PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: Sprinter headlamp
Innovation is what drives everything here at Black Diamond. If we're not making gear better, stronger, lighter, faster, more durable and easier to use, then we're not doing our job. In this ongoing series of monthly posts, we'll be giving you an inside look at some of our most innovative products through one-on-one interviews with our team of industry-leading product designers and category directors.
This month we caught up with our Technical Director of Lighting Joe Skrivan to talk about the redesigned Sprinter Headlamp, a bright, fully rechargeable light designed for runners, endurance athletes and anyone else moving fast in the dark.
For more information or to pick up one for yourself, click here.
What changes have been made to the Sprinter for spring 2012?
The new Sprinter Headlamp has undergone a pretty healthy upgrade. We changed the LED to produce more lumens and slightly more distance. The shape of the beam is just a bit wider, too. We changed the wire to go back to our original "coil" rather than the flexible wave which allows the user to fit the lamp onto helmets better. The new charge system works with a wall plug or computer for charging in more locations and it eliminates the need to carry a travel kit. The red-LED in the rear also now can be tuned to be fast strobe, slow strobe or solid. If you wear the lamp backwards, the red solid light is quite useful for preserving night vision; we also made the red LED capable of being on without the white light. We also reduced the retail price by 10 bucks.
What kinds of activities is the Sprinter headlamp ideal for?
We originally designed the Sprinter to be used by runners. The beam is shaped to light up a trail or sidewalk with the peak intensity about 7 meters out. This seemed to be the appropriate spot that runners need to see the best so they can react to a change in trail condition or maybe something on the road. After we used the lamp a lot more, we found that it seems to be the go-to light for a much wider array of activities. The dawn-patrol crew here at BD uses it for ski approaches and it's a hit with the late-night bouldering crowd. Although not intended to be a bike light, I sure see a lot of them on bike helmets. The red flashing light in the back is ideal for getting the attention of groggy drivers.
What are the advantages of the rechargeable design over standard batteries and how has it changed in the Sprinter?
With the rechargeable batteries, it's always ready to go at full power. We tuned the battery life to get 5 to 6 hours of consistent light output and for most runners this is more than enough. If you think you need more time, you can always dim it down a bit and extend that battery life by a factor of 3. Some would argue that the battery life is really "indefinite" since it's so easy to recharge and it is never really 'dark' for 24 straight hours unless you're in a cave. Ease of charging was a main design goal: No need for any disassembly—simply snap on the charger and plug it in. Our lithium-polymer battery will last a minimum of 900 charge cycles, and even after that there is only a minor loss in battery capacity.
What about charging the headlamp in the backcountry or away from a computer/USB port?
The intention was to have a lamp that is rechargeable only. This allowed us to create a very lightweight battery box which is small and offers the ideal balance of weight in the front and back. You need to charge this with a micro USB compatible charger. Solar charging is one way to deal with it, but there are also some AA powered chargers available for phones which would work. But honestly, this is not really a lamp designed for extended periods of backcountry use.
Any unique challenges encountered while designing the Sprinter?
Well, that's a good one. I'm not sure there was anything necessarily "unique" to get this designed—we generally face the same fundamental challenges with all of our lamp products, which is to offer the user the most lumens per dollar, most lumen-hours per gram, and a light beam that is tailored to the activity for which the lamp is intended. We have plenty of runners here at BD for field testing and they of course really helped a lot in getting this thing right. Also, in the case of the Sprinter, as anyone that has replaced a cell-phone battery knows, those lithium-polymer rigs are not inexpensive. With the 2012 Sprinter, we were able to balance the cost of our battery along with our feature set to meet a much more attractive price—that was probably the biggest challenge in developing this product.
[Photo: Grant Gunderson]