical athletes’ self-massage/myofascial release tool box.  For me, I was able to ditch my foam roller, Stick, and plantar fasciitis ball.  What’s more, I felt that I was not only replacing these previous tools, but upgrading in most cases.

Product Details

Each of the tools comes with extensive how-to documentation that covers using them to target different areas of the body and their website is also helpful, so I won’t get into too much of that here.  Instead, I will go over each tool and what I liked best about it.  I will then wrap up my review with some overall pro’s and con’s.

RAD Roller

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The Roller is their flagship product, which consists of two balls fused in the middle.  These are great for trigger point and working out tense spots in general.  They are also pretty flexible in that you can use them on just about any part of your body.  The best way to use these is to settle on a spot and roll back and forth no more than an inch in either direction. My favorite part of the body for the Roller was on the neck (using the block) and anywhere on the legs.

RAD Rounds

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The Rounds come in two different sizes and are great for trigger point therapy and reaching the small spaces.  I liked these mostly for my feet (like a golf ball to roll out the plantar fascia) and for knots in general.

RAD Block

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The Block, in my mind, is a key accessory.  Some muscles are hard to work unless you can position your body a certain way.  While it does nothing by itself, when paired with the Roller/Rounds, it allows you to lift off the floor slightly so that you can get the right angle and maximum leverage to work certain muscles.  I found this to work especially well on the arms, hip flexors, and quads.

RAD Rod

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As a Product Manager by profession, I always found The Stick to be a bit over-engineered. In the case of the Rod, simplicity is not only key, but twice as effective.  The core of the Rod is an unyielding steel bar, which allows you to get really deep into the muscle.  I LOVE this on my quads and upper shoulders.

RAD Helix

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The Helix is genius, especially on the back.  I have been looking for something like a foam roller for my back and this is it!  It perfectly hits the support muscles along my entire spine, which are always the tightest, without aggravating my spine thanks to the groove in the middle.  For me personally, this may have been worth the price alone.  Other areas where I found the Helix to be most valuable were the neck, IT band, and calves.  One tip that is useful: although the instructions seem to imply you can use the Helix on its own, I found it to be more stable with the RAD Rod in it.

Final Impressions

Overall, this kit is exactly as advertised. It gives you access to complete self-service massage and myofascial release that, in my opinion, meets and exceeds the needs of most people.  For me, I found that it provides enough added benefits over existing tools that I know longer feel like FREQUENT trips to a masseuse are mandatory (in fact, I cancelled a planned massage because I didn’t feel like it was worth spending the money).  That is not to say that it can replace an experts’ touch when it is REALLY needed, but I think it is a great kit for the daily maintenance stuff we should all do and definitely better than other self-service products on the market.

Pros

  • An all-in-one kit that prevents you from having to piece a kit together.
  • Travels well.  Everything is compact and fits in a suitcase with ease.
  • Kit is price comparable to anything else on the market when factoring in everything that it replaces.
  • Only time will tell, but everything seems very durable.  You probably still shouldn’t let your dog chew on them, but they are able to bear weight with no issues.

Cons

  • More expensive when priced individually, so it is in your best interest to commit up front.  If you are interested, I would definitely buy the kit together and save yourself the extra $20 or so.
  • This may be personal, but the one thing I still preferred my foam roller for was the glutes.  As a large muscle, the Roller/Rounds/Helix just didn’t seem to work the whole muscle as well as the foam roller.  I may discover that I am doing it wrong and change my mind, but this is where I am at right now.

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!