Gear Review: BD Icon head torch

When I needed to get a new light for Survival Run Nicaragua in early 2016, I spent quite a bit of time looking at the current options, and decided that the Black Diamond Icon is hands-down the best for what I do….18-36 hour runs and some mountaineering. (You are referred to my earlier article for a more generalized discussion of the characteristics that should be considered.)

It is very bright at 320 lumens, but can be dimmed to a spark. There are brighter lights (but not many since the 2017 version of the Icon bumped up to 500 lumens from the 320 lumen 2016 version), but you sacrifice an unacceptable amount of battery life. A lot of people will tell you do don’t need this amount of light….and 90% of the time they’re right… but in difficult navigation and very technical trails you will be happy to have more lumens (“my gun is too big” never said any cowboy ever!)

It’s battery life is good. You get 9.4hrs on bright according to the Outdoor Gear Lab review, with which you can see 80m. Life goes to the rafters as you dim the light… days and days. This is plenty for running a full winter night, given you will likely only use the brightest setting half the time at most.

The light pattern is good… wide bright, with only moderate dimming to the edges. Lots of peripheral light, but the pattern is not wide enough to light up you eye lashes (trust me…that sucks).

It uses AA cells. You can get these anywhere in the world. Rechargeable, non-swappable lights are convenient….until you forget to charge them or need to go longer than they can deliver or they accidentally turn on. And many hard races require you carry spare batteries. If you do feel the need for a rechargeable light, Black Diamond offers one as an add-on product.

There is a lock on the light, so it won’t accidentally turn on. Genius.

Sure it’s heavier than many lights….but the straps are good and it carries with great balance. And, apart from for the very smallest ladies, 232g isn’t really that much… HTFU.

It is adequately waterproof for almost any occasion. I’ve spent quite a while swimming in mine. Rain won’t ever be an issue. For serious canyoneering you may want more….but that doesn’t sound like your goal. Sure, it’s expensive (USD100) but compare that to how much you spend on race fees, fuel to the races, food, bribes for your crew….and it is irrelevantly cheap if it gives you a slightly better race. Also, this is far less than the top-end lights from Petzl or Light in Motion.

Cute extra: red LEDs so you don’t wake your significant other when trying to sneak out for an early training session.

Purchase the 2017, 500 lumen model here: Black Diamond Icon Headlamp – Black

The Black Diamond product web page will give you some additional reading.


  1. Hi,
    Which headlamp would you recommend for an ultramarathon: BD Icon 5oolm or BD Storm 300lm ??
    Thank you for your advice.

    1. Author

      It used to be a harder decision to make, but now I would be pretty comfortable recommending the 350 lumen Storm. 200-250 lumens (the power of the Storm when you turn it on) is fine for most route-finding and 350 lumens (when you bump it to full power) gives you the extra power when things get challenging.

      The times that going to 500 lumens would be beneficial are pretty rare – perhaps in complex mountaineering terrain where you need to route-find much further out… but I used to do just fine with the old Petzl Zoom, which probably delivered 300 lumens when the batteries were warm and fresh, but more generally 150-200. The Icon would give you longer burn-time, but you can run through at least one night (I’ve gone through two… albeit summer nights) with the Storm. Carrying an extra set of batteries would close the gap. Then there is the weight and bulk considerations… the Storm wins hands-down here. It is very easy to just throw the Storm into your pack permanently and forget about it… whereas the Icon adds noticeably to your load.

      One time I would seriously look at the Icon is in very cold conditions. It has a “polar” conversion where you can take the battery pack off your head and put it inside your jacket to keep it warm.

      For Bigfoot in August, I will be throwing my 350 lumen Icon into one of my drop bags as an emergency back-up (my other back-ups will be Tikkas), but I plan to run the whole way with my Storm.

      NOTE: A lot of shops are still selling the 200 or 250 lumen Storms… I feel these are slightly under-powered, and there is more of a horse-race between them and the 500 lumen Icon.

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