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Leon's Blog

Best extreme sports headlamp? Black Diamond Icon review

The Black Diamond Icon is a heavy duty, professional quality headlamp for rugged use.
Best extreme sports headlamp? Black Diamond Icon review

A quality headlight is a vital part of an emergency kit. The Black Diamond Icon is a professional model that might be what you’re looking for.

by Leon Pantenburg

I was not paid to do this review, and at the time of publication, Black Diamond has no sponsorship relationship with SurvivalCommonSense.com

I’ve been using Black Diamond headlights since they came out. They have always proven to be durable, reliable, and very adequate for my needs.

Spot 2

This Black Diamond Spot 2 with 75 lumens has served me well for several years.

Last deer season, I field dressed, skinned and quartered two Mississippi bucks by the light of my Black Diamond Spot Two Mode on two very dark nights. The Spot’s 75 lumens were quite adequate, and I didn’t need any more light.

But earlier in the season, I used that same light to follow a blood trail through a thicket after an Oregon eight-point. I would have loved to have a spotlight.

The Icon is Black Diamond’s most powerful headlamp for professionals, adventurers and climbers who demand high-output lighting. The  Icon features a powerful 320-lumen QuadPower LED, waterproof construction and balanced batteries-in-the-back design.


The Black Diamond Icon is a professional quality headlamp, designed to handle tough tasks.

Here are the Icon specs:

  • One QuadPower LED spotlight, two SinglePower white LEDs and two SinglePower red LEDs emit 320 lumens (max. setting)
  • Red night-vision mode has proximity and strobe settings and activated without cycling through the white mode
  • Settings include full strength (in proximity and distance modes), dimming, strobe, red night vision and lock move
  • Three-level power meter shows remaining battery life for three seconds after switching on headlamp
  • Protected against water immersion down to 1 m (3.3 ft) for 30 minutes
  • Powered by four AA batteries

I’ve been using the Icon off and on for the past few months, for everything from after-dark dogs walks to camping and spelunking.

Here’s the good stuff:

Range of power: Some professional-quality headlamps are too bright for some  tasks. The Icon has a range of four to 320 lumens, and this works nicely. The lower setting allows me to read a book in my sleeping bag, while the high setting is a spotlight.

In some instances, such as clamoring over boulders in a cave or climbing a rock face where the light would reflect back into your eyes, you don’t want a spotlight. But in the next instant, you might need to use the spotlight to scope out a different route. The Icon can handle both situations easily.

Waterproof: You don’t use this light underwater, but it is supposed to be waterproof for up to 30 minutes and it can go down to one meter. This is huge, if you are hiking in a rainstorm in the dark.

Icon 5

The headband is easily-adjustable and can be quickly adapted to whatever head size is needed.

Headband: The Icon’s headband is comfortable and easy to adjust. I might wear it on my head to take a dog walk, but it adjusts easily to fit over my hat or helmet. The headband is really important for a light that will be worn a lot.

Controls: The Icon controls are large, easy to find, and can be operated with gloves on. Most important, they only require one hand to use.

Battery life: Black Diamond claims the Icon has a burn time of 175 hours at the four Lumens setting and 75 hours at 320 Lumens. This is outstanding efficiency, IMHO. That means, for all intents and purposes, that you should not need to worry about taking extra batteries along. But (SURVIVALCOMMONSENSE WARNING!!!! Always take along spares – survival situations can happen at any time, and you may desperately need extra batteries!)

Product support: The Icon comes with a three year warranty.

Do you need an Icon?

Well, consider this:

Overkill? Really, how much do you need a professional headlamp? If you are a first responder, member of a Search and Rescue team, climber, spelunker or extreme sports type, you need the most brilliant, tough headlamp available. The Icon will be just what you need.

But a backpacker, fisherman, hunter, car camper or dayhiker may just need enough illumination to see the trail after dark. You may not want to carry the extra battery weight, and may be tempted to leave the heavier light back at the trailhead. In some of these cases, the Spot Two, not the Icon may be the best choice.

Price: You get what you pay for. The Icon retails for about $90, about twice what the Spot Two or other comparable headlamps sell for. Decide if the extra expense is worth it, and if this is one of the best headlamps for you.

Batteries: The Spot Two uses three AAA batteries, versus the Icon’s four AAs. If ounces count, this may be worth considering.

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Leon's Blog

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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