Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp Review

Post by blogger | January 19, 2016      

Once darkness falls, it’s impossible to do nearly anything without some sort of artificial light. Thus, your headlamp is perhaps one of the most important pieces of safety gear you can have in the mountains. There’s lots of cheap headlamps out there, and I’ve used quite a few of them. They all seem to fail much faster than name brand lights. Enter Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp.

The business end of the redesigned Cosmo. Main spotlight LED is on the right. The dimmer, wide led is the smaller of the ones on the left. On bottom left is the red LED.

The business end of the Cosmo. Main spotlight LED is on the right. The dimmer, wide led is the smaller of the ones on the left. On bottom left is the red LED.

One constant in headlamps is that they seem to be getting brighter and smaller. Progress marches on. Cosmo is no exception. The unit is quite small, and it’s squeezed into a nice rectangular case which makes for compact packing. It utilizes one large, bright “spot” lamp, which can be dimmed. There’s a smaller bulb off to the side that throws out a lower power, more diffused beam (perfect for reading). In addition there’s a small red bulb. The lamp takes 3 AAA batteries, and is operated by a single button on top. The headlamp weighs in at 51 grams (1.8 oz) without the 3 batteries. With 3 alkaline batteries (lithiums are lighter), it weighs 86 grams.

The Cosmo isn’t Black Diamond’s most expensive or brightest headlamp. However, at 160 lumens it’s provides an adequate beam while while still being small, fairly inexpensive, and practical. MSRP $30.

One major feature of the Cosmo is the simple, physical button located on the top of the case. This shouldn’t even be a feature, it should simply be the way it is. Unfortunately in the past few years almost every major headlamp company has insisted on equipping their high-end head lamps with “touch” capacitive controls, rather than a traditional button.

At first I thought the touch controls might be a brief experiment, but it’s continued and expanded to many new models. Why this seems like good idea is beyond me (anyone who has any ideas, please comment). Even $400+ smartphone screens only work when dry, and only with bare skin. It’s incredible that anyone can think that a $50 headlamp could do any better. Even in the warm, dry, controlled environment of a gear shop these things often take a few tries by the clerk to get them to turn on. During a relatively mellow, dry sport like jogging, a bit of sweat on the hands or thin gloves renders the controls useless.

I’ve never had the displeasure of using touch control headlamps in the mountains, but it doesn’t sound like it would be a great time. “Innovation” for innovations sake, isn’t really innovative. Solution without a problem, anyone?

I digress. Soapbox over. The main point here is that the Cosmo uses a nice, big, solid button. Bravo! The lamp takes one click to turn on, and then the next click to turn on the small diffused light. Simple. Further clicks simply cycle through the two. By pressing and holding, the lights can be dimmed or brightened.

The headlamp also features a lock mode that can be easily turned on by pressing and holding the button when the lamp is off, whereby the red light blinks, and the headlamp is locked. Reverse the procedure to unlock the lamp. The controls are simple, intuitive, and work well.

Note: I have found the lamp to easily turn on in a pack or pocket if it isn’t locked. When locked I’ve seen no issues.

Battery door is sturdy.

Battery door is sturdy.

The Cosmo is nice and compact.

The compact Cosmo.

Headlamps get beat up. I keep mine in my pack for most activities, so it gets smashed and banged quite a bit. The Cosmo has held up well. The battery door functions with a burly hinge. A nice feature, since I’ve found that that’s one of the first things to break on many headlamps. I haven’t gotten involved in any all-night epics since I got the lamp, so haven’t used it for any prolonged periods. That said, the battery life has been excellent. One minor gripe is the Cosmo doesn’t have a rechargeable battery option.

I find the “spot” type lamps most useful for skiing, as they are able to shine the furthest and brightest. The Cosmo spot is bright and sufficient for skiing. For reading, the smaller diffused bulb shines an even, low power light across the page.

The Cosmo is a very functional lamp. It’s the one I have been keeping in my pack for emergencies or late days. It’s small and light enough to be forgotten about, but bright enough to be able to ski and navigate by. The price is good as well.

Black Diamond headlamps available here.


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27 Responses to “Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp Review”

  1. Charlie Hagedorn January 19th, 2016 10:30 am

    All hail the return of the button.

    Haven’t met a headlamp I like more than the ~2008-9 BD Spot. Friends with later models (with tap/capacitive controls) have had lots of trouble with them turning on in packs and depleting the battery. Small, light, works.

  2. Travis January 19th, 2016 10:58 am

    I have been a fan of BDs storm headlamp for quite awhile. I believe they are releasing an updated version this summer/fall that has over 250 lumens and is functionally waterproof–important here in the PNW.

  3. Jim Milstein January 19th, 2016 1:07 pm

    Just happened to replace a lost headlamp recently with a Fenix HL10. Super small, super simple, foolproof (?). To say something is foolproof is asking a fool to prove you wrong. Usually you are.

    The HL10 has one flood LED with three levels, 70 Lum, 27 Lum, 3 Lum. With a single NiMH AAA it holds brightness for 50, 165, and 1620 minutes, respectively. Don’t know whether Li prime cells are okay or not. Alkaline cells give shorter burn times.

    The cone of light is amazingly uniform and is a cool but not cold white. With an extra AAA cell it weighs 71 g. Turning on or off requires a prolonged and firm button push. Changing brightness, a short push. It remembers the last brightness. The lamp is a tiny machined aluminum flashlight that shines transversely, and it fits into a clip on the headlamp headband. A fine design, well-executed.

    It may not be bright enough for some purposes, like starting forest fires or broiling small animals. We’ll see.

  4. Matt January 19th, 2016 2:28 pm

    I gave up on buying BD/Petzl headlamps… my first LED headlamp, the Tikka, still going strong, and I waited and hoped for newer versions to have battery life that lasted as long. Nope, battery life does not impress me on most new headlamps. They are brighter, it seems lumens are the megapixels of the headlamp world.

    I realized 98% of my trips are day trips or single or even double overnight. Rarely am I out for more than 2 nights. So the concern about ‘finding easy batteries’ was put to rest. It is a much higher initial investment (light, charger, batteries) but I am happy to no end with the Zebra H600w Mk II I got. Used it for a 7 night trip in the Winds this summer and when I got home battery level on the charger said half remained. It does everything I need and is bomber!

    4.4 oz (124.6 gram) with ZL634 battery and headband

    High: H1 1020 Lm (PID, approx 2 hr) or H2 620 Lm (PID, approx 2.5 hrs) / 330 Lm (3.9 hrs) / 150 Lm (11 hrs)

    Medium: M1 65 Lm (30 hrs) or M2 30 Lm (66 hrs) / 11 Lm (172 hrs)

    Low: L1 3.5 Lm (16 days) or L2 0.4 Lm (2.5 months) / 0.06 Lm (4.6 months) / 0.01 Lm (5.5 months

  5. Joe John January 19th, 2016 5:28 pm

    I’ll take one!

  6. XXX_rr January 19th, 2016 5:53 pm

    Ime the weak part of those spots is the where the lamp hinges to the head band so I try to avoid that design.

  7. Lisa Dawson January 19th, 2016 6:38 pm

    You’re right, BD has a new Storm model with 250 lumens. The Storm features touch controls.

  8. See January 19th, 2016 7:04 pm

    For alpine starts and such, I like to try and keep my eyes at least a bit adapted to the dark by using the red light or a dim white light. I feel like it gives me a wider field of view than a bright light which tends to restrict my visual world to a glaring patch of snow a few feet in front of me. Unfortunately, it all goes out the window when one of my buddies with their headlamp cranked wants to say something to me. I can see how a bright light would be good for night skiing, but the best is no headlamp and a full moon.

  9. Jim Milstein January 19th, 2016 8:24 pm

    I agree, See. That’s why I prefer using the dimmest and widest beam appropriate to the conditions. Once I was benighted by accident and skied out by the light of Venus and the stars (yes, really). I had a small penlight, but it destroyed my night vision, and so was left off.

    I think the Fenix HL10 may be a good match for my low light style. XXX_rr, no hinge on the HL10: the lamp rotates on its axis.

  10. Trent January 19th, 2016 8:25 pm

    I’m interested in the best judged by one function: the ability to illuminate on the descent. Any favorites?

  11. Cam January 19th, 2016 10:30 pm

    I’ve always thought the red light a gimmick. On ski expeditions my primary headtorch needs are for cooking and reading, with the seldom requisite for spot navigation. Tiny and light is awesome, but more importantly is battery life (eliminating the need of carrying spare batteries).

  12. Louie III January 20th, 2016 1:20 am

    I agree, I don’t use the red light much, however it doesn’t seem to ad much weight or cost.

    The battery life on the Cosmo seems pretty good. I’ve been using it with Alkaline batteries, and have only had to replace them a few times over the past few months of use. The easiest and best way of getting long life is to use lithium batteries.

  13. dan January 20th, 2016 6:31 am

    I suppose the red one is useful when moving about at night in a hut dorm when you don’t want to disturb the others.

  14. Andrew January 20th, 2016 6:54 am

    Nice for reading a map, but 70 lumens is not enough to sledge by, let alone ski by in my opinion, particularly with older eyes.

    I currently use a Knog Blinder 400 bike lamp with a head torch mount. That does 400 lumens in a waterproof self-contained package, with between 8 and 1 hour battery life depending on brightness chosen.

    Or for downhill racing at night you need night MTB bike lights. Best value are the Magicshine range, with 1000+ lumens. On a road bike where the surroundings are matt black it provides enough light for 40mph descents, so on snow it might be a bit much ;-). Only downside is that the build quality of the cables and waterproofing is mediocre. Mine died after a year, which is not what you want when you need it.

  15. Jim Milstein January 20th, 2016 7:07 am

    The red light is pointless. Formerly, people thought it preserved night vision. A very dim white light is much better. If you must have a single color, green is better because it’s in the center of the visual spectrum. Eyes are more sensitive to green, so need less of it.

    For me headlamps are largely for alpine starts and emergencies; therefore, I’m happy with low power lamps. I want low power consumption, light weight, compactness, and just enough light to get by.

  16. chrisL January 20th, 2016 7:24 am

    If you’ve ever awoke in a hut to a blinding headlamp shining in your eye when someone gets up to pee you will realize that in the right situation red lights are a godsend. Not blinding others is really all they’re good for – but that’s an important consideration 🙂

  17. Wookie1974 January 20th, 2016 7:48 am

    The red light is great for huts, and is also a good choice for the ascent, in places where others are likely to being skiing down from above, and may not see you.
    For some North Americans, probably hard to imagine, but in Europe at popular locations for hiking, uphilling, whatever – this is a legitamate concern.

    I barely use the light to ski. I can ski well without any light most of the time if my eyes are adjusted and I prefer it because I have a normal field of vision. I use mostly the red light – sometimes flashing to increase battery life – to make myself visible.

  18. Lou Dawson 2 January 20th, 2016 8:02 am

    I’d agree, keep the red light! One that optionally flashes is extremely useful. Another example is if you’re kind of lost in a city at night and have to walk in an area with lots of vehicle traffic, turn on the red flasher and hold it in a way the cars can see you, could save your life. Ditto on use for hut lager rooms instead of a blinding white light that pisses everyone off. But a dim white light works for that as well. If it gets dim enough. Lou

  19. Travis January 20th, 2016 11:44 am

    I agree, the red light is incredibly helpful, especially if you want to conserve battery but still need a light to look around for things. I have started bringing a Kindle around with me, while backpacking mainly, and that allows me to read with out a headlamp, saving me some battery juice. I also throw all my electronics into the sleeping bag with me to keep batteries from draining faster than necessary–kindle, mobile, and headlamp.

  20. See January 20th, 2016 3:13 pm

    I take Jim’s word for it that the red light doesn’t preserve night vision better than dim white light, but it sure feels easier on my eyes when they’re adapted to the dark. That alone makes it useful to me.

  21. Mitch Dreyer January 20th, 2016 4:21 pm

    I have always felt that red light is way easier on my eyes at night than anything else, I have done lots of fly fishing at night and I will have conversations with buddies blasting their red lights straight into my eyes and when I turn around my night vision seems to be fine, i’m not a scientist though…

    I also happen to have been given this headlamp as a Christmas present and I love it!

  22. Jim Milstein January 20th, 2016 4:26 pm

    Leaving aside the red light issue, headlampers here are divided into two groups, the brights and the dims. I’m a dim. The brights yearn for something like daylight; the dims want just enough illumination to see without wrecking their night vision.

    Andrew is the brightest of the brights, and I have a suggestion for him. Headlamps put the light source very close to the eyes, which means you can’t see the shadows they produce. The light is flat from the wearer’s point of view. Try fistlamps in addition to or instead of a headlamp. A fistlamp is worn much the same way you wear brass knuckles.

    Andrew may be the only backcountry skier who descends in the dark at forty miles an hour, but we want him to be safe. Andrew, are you still alive?

  23. JB January 21st, 2016 12:08 am

    I’ve got one of the new Cosmo lamps. I’m disappointed. All the good things mentioned are true, but the latch that holds the unit closed is pathetically weak. Simply angling the lamp downwards is enough to overcome the latch resistance and pull the body of the lamp away from the backing plate (e.g. it opens the darn thing up). It’s probably a manufacturing error. I’ll be contacting BD for warranty replacement.

    I also have a couple of the new Storm lamps. Better, but not great. Latch is secure, although is still feels very flimsy compared to the prior generation Storm with the thumb-screw latch and the rubber O-ring seal. Not crazy about the plastic buckles on the headband either. They don’t have a particularly positive hold on the elastic headband and so they slowly creep open and loosen up.

    I’m a long time user and fan of BD headlamps but this latest generation (2015-2016 season) kind of missed the mark.

  24. Travis January 21st, 2016 12:16 am

    Does anyone have experience with the petzl reactive lighting headlamps? They are tempting. Im curious how the software controls the output of light at a constant over time, and if that is effective.

  25. stefan requat January 21st, 2016 3:31 am

    I use my Petzl Nao (580 Lumens max) since 2 Years daily for running with my Dog and regular for Skitouring in the Night

    In Comparison to myBig Petztl Ultimate it is only a little bit weaker, the weight is nearly the half.

    The Light is strong enoug for fast skiing and the rechargeable Batterie lasts easy – even for a long Tour

    The reactive Light is pefect for the eyes when you are slow moving, when you tilt the Head up you can see far with full light – it reacts perfect.

    For going Downhill you can override the reactive Mode and get a very strong beam – lasting for about 40 Minutes

    I have an extra spare Batterie -which in the last tow years i never needed to use

    A very good feature is the posibility to program the lightdistribution in eigther mode(far or near) to your own needs – a perfect Head Lamp!!

    I have a much stronger Lamp for Bycicling – strong as nearly like a Car Headlight – but it is heavy and clumsy – so it stays at home most of the time.

  26. atfred January 21st, 2016 8:51 am

    I have found Gaffer tape to work quite well for securing things like lamp closures and giving greater peace of mind – prefer it over duct tape for suppleness and ease of removal

  27. Andrew January 25th, 2016 1:43 am

    “Andrew may be the only backcountry skier who descends in the dark at forty miles an hour, but we want him to be safe. Andrew, are you still alive?”

    Jim, I can confirm being still alive. To be clear I only do 40mph in the dark on my road bike on roads where I meet 3-5 cars in a one hour ride.

    I used to go fast at Nachtskis where the piste is somewhat lit, but after a few near-misses with the cranially challenged group who wear black or winter camo colours and do erratic zig zag turns across the piste while looking the other way, I decided to extend my life by saving the speed for daylight.

    “Try fistlamps in addition to or instead of a headlamp”

    Will give it a try as it definitely works for MTBers, who usually have a handlebar mounted flood plus a helmet spot.

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