Headlamps on the Homestead: Princeton Tec

By , April 26, 2017

As I explained in Headlamps on the Homestead, we gave up on our favorite headlamps when a design change degraded their quality. We turned back to Princeton Tec. This line offers a dizzying variety of headlamps for many different uses. We focus on those that meet our basic criteria: waterproof or at least water resistant, economical battery use, and comfortable.

Our very first headlamps were a basic Princeton Tec design. I no longer remember the name, nor do I believe it’s still in production.

Princeton Tec Fuel and Byte headlamps

Mark’s Princeton Tec headlamps: Fuel (l) and Byte (r). Colors vary, but you see a preference….(Photo: Mark A. Zeiger.)

We particularly like three designs currently. I have long preferred the Remix, even as I’ve envied Michelle’s Fuel, which seems to have a much brighter light, especially useful on the trail at night. The Remix features a low battery warning; when battery strength wanes, the light blinks a few times when first turned on. If one ignores the flashing, the light will run a good long time before the battery wears out completely. I’ve never lost battery power on the trail with the Remix. To me, that’s very important!

Lately, I’ve discovered the Byte, which I favor for four reasons: it’s smaller and lighter, it only uses two batteries, it has a red lamp, and I like its switch cycle.

Red lamps allow illumination without disrupting night vision. I use red when I get up in the night. I don’t disturb Michelle as much returning to bed, and I find it easier to go back to sleep afterward.

The Byte cycles red, then low intensity white, then high intensity white. Many lights start at high intensity, and have to be switched to low intensity. We don’t need high often, and it uses far more battery power than low. A light that starts on low requires less fiddling, which we appreciate during heavy use.

Princeton Tech guarantees their products, which goes a long way toward earning our loyalty. We use healamps often and hard; they get bashed against door sills, dropped, lost and stepped on. If we send a broken lamp to the company, they will repair or replace it. We’ve only gotten replacements, often a newer and/or higher powered version of the light.

In winter, when I wear my headlamp over a knit cap, I often pull off the cap unthinkingly, whipping my headlamp onto the floor. I once broke my light doing this. I called the company to find out where I could get that model, which had become rare in town, and they told me to send it in. “But, I broke this myself, it didn’t fail because of workmanship,” I said. They said that didn’t matter; I sent it in, they replaced it. That’s Customer Service!

Sadly, the quality of construction on their lights has declined somewhat. My last few Remixes broke at the battery clasp. I haven’t tried to return these, because they’re replacement lights in every case. Perhaps I should? It strikes me as fruitless to exchange lights if the replacements continue to be fragile. Michelle’s Fuels develop cracks in the battery housing; she’s noticed it in brand new lights that have never struck a hard object. Also, while the housing is supposed to be waterproof, Fuels have a seam with a gap; a light shined into the battery compartment shows through it! We’ve sealed them with silicone sealant, but we shouldn’t have to do that. We also wonder if modification may invalidate the warranty.

As for the Byte, it hasn’t let me down so far, except for one troubling factor: battery selection. I’ll cover that in the next post.

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