Black Diamond Icon Review
Cons: Heavy, bulky, and expensive
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Black Diamond Icon
Check Price at REI
$89.00 at Amazon
|$37.46 at Backcountry|
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|Check Price at REI|
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|$19.54 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Bright, wide spotlight, clear/smooth optics, long battery life, robust design||Bright wide beam, good battery life, durable design, rechargeable||Excellent trail finding and close proximity beam, waterproof, above average battery life||Excellent spot light capability, wide evenly lit flood beam, above average in most ways||Super easy to use, inexpensive, solid performance, compact, and reliable|
|Cons||Heavy, bulky, and expensive||Expensive, 18650 Li-ion battery is not included, heavier than average||More expensive, heavier than average, claimed battery life is very misleading||Below average battery life, claimed battery life is wildly misleading, single button hard to use, lame waterproofing||Good but not great spot beam for trail finding, slightly below average flood beam optics|
|Bottom Line||A quality light with strong battery life, but no longer our top pick for epics||An impressive, powerful light in a small package that won't disappoint if you can get past the price||A durable light that will last for years with a bright high-quality beam, slightly higher in cost and weight||A quality, durable, and bright light that hits the sweet spot for most people's needs, despite dubious marketing claims||For $20, the Tikkina offers impressive performance at a great price, that will meet most people's needs|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Icon||Zebralight H600w Mk IV||Black Diamond Storm||Black Diamond Spot||Petzl Tikkina|
|Trail Finding (35%)|
|Close Proximity (20%)|
|Battery Life (15%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond Icon||Zebralight H600w Mk IV||Black Diamond Storm||Black Diamond Spot||Petzl Tikkina|
|Measured Beam Distance||90 m||121 m||91 m||94 m||62 m|
|Claimed Distance||100 m||Not specified||85 m||80 m||55 m|
|Measured High Mode Run-time (ANSI)||12.6 hrs||3.1 hrs||5 hrs||2.9 hrs||3.5 hrs|
|Claimed High Mode Run-time||70 hrs||2.9 hrs||40 hrs||30 hrs||60 hrs|
|Measured Low Mode Run-time||74 hrs||232 hrs||42 hrs||9.7 hrs||223 hrs|
|Claimed Low Mode Run-time||175 hrs||203 hrs||120 hrs||175 hrs||220 hrs|
|Measured Weight||8.2 oz, 233 g||4.5 oz, 127 g||4 oz, 112 g||3.1 oz, 89 g||2.9 oz, 83 g|
|Battery Type||4 AA||18650 rechargeable Li-ion||4 AAA||3 AAA||3 AAA|
|Water Resistance||IP67 waterproof to one meter and dustproof||IPX8 waterproof to 2 meters, 30 minutes||IP67 waterproof to one meter and dustproof||Splash proof (dubious IPX8 claim)||IPX4 splash proof|
|Manuf Claimed Lumens||500 lumens||1400 lumens||350 lumens||300 lumens||150 lumens|
|Beam Type||flood/spot, dimmable||flood||flood/spot||flood/spot||flood|
|Red Light||yes, red/green/blue night-vision modes||no||yes, red/green/blue night-vision modes||yes||no|
|On Switch Lock||yes||yes (tailcap lockout)||yes||yes||no|
Our Analysis and Test Results
We tend to be optimists in our adventures, assuming that we are not going to get caught out after nightfall. But imagine yourself at sunset, separated from camp by miles of a poorly defined trail, with a storm coming in, and with an injury or equipment failure that makes travel slow. These kinds of situations do happen, and are just the kind of pickle where you would be most grateful that you brought the Black Diamond Icon along.
Waterproof to 1 meter (tested in full submersion for 30 minutes), and boasting nearly the best trail finding performance of any headlamp we tested, the Icon is unique in also offering the battery run-time firepower to get you back to camp, with adequate lighting, even if it takes an all-night epic effort.
The Icon scored an impressive 8 of 10 in our trail finding tests.
The Icon ranked near the top with a 8 of 10 score for close-proximity use, such as around the campsite or reading. Used in its low-power mode that conserves battery life, it produces a very nice, evenly lit beam that we found very good for close proximity use.
We rated the Icon 6 of 10 on battery life, which is above average. While it did not have the absolute longest run time, it was much better than many of the headlamps with high powered beams. Many headlamps gain long battery run time in their brightest mode by not having a very bright beam. Not so with the Icon, which manages relatively long run-time with a very bright beam.
By modern standards, the Icon is heavy at 233 grams or 8.2 ounces. It scored 2 of 10, one of the two worst scoring lights on weight.
Ease of Use
The Icon landed a middling 5 of 10 score. It is easy to switch between spotlight and close proximity/LED mode. But, access to advanced features is a complex series of single, double, triple clicks and press-to-hold actions.
The Icon offers variable dimming. This is easily done by holding down the button (dims down, and then up if you keep holding). Dimming works in all three of its lighting modes: high-power spot, low-power flood, and red-light. This allows you to fluidly tune the brightness to exactly meet your particular needs. For example, we found that either the flood or red light, dimmed down to the lowest level, makes a perfect night light for family camping situations with young kids.
Even though the Icon is heavy, we found it surprisingly comfortable to wear. The headband is 1" wide and is complemented by a removable 3/4" wide top band. The battery sits at the back of the head and seems balanced nicely with the light in front. Even for active use, it sits comfortably and is stable.
Stargazers and hunters will appreciate the choice of red, green, or blue light mode, which provides an evenly lit light and is also dimmable to get to just the right lighting level you desire.
We found the Icon easy to operate with gloves, and it would be a good choice for backcountry ski use or other activities where gloves are often worn.
The Icon's combination of trail finding, battery life, and durability make it a good light for those who need a heavy-duty, high-performance headlamp, although we'd pick the Zebralight instead based on our testing. For years, many climbing and mountaineering guides have considered the Icon their go-to headlamp due to the long battery life, easy use, and durability. The current version is even better, but the competition hasn't stood still. Today, the Icon remains a terrific light for those who need durability, a bright light, and excellent battery life. But, it isn't the only one.
The Icon is heavy and bulky, making it a very poor choice for ultralight backpacking, and a dubious choice even short duration backpacking trips.
For many people, we think the expense of the Icon will prove a barrier. Why not buy our Editors' Choice Black Diamond Storm at half the price? The Storm with an extra set of batteries offers almost identical performance, with less weight and bulk, for half the price of the Icon. Or, step up to the much more capable $89 list Zebralight H600w Mk IV and get much more firepower, for about the same price?
Overall, the Icon is a strong performer in the "serious headlamp" category. While it wasn't the absolute best in any of our testing metrics, it was near the top across the board, which resulted in a high overall score. But, strong competition makes it unclear who this light is exactly right for.
— RJ Spurrier
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