I took the Petzl Zipka 2 headlamp ($40) on a recent camping trip to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It's one of the most pared-down headlamps on the market these days. Petzl replaced the conventional elastic-band head strap with a thin retractable cord. At first glance the cord seemed more appropriate for flossing than keeping the lamp in place. But as I got the campsite ready, I learned that the barely-there cord didn't diminish comfort or functionality.
This lightweight, waterproof headlamp is not much larger than the three AAA batteries it carries inside, yet, when on high, it beams almost 100 feet from four LED lights. It has two modes besides steady: economy (a little dimmer for saving batteries) and flashing (for signaling). The economy mode, while nice for reading, is actually too bright if your tent-mate is trying to sleep.
That thin cord is snug, and the lamp is backed by a piece of rubber that kept it stable on the front of my head. A plastic disc stretches back behind the head, keeping everything in place. My only objection is that, when you take the lamp off of your head, the cord spools quickly and wants to take your hair with it. But minus the over-eager strap, the Zipka 2 is compact and stashes easily in your pocket.
Kurt Mullen is a freelance writer with recent contributions to Canoe & Kayak, Paddler, Paddlinglife.net and Flower magazine. He lives in a coastal town north of Boston, which is a good perch for adventuring in northern New England.
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