Gear Reviews
November 12th, 2020
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Backcountry Flashlight Showdown!

Mountain Sledder Tests 4 Backcountry Flashlights

With advances in battery efficiency and light emitting diode (LED) technology, a number of lightweight, powerful backcountry flashlight kits have come to market specifically with outdoor powersports users in mind. They offer the user the ability to mount a bright, rechargeable light on their helmet to help them navigate in the dark.

We’ve tested four different backcountry flashlight kits available on the market today in this backcountry flashlight showdown!

Backcountry Flashlight Showdown!

Mountain Lab Gear X800 Flashlight Kit

Mountain Lab Gear X800 Flashlight Kit

$100 CAD

  • Brightness 3.5
  • Spread 4.5
  • Weight 4.5
  • Battery Life 3.5
  • Functionality 4.5
  • Value 5

Rated at 800 lumens, the Mountain Lab Gear X800 features a very appealing light quality that is bright white, with just a touch of yellow in the periphery. The X800 has a wide spread of illumination, with plenty of light splashed around at close range. It features three brightness modes, an “Eco” mode and a strobe mode. At full power, the battery life is rated at two hours.

A great feature of both the X800 and the X1800 is their quick-release mounting system for helmet and handlebars. Simply slide the light onto the mount until it clicks and you’re good to go. The flashlight itself remains neat and tidy, without the hassle of attaching a GoPro mount manually with cold fingers in the dark. The handlebar mount goes on and off the bars easily, and holds the light securely in place over bumps.

One of the most convenient features of both the X800 and X1800 is the USB charging port. There is no need to remove the battery or use a special charging adapter. Simply plug in a standard micro-USB cord (included in the package) to charge.

Both the X800 and X1800 are rated at IPX6, which means they are protected against water ingress the equivalent of powerful water jets, but not for full immersion in water.

The Mountain Lab Gear X800 is the smallest and lightest of the four lights tested, weighing a minimal 128 g.

Summary

In summation, the Mountain Lab Gear X800 offers great features in a small package. It’s not the brightest, but it is probably the most convenient due to its simple functionality and compact size. It’s the sort of product that comes in just as handy on a daily basis around the home as it does when needed in the backcountry, at a good price.

Frankensled Backcountry 8.4 Flashlight System

Frankensled 8.4 backcountry flashlight

 

$190 CAD

  • Brightness 4
  • Spread 3
  • Weight 4
  • Battery Life 4
  • Functionality 3
  • Value 2

The Frankensled Backcountry 8.4 light is the O.G. backcountry flashlight, and it pumps out 840 lumens concentrated mostly into a spotlight. Its reach falls somewhere between the X800 and the X1800. Frankensled claims a 2 hr 30 min battery life on high power, which is the second longest tested.

The Backcountry light offers three intensity settings. One drawback is that the light must be off to change the brightness setting. To do so, the user must semi-depress the button on the back of the light several times to get the right mode, then click all the way to turn on the light. Fortunately, once set, the light will resume the last mode used when it is turned from off to on. Strobe and S.O.S. modes are also mentioned in the product documentation, but these are not activated by default and, in a strange twist, require some reverse soldering on the circuit board to be made available.

In order to charge the light, the battery must be removed and placed in a battery-specific charging dock that comes in the kit. Also included is a standard GoPro-compatible mount.

On the plus side, the Frankensled light is the only light tested to be rated at IPX8—protected against water immersion beyond 1 m. It weighs in at 162 g.

Summary

When the Frankensled Backcountry light burst onto the scene quite a few years ago, it was amongst the first dedicated LED flashlight for powersports users. When there were fewer options, it was a no-brainer. It still lights up the night, but is lacking in the features and user-friendliness of newer units today. Meanwhile, it remains amongst the most expensive backcountry flashlights available.

Mountain Lab Gear X1800 Flashlight Kit

 

Mountain Lab Gear X1800 Flashlight Kit

$200 CAD

  • Brightness 5
  • Spread 5
  • Weight 3.5
  • Battery Life 3.5
  • Functionality 5
  • Value 4.5

We found the Mountain Lab Gear X1800 to be the brightest in our test and on par with the brightness of the snowmobile headlight. It also penetrates well; Mountain Lab claims a beam range of >200 m, but on snow we found the light to penetrate as far as 400 m. Its bright, white light quality has a fairly wide spread at full range, but an abundant amount of light is also splashed close to the source.

The claimed battery life is listed at 1 hr 55 min at full output. Combined with four intensity settings and a strobe mode, the X1800 offers six different light output settings.

The X1800 is roughly twice the size of the tiny X800, and it weighs in at 202 g on our scale. The weight feels okay when mounted on a full-face motorsports helmet, but is a bit much for use on a lightweight mountain biking shell for example.

As another option, both Mountain Lab Gear lights come with a secure, quick-release handlebar mount in the box. And the X1800 offers another plus: a remote switch that can be mounted near your handlebar controls. The wired switch allows the user to operate the handlebar-mounted light and cycle through the intensity settings without removing their hand from the grip.

Just like the X800, the X1800 is charged via micro-USB cord. But the X1800 can also be used as a power bank to charge your communications or other electronic device in the backcountry. No other light tested has this capability.

Summary

If you’re moving fast at night and you want to see what’s coming up quickly, you’re going to want a lot of light. The X1800 provides that with convenience and ease of use. It’s the most expensive light tested, but the output, along with the number of features offered, gives the X1800 great value.

Oxbow Gear Voyageur Helmet Light Kit

Oxbow Gear Voyageur Helmet Light

 

$133 CAD

  • Brightness 4.5
  • Spread 4
  • Weight 2.5
  • Battery Life 4.5
  • Functionality 2
  • Value 4

The Oxbow Gear Voyageur light is rated at 2100 lumens. The spread is very nice, with the light projected well-forward in a wide beam. There are three intensity settings and one strobe mode. The light always turns on in the low setting, which means each time you turn it on you’ll have to cycle through to get to the setting you want.

Oxbow claims that the Voyageur is the lightest helmet flashlight, but that’s a bit misleading. Sure, the light-emitting piece that mounts on the helmet is a featherweight 70 g, but the battery pack required to power it tips the scales at 262 g, for a portly total of 332 g.

It is the only light tested that features a separate battery pack connected to the light by a power cord. If you want to take your helmet off, for example, you’ll need to unzip your jacket and unplug the cord. Also, users must be concerned about the cord dangling off the top of their helmet getting caught on trees or anything else. A final drawback is that the light-to-battery cord is rather short; it’s barely long enough to reach all the way down to where the battery might presumably be strapped to a belt or waist strap.

Otherwise the light is very easy to use, with a big button that’s easy to find with gloves on. The Voyageur also comes with a handy 360˚ swivel GoPro style mount, allowing the user to adjust the direction of the beam while mounted.

The Voyageur battery is charged via a specific plug-in adapter and the light itself is listed as “Water Resistant”.

Summary

Ultimately, the heavy battery pack and exposed cord make the Oxbow Gear Voyageur better suited for trail use than mountain riding. However, it remains a decent option for riders willing to trade some convenience for good down-the-trail light penetration and a longer battery life, at a lower price point.

Backcountry Flashlight Showdown! Summary

Mountain Lab Gear X1800 Flashlight Kit

Overall Rating 4.5 Editor’s Choice

Mountain Lab Gear X800 Flashlight Kit

Overall Rating 4

Oxbow Gear Voyageur Helmet Light Kit

Overall Rating 3.5

Frankensled Backcountry 8.4 Flashlight System

Overall Rating 3

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