Black Diamond Storm 2017

The Storm has filled an important niche in the Black Diamond line-up for several years now: reasonably powerful, pretty small, and reasonably long battery life – the Goldilocks option between the light-weights like the Ion and the heavy-hitting Icon. I wrote favourably about it in my original headtorch review, suggesting it might be the best option for almost all runners who didn’t have extreme needs.

Since I wrote that, there has been something of a feeding frenzy in the LED technology space – seemingly every few months a new LED came out giving much more light while losing less burn-time that one might expect. At the same time, the gear-heads at Black Diamond have been coming up with new styling and new features.

When my mom came to visit recently from South Africa, I took the opportunity to get her a new headtorch for her night running – typified as clear-weather running for up to 90 minutes on easy to moderate trail. Being a firm believer in over-gunning wherever possible, I settled on the Storm… then I went to the shop and realized what I knew as the Storm was no more.

What had started as a 100 lumen competitor to Petzl’s game-changing but bantam-weight Tikka in 2011, had become a 160 lumen utility torch by 2015, in 2016 grew into a 250 lumen running torch, and is now an exceptional unit with more power than most people need.

A quick run-down on the features.

Housing. Not much has changed since the 2016 model. A single headband takes up little room, and holds the torch in place fine for most running, though I did notice some bounce in fast-and-furious technical running. Tension can be quickly and easily adjusted. The body has a single control button on top (plus the PowerTap on the right side) and a secure, easy-to-use levered clasp to close the body to ensure waterproofing – by far the easiest and most durable method I’ve seen on smaller bodies. The main button is slightly recessed, so unlikely to accidentally turn on if you forget to lock it. It comes in four colours: aluminium (light grey), black, dark olive (green) and octane (orange). Being a firm believer in visibility, I love the octane! The body comes with IP67 rating, meaning both water- (1m, 30min) and dust-proof – the ideal rating for a running, adventure racing torch (there is a review on the BD website about a Storm which had been immersed for four days at 7m which was still ON!) The weight is unchanged at 110g (62g torch + 48g batteries) – less than two Clif Bars! (Three Clif Bars if you include a spare set of batteries.)

Controls. The single button controls everything with a combination of single, double and triple taps, and press-and-hold… it will take a few minutes with the manual to get your head around it, or a couple hours of trial-and-error to figure it out. In short, the most important functions are:
– Single press: turn on or off, with memory to the last LED and brightness setting
– Press and hold for 4 sec from off: lock
– Press and hold from on: cycles brightness up and down the range until you reach the setting you want
– Press and hold for 2 sec from OFF: toggle between coloured LED (red initially, but whatever the last one you used)
– Double-tap from ON: between QuadPower and DoublePower white LEDs, or between colours
– Triple-tap from ON: strobe.
Once the white LEDs are on, tap (hold for a moment) and release on the right side turns the torch to maximum brightness, and then back to the previous setting (“PowerTap”) I don’t find this useful, but if you are constantly changing from close proximity to distance, you may like this… it doesn’t take up any room, at least!

Batteries. As with all Storm models, it uses four AAA cells – one of the most widely available batteries, offering great power-to-dollar and power-to-gram ratios. While you get less life than a system using AA (e.g. the Icon), it is so easy to carry a spare set of batteries, and the reduced neck fatigue after 8 or 10 hours of running is significant enough, that I think this is the way to go for almost all runners (this is one of the main changes from my original review). The Storm boasts regulated output, where power consumption is controlled to deliver constant lumens out (rather than fading with time), and the heat sink backs into the battery compartment, improving cold-weather performance.

Pro-tip on spare batteries… use electrical insulation tape to entomb the four batteries. This keeps them together, and keeps them dry. Just to be sure no moisture corrupts them, at the start/end of each season replace your worn batteries with the spares, and wrap new spares.

Performance. There are more options than you can shake a stick at:
– Single QuadPower LED for the main workload
– Wide-angle DoublePower LED for proximity (and it come into play to kick the total output to 350 lumens)
– Regular single power LEDs in red, green and blue
On top of these LEDs, each has smooth dimming from full power to very faint, and, except for the QuadPower, a strobe setting. The table below compares burn-time for the 2016 and 2017 models. Bottom line: they are about the same at equivalent power, but you can burn brighter for less time with the 2017 model; key thing to note: the SinglePower LEDs are MUCH less efficient than the QuadPower – if you need more than 10-15 lumen (in a tent trying not to wake your partner), you are better off taking more light from the Quad and still getting longer burn-time – essentially, the only functions for the SinglePower LEDs is for their colour, and if you want to leave the headlamp for several days to mark the way to something (no idea why you would want to do this). Since I generally set my torch at about 200 lumens for trail running, I was comfortably able to run through two nights the first time I used my Storm.

Setting 2016 model 2017 model
Main light, max power 250 lumen, 60 hours 350 lumen, 40 hours
Main light, min power 90 lumen, 120 hours 90 lumen, 120 hours
Low LED, max power 60 lumen, 20 hours 40 lumen, 25 hours
Low LED, min power 4 lumen, 250 hours 4 lumen, 250 hours

So, what is my number one gripe? The controls could be a bit more intuitive… but even that isn’t too bad. The max power and battery life are certainly enough for almost everyone.

The only demographics I can see who wouldn’t be satisfied with the Storm would be those needing extreme brightness (in which case the Black Diamond Icon with 500 lumens or the Petzl Nao with 750 lumens are the only real alternatives in mountain-oriented units), or those in extremely cold environments, where the detachable battery pack of the Icon can be placed inside their jacket, extending battery life.

This Storm has now replaced my 2016 Icon as my go-to torch for ultramarathons and my eLite for my “just-in-case” torch for most adventures, and retains pole position for short evening runs. For very light-and-fast runs where I really don’t expect to use a torch, I would still take my eLite, and it is still my back-up torch (if I had a second Storm, that might change!), while my Icon will still get use as an aid station torch (so I don’t touch the batteries on my running light) and to loan to friends who forget their torches. In short, with the new Storm, to paraphrase Malone in the Untouchables, you will be bringing a gun to a knife-fight.

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