Why does a toddler need her own headlamp, you ask? When she can barely walk, and will most certainly not be straying solo from the tent on dark trails, for at least the next two years, maybe longer. (Hopefully.)
Because: Otherwise she will ferret yours out from its secret hiding place like a police dog sniffing for drugs and she will flick it on and off, repeatedly, incessantly. On. Off. On. Off. On. On. On. Like moths to a flame, the pesky paws of little ones cannot resist small objects with switches, straps, and batteries to burn through.
Trust me on this.
Until recently, one of our kid’s all time favorite hobbies was streaking through the house carrying my trusty Black Diamond Moxie. In her hands, it was transformed into a maniacal strobe light, a disco ball gone bad, a white-hot beam shone in the eyes of anyone who crossed her path. Considering how many batteries she wasted, it’s a miracle we didn’t all go blind.
So I was glad to see that two headlamp bigwigs, Black Diamond and Princeton Tec, make jr. models with uncomplicated designs and kid-friendly features. It's all about sanity, people. Both the BD Wiz and the Princeton Tec Bot have a big on/off button, a smaller strap sized for little heads, and bright graphics. Both come spec’ed with 2 LED lights with three settings: bright, dimmer (huge!), and disco-strobe. It took me weeks to locate a screwdriver tiny enough to open the battery compartment on the 15-lumen Bot (2 AAAs are included, but you have to install them yourself; the 16-lumen Wiz uses the same, but comes ready to go out of the box). Annoying, until I realized the design is intended to keep kiddos from dismantling the batteries and putting them in their mouths. Good call.
Other perks: The Wiz’s breakaway elastic safety strap can be yanked off easily in the unlikely event Jr gets it hooked on a low hanging tree branch. And say your kid leaves the light on all night in her sleeping bag: The Wiz automatically shuts off after two hours, a savvy feature that accounts for its advertised 120-hour burn time. (The Bot is rated for nine.)
But for the kid, it’s all about the graphics: lime green octopuses and googly alien eyes rule the day, but the Bot gets props for not making its girl models too, well, girly. I liked it so much it came with me on a weeklong dory trip through the Grand Canyon, and it was plenty bright enough for reading and eating after dark—while the child stayed home. Tit for tat!
P Tec Bot
Of course, if you don’t want to fork over $15.95 for the PT Bot or $18.95 for the BD Wiz, you can go the cheaper route: While shopping at our local outdoor store, I bribed my daughter to behave with a Wildlight panda keychain, plucked, in desperation, from a bowl beside the cash register. When you open the panda’s toothy mouth, out shines a tiny but surprisingly bright LED. Complete with 2” carabiner for slinging to belt loops or backpacks. Not bad for 10 bucks. (Choking hazard—not recommended for kids under 6.)