Fenix HL21 LED Yellow Headlamp Review
I bought the Fenix-HL21 to light my way during my early morning runs. My reason for choosing it is that the headlamp uses just one battery and the output is regulated so it wouldn’t slowly go dim and fade out. The one battery means that the headlamp is light which means it won’t bounce around when running. I bought the headlamp in December of 2011 and I’ve now had it for about a year and a half. I use it semi-regularly at night and for general work when I need extra light for a dark space.
Fit and Finish
Overall the lamp is decently but not well built. Unlike other Fenix products which have an aluminum body, the lamp body and battery compartment is made of plastic. The plastic is thick and feels decently rigid in my hand. The casing around the LED is made of aluminum and this is done to facilitate heat dissipation. The cap on the battery compartment has good sized threads which makes it easy to open and close. The plastic construction probably allows the big threads, most aluminum lights have tiny threads that are easy to mis-thread when screwing on the cap. The big annoyance is that the lamp attachment to the headband is not secure and the lamp can come off if you are not careful when handling it. I’ve had issues with my past Fenix lights where the negative terminal spring wears out and no longer makes contact with the battery. It hasn’t happened yet but I fear that it will happen one day.
This is my second headlamp, my other lamp is a Zebralight which is floody and perfect for indoor work. Compared to the Zebralight, the light on the HL21 is highly focused and projects a decent distance. It is very diffuse and dim at the lowest 3-lumen dim setting but brightens up at the 43-lumen mid setting with the 90-lumens high setting being the brightest. It is hard to tell the
difference between the 43-lumen and 90-lumen settings except that the 90-lumen is slightly brighter. This may be due to the logarithmic nature of our brightness perception. There is very little flood which means there is little light for your peripheral vision which means you’ll be swivelling your head back and forth when you are outside. In addition there is a small gap around the cap of the LED which means there is a ring of light that leaks out around the gap. If you don’t adjust the light high enough on your forehead this leakage shines into your eyes which is annoying.
Battery life in the HL-21 is decent. It is not great and definitely does not match the product listing, I can expect an Eneloop battery to last about 1 1/2 hours on medium and an hour on high. The light has a tendency to turn off abruptly instead of dimming gradually. This is probably due to the active circuitry used to maintain constant brightness and the non-linear discharge of rechargeable batteries. Low mode is incredible though, I’ve had the lamp stay on for two whole days with juice left over in low mode.
The primary reason I bought the HL21 was because I expected it to be light due to the single battery design. The headlamp is indeed light and is ideal for running and night expeditions. The headband however only loops around the head without a piece that goes over the top of the head. This means that the lamp has a tendency to slip down my forehead unless I tighten it to the point
that it cuts of circulation to my head. In addition, the area where the lamp attaches to the cord is not padded and it leaves a mark on the forehead. The mark is especially deep when you wear the lamp for long periods and the mark persists for a while afterwards. Imagine going for a run in the morning and then heading to work with a strange red mark on your forehead.
Overall the HL21 is a decent headlamp for its price. it has a couple annoyances that shouldn’t be present at this price point but its worked out well so far.
Multiple light modes
Light single battery design
Good focused light
Solid, decent construction
Possible weak internal spring
No peripheral light
Gap around lens cover shines light into eyes
Doesn’t work well with rechargeable batteries