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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Gear Review: Icon Irix Headlamp

Icon attempts the impossible: to make headlamps cool.

by: Will Rochfort

Icon Irix Headlamp (Courtesy Photo)
Icon Irix Headlamp (Courtesy Photo)

The Specs:
3.6 ounces
Headlamps will always win my personal pseudo-award for the lowest ratio of function to fashion.  Sure, it’s nice when light appears wherever you turn your head, but a headlamp is not something you want to sport in social circles far from the treeline. 

Icon attempts to infuse some style into the Irix line of headlamps, and although the jury is still out on its aesthetic success, the technical specs are well worth lauding. At under four ounces the Irix features continuous variable output from 5-35 lumens, a focused beam that adjusts from 6 to nearly 100 feet, and a 72 hour runtime off a single AA battery. 

Every feature came in handy while guiding a recent trip in the Palisades of the eastern Sierras.  First, because I was out late cleaning dishes, I didn’t get to bed until well after my tent-mates were in their sleeping bags but was able to dial down the high-powered beam to a palatable 5 lumens while getting organized in the tent. 

On the flipside, when it started sleeting at 4 am , I cranked the Irix up to its full range of 100 feet and was quickly able to make sure all 12 of our group’s gear and tent flys were secure, saving me from having to climb down to our other campground in long johns, camp shoes, and a wool t-shirt in nearly freezing temps. As a bonus, moisture didn’t phase the weatherproof housing— a huge plus given that I had a piece of wet electrical equipment strapped to my noggin.

The oversized brightness adjustment dial is easy to operate, even if you’re wearing a pair of cumbersome mittens and I liked being able to quickly flip the light direction from zero to a full 90 degrees. After all, pointing your headlamp down while talking over dinner is much more civilized than blinding everyone you look at. 

The housing also easily disconnects from the headband mount, a big convenience if you want to use the headlamp as a flashlight to dig around the inside of your pack— but the easy dismount could be disconcerting on alpine ascents where losing your headlamp is a more serious matter.

Bottom line: Although I wouldn’t recommend wearing it for a first date in the city, when it comes to nocturnal activities in the backcountry, the Irix is a stellar companion.

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Jul 14, 2012

Umm, headlamps should get the highest ratio of function to fashion. They have lots of function, and little fashion.

Jan 11, 2011

Love the single AA power, the variable output, the spot/flood; all great innovatons. The disconnect is fine if you're just hiking but I wouldn't want it if I was anywhere it could fall off and not be retrieved with more than a bent knee. However, saw the comment about the runner above so it looks to hang in there pretty well.

Dec 14, 2010

@ Anonymous on Nov 17th:
I think the reviewer was joking about the light being stylish... at least I hope so...

@ Floyd:
The quick disconnect could be a problem for caving or climbing, but a small lanyard or the like could secure it to the headband, if necessary.

I think many people are missing the big advantages of this light:
1) Decent output and runtime on a single AA battery.
2) Wide range of light outputs that can be adjusted easily.
3) Offers both flood and throw settings without adding a bunch of buttons. When the light gets turned up high enough, the throw LED kicks in. This is really a big innovation.

Nov 18, 2010

I run with this headlamp, it's fantastic, lightweight and I love that the light spray can be adjusted when necessary. The fact that I can change the battery out in the pitch dark in 10 seconds makes this Headlamp a WINNER!

Nov 17, 2010

Not the best looking headlamp I've seen, but the specs are pretty impressive and the pricing seems about right. My only questions would be regarding overall durability and long-term reliability.

Nov 17, 2010

I think this is the worst looking headlamp. I don't know why they would use this one for a fashion attempt. Usually when people want the pretty one they go for a petzl.

Nov 17, 2010

I think I'll just keep my Black Diamond Spot thank you.

Nov 16, 2010

Looking at this as a headlamp to be used in caving, climbing, and hiking at night, I think that easy disconnect of an Irix headlamp from a headband mount is a problem, not a feature. I've spent a number of evenings trying to find my way back to camp, and losing a headlamp would be a "bad thing," especially if the headlamp fell off a helmet or cap during the day when the wearer might not notice if a light fell off.


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