Review: Black Diamond SPOT 400-R Headtorch

A powerful, lightweight, rechargeable head torch with a multitude of features

Feature type Review

Read time 10 mins

Published May 27, 2022

Photographer Sam Grosvenor

Hannah Mitchell BASE Digital Writer Hannah is a Lake District-based journalist and all-round outdoor lass with a particular fondness for rock faces.
Our Verdict:

The SPOT 400-R is a powerful, rechargeable head torch with a multitude of features.

Its compact shape and lightweight form belies its durability, brightness and intelligent functionality – all of which make it an excellent value-for-money addition to your hiking pack or crag bag.

Weight 73g
Output 400 Lumen
Beam Distance 100m
Features Brightness memory, waterproof, battery meter, lock mode
RRP £55

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Comfortable
  • Superior features and functions
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Functions can be tricky to navigate
  • Stiff headband adjuster

First Impressions

The SPOT 400-R is available in a choice of four colours, so whether you dig that bright, alpine vibe or prefer a more subtle tone when it comes to your headgear, you’re covered. It’s subtly branded with the Black Diamond logo on the housing and in reflective lettering on the headband.

Aesthetics aside, it’s a comparatively compact number when sat beside my partner’s STORM model, and its housing does look rather less robust. The grippy, rubberised band that encircles the casing makes it feel less drop-able, but somehow I still wouldn’t want to from any great height, owing to how light and fragile it feels. The headband is incredibly soft and having given it an initial ‘tug and wiggle test’, seems to be the right balance of stretchy with staying power (it’s also made from recycled elastic).

Being rated IP67 waterproof, which essentially means the SPOT 400-R can survive submersion of 1m for 30 minutes, is initially an added reassurance that you won’t be in the dark in the event of a downpour. The charger port cover looks a little bit on the flimsy side, so I’m not sure how rigorously I would want to test that claim!

Inside the box, you also get a micro-USB cable for recharging the torch’s Li-Ion battery. I have heard grumblings from other rechargeable headtorch users about the supply of micro USBs with Black Diamond torches, as opposed to the much newer and faster USB C. The latter is prevalently supplied for recharging newer GPS watches and GoPros, and it would be nice if we could have just one fitting for all our outdoor tech!

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR

My go-to headtorch for the past year has been the Petzl Swift RL, which packs a punch at 900 Lumens but also weighs in at a rather hefty 100g. It’s an expedition essential, but not entirely necessary for straightforward, dark descents after a long day on the hills or as a convenient ‘grab and go’ light when retreating to the van for the evening. I’ve been in the market for something a little lighter and less bulky for a while, and the SPOT 400-R definitely fits that bill.

As a climber, I need a headtorch that goes on over a helmet with ease and can stand up to the odd knock against a rock face. Dimmable light is a minimum requirement when you’re regularly changing angle on the hills or in close proximity to the rock, and not having to cycle through several functions to find that sweet spot really helps.

A lock function is also essential, as my torches often end up squashed against gear inside my bag and I can’t afford to accidentally lose battery power in case of an emergency!

As a climber, I need a headtorch that goes on over a helmet with ease and can stand up to the odd knock against a rockface.

WHO IS THIS HEADTORCH FOR?

First and foremost, it’s for people with access to a power supply, of course.

If you’re after a lightweight, rechargeable headtorch with a decent burn time for night navigation, long descents in the dark or as a ‘just in case’ adventure component that you can rely on, this torch is for you.

Even on summer days at easily accessible crags, I always have a headtorch stuffed in my climbing bag in case of an ‘epic’, and the compact, lightweight nature of the SPOT 400-R makes it perfect for exactly that. It adds minimal weight on hikes, scrambles and multi-pitch climbs, but doesn’t compromise on power and performance.

Whilst it isn’t designed specifically with runners in mind, the SPOT 400-R did withstand a low-level run without bouncing around and I have no doubt it would fair well on more rugged trails and terrain.

THE TEST

I gave the SPOT 400-R a run for its money on a number of occasions and for different activities including night hiking and navigation, climbing, dog walking, running and very importantly – locating the toilet whilst camping!

Living in the Lake District means my gear often has to deal with inclement weather when I’m out and about, and the SPOT 400-R was subject to some typical Cumbrian conditions on more than one occasion.

When not in use, the headtorch mainly resided in my climbing bag amongst various bits of metalware and gear. Ropes were dumped on top of it, the bag flung around unceremoniously, and the torch was on the receiving end of some pretty rough treatment at times.

WHAT STANDS OUT?

FUNCTIONALITY

It’s not just the volume of functions that stands out, but how genuinely useful they are, once you know how to use them.

The modes include full strength in proximity (perfect for map reading) and distance, dimming, strobe, red night vision, and lock mode. Its brightness memory means that you can turn the light off at a chosen brightness without it reverting back to the default when you switch it back on, and PowerTap function means you can alternate between full strength and dimmed light by tapping the side of the torch, though it is very easy to do this by accident! The red light can be activated without having to cycle through the white light settings too. They’re small details, but in dodgy conditions or precarious spots, they make a big difference.

The one downside to all these functions is that it takes a little bit of learning how to operate them all. I strongly suggest sitting down for five minutes at home and getting the hang of it before you head for the hills!

POWER

I was skeptical of Black Diamond’s claims that this torch’s battery could hold up for 4 hours at maximum output with a 1 hour reserve for low intensity activities, but observing the battery meter after a good couple of hours of scrambling and rigging abseils in the dark, I’d say this is actually pretty accurate. Black Diamond uses ANSI FL-1 testing to measure this, which is the lighting industry’s standard battery life test for LED products, and the three hour flat-to-full charge time is reasonable.

The beam intensity and distance is impressive for a torch of this size and weight. Often with headtorches, weight and power are something of a trade-off, but the SPOT 400-R is an exception to that rule with a maximum distance of 100m at 400 Lumen output.

 

COMFORT

The recycled elastic headband uses a Repreve fiber which ticks a small sustainability box, and is incredibly soft and comfy. It has excellent staying power and was easy enough to fit to my climbing helmet and the headband can also be removed to allow the torch to be fitted to the chest strap or rear of your backpack too.

The lightweight nature of the SPOT 400-R meant that it was barely noticeable, and its smooth angling hinge (as opposed to the staggered, clunky angling of other models) is another small but much appreciated detail.

I found the headband adjusters to be quite stiff, requiring a bit of force to tighten and loosen off. This could be seen as a positive however, as it certainly eliminates the chance of the headband slackening during use!

APPEARANCE

I do like gear that looks good, but when it comes to the crunch I’d always opt for performance.

The SPOT 400-R is definitely one of Black Diamond’s more aesthetically pleasing additions to their lighting range, and its appearance might be a bit off-putting if you’re after something really rugged and solid. The single, all-over colour and rounded housing is pretty cool. Appearances are deceptive though, and I’d say whilst by no means the hardiest model I’ve ever used, the SPOT 400-R isn’t as fragile as it seems.

As long as I’m not compromising on quality, why wouldn’t I want my kit to look cool too?

VALUE FOR MONEY

The SPOT 400-R is priced at £55 on Black Diamond’s website, and this price seems to be fairly consistent across other independent retailers.

Not to be confused with the SPOT 400 which is considerably cheaper at £40, and whilst slightly heavier, has the capacity to run on alkaline batteries too, often preferable at colder temperatures which can cause Li-Ion batteries to rapidly discharge.

In terms of value for money, the SPOT 400-R is an excellent option for everyday adventurers given its functions, performance and battery life, which exceed comparative, similarly priced models from other brands.

BASE BOTTOM LINE

The SPOT 400-R is a deceptively compact, lightweight and comfortable headtorch that’s good looks belie its power, functionality and durability. The extensive and numerous functions take a little while to get used to, with multiple sequences of taps and button pushes to memorise, but once you get the hang of it, it feels quite intuitive.

Despite a slightly fragile outward appearance, it’s certainly tough enough to withstand the knocks and bumps of big days (and nights) on the hills, hanging around on rock faces and midnight forays across camp or back from the pub.

Ultimately this powerful little piece of kit far exceeded my expectations for the price, and has more than earned its place in my climbing and hiking arsenal.

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