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.

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!

Advertisements

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.

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 2.55.41 PM.png

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!