By Jason Boyle
Princeton Tec was founded in 1975 and started making dive gear and broadened their reach from there. They have a nice youtube video on their website that outlines their history. The 2 minutes it takes to watch the video is worth it. Their products are made in the USA.
The Axis headlamp comes in a standard model that runs on AAA batteries and a rechargeable model. This review will focus on the standard model. The Axis has a low profile but throws a significant amount of light with a max setting of 250 lumens. What sets the Axis apart from other low profile headlamps is the ability to choose between three modes – red, spot, and flood, AND the ability to dim the light in each of the settings with knob on the side of the headlamp. The headlamp also has the ability to use both the spot and flood modes together by using the dimmer knob to dial up both of them while in the flood mode. The headlamp features Princeton Tec’s Max Bright LED technology that “shines a smooth white light that is useful for a wide range of tasks.” Princeton Tec does not sell the headlamp on their website, but a quick search shows numerous online stores selling the lamp for approximately $40 dollars.
One of the things I appreciate from Princeton Tec is that they provide a burn time graphic with estimated burn times in all of the headlamp’s modes. I won’t point them all out, but I am surprised that the highest mode – flood and spot on high has a burn time of 50 hours. I think this is pretty awesome. The flood setting on low has an approximate burn time of 102 hours. I am a bit surprised that the flood setting on high only has a burn time of 34 hours. Regardless, I will keep an eye on this area to see if I get similar results.
My first experience with the headlamp was an early morning run on the Levee in New Orleans. Like any good gear tester, I opened the package without reading the directions and inserted the included batteries and took off for a four mile run. The interface is pretty simple – there is one button on the side that switches between the modes – first click red, second click spot, hold the button for flood. I also like that the Axis housing allows the body to rotate up and down, which means I never have to worry about putting on the headlamp upside down because the bezel goes both directions. The Levee where I was running is lit every so often by lights, so the flood was the best mode for me. It allowed bikers and other runners to see me and provided enough light to see where I was going.
Now that fall has arrived, I expect that the Axis will get to see plenty of use running in the dark, camping and general household chores.
I look for several characteristics when reviewing a headlamp. The first is durability. Does the headlamp hold up to everyday abuse? The second is usability. Do the various lighting modes offer enough light for outdoor activities? For example, does the highest setting work for running or hiking technical terrain in the dark? How easy is the headlamp to adjust? The third characteristic is the headlamp’s burn time. Princeton Tec actually supplies burn times for each of the modes which is great. I am interested to see if my use matches theirs.
Final Update – Princeton Tec Axis Headlamp February 14, 2018
I have over 50 miles of running and hiking with the headlamp and over 20 days of use with the headlamp. It was my primary source of light for both nights of my Great Mississippi River Levee run. I also used it for night training runs and night hikes with my dog, backpacking trips in the Black Creek Wilderness and on camping trips in the Kisatchie and Homochitto National Forests in Mississippi. Temperatures ranged in the low 30s on the first night of the Levee run to the low 70s camping in the Homochitto National Forest. I also used the headlamp in light rain.
As I stated in my initial review, I evaluate headlamps on three criteria – durability, usability and burn time.
For durability, I wanted to know how well the headlamp withstood everyday usage.
I found the Princeton Tec Axis headlamp to be extremely durable. I used it running in the rain and in cold temperatures and neither had any effect on the headlamp. I did not do anything special to carry it, I tossed it in the top lid of my backpack like I do with all of my ten essentials and the case and headband still look new. I also kept it in my everyday backpack because I never know when a headlamp will come in handy. The durability of the Princeton Tec Axis is superb.
The second criteria I evaluate a headlamp on is how useful is it?
I used the Princeton Tec Axis headlamp for the full gamut of uses – night time trail running, night time road running, night time hiking and general use while camping prepping food, reading etc. The headlamp throws an amazing amount of light especially while in the dual beam mode. I had no problem using the headlamp to light up technical trails and felt comfortable using the headlamp for trail running. The flood mode was great for camp chores and reading while sitting around the campfire. I also found the flood mode provided enough light for urban night running. It gave me enough light to see my surroundings and for cars, bicyclists and other runners to see me.
My final criteria I evaluate a headlamp on is how long is the burn time?
I have a mixed opinion on the burn time of the Princeton Tec Axis headlamp. During my Mississippi River Levee run, I ran the entire first night for about 12 hours using the dual beam mode and the headlamp only stayed bright for about 7 of the 12 hours. I used new batteries and it was very cold around 30 most of the night so I think that might have attributed some to burning through the batteries so quickly – however 8 hours is not the 50 hours that Princeton Tec advertised. The second night I changed batteries and ran with the light on the flood mode and had no issues as I ran for around 6 hours. It was about ten degrees warmer that night.
I have had better luck with the burn time of the headlamp in warmer weather. I have used the same pair of batteries in the headlamp for an overnight backpacking trip and on two 2 night camping trips, and the headlamp is still bright. I did not use the brightest modes, mostly the flood. I would turn up the brightness on the flood mode for doing camp chores or cooking, and then dim the light for reading or just hanging out. I would estimate around 24 hours of burn time on the headlamp on these trips, and I’m confident that the batteries still have some juice left in them.
I think that the burn time is always going to different than estimated times because of the variable conditions that a headlamp is used in. I know that cold shortens the life of batteries. so I am going to say that played a major role in my lack of burn time.
Overall, I am very pleased with the Princeton Tec Axis Headlamp. I think the ability to dim or brighten the headlamp with the turn of the knob on the side is novel. The light is a good all-around light for all types of adventure activities.
Thank you to 4alloutdoors.org and Princeton Tec for providing the headlamp for this review.