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Hands-on Gear Review
Northbound Train LED Review
Cons: No switch lock, short beam throw
Bottom line: Its simple design makes this lamp sleek and easy to use.
This headlamp is priced similarly to the Black Diamond Spot and $15 less than Editors' Choice winning Black Diamond ReVolt. With this price-point competition, Northbound Train really needs to step up their game. Performance across the board suffers next to these and other products we reviewed. We anticipate that this product is apt to be readily available on sale. In this case, as long as the price is competitive with our Best Buy winner, the Petzl Tikkina, we can recommend the Northbound Train as a household headlamp.
RELATED REVIEW: The Hunt for the Best Headlamps
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Northbound Train LED light is a product that appears to be made and packaged in the same facility or facilities as some of the best performing products in our test. It is also priced like a better performing product. However, our experience with the Northbound Train indicated substandard performance.
As you can see in the beam comparison below the Northbound Train light isn't even in the same league as the Editors' Choice winning Coast HL7. For fewer dollars on the Coast, you get what looks and feels like truly high-end optics and beam throw. We are somewhat perplexed by the Northbound's performance and price, to be honest.
With a relatively clean lens arrangement and wide spreading beam, the close proximity lighting of the Northbound Train LED is its most competitive attribute. With a score of seven out of ten, the LED light sits solidly average among our tested products. As compared, however, to the beam of something like the Nitecore HC50, the beam is clearly rough and spotty.
Battery life on the Northbound LED as deduced from just our coffin test wasn't actually all that poor. Burning 4.2 hours on high mode is a respectable score, falls just above the middle of our test roster, and is pretty close to the similarly priced but otherwise much higher scoring Black Diamond Spot. As compared, however, to our Editors' Choice Black Diamond ReVolt, the Northbound's light-coffin score is clearly less. Additionally, overall battery life in actual usage is dependent on other variables. Lights with the brightest bulbs can be used in much lower modes, while our testing was only in high beam mode. We bumped the Northbound's battery life score down because of its lesser beam. You'll use the high-beam mode a greater percentage of the time, burning the batteries faster. Also, we bumped the score down again because the Northbound lacks a locking switch.
Throwing a beam just 27 meters puts the Northbound only one spot away from the bottom of our test roster. Only the Black Diamond Gizmo casts light less far. Even the diminutive Top Pick winner Petzl e+LITE pushes usable light 30m. In a refreshing move, Northbound does indeed report their brightness pretty accurately. They claim the LED light shines 30m.
The LED light from Northbound Train weighs 94 grams. In that category, it sits solidly in the middle of our test. The much higher scoring Black Diamond Cosmo is the same weight.
Ease of Use
The switch on this headlamp is easy to use and clicks through just a couple brightness modes. We had no complaints about the usability of the Northbound lamp.
This is only an acceptable light for casual camping or for keeping in your car. Any one of our Best Buy lights (this year's winner, the Petzl Tikkina, or the ultra inexpensive Energizer 3 LED) would be a better choice, however, in this application.
Given the low performance and narrow distribution of the Northbound light, one is likely to find it on sale. If the sale price approaches or drops below that of the aforementioned best buy lights, it could be considered as a value option.
While we generally choose lights to test that offer the promise of above average performance, the Northbound is an outlier. It should be telling that we are unlikely to choose to include this particular product, unless it is changed in design, in future OutdoorGearLab reviews.
— Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier
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