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Hands-on Gear Review

Fenix HL30 Review

Fenix HL30
Price:   $45 List | $44.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Beefy and reliable
Cons:  Tilting head doesn’t work at closest proximity, heavy and expensive
Editors' Rating:     
  • 1
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  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Manufacturer:   Fenix

Our Verdict

The Fenix HL30 is one of the biggest and most expensive headlamps in our review. The performance is about average, in a field filled with well-performing products. Headlamps don't generally need to be all that beefy, but if you need head-mounted light in a demanding environment, the HL30 may be a contender. Other durable lights we tested include the Zebralight H602 and Zebralight H52. If absolute beefiness isn't as much of a concern, both of our Editors' Choice picks are lighter weight, brighter, and have better battery life than the Fenix HL30. Check out the Black Diamond ReVolt and the Coast HL7.

Discontinued - January 2017
The Fenix website has confirmed that the HL30 headlamp has been discontinued. Check out The Hunt for the Best Headlamp to see the other headlamps we reviewed!


RELATED REVIEW: The Hunt for the Best Headlamps

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Measured Max Beam Distance Claimed Distance Measured High Mode Run-time (ANSI)
72
$50
Editors' Choice Award
131 m 152 m 3.4 hrs
68
$60
Editors' Choice Award
56 m 70 m 10.6 hrs
68
$100
82 m 100 m 9.4 hrs
67
$50
78 m 70 m 7.8 hrs
67
$40
71 m 75 m 3.7 hrs
66
$100
Top Pick Award
157 m 153 m 1.8 hrs
65
$35
73 m 90 m 4.6 hrs
65
$185
113 m 135 m 2 hrs
62
$64
66 m 0.6 hrs
60
$110
102 m 110 m 1.8 hrs
59
$55
60 m 50 m 3.1 hrs
58
$40
49 m 73 m 6.4 hrs
56
$60
75 m 85 m 2 hrs
56
$20
Best Buy Award
31 m 30 m 14.7 hrs
56
$80
Top Pick Award
39 m 30 m 5.1 hrs
55
$89
42 m 3.5 hrs
55
$40
41 m 60 m 3 hrs
53
$50
58 m 90 m 3.2 hrs
53
$30
30 m 58 m 6.3 hrs
51
$25
34 m 38 m 7.3 hrs
51
$18
33 m 10.3 hrs
49
$23
39 m 30 m 1.9 hrs
47
$30
Top Pick Award
28 m 29 m 9.4 hrs
47
$45
40 m 40 m 3.2 hrs
46
$80
52 m 65 m 3 hrs
45
$30
29 m 50 m 7.1 hrs
44
$20
15 m 15 m 2 hrs
42
$45
27 m 30 m 4.2 hrs

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
May 10, 2015

Share:
Fenix isn't the biggest headlamp manufacturer out there, but they make a few good products. We reviewed this, the HL30, and gave our Top Pick Award for Trail finding to the Fenix HP25R

Performance Comparison


The HL30 is bright and durable.
The HL30 is bright and durable.

Trail Finding


Scoring 6 of 10, the Fenix sits right in the middle of the pack for trail finding. In our real-world usage in places and activities as diverse as Utah rock climbing and Canadian backcountry skiing, we could see basically all we needed to see out and about. Many lights, however, bested the Fenix in this category. Notably, our Editors' Choice, the Black Diamond ReVolt is over 30g lighter and scores slightly better. Check out the beam comparison below to see images comparing the ReVolt to the Fenix.


Beam Distance Photos


Fenix HL30Black Diamond ReVolt


Spot-mode Beam Pattern


Fenix HL30Black Diamond ReVolt

Close Proximity


Even in close proximity performance, the ReVolt scored better than the HL30. While the beams are actually quite similar in evenness, the construction of the HL30 presented a dilemma. Like many headlamps, the light body is attached to the band with a hinge. This hinge is affixed with intentional friction that holds the headlamp at one of many chosen angles relative to the user's head. Point it more ahead for a distant view, and point it down for closer proximity viewing. The catch is, with the Fenix HL30, the friction notches in the hinge run out before the light can be angled down enough for truly close proximity viewing. You can't point it low enough before it just flops down and forward uselessly.


Close-proximity Beam Pattern


Fenix HL30Black Diamond ReVolt

Battery Life


Battery life overall scores are a function of the high-mode burn time in our ANSI-standard light coffin, the absolute brightness of that bright mode (brighter lights burn out faster, all else equal. Those same lights however, will be used in lesser modes much of the time), and whether the light has a locking switch. Given all this, the Fenix HL30 didn't score very well. It burned 3.2 hours in our box, with a high beam that shines just 40m. The lower modes will indeed last longer, but when the competition like the Editors' Choice ReVolt is throwing a beam 56m for 10.6 hours, it's hard to settle for performance like the Fenix.

The HL30 uses two AA batteries.
The HL30 uses two AA batteries.

Brightness


With a brightness score of 4 out of 10, there is little impressive about the beam on the HL30. With its bigger brother, Top Pick Winner Fenix HP25R throwing light 157m, the measly 40m of the HL30 is especially disappointing.

Weight


Looking at weight and brightness together, the Fenix HL30 occupies a strange position. It is heavier than 13 products that are brighter. Generally, one would expect that bigger is brighter. This is not the case with the Fenix HL30. One can choose from one of many smaller lights that are brighter, some of which are easier on the batteries too.

The Fenix HL30 sits in an awkward size category. It sports a three point harness  with no rear battery pack. Only four tested headlamps are heavier  and all of those are at least three times brighter.
The Fenix HL30 sits in an awkward size category. It sports a three point harness, with no rear battery pack. Only four tested headlamps are heavier, and all of those are at least three times brighter.

Ease of Use


With two bulbs, red and white, and two buttons, all switching on and off and between modes, the Fenix takes some getting used to. Like all complicated electronics, however, it will eventually become intuitive. In our testing, while switching back and forth between many different products, the HL30 was especially annoying. We know though, that you will never use 28 headlamps in a single week like we do. Because of that, you will become far more familiar with your equipment.

Best Applications


This is on the heavy side for backpacking, and not bright enough for dedicated night hiking. It is ruggedly built, however, and is therefore perhaps a good choice for around the house, the shop, and the garage.

Meagan uses the Fenix HL30 to light up a meal in Indian Creek  Utah.
Meagan uses the Fenix HL30 to light up a meal in Indian Creek, Utah.

Value


Nine headlamps we tested are more expensive than the Fenix HL30. Each of these other lights is a specialized, beefy tool. With so many products crowding the lower price ranges, it is hard to call this $45 product any sort of value. For instance, our Best Buy pick, the Petzl Tikkina is about 1/4th the cost, half the weight, and throws a light 3/4ths as far as the Fenix.

Conclusion


Surely someone will find a use for this particular product. Again, the best use is probably in someone's shop, where the durability and plethora of modes is worth the cost while the weight is not a consideration.

Other Versions


Fenix HP25
Fenix HP25R
  • Top Pick Award Winner!
  • Beefy, durable headlamp
  • 180 Lumen high mode
  • Flood and spot modes
  • $68

Fenix HP30 Headlamp
Fenix HP30
  • Super bright headlamp
  • Exterior, remote battery pack to keep weight off the head
  • 900 Lumen turbo mode
  • 500 Lumen High Mode with 4 hours runtime
  • 200 Lumen Medium Mode with 12 hours runtime
  • $116

Fenix makes a wide variety of headlamps in many different sizes and brightnesses for all different tasks.
Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: May 10, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (2.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 100%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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