With the night’s starting to close in, many of us will be considering our lighting options for those night time cod sorties. VMO’s Andrew Evans recently got familiar with the all new Fenix HP30R and he hasn’t stopped talking about it!
With the days growing shorter and the prospect of more fishing trips which would involve some, if not all, of the session being in darkness it was time to review my lighting options. My previous headlamp had served me well for the last 5 years but the urge for a new ‘toy’ was proving too tempting to resist! The question was, what to buy?
My requirements in a headlamp vary from needing just enough light to tackle up in the pre-dawn gloom on a winters pike trip to being on the boat using a piercing beam to find the wooden posts marking the entrance of a poorly lit Exmoor harbour. With such a wide selection of lamps available it can be a confusing choice but the Fenix range have been proving very popular, earning a good reputation for performance and reliability, and it was the Fenix HP30R which caught my eye. Initial impressions were good with the packaging looking very smart with shaped hard foam both protecting the lamp and presenting it well. Once removed from the packaging the lamp itself has a quality feel which nicely balances function with pleasing aesthetics.
Looking good is however not enough on its own and it is performance by which a headlamp is judged. Power is provided by two rechargeable 18650 batteries which are held in a smart and compact separate power pack.
Twin batteries give the option of both increased power output and extended run time and removing the batteries from the headpiece gives you less weight on your head resulting in a more comfortable fit. The headpiece itself is tough but lightweight and houses a single large Cree XM-L2 spotlight LED and twin XP-G2 R5 floodlight LEDs. There are separate push button switches for both the flood and spot allowing you to adjust the power of each independently and even have both on together if desired. Each beam has 4 different power levels making for a very versatile range of light settings so you can get just the right light to suit your needs.
A tilt mechanism alters the angle to direct the light just where you need it. The adjustable headband allows you to get a comfortable fit and a top strap adds extra support to keep the lamp where you want it without becoming intrusive. A generous cable connects the headpiece to the battery pack which features a sturdy clip allowing you to either attach it to your belt or simply pop it in a pocket depending on your preference.
My first chance to put the HP30R to the test was an evening session on the beach and as daylight faded it only took a few seconds to get the headlamp on and adjusted to give a good fit. For fishing I have always preferred the wide pool of light offered by a LED flood beam and with 4 levels to play with I just had to try them all! The 5 lumen low setting is fine for close work, particularly if you want to avoid shining light on the water. It did offer just about enough illumination to see the rod tips but it was really a bit too dim as a general fishing light for anything other than a stealth session. The 130 lumen medium setting however gave a significant increase in light and is around the same power level as the highest setting on my old lamp! Medium was perfect for chilling on my box watching the rods and proved fine for baiting up, winding in and casting. Stepping up to the 400 lumen high gives even more light and if you are on uneven terrain allows you to easily see where you are heading over rocks and boulders. The 750 lumen Turbo level is probably more light than you need on a flood beam but it is an impressive ‘mines brighter than yours’ setting when showing off to your mates. The spot light setting gives a good clean beam with the 1000 lumen Turbo pushing out a seriously potent 200m+ it allows you to pick out objects in the water or find your path back off the beach. The 400 lumen high beam is also bright and more than adequate for picking out fish in the water or finding your way along cliff paths. The lower two spot settings are ok but given the performance of the flood I found both the lower spots superfluous. If however you prefer the spot style of beam then they could be worthwhile settings.
One feature I really liked was that the lamp remembers your previous setting so when switched back on it returns to the last power level you used. This is perfect when close range fishing and you just want the low setting to help rebait or unhook a fish as you avoid the risk of powerful flashes as you scroll through the various settings. It also allows you to swap between flood and spot on the power levels you have previously set.
Run times are often an issue with powerful rechargeable headlamps but the use of two 18650 batteries gives the HP30R more energy and even the Turbo levels have a claimed run time of 4 hours. In real terms unless you are a serial lighthouse impersonator the medium (23 hours) and high (6 hours) settings are more realistic and with a degree of care it should be easy to eke out a full night session. The battery pack features a handy charge indicator with the 4 blue leds allowing you to quickly check on the remaining power. If you are heavy on batteries then spares are readily available HERE allowing you to pack spares just in case. The battery pack also has one more trick and that is that by using the charging cable you can use it as a power pack to charge your phone or other micro USB powered device.
After having now used the HP30R over several sessions I would confidently say it is the best headlamp I have ever used. It has a beam and run time to blitz my previous beam champion, the ‘classic’ Speleo FX5. Unlike the FX5 the HP30R does not need a 2kg battery which is a huge plus and firmly kicks this dinosaur back into the dark ages! The HP30R also has the comfort of my previous favourite Princeton Tec Apex but with greater versatility and longer run time which to me firmly justifies my decision to upgrade.