Coast FL70 Headlamp — 1 Button, 3 Settings, That is All


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 3, 2018      

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
— Leonardo da Vinci

Coast FL70 headlamp won't confuse you when you're on hour 27 of an epic climb.

Coast FL70 headlamp is bright and basic. Press its one control button, you get three brightness levels then it is off. No strobe, no colors, no clickity click click operations that resemble a scientific study of human memorization.

I’m sure at least one industrial design professor has shared that Leonardo quote. Apparently many headlamp designers did not attend that professor’s lectures. But some students must have filled a seat and gotten the message. If you search, and search, you can find sophisticated (i.e., simple) headlamps.

Object at hand: Coast is a cutlery and portable lighting company that specs their location as Portland, USA, but is clearly keyed in on that gargantuan manufacturing force somewhat to the east of us. (Where all headlamps on the planet are probably made in the same factory, by the same robots).

Robots or not, I’m prioritizing their FL70 headlamp for all backcountry activities, including ski touring. It’s got one meager, minimalist, boring, elementary switch on top. One press-click turns it on, bright, easily 405* lumens (roughly the minimum for safe downhill night skiing). Another click, dimmer. Press a third time, 66 lumens and extended battery life. Fourth press, OFF. Another press, back on.

The FL70 LED has a focus (zoom) ring. At first I thought focusing was a gimmick. But doing so is intuitive and useful (and in the name of simplicity, optional). Twist one direction for a tighter somewhat brighter beam. Twist the other direction for broad beam. Fine tune for your skiing style. If that’s too fiddly just leave it alone at a compromise you like — stick some tape around the ring to lock and waterproof it. Con: At certain points in the zoom range the beam pattern displays a slightly darker area in the middle, with a brighter circle around the edges. I found this to be disconcerting at times, but not a deal breaker.

Battery case is gasketed and tight, tricky to open but you get used to it. When replacing batteries the back remains hinged to the housing, no pieces and parts to drop. (We generally do not review headlamps that have any divorced parts you can lose while changing batteries — talk about insulting Leonardo!)

Takes three AAA batteries. Claimed burn times: 2:30 on high; 3:00 on medium; and 16:00 on low. For work or action athletics you would normally you’d run it at medium, which is quite bright. The low setting is plenty bright for reading or uphill skiing. I did a real-world battery test. Set at medium bright with fresh alkaline cells, the FL70 went about 2:45 before beginning to dim. Rather than winking out, it operated at reduced brightness for 2:30 hours after the dimming began. Battery life seemed normal for an LCD headlamp operating on the bright side.

IPX4 weatherproof* rated, meaning splash proof or light rain. I tested with a ten second hold under running water, no problem. Downpour or extended drizzle? Pull your jacket hood over it. Nonetheless this is not a fully waterproof unit; you want something rated IPX7 if you ski wetter climes.

While the actual press-switch is smaller than the large red area indicates, gloved operation is reasonably facile. The switch could be accidentally actuated during storage, though it is somewhat protected and requires firm pressure. Oh, lest I forget to mention, the FL70 is missing red LEDs, blue LEDs, strobe, whistle, video recording — and it doesn’t yodel.

*Note about brightness: As with any headlamp, who knows what the exact lumens of the FL70 really are (or for that matter, the lux). While our Coast FL70 packaging says 435 lumens, the Amazon version says 405. The zoom feature varies real-world brightness as well, as does precise level of battery voltage. While we’ll probably begin doing a few light meter measurements of our own for critical comparisons, our opinion is that headlamps are best classified in terms of general brightness level rather than quibbles and charts (not to mention the difference between lux and lumens). We’d define our favorite category as the “400 lumen class,” which we believe denotes minimum brightness for safe downhill backcountry skiing at moderate speeds. Thus, in the end our ideal headlamp is a “400 class unit that’s easy to operate and water resistant.” Several Coast offerings seem to fit the bill, as do probably a hundred other brands and models. We be testing.

*Note on water resistance: You can improve the water resistance of any headlamp. Smear a light coating of dielectric grease on all gaskets and available electrical contact surfaces. Stick tape over cracks where you think water might work its way in. That said, if you do tend to ski tour in moist conditions, purchase a unit with water-resistance rating IPX7 such as the Black Diamond Icon we reviewed a while ago. We found the Icon to be overly complex, but it is waterproof, bright and lightweight.



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Comments

13 Responses to “Coast FL70 Headlamp — 1 Button, 3 Settings, That is All”

  1. XXX_er September 3rd, 2018 10:28 am

    IME headlamps tend to get beat up in the pack or pocket or get dropped and the weak point is the hinge to adj the beam up/down breaks or fails to keep the adjustment, it looks like this light uses that hinge

    So after breaking a couple of headlamps in normal use I always look for a better design like the princeton tec or Zebra light where the lamp assembly rotates on a ring

  2. Lou Dawson 2 September 3rd, 2018 2:24 pm

    Good points Xer. Lou

  3. Jim Milstein September 3rd, 2018 2:37 pm

    So what’s it weigh with batteries, Lou? Do you know how long it burns on its three levels? Four hundred lumens seems awfully bright, though admittedly the sun is brighter. Lack of yodel is disappointing, but luckily my phone yodels.

  4. Owen September 3rd, 2018 4:00 pm

    Lou,
    Sorry to change the subject but have you had a chance to review DPS’s new permanent ski wax?(called Phantom 2.0, see link below.)
    Does one application really last the life of the ski?
    Does it affect skin glue?
    I’d love to see your review.
    Owen

    https://www.dpsskis.com/phantom-glide

  5. Lou Dawson 2 September 3rd, 2018 4:32 pm

    Owen, we never felt like Phantom was ready for prime time, and sure enough DPS re worked the system for a version 2.0 to be for sale this winter. We’ll be testing. We did test version 1.0 and it has potential, but here at WildSnow we need to take a deep breath (or breath into a paper bag) then give the new version an extended real testing treatment rather than panting all over our computer monitors (smile), running nakid out in the street shouting NEXT GREATEST THING!.

  6. Lou Dawson 2 September 3rd, 2018 4:37 pm

    100 grams with alkaline batteries Jim, the zoom probably adds a bit of weight.

    Claimed burn times are 2:30 on high, 3:00 on medium and 16:00 on low. Normally you’d run it at medium.

    (…added a few sentences to the review per burn time…)

    Lou

  7. Jonny B September 4th, 2018 12:56 am

    Great review, as always. I have a different model coast headlamp. It’s really, really bright but it eats batteries. Everything is a trade-off but worth mentioning I thought.

  8. dberdinka September 4th, 2018 8:58 am

    “(roughly the minimum for safe downhill night skiing)”

    You should consider a longer post on the topic of BC – night skiing. Strapping my 1800 lumen bike light to my head was a revelatory experience a couple years back. You can light up an entire valley. The most surprising advantage being that you escape the flat lighting that degrades so many winter days in the PNW. Hard to convince friends that it’s a worthy tactic and not just an occasional stunt.

    My bikelight has one button and 3, no 4, modes as well!

    http://store.dinottelighting.com/2018-dinotte-xml-3-headlight-2100-lumens-p174.aspx

  9. Jim Milstein September 4th, 2018 9:57 am

    People have very different approaches to night travel. Some prefer flame throwers; others want to preserve their night vision. For really lighting up the landscape, nukes rule. On a clear night when Venus is bright, you can ski in open terrain by the light of Venus and the stars alone. It is pretty wonderful.

  10. Slim September 6th, 2018 7:07 am

    How is the lamp regardgin turning on in a pack? If it’s just a simple click, it seems prone to Turing on in a pack (my Black Diamond headlamp suffers from this)

  11. Lou Dawson 2 September 6th, 2018 7:20 am

    Hi Slim, I’d rate it “good” in terms of resistance to accidental power switching. The switch is press activated, takes quite a bit of pressure and is somewhat protected as it does not protrude from the housing. I’m ok with it for my style of use and packing, in critical situations one might want to tape a small piece of plastic over the switch, The flexible material over the switch is flush with the housing, so adding a protector is easy, unlike switches that protrude from housing, those are difficult to innovate a safety cover for.

    You got me curious to measure switch activation pressure. I broke out my force gauge. ~3.6 ounces for the Coast. Black Diamond Icon activates with ~2.7 ounces pressure. I wouldn’t mind both of them being a bit stiffer. The Icon switch is small and slightly recessed, but 2.7 ounces isn’t much pressure — Icon does have a lock mode, though it’s part of the overall complex feature set and difficult to remember unless you use it regularly. Lou

  12. Lou Dawson 2 September 6th, 2018 10:03 am

    Ok WildSnowers, I broke out a light meter for the first time since my days of film photography…. learning about lumens and lux… Headlamp lumen claims/ratings don’t mean as much as lamp packaging makes them out to be, but if roughly accurate they are a start for comparison of brightness between products. Where the trouble comes in is that lumens are a measure of the entire amount of light produced by a source, which depending on the zoom level and spread of the beam, can actually vary quite a bit in terms of real-world brightness. So what I decided to do was keep comparison simple, with various headlamps used as baseline. For example, I compared Coast to the BD Icon. I set Coast to approximately same beam zoom as the Icon, it measured 85 lux, as compared to Icon 90 lux (both measured at about 12 feet distance). As the Icon is claimed at 500 lumens, and the Coast claimed at 405, that makes perfect sense, considering it’s impossible to get the zoom levels to perfectly match. Conclusion, neither headlamp is misleading in their spec. Icon is quite bright, so is the Coast FL70. More, if you want super brightness you can concentrate/zoom the FL70 to be significantly brighter than Icon, though it’ll become too narrow for action athletic use, though useful for tasks requiring strong illumination, for example SAR EMS procedures and mechanical repairs.

    Note that when zooming the Coast, the beam at some levels of zoom has concentric circles that vary in brightness, making it difficult to light meter. I did my best setting this so it was a valid comparison. Nonetheless, one reader emailed me and pointed out that evenness of illumination is to them super important. I can’t disagree, though I’ll sacrifice some illumination perfection for easy to operate controls.

    Lou

  13. BobbyTooSlow September 12th, 2018 7:40 am

    Amen to Coast headlamps for ski touring! I’ve used the FL75R for going on 3 years now, and if I lost it, I’d buy another in an instant.

    I almost always wear mittens, and it’s still super easy to switch modes. No overhead strap makes it easy to take on/off with mitts/cold hands, but it still rides ok on the down.

    The red light is nice for the up because, as others have said, it preserves your night vision. Rechargeable works well for me, since dawn patrolling means setting gear out the night before anyway, so plugging it in is no big deal.

    Full blast is plenty bright for the down, though as Lou said, it does cast concentric rings of light & not-as-light. Doesn’t really cause any issues, though. Once the sun comes up, it’s small enough to just stuff in your hip pocket. Overall, it’s a great simple headlamp, especially if you’re the type who goes thru frequent headwear changes on a tour.





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