Rechargeable headlamps are as convenient as plugging in your cell phone. If a lot of your runs happen in the dark, that alone may make you consider these two popular headlamps.
Black Diamond Sprinter (left) and Petzl TIKKA XP² Core
The Sprinter is purpose-built as a running headlamp. As such, it has relatively few light settings or other bells and whistles typical of multipurpose headlamps.
The battery unit clips into a USB-compatible base for recharging. Black Diamond claims a burn life of six hours if used at maximum brightness on a full charge. I’ve left mine on overnight and found it still glowing, but at a diminished level. So while BD says the Sprinter’s power is regulated, it seems like you’ll perceive a significant drop-off in brightness well before it goes dark. I took note while pacing my friend Justin at Zion 100 that he was ready to swap out his Sprinter after about four hours.
The Sprinter employs a single LED which emits a white, oval beam. This is different from the ordinary flood-vs-spot option of many headlamps and is one of my favorite things about the lamp. Whereas the flood beam of most lamps can be a bit dim for running and spot beams tend to compromise peripheral vision, the beam of the Sprinter provides both adequate brightness and relatively good peripheral vision. The Sprinter’s white LED does have strobe and dimmer capabilities, but there is no red (night vision) setting.
TIKKA XP² Core Overview
Whereas the Sprinter’s ideal application is quite narrowly limited to running, the XP² Core is a multipurpose headlamp that does a lot of things well. It has the full complement of beams and settings: three white light modes and two red, with flood and spot beam options. This makes it as useful around a campsite as it does on a run.
The Core rechargeable power unit is housed within the lamp case where the batteries of most compact headlamps are located. In fact, the Core unit can be swapped out in favor of three AAA batteries. Like the Sprinter, the Core unit pairs with a USB-compatible cord for recharging.
Maybe the best feature of the XP² Core is what else can be done with its recharging cord. Namely, if you plug your XP² Core into your computer, you can use Petzl’s OS software to manage the light settings of the unit in order to maximize its brightness over the planned duration of your outing. In other words, you can manipulate the power usage of the XP² Core so that the lamp stays at a prescribed level of brightness for a prescribed length of time. The software is simple to use and, based on my unscientific experimentation, it works. XP² Core also has a safety whistle. I told you it was a multipurpose lamp.
The Sprinter’s rear-facing blinker.
Lamp unit up front, power unit in the back.
The Core power unit with charger port.
Battery life indicator, and white and red LEDs.
I use both headlamps. I like both headlamps. I love the convenience of their rechargeable battery units, both lamps are sufficiently bright for the vast majority of the outings I undertake, and they are lightweight and comfortable to wear.
Like most runners, very rarely do I run in the dark for more than an hour or two. Early starts, late endings, short days, etc. For those outings, I prefer the Sprinter. I like its beam, and I find its fore-aft balance helps it ride just a bit more comfortably than the XP² Core, despite its heavier weight. Also, a fair amount of my winter miles tend to be on dark roads, so I appreciate the additional safety provided by the red blinker of the Sprinter for those outings. Certainly, this is hair-splitting and should imply nothing negative about the day-to-day appeal of the XP² Core.
When the XP² Core really excels is on those occasions when you know you’re going to be out in the dark for a longer length of time and you want to be confident that your headlamp will get the job done for the duration. In that instance, the OS feature of the XP² Core is pretty great. So, for example, on a recent overnight double crossing of the Grand Canyon, the XP² Core was my headlamp of choice and it performed beautifully.
If you don’t mind owning several headlamps or don’t run in the dark for more than 3-4 hours at a time, the Sprinter is a very compelling option. Given my personal mix, I use my Sprinter probably 90% of the time. But if you are only going to own one headlamp and you are likely to use it hard and in a variety of applications, the XP² Core may be the better option.
Tale of the Tape
Black Diamond Sprinter
Light settings: 1 white (plus rear-facing red blinking light)
Beam settings: oval
Weight: 102 grams
Maximum light: 75 lumens
Maximum distance: 45 meters
Rechargeable battery unit: lithium ion polymer
Recharge time: 5 hours
Other battery compatibility: none
Water tightness: IP X7 (limited immersion)
Petzl XP² Core
Light settings: 3 white, 2 red
Beam settings: focused long distance (spot), wide angle (flood)
Weight: 82 grams
Maximum light: 60 lumens
Maximum distance: 58 meters
Rechargeable battery unit: lithium ion polymer
Recharge time: 3 hours
Other battery compatibility: alkaline, lithium, rechargeable Ni-MH,
Water tightness: IP X4 (water resistant)