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Headlamp Review: The Olympia EX080

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I'm really impressed with Olympia's first headlamp offerings; they're sturdy and extremely light for the illumination they offer, especially the 5.25-ounce Olympia EX550, which cranks out up to 550 lumens.

Gear tester Eric Menck of Alaska evaluated the Olympia EX080 headlamp and says that overall, for a small headlamp, he likes it. Keep reading to find out where the headlamp excelled, and which feature became problematic in some circumstances.

Olympia EX080 Specs

  • Weight: 4.2 ounces, including batteries
  • Lighting modes: High (80 lumens), low (8 lumens) and SOS strobe
  • Battery life: 18+ hours on high (manufacturer says 8), 40 hours on low, 100 hours on SOS strobe
  • Batteries: Three AAA batteries
  • Beam range: 90 meters
  • Weatherproofing: Water-resistant to IPX-4 (being splashed with water for up to 5 minutes)

Good Power With a Quirk

Eric used the EX080 during a 6-day hunting trip and several hiking and trail running outings, on everything from wide open trails to game trails through thick brush. "Had good light to see everything I had to step over or around, even in the thick brush," he said. The controls were easy to use and the headlamp performed great on the wide trails and around camp.

Battery life was also excellent; the manufacturer quotes a lifespan of 8 hours on the high setting, but Eric used it for 18 hours straight and still had good light. However, he found himself wishing for the ability to focus the headlamp beam for identifying animals further than 25 yards out in the woods.

That time in the brush also revealed the headlamp's biggest quirk: An automatic "hands-free" feature that lets you turn the headlamp on and off by waving your hand in front of an infrared sensor. The problem is that the sensor can't tell the difference between your hand and a branch -- so when a branch came within a foot or two of Eric, the headlamp would suddenly switch off and leave him in the dark. The headlamp also turned off if he got too close to the side of his tent while changing clothes, or reached up to wipe sweat off his forehead with a walking stick in his hand.

The Bottom Line

Eric says the Olympia EX080 is an excellent choice for hiking and running on well-groomed or wide-open trails. Its hands-free operation could come in handy in the winter, because you'll still be able to turn the headlamp on and off while wearing bulky gloves or mittens -- but that mode can become a liability if you spend a lot of time on overgrown trails or moving around in your tent.

With an MSRP of about $30, the EX080 is a very good value -- but make sure you think through whether the hands-free feature is a good fit for your outdoor habits or not. 

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