Thursday, 19 April 2012

Review: Alpkit Gamma, a Conundrum.

For many years scientists have been trying to discover the source of the creation of the universe. Year on year the Met Office constantly seek to be able to predict the weather more and more accurately. And the fact that none stick Teflon is stuck to a pan. It all begs the same Well this is the conundrum faced when reviewing the Alpkit Gamma. How did they do it for £15 delivered?

Firstly, the Alpkit Gamma head torch is not a lightweight compact piece of kit. But then, Alpkit don't make any claims to it being so. The torch comes in at 118g including the 3xAAA batteries it runs on. The torch is tested to IPX4 Water Resistance standards and will take all but the most extreme weather and even possibly a quick immersion in water. Maybe not truly waterproof, but it was fine in a couple of downpours I used it in while away in the Dales in April showers.

An important not, Alpkit state that the Gamma should not be used with Lithium batteries due to the high output these batteries are capable of putting out which could damage the Gamma's circuitry.

The Alpkit website is, in my mind, a little confusing when it comes to outputs and battery life in one particular case. The maximum output of the main Cree LED is 88 Lumens. The battery life on high is 9 hours, but in brackets it says 4 hours on max. So I have a feeling that the high setting is not 88 Lumens, and maybe in reality be nearer the 60 Lumens mark. I may be wrong, but from the visual evidence of using the lamp, and seeing those figures, I may need to contact Alpkit for clarification. If I do, I will post the information I find. The high setting is very bright, easily enough for when walking at night, although the beam pattern on mine is a little irregular but acceptable. The range is good, out to around 40 meters I'd say. As for cycling, particularly off-road, I can't say for certain as I don't ride bikes at night. Although I could defiantly see it being usable on a bike at night on the road. The main LED also has a low setting which should last around 20 hours and a strobe setting that has a life of 25 hours. I would say that these figures depend on the quality of alkaline batteries you use.

Front of head lamp with main Cree LED and three small LEDs visible.

The three smaller LEDs on the Gamma are all different colours; white, green and red. Only the red LED has a strobe setting. The others a simple on or off. All three are bright enough for map reading functions, looking in a back pack or use in a tent at night. None are up to navigating at night. They do however have an 80 hour battery life with 160 hours on strobe for the red LED.

Using the headlamp is simple. Holding down the button for a couple of seconds will switch between the main LED and the smaller LEDs. A single click will change modes for which ever bulbs you are set to. Constant clicking will cycle through the modes.

The headlamp unit itself can be tilted down on a sort of ratchet system with eight positions on the lamp I have. There is no ability to turn the lamp, but then again, it's on your head. And there has to be a cut off point between flexibility and robustness in my mind.

Headlamp with power switch and tilt mechanism visible.

The Gamma has a little trick up it's sleeve. Something that will aid cyclists in particular, runners and maybe walkers. The battery box, mounted on the back of the headband has a red light on the back that can be either a constant or flashing red light. It's not blindingly bright, but it will get you noticed.

Battery compartment with rear red light.

The head strap on the Gamma is not a quick adjustment type, a little trial and error is needed until a perfect fit is found. It does however use a full wrap around system, one strap goes round your head and one strap goes over. With the light at the front balanced by the battery pack at the back, the chances of it falling off if not fitted correctly are reduced.

So all in all a pretty good package, the light has a couple of very slight negatives, the beam pattern on the main Cree bulb being a little rough and a bit of doubt on the headlamps true output on high. But other than that, for £15 including post and packaging, what more could you want. A no brainer to me if you want a good head torch for walking and general camp work etc.