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Unilite Headlamp Review (Head Torch for our UK friends) and Give Away

Ok, so little pre review stuff to mention. First off Unilite provided us with several units for the review, the PS-H8 with 250 lumens and a rear red LED blinker was the most hardcore unit for urban predawn and night running with 140 meters beam range. We sent one unit to Brad Patterson to review. Below is Brad’s review. Look for Thomas at the Baltimore Running Festival Oct. 17 and 18. He will be at the packet pick up and spectating the races wearing the hat pictured. Tell him he looks like a bright guy and you will get yourself a Unilite Headlamp while supplies last. Do us a favor and follow Unilite on Twitter and like their Facebook page as a thank you for creating a solid product and giving us some to give away.Last note, Unilite is looking for a USA distributor. If you are interested check them out.

Let me start out by saying that I have been running with a headlamp for over 3 years now. I switched my daily runs to early AM before work, which requires me to wear a headlamp to see as well as be seen; in addition to wearing a variety of reflective safety gear.  I have gone through two different brands of headlamps in that time and had settled on the Petzl Tikka XP2 before being introduced to the Unilite PS-H8. I have been using the Petzl for about two years now and it has served me well in addition to being 100% reliable.

The Good

The Unilite PS-H8 is a REALLY bright headlamp, rated at 250 lumens. It’s actually pretty amazing that they can get this much light out of a single LED.  In order to power these 250 lumens, the headlamp requires 3 AA batteries; which adds to the weight of the unit (since most other lamps these days use AAA batteries).  But the positive side is that the 3 batteries are held in a housing that is mounted at the rear of your head while the light itself is towards the front. This splitting of the mass helps provide better balance and light stability when mounted on your head.

The lamp feels pretty heavy in the hand but as a bit of a surprise, it is very comfortable once it is mounted on your head. It has an extra strap that runs across the top of your head; which helps improve the stability of the lamp and pretty much eliminates shaking. The two side straps and the top strap are all independently adjustable for tightness, and very easy to adjust while you are out on a run.

This lamp also has a ton of features. The straps have bright yellow reflective strips on the side to keep you visible when you’re out on the road. The front light head is full 90 degree adjustable, and locks in nicely when you click it into the setting you want. I adjusted mine for the tilt I wanted and it never moved. It has a rear red LED on the battery pack which can be set for always on or blinking mode. It’s rated as IPX4 water resistant. It has 4 light modes – high, medium, low, and blinking. One of the best features of all is the infinitely variable “focus slider” for the LED. This allows you to change the angle of the beam from a narrow spot to a wide flood-ish and really any setting in between. This is the best adjustment I have ever seen on a headlamp. All of the other lamps I have used either have a specific light mode that you select or some sort of diffuser you slide down in front of the lamp lens. The ability to fine tune the spot vs flood to the exact setting that you want is fantastic!

The lamp is rated to last for 10 hours on high and 160 hours on low, which is really great for battery life. It also has a max beam range of 140 meters. The brightness, beam throw distance, and battery life are all far superior to my previous headlamp, the Tikka XP2.  I did a bit of testing and had a helper wear the Unilite for me while running down the side of the street in the dark as I drove up to them from a good distance away in my neighborhood. I tested this with the PS-H8 in both spot and flood modes, and it was VERY visible from a long ways away; so this is also a great “be seen” light to use on your runs, rides, or walks.

From a usage standpoint, this headlamp is outstanding. It is SUPER bright when you put it in spot mode and you can see a long ways away. It is also still very bright when you put it in flood mode with the beam covering less distance but spreading fairly wide.  Since the focus slider is variable, I usually set the slider more towards the flood mode but pushed a tiny bit over toward the spot mode so that the beam is a bit less wide and shoots a little farther.  I have run with this headlamp in some sections of trail where there is no ambient light anywhere around and it lights up the area big time. You won’t be tripping over any rocks or missing any roots or holes with this lamp on your head!

The Bad

After using the Unilite PS-H8 on a number of runs and also a night time bike ride, I really can’t think of much bad to say about it.  The one thing that I think could be improved is the brightness of the red rear LED. It is VERY dim, and in my opinion, almost useless.  I normally use a small flasher which has about 5 red LEDs and is powered by 2 AAA batteries which far outshines and outperforms the red LED on the unilite from a brightness as well as viewable distance standpoint. This actually ties into one very small bad about the lamp, which is really more of a personal thing. I previously had been using my Petzl headlamp with my little multi-LED flasher clipped to the back of the Petzl strap so that cars could see me from behind from a long ways off.  Due to the battery pack being quite large on the PS-H8 and being right in the back of the unit, I don’t think I will be able to (easily) clip on my mega bright red flasher pointing backwards.

The only other negative thing I can come up with is the overall bulk and weight of the unit. It’s very comfortable on your head, but if you ever do a long run that starts in the dark and ends in the daylight like I do; it is convenient to have a headlamp that is small enough to pack away in a pocket or pack w/o taking up too much space. The extra weight and bulk of the PS-H8 make it a little harder to pack away and will require a much larger storage pocket to fit.  Again, this isn’t a huge knock on it, but it might be worth considering if this is something you do frequently.

The Conclusion

I have never owned a headlamp before that used a 3 strap system, nor have I had one with the separate battery pack mounted in the back. I initially didn’t think I would like it, but the way this Unilite is designed; it has excellent balance and weight distribution and I really enjoy using it. To use a fairly common shoe review term, the headlamp “disappears on your head.”  I find it pretty funny that after using this headlamp for a while and then going back to my trusty old Petzl, that the Petzl headlamp feels quite dim even though it is reasonably bright as far as headlamps go.

The only area that is still unknown to me is reliability, and that is a big one for me as most of my runs take place in the predawn hours (and can go for many hours in length). I will continue to test this headlamp over the months and hopefully years and can report back in the future how it is holding up.  I will also be able to attest to the water resistance, as I run in full rainstorms, snow, and any other conditions you can think of. Check out all my detailed pics!


Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Chad M says:

    So, with no US distribution, where do I go to buy it? No luck on Amazon. I’m getting ready to pull the trigger on a headlamp to help with early AM runs and my 2016 “Year of Ultras”. I’m was leaning Petzl Tikka RPX, but the Unilite looks interesting too!

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