While perusing the floor of Outdoor Retailer last year, I walked past Coast, which I had never heard of before and which appeared to have a nice line of lights. I spoke with a rep for a few minutes, and he sent me off with the Coast HL27 Headlamp. After more than a year of extensive use, I would like to offer a long-term review.
Overall, I would highly recommend the Coast HL27 for extended hiking and running in the dark. It is very bright and battery-efficient, and it features awesome brightness and beam angle adjustments. For the price (less than $40 on Amazon), I know of nothing better. In fact, I thought so highly of it that I bought one as a gift for my father, who sometimes runs or rides before work.
On trips with less lighting needs (i.e. summer trips with ample daylight), the HL27 would be overkill. Instead, I use the Fenix LD02, which offers plenty of power for camp chores and occasional night-hiking, but which comes in a smaller 1-oz package.
I have used the Coast HL27 during several ultra marathons with prolonged night-running, including:
- Run Rabbit Run 100: 10 hours
- Vulcano Ultra Trail 100k: 6 hours
- Silverheels 100: 8 hours
- Indian Creek 50: 1 hour
I have also brought it on backpacking trips in the late-fall and winter, when the nights are excessively long. On these trips, I often set up camp, break down camp, and squeeze in extra miles when it’s dark.
Relevant product specs
- $60 MSRP, although it’s less than $40 on Amazon
- 8.5-hour runtime at maximum 330 lumens
- 93-hour runtime at minimum 1 lumen
- Adjustable beam focus, spot through flood
- 4.6 oz (no batteries); 6.1 oz (with lithiums) or 7.2 (with alkaline)
- 3 x AA batteries
- Lifetime warranty
Brightness & run time
For an apples-to-apples comparison of headlamp brightness, start with lumens. The HL27 pushes out 330 lumens, which is very bright. For comparison, the popular Black Diamond Spot (my review) and Petzl Tikka offer 200 and 100 lumens, respectively.
True, these other models are lighter. But I would argue that for extensive nighttime use, a heavier and more powerful light is well worth the added weight, because I can move through the darkness with greater speed and safety. Using a medium- or low-powered light for prolonged activity in the dark is a classic example of “stupid light.”
The HL27’s run time is very good. The specs given are for alkaline batteries. If lithiums are used (which can be, per a phone call to Coast), run times will be longer.
The HL27 has two standout features. One is its brightness adjustment dial, which is a simple wheel located behind the power button. The dial is operable with glove liners and even bulky overmitts. It can be quickly rotated to power up to 330 lumens, down to 1 lumen, and anything in between — in less than a second. Watch this video for a demonstration:
The other standout feature of the HL27 is its adjustable beam. By twisting the bezel, the beam can be alternated quickly between a full spot and a full flood, and at any point in between.
The bezel is best operated with bare hands or glove liners. My only suggestion for improvement is to decrease the force needed to turn it. Again, a quick video:
The beam housing has three positions: straight, 45 degrees down, and something about halfway in between. When the housing is adjusted between its positions, it cracks loudly. This seems to be by design, but it sounds as if it’s breaking. If it were truly breaking, I would have broken it by now.
Ergonomics and aesthetics
Unlike the HL27 bulb, with its exceptional brightness and beam adjustments, the headlamp’s ergonomics and aesthetics do not set an industry standard. It has a Transformer- or Lego-like look to it. The red/black color scheme is not offensive, but it does not stand out at dusk in the bottom of a stuff sack, either. Finally, I would like the forehead contact surface to be made of a softer material that does get clammy from sweat, unlike the rubber that was used.
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How well will the Coast HL27 hold up in heavy rain? Does it have an IP rating?
It is described as “water resistant” and “tested and rated to ANSI/FL1 standards.” I interpret that to mean it is splash-tesistant but not submersible. That would be consistent with my observations of the unit: the battery pack is covered but not waterproof. The bulb, which would be left more exposed while wearing a rain jacket hood, is better protected.
I have one similar to that one, but made by a different manufacturer. I have never had a problem with the lamp, but the hinge on the bulb eventually broke and the bulb just hung by the wire. I was able to wedge and duct tape it to make the headlamp usable, but just barely. I think that the problem was cold weather and a plastic hinge. The adjustable, very bright lamps are so useful that I will continue to buy them, even if the hinges are fragile. I only use mine for hunting, but it’s a big help there.