Headlamp Reviews [Petzl, Black Diamond, Fenix]

Running headlamps reviewed - article and video reviews.

[Page Updated: 16 February 2018]

Here are some of our Video and Research Article Reviews for Headlamps runners can use for trail or street running.

At our sis, er site we have a huge 2018 Headlamp Buyer’s Guide covering the best headlamps made in 2017.

  • FENIX HP25 > this headlamp has a very bright center beam that can shine 100m or so. I find it near useless for looking for wildlife because the flood beam is so weak.
  • PETZL TIKKA RXP > this headlamp is great for close-in wildlife hunting, or tasks. The light isn’t bright enough for my taste, but it has a decent beam for walking or jogging at night.
  • PETZL NAO 2 > the best headlamp we’ve reviewed. This one has an update coming in September – the NAO PLUS (NAO+). We’re anxiously awaiting it.
  • BLACK DIAMOND REVOLT > sorry, this headlamp is just for people who need a reading lamp on their head to read a book in a tent. It is not in the same class as the other headlamps reviewed here. We had one and we were not happy with it. Don’t buy it!

Suunto Ambit2 R GPS Running Watch Arrives – Unboxing

Suunto Ambit2 R and Times Ironman

Happiness is replacing your old running watch with a new running watch. Until it all goes horribly wrong.

I bought this a couple years ago. Within the first 8 months I had problems. Here’s all about it:

Through the miracle of international shipping my Suunto Ambit2 R GPS running watch with heart rate monitor, made in Finland, arrived in Krabi, Thailand via United States Postal Service from Newton, Massachusetts this morning after purchase on Ebay nine days ago.

I have had Timex Ironman Triathlon watches since they first came out more than a decade ago. There is no GPS, there is no heart rate monitor, ambient air temperature, etc. It’s basically a stopwatch on my wrist that keeps track of my laps whether running, swimming, or cycling. The Ironman has served me well, but I’m way overdue for a serious upgrade. Lately I’ve been checking out the SUUNTO Ambit2 R running watches and finally I pulled the trigger on one last week when I found it for a good price.

As I write this, it is charging via USB from my notebook computer, and at 63% charge. I’ll do a full review, or a “Vern Review” in the next couple days, but just some initial thoughts, first impressions.

The SUUNTO Ambit2 R is HUGE. It’s a beast. It is a full half-inch wider at the face. The display is 3/8″ wider than the Ironman and about the same in height. The band is much thicker, and the watch sits higher off my wrist by about 1/4″.

The heart rate monitor sensor is HUGE. If you’ve been looking at photos of the Suunto Ambit watches and heart rate monitors, you’ve probably seen a photo of them that looks like this:

Suunto Ambit2 R HRM Strap

It’s a trick. The sensor on the heart rate monitor is NOT a fraction of the size of the face of the watch, it is in reality, BIGGER than the face of the watch at 2″ in diameter.

Comprehensive Review of Suunto Ambit2 R here.

Here’s my photo, minus the hocus-pocus:

Side by side comparison Suunto Ambit2 R heart rate monitor with watch.

So, don’t think you’re getting this little micro-sized sensor. It’s as big as a big piece of pepperoni. Mmm. Speaking of which… tonight is looking like a pizza night.

I digress.

After 25 minutes of charging, I’ve gone from 34% to 68%. I know I need not wait to play with it, but I’m stuck in that late 1990’s mindset where it was taboo to stop the charge before it got to 100% when you first purchase an electronics item. My mind won’t let me set it free from the charger clasp and play with it yet.

The information on the display is easy to read. It isn’t as easy as I hoped it would be. The info is not that dark. It isn’t anything like true black. It’s more like 70% black. One thing I’d hoped in buying this upgrade was that I’d be able to read my time very easily as I ran. With the Ironman watch it was quite difficult. The contrast just wasn’t there. The brightness of the light, just wasn’t there. I’m anxious to try reversing the background to black and the info in light color to see if it’s any better. If the light helps tremendously, I can get along using that. I just need to see the time instantly when I look at my watch, not hold it nine different ways to catch ambient light, or avoid reflections.

73% charged. Tick tock…

I just popped the battery compartment open on the ANT heart rate monitor and was surprised to find a battery in there. Nice.

74%.

Garmin has a very similar product – but probably better made overall.


More on why I chose this watch over some of the others in the Ambit series:

1. It’s black. I like black. I don’t want blue, lime, white, or pink. I don’t want silver on the watch face, I just want black.

2. The Ambit2 R is specifically for running. I don’t need a watch that works in the pool to record my heart rate. If I’m in a pool or the ocean, it’s because I’m trying to recover from a running workout, not trying to work out some more.

3. Cost. Even the older Ambit2’s are still way out of my price range. I couldn’t justify spending $400 on a watch. The Ambit3 Peaks are $500+. They work with iPhones. I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t want one. I love Apple’s MacBook Pro and Air notebook line, but their phones suck IMHO. Give me a Galaxy S3, S4, S5, or Note anything, and I’ll be much happier. And I am.

4. GPS based altimeter readings, not barometer. I saw a great review where a guy in Australia took his Ambit2 to various elevations alongside his other GPS device. The Ambit2 was off GREATLY every time. I couldn’t imagine paying extra money for the Ambit2 or Ambit3 Peak and then having it feed me bad readings one after another. I’d be disappointed in the device and probably return it. The Ambit2 R doesn’t have an internal barometer, so it just goes by map data for elevation. I think that’s good enough for me because that’s what I’ve been using for years.

78%. Man, this wait is killing me. When I started charging the watch, it allowed me to choose English, set the time and date, my weight, and my date of birth, but that’s about it. Right now it’s showing time, date, and percentage of battery charge. It won’t allow me to do anything else while that charger is plugged in I guess. That sucks a bit.

81%.

Reading the PDF manual I found online. It says fully charging the Ambit2 R takes 2-3 hours. Yikes. It also told me the buttons are locked while charging. Bummer.

I just found out I can increase or decrease the display contrast! HA! Perfect. My faith in mankind has been restored. That’s what every electronic device with a screen needs. Really looking forward to tweaking that.

86%. Seems like it is charging quite quickly. I’ve added 50% or so in 48 minutes. Not sure it’s a steady charge, but if it is then it should fully charge from zero to 100% in less than 2 hours.

97%. Just went through the entire PDF manual. Good information there. Can’t wait to play with it.

Full review coming within 2-3 days. Stay tuned.

99%. Now, watch this take like 25 minutes to hit 100%!

It took 10 minutes. Now I’m out the door to try it out.


Comprehensive Review of Suunto Ambit2 R here.

Suunto Ambit4 Speculation HERE!

Here is a video of the unboxing:

Suunto Ambit2 R Glass Pitting – Broken

Suunto Ambit2 R broken glass - has some pitting.

I had this watch for one year. I don’t remember ever banging it hard, or even semi-forceful on anything. The other day I was thinking about selling it to upgrade to the next Suunto Ambit4 when it is released, and I checked it out carefully – and found pitting in the glass.

Pitting, a crack, I don’t know. Doesn’t look like a crack, just looks like the glass was affected by something and started to fall apart. Looks like pitting in the glass.

Closeup photo of the broken – pitted glass issue:

Pitted glass close up on watch face of Suunto Ambit2 R GPS runner's watch.

Anybody else having this issue?

So now, my Suunto Ambit2 R watch has a broken watch band, pitting in the glass, and the heart rate monitor died and I had to pay $70 to get it replaced.

Six months ago I was sure I would upgrade my Suunto Ambit2 R to a Ambit4 model.

Today? Not sure at all.

 

Suunto Ambit2 R Watch Band Strap Broken – Defective?

Suunto Ambit2 R GPS Runner's watch with broken watch band for wrist.

While sitting around cheerless waiting for some news – ANY NEWS about the SUUNTO AMBIT4 watches, I’ve been reading a lot. I read that many people had the Suunto Ambit2, Ambit3 watch band straps break on them – and I thought, wow, that sucks for them.

Now it sucks FOR ME because mine just broke. There must be a serious defect in these bands because one guy on EBay is selling them and has already sold over 100 bands. That’s one seller.

So, I live in Thailand. It’s not an issue of bringing the band from hot to cold. It’s never cold. It’s not a matter of abusing the band – I am always really careful when putting it on. Very careful.

It isn’t a matter of having it too long – I had the watch about one year. In that time my heart rate monitor died too!

Is Suunto putting out absolute JUNK products?

I don’t know. I can’t say that yet. The watch still works. Sure it has a micro-chip or pitting in the glass already. How that happened, I couldn’t begin to guess because I never hit it hard. I don’t remember ever hitting the watch face medium-hard.

So, I don’t know. I’m probably wide-open now for which GPS running watch I buy this year. I though the Suunto was a tank – and would last forever. If the bands and heart rate monitors are breaking within a year – and, get this, cost $70 to replace a plastic band! hah! Come on man, are you guys out of your minds?

I already bought another heart rate monitor, so all in this watch which was 1.5 years old when I bought it  – cost me about $250 initially, adding $70 for the HRM, and now another $30, assuming I can get this guy to sell a fake band to me and ship it to Thailand – which he says he doesn’t usually do.

$350 for this watch and bum accessories.

Not too happy with Suunto, as you might imagine.

Now, if they don’t nail the Ambit4 – I’m going to buy a Garmin next!

SEND YOUR PHOTOS TO ME IF YOUR SUUNTO AMBIT WATCH BAND BROKE TOO!

When Is the Suunto Ambit4 Release Date?

WHEN is the next Suunto Ambit – the Ambit4 – release date?

The official Suunto website is publishing “Last Minute Deals” on Suunto Ambit2 watches from the middle of this month.

Does that mean the Suunto Ambit4 GPS Sports Watches are to be released any day now?

There has been no date published from what I can find ANYWHERE online. There is speculation about the new Ambits HERE, but nothing definitive yet.

One thing is for sure, there is little agreement on the myriad options Suunto could choose to add to this new watch. There are dozens of ways it could go – and it will come down to a judgement call that best aligns with what people who have been buying their watches all along – want this time.

Personally, I’d like a number of changes. By far the biggest and most meaningful changes to implement with the new Ambit4 line would be:

  1. A bigger display so I can actually read the data while I’m running.
  2. Better contrast display – again, so I can actually read it while I’m running.
  3. Longer battery life. Like double. Add another compartment to the top of the watch like the GPS on the bottom, and fill it with battery and we’re good to go.

What are the ESSENTIAL AMBIT4 CHANGES you want to see in the next iteration?

List ’em in the comments!

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 3 Trail Running Shoes [Ideal]

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 3 Trail Running Shoes. Grey, charcoal.
Color changed. Even MORE breathable. Snazzy laces. Don’t like the purple.

The new NIKE ZOOM TERRA KIGER 3’s came to our planet on July 15th, 2015. I’ve run in them and I really like them.

I love these for Thailand’s trails more than any other shoe. I bought 3 pair. Will have to do an update to my earlier review of these shoes.

Here they are in the flesh. Well, virtual flesh anyway.

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger V2 Trail Runners – FOUND!

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger v2 with funky laces and a baby blue swoosh.
Amazing design with baby-blue Swoosh on black.

We had a little road trip up to the Surat Thani Central Plaza this afternoon. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but I was in the market for another pair of trail running shoes. I figured I’d need to order them online or at EBay. Where we live in Southern Thailand there is no decent store for running shoes of any sort. It’s a 2.5-hour drive to Phuket, or a 2-hour drive to Surat. Surat rarely has anything at all, BUT, one time they blew my mind by having the orange New Balance Minimus V2. So, there is always the slightest chance they’d have something.

We pulled up to the mall, packed for “Children’s Day” and looked at the smelly meerkats meercats? for a few minutes. We entered the mall and I went my way, and mom, baby girl and grandma went the other. I was heading straight for the sports store. Once there I almost fell over when I saw the ZOOM TERRA KIGER that didn’t look like the first one I saw there a month ago. AND it was a different color. I tried on version 1 and the toe-box was much too tight for my wide feet. I wasn’t too excited yet, but wait. Was this the new version already?

IT WAS! Version 2 was on the shelves in a couple new colors. I picked the darkest one and the greys and asked for the USA 11. They had it in the dark one. I tried it on, and amazingly – IT FIT! I tried the other on. IT FIT.

Toe-box of Nike Zoom Terra Kiger V2. Grippy!

Then I realized, the sole was stiffer than a week old cobra road kill. I queried it online. It was supposed to be apparently. It got a great review. Then I found another good review. Wow. Ok, how much was it? The sales girl said, “4,900 baht.” WHAT! That’s $166 USD. Then she said I could get $30 off if I had “The One” card. My wife had it. I rang her. Nope she didn’t have it with her. No wait, damn, she didn’t even have her purse with her. WHERE WAS IT?

She made an emergency run to the car, then the hotel. She had left her purse in the hotel. It was still there and full of cash. Lucky us man.

So I couldn’t get the discount anyway because wifey still didn’t know where her “The One” card was. Bummer.

Well, usually the good stuff in Thailand is $30 to $100 more than in the states. I pulled the trigger after rationalizing that the two Nike running shirts I was buying with the shoes at a steep discount, would give me back the $30 I was overpaying on top of US prices. Then I realized they’re selling for $125 anyway. Plus shipping. I’d pay about the same, or more than $166. Ok, SOLD!

Heel ReGrind on the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger V2

I have one on my foot right now. We’re in the hotel. It’s nearly 10 p.m. There isnt’ a trail in sight, but I’m still psyched to have found these shoes, and that they fit my big toe box. They’re a bit snug, but they have a real nice smooth liner so I need not even wear socks with them if I don’t want. That’s perfect. I’ll wear them sockless until I stretch them a bit then start wearing socks to tighten them up again.

Review coming shortly. Well, as soon as my fracture heals up. I twisted my ankle and the tendon ripped a small piece of bone off. I think it might be like 6 weeks of very little anything, to heal it up.

Nike ZOOM Terra Kiger v2 tread pattern like a heat map.

Well, I’ll wear the Terra Kigers around the house, they’ll support my foot a lot so my toes don’t bend when I walk.

I highly recommend you try the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger V2’s if you see them in the store. They feel great. 5mm drop. Wicked rubber grips. Wide forefoot (toebox) and they feel quite stable. They have all sorts of colors and the size 11 US fits me as most 11’s do.

Shoe insert for Nike Zoom Terra Kiger V2 trail running shoes. It says, Running, Neutral Ride / Trail.

Give me a few days for the full review – minus running, because I’m just not going to be able to do more than a slow jog.

See the FULL Nike Zoom Terra Kiger V2 Review here.
Cheers!

Good Points and Bad Points – Suunto Ambit2 R GPS Running Watch

Suunto Ambit2 R

So I’ve had some more hands-on time with the Suunto Ambit2 R, as I’ve had it for about a week now. I’ve run with it on trails, at the park, and up a concrete stairway on the side of a mountain. Overall, I must say I’m happy with it. I definitely needed to upgrade from my featureless Timex Ironman from a decade past.

Here are some good and bad points about the Suunto Ambit2 R.

Good Points

  1. GPS satellites are found near instantly, even in my house.
  2. GPS works well on the flats and through the dense canopy of the rainforest trail. I think the GPS is very accurate in most situations.
  3. Beeps warning me I’m below or above my specified heart rate threshold, kilometer beeps, and all beeps, are loud enough to hear clearly.
  4. The big display on the middle row is very easy to read in all situations.
  5. The watch charges quickly – less than two hours to full charge from zero %.
  6. The buttons are designed well, a forceful push, and I haven’t made a mistake by not pushing them fully more than 2-3 times.
  7. Movescount.com (MC) is useful. I really enjoy the charts and being able to customize my displays for different exercise activities.
  8. No scuffs yet, despite hitting walls, doors, and trees with it.
  9. The heart rate monitor (HRM) strap is soft and doesn’t slip down – ever.

Bad Points

  1. Altitude readings are pure junk if climbing a steep mountain. I’m in Thailand, maybe the map data is junk to start with?
  2. In the rain the display is all but useless for all other than the middle row of data.
  3. The bottom and top rows of data are about useless in all situations. Too small to see while bouncing around running. Would be better to see all 3 rows the same size.
  4. Movescount has no stairclimbing activity, and yet they have cheerleading. Come on.
  5. No sleep activity in movescount either. I like to sleep with the HRM on and see what my pulse did at night. Interesting!
  6. Recording my sleep last night with GPS on showed me moving in elevation up to 40 meters difference. I don’t know where in the hell I went last night, but I don’t remember a thing.
  7. No easy way to remove sections off the map. You know, in case you leave the GPS on at the end of your run and it catches the entire trip home on the motorbike at 90 KPH. Strava has.
  8. Not sure there is anyway to remove the GPS from kicking on any time I do an activity. Sometimes want just the HRM. I know I can do it in movescount for the activity, maybe have to setup a new activity to do that. That sucks because sometimes I would like to save the battery and kill the GPS. Can’t do it without connecting to MC.
  9. The default setting of kilometer laps to “on” is annoying as hell. Took me a bit to figure out what was going on. Default should be “off.”
  10. It’s pretty damn big (thick, wide) for how little it does. I hope they slim it down – like cut it in half before next iteration.

Comprehensive Review of Suunto Ambit2 R here.

If you’re a runner and you need a GPS watch with heart rate monitor, you’ll probably be happy with the Suunto Ambit2 R watch. It seems durable and is a great tool to help take your training to the next level. Particularly cool is movescount.com because it’s free and has some nice functionality. My next watch will also likely be a Suunto, though I’ll probably go all out and get whatever the newest model is at the time.

Don’t look now, but the Suunto Ambit4 is coming in 2015 – here’s what we’re hoping for!