Possibly the most versatile high-power head torch available but with some caveats for the climber and alpinist.
Running with the Beast
When Dave passed the LED Lenser XEO 19 my way I was both excited and a little wary. This was a truly serious head torch – 2000 Lumens (yes that third zero is not a typo) but with an all up weight that is only a single krab shy of half a kilo!
I’m not going to list all the features and functions of the XEO 19 as it would pretty much take up the whole review however even an abridged overview should give you a clear picture. First up the head or light unit. This consists of two independently focusable Xtreme LEDs capable of putting out 2000 lumens. Each lamp unit is independently controllable from a reasonably intuitive multi-switch which gives a very positive ‘click’ which is so essential when wearing gloves. Not only can you control the output of each lamp unit they are also independently focusable as well – you can set one to ‘flood’ and the other to ‘spot’ or anything in between with a simple side lever. The head unit also makes use of LED Lenser’s ‘Optisense’ technology whereby sensors in the unit detect the amount of reflected light dimming the lamps when reflected light increases (for instance when looking at a map or reading a guidebook). The head unit can also be inclined downward with a nicely positive ratchet action. The head unit on our review unit attaches to a fairly standard elastic cradle for wearing on your head or helmet but LED Lenser supply a plethora of mounts for bikes, stick-ons for helmets, tripods etc. The elastic cradle will also mount the battery pack if desired. The battery pack is pretty serious affair housing 4 x NCR18650 rechargeables (these are not removable BTW) and it is fairly obvious that run time and brightness have been prioritised in the design. If needed the battery pack can act as a back up USB power source as it has a USB out port which is novel. All elements are waterproof to IPX 6 level and the cable connectors all lock in place so there is no danger of being plunged into darkness because a cable worked loose or got snagged. This really is a headlamp built for durability and high performance.
OK lets get the bad news out the way first. This is not an alpinist or climber’s head torch, it’s just too heavy. For the purpose of the review I tried it on my Petzl Scirocco helmet whilst descending Ledge Route in the gloom and the weight pulled the helmet all over the place – I’d not even consider it for actual climbing. I found similar problems at home when fixed to a Meteor helmet – basically the battery pack is too heavy to mount on a helmet. Likewise running I found mounting the battery pack on the head cradle uncomfortable and unstable. The charging unit is another problem for the lightweight traveller as it is a full on power brick rather than the almost ubiquitous these days USB – not a huge problem but again something of an issue if you rely on solar panels and cigarette chargers when away.
Fortunately LED Lenser provide alternative mounting options in the form of a neoprene belt pouch or even just the strap slots on the battery pack itself. Most of the time I carried the battery pack in a back pack or bum bag where its extra weight was hardly noticeable. It’s still not something you’re going to carry on a mountain marathon event like the KIMM oops I mean OMM, but for training on the fells or in the mountains after dark it’s great. The weight penalty buys you an awesome amount of illumination making navigation and traversing tricky terrain a cinch. Depending on the (the easily selected) settings you choose you get between 4 and 20hours of light at 200 – 2000 lumens. Combine that with the ease of adjustability and the ability to vary the beam pattern the XEO 19 is a pleasure to use. When navigating the Optisense technology makes it simple to rapidly check the map without dazzling yourself and overall usability is hard to fault. I didn’t have the opportunity to test the bike mounts but I did mount the unit on both the bars and a bike helmet (with the aid of trusty zip ties) and can confirm that it makes an equally excellent MTB light.
For night time runs in the mountains or MTB rides after dark the XEO 19 makes for a versatile and powerful set up – it would probably be great for night time bouldering with the tripod mounts too. However for winter climbers and alpinists it is too heavy to ever consider. If you buy the kit with bike mounts you’ll get a very versatile set-up to aid your after dark training through those winter nights.
Suppliers LED Lenser
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!