Gear Guy

Q:

Are LED headlps powerful enough for night climbing?

I starting to gear-up in preparation for climbs of Mount Baker and Mount Rainier this summer. I have an older Princeton Tec headlp that I use for backpacking, but can you recommend a good replacement? Are any of the newer LED headlps good enough to use when climbing? Kleet Renton, Washington

A:Two or three years ago, LED lights were pretty much used as "task lights," illuminating small jobs such as reading or tying bootlaces. But now they're serious candidates as all-around lights. The three LED bulbs on the Petzl Tikka ($29; www.petzl.com), for instance, provide more than enough light for basic route finding or night hiking.

Still, they don't quite match the light output of tried-and-true incandescent bulbs. In particular, they don't "throw" light that well over a distance. So, if for any reason you really needed to spotlight something 30 feet away, the typical LED light is going to leave you in theBdark. So while I think an LED headlamp would be adequate for Rainier or Baker, where the summit climbs start in the pre-dawn hours (often at midnight on Rainier), you might be happier with something more traditional. Your trusty old Princeton Tec would likely work just fine. Petzl's Zoom Zora ($30) is another compact all-around headlamp, coming with an adjustable zoom lens for any close-up work. Or, get one of the hybrid models that use LEDs for low-light tasks, then add an incandescent bulb for when you need more light. Black Diamond's Supernova ($65; www.bdel.com) is one such model.

Have fun on those climbs. Baker in particular is a great climb, more remote and much less crowded than Rainier. Keep an eye peeled to the north for an aurora display.

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