Since purchasing my ZebraLight H51 back in February 2012, I have happily used this light on every hike I have been on, not to mention car camping trips, use around the house and in the car, and some reading at night. When I first decided to buy this light, I was taken back a bit due to the $64 price tag, however, now that I have put this light to a lot of good use for the past 4 years & 8 months, I can honestly say that the light was worth every penny!
I am not going to go over all the details/specs of this light, I did that to some degree in this post back in 2012, but I do want to highlight some of the features and aspects that I really enjoy about this light. First though, I would like to also say that I am not all that educated about flashlight circuitry, or in their power sources. I have made myself vaguely familiar with a couple of terms, but in the end, it’s the basics that I am concerned about. That is what I want to point out in this long-term review.
As for use, I cannot guess how many hours I have used it to date. As I mentioned, I have used it on all of my backpacking trips since I initially purchased the light, not to mention lots of other times that was not spent backpacking. All I can say is I have used it as what I would describe as a lot. Between my use with it over nearly 5 years, the questions & comments I still receive about it, and even discussions I see around the net on other various social networking sites, I figured it was time for me to present my longer term report on what I now consider one of my most (if not THE most) permanent pieces of my backpacking kit.
In a nut shell, this is the best way I can describe this light:
Since I bought this light, I have never desired any other light to replace it.
Some may understand the depth of the above statement. As somewhat of a gear nut, that is a bold statement. There have been quite a few other items that I have been through, which I really enjoyed using, but in the end, they got replaced. Since owning my ZebraLight H51, I haven’t even cut eyes at any other light… well, not with the feeling of “needing” to buy it, even just to try out or play with. The ZebraLight H51 has met all of my own personal needs and expectations of a torch to light up my life, whether in the backcountry, or in my own home.
So, a few reasons I like this light so much:
- Price. I figure I will start with price since it is where I started out with the light. As I mentioned, I paid $64 for this light when I purchased it. (It was not discounted to me. I paid full price as a regular customer… and at this point, can’t even remember from which online store I picked it up from.) When I purchased it I was originally looking at a Fenix LD01, which at the time was around $39 IIRC, and I even felt that was expensive… sot that can kind of shed some light on just how expensive I felt the ZebraLight was. Now though, as I said, I have no regrets with this light, and feel the light was well worth the light. As well, since then, I have come across several other headlights in the same price range, and some much higher. With that said, I now feel like the ~$65 – $70 price range for the ZebraLights are very fair, and actually a bargain. It’s a lot of light…
- Enlightenment. A flashlight is meant to light things up, and for me, this one does that, well. There are 6 different brightness settings (2 low, 2 medium & 2 high settings), as well as a strobe setting. In general, I typically use the lowest low setting (0.2 lumens) for reading at night, whether in my tent or at home. For shuffling around camp, especially with a fire, or in my tent, the high low setting (2.5 lumens) is what I generally use. If I am doing any hiking in the dark, I typically use one of the medium settings (8 or 30 lumens) and for such things as throwing a late bear line, or if I just really want to light up camp, I then use the high settings (100 or 200 lumens). This light has an appropriate setting for every situation I have thus far found myself in. Other lights I have used in the past either had a way to bright, or a way to dim setting, and that was it. These weren’t all that enjoyable to use. Of course there are lights which can adjust their brightness levels by holding down a button, but never one that I used.
- Function. This light houses a single button to cycle though the settings. Admittedly, when I first got the light, it took a few minutes to get the hang of it, but since then I have had no issues remembering how to work it. A quick click automatically turns the light on to its highest setting while a solid press will turn the light on to its lowest setting. To cycle between low, medium & high, I simply hold the button in and release it when the particular cycle that I need comes about. Once on the setting of my choice I can then choose between it’s low or high setting by double clicking the button. (As a side note, which ever setting I choose (low or high) while on low, medium or high will be remembered the next time I cycle through. For example, if I choose the 0.2 lumen setting on low, whenever I turn the light back on, or simply cycle through, it will still be in the 0.2 lumen setting.) As for the button, the ZebraLight site stated a 200,000 cycle operating life. I am sure I am nowhere near that, but I feel quite confident that I have clicked that little button a number of thousands of times and it is still solid. The “click” is still very evident when pressed, by sound and by feel.
- Weight. As a “UL” backpacker, it’s easy for me to want to say that this reason should be higher up on the list, however, IME, I found that with lights, weight is not all there is to consider (I’m talking about you e+Lite). One night while unexpectedly trying to hike out on a dark night I found that if the light won’t perform like I need it too, then it is just dead weight, even if it is only an oz! So, the ZebraLight now checks off the right boxes for lighting my way, so now I can think about weight… And surprisingly, the set-up I have with my ZebraLight comes in at 1.99 oz (ok, lets just say 2 oz)! In my honest opinion, this is the best bang for me. With what this light offers, 2 oz is more than acceptable…
- Durability. I am not generally hard on my lights so this is not really super important, but I wanted to include my thoughts on it. This light has been cut from an aluminum bar stock, which means it is one solid piece, and it has been anodized to increase its overall strength and its resistance to wear. As I mentioned, this is really overkill on my end, but it is comforting to know that it is one tough light and I just don’t need to really worry about it. And when compared to my previous lights, generally made of plastic, there is just no comparison.
- Batteries. This is one of my favorite features of this light. First off, it uses a AA battery, whether it be alkaline, lithium or rechargeable. (My choice is lithium due to the fact that they generally last longer and perform better in cold weather than the other options, not to mention are a bit lighter too.) I prefer to use AA batteries over other options because AA batteries are very easy to come across, whether at random gas stations, or in another electronic device I may be carrying, or another hiker may even have one. What is even better is that it only requires 1 battery! The appeal to this is that it is super easy to replace when needed, even in the dark (which I have never had to do, however, I have found myself struggling to change batteries in another headlamp with was a PITA to open, then figure out correct polarity of not 1, but 3 batteries!)
- Battery life. I could have included this with the previous reason, but wanted to set it apart. Battery life is dependent on battery, conditions the light is used in, and amount of time used in each setting. Due to this, it is a bit hard to really nail down that the light will last “x” amount of hours with “x” battery when it comes to real world use… there’s just too many variables to factor in. Saying that, I have used this headlamp in temperatures ranging from 6F to nearly 100F, with the most common temps probably being anywhere from 40 – 80 F. As I mentioned above, I do choose to use a Lithium battery because of the higher energy capacity, better performance in extreme weather conditions, and of course light weight. A majority of my use with this lamp is on the low & medium settings, and while I don’t just leave the light on for no reason, I do not try to spare battery life by only using the light when it is necessary. With my typical use I have never had to change the battery out while in the field, with my longest trip being 7 days. For the most part, I check the light before heading out the door and as long as the high still comes on, then I don’t worry about changing the battery then either. If the high setting does not come on, I do go ahead and change the battery out before heading out. This doesn’t happen often though…
- Waterproof. The ZebraLight H51 has a waterproof rating of IPX8, or good down to a depth of 2 meters (~6.5 feet) for up to 30 minutes. I will never take this light diving, however, it is good to know that I don’t have to worry about the light getting rained on when I wear it, or if I ever happened to take a dunk in a stream, or in a lake while wearing the headlamp, it will be fine.
So, those are the reasons that I love this headlamp so much, and that it is such a permanent part of my backpacking kit. When I bought it, the price was a bit hard to swallow, but once it was in my hands, I felt better about it. Now, almost 5 years out, I am more than confident that I put my money in a good place. Honestly, for me, this light just works. Some have asked me if it’s worth the money, and I still whole-heartedly say “YES!”
Does that mean it’s perfect, not exactly. I hate to leave this review with nary a bad word to say about the light. After all, nothing is perfect, and there is one little nit pick I have with this light… Although, it is more a reflection of my selection than the light itself. This version features a cool white light. If I could go back and do it again, I would still choose this exact light, but I would have opted for the version which features a neutral colored light. When turned on high, the cool white light makes things look like they are glowing just a bit, a bit unnatural looking. It’s not necessarily a “bad” thing, and it is what it is described to be, so it’s not a defect, it’s just my preference. I would prefer that the lighting presented more of a natural look than a bit of a super bright, glowing look. Again though, this does not take away from the light…
So there ya have it. This is the longest term review I have ever written, and there is good reason. This light is so awesome, which is why it has actually stuck with me for so long. There are some other items I would like to eventually write up a bit of a longer term look at, but none that I have had and used for quite so long as this light.
So, if you are looking for a good light, I highly suggest checking out one of the offerings from ZebraLight. They do not offer the H51 any longer, the H52 took it place a couple of years back I believe, and that is the one I would suggest looking at. However, there are other options too, which use different battery types (CR2032, 18650, etc…) if you prefer something a bit different.
Disclaimer: I paid for this light with my own money. I have no affiliations with ZebraLight or any other company that represents this light. This review is a reflection of my own thoughts, which I formed myself after personally using the light.