Gear Review: Icon Irix Headlamp

Icon attempts the impossible: to make headlamps cool.

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.