Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Princeton Tec BYTE Headlamp is Fantastic for its Size.

The Princeton Tec Byte next to its slightly larger counterpart, the Fuel, in OD green with ACU digi-cam strap.
 I'm amazed at how many reviews are already up for this little headlamp.  I guess Princeton Tec did get it out in time for the press and bloggers to pick up on it before the holidays, wisely.  It just so happens that this little light would have made it into my currently non-existent Sharp Bright & Tactical Holiday Gift Guide, had I found the time to complete such a post!  Winter robs me of motivation, not to mention I've been trying to keep this very blog's facebook page up to date, and applying for additional jobs while doing some freelance writing for some small companies.  I'm busier than usual & I apologize to those who read for not being one of those meticulously updated blogs.  As you know, there are times when the posts pick up, and times when my activity slows down, either way, thanks for your continued readership & support, everybody who reads & leaves comments really keeps my enthusiasm going for this project.
      I always considered Princeton Tec to be the darkhorse among flashlight companies, but they've built a solid history of quality stuff at generally very affordable prices.  More well-known companies like Petzl (in my opinion) have nothing on Princeton.  You can go to an overpriced retailer like REI and pay too much for a mediocre Petzl headlamp.  Or if you're lucky enough to have a stellar warehouse sporting goods store like Sportco (Fife, just before Tacoma, WA) or Outdoor Emporium (Seattle) nearby, you can go pick up one of a number of Princeton Tec lights well below suggested retail.  For instance, this little Byte retails for about $20.00 USD, I walked out of Sportco with an energy drink, and the new Princeton Tec Byte, for about $17.00 total.
The Princeton Tec Byte only weighs about 2.25 ounces, or 64 grams and is competently water resistant, durable and nicely compact.
      Princeton Tec does manufacture many of their products in the USA and they even mention their USA manufacture on their decent looking, easy-enough-to-navigate website.  I'm pretty sure this new Byte mini-headlamp is among the Princeton products that are not USA made.  Last year I bought their 4 stage Fuel headlamp (shown in a photo above) in the slightly-harder-to-find OD/ACU camo variation.  I remember the package sporting a small American flag on the front, with more details about how the light was USA made with foreign & domestic components on the back of the blister card packaging.  I seem to remember my first Princeton Tec, the Quad Tactical having the same little flag icon and description of manufacturing origin on the packaging.  The Byte's packaging had no such marks though, and wouldn't you know it, I tore that package open and recycled it, almost immediately, the evening I brought it home.  Oh well, I believe the Byte is made somewhere in Asia, though Princeton Tec does indeed make some stuff here at home.  Hey, for those of us that are bothered by largely foreign manufacture, it's cool to see a company that has US facilities, and at least makes an attempt to employ people at home.  They probably couldn't offer this light at such a worthwhile price if it was 100% American made, and I, for one understand this, if you're bothered by it, there are plenty of US made headlamps out there, ok, only a few, but they are costly, I'm thinking of Surefire's awesome "Saint' headlamp series.

The Byte sans its elastic strap, showing off its subtle, tactical-minded red light for map reading, or simply not wanting to wake up your wife when you roll out of the tent to take a piss.


POWER35 Lumens
LAMPMaxbright LED, Red Ultrabright LED (2 stage brightness)
BURN TIME146 Hours
BATTERIES2 AAA Alkaline or Lithium
WEIGHT64 Grams
     The 35 lumen beam throws a good 50 feet ahead of you, and I really like that most of Princeton Tec's lamps have a multi position bracket to tip the light up & down, I believe I counted 9 positions from angled lowest to highest on this light.

     You get 2 brightness levels with the single white LED, and one mild level of another LED, in red.  All of the reviewers who beat me to the punch mention the white LEDs for camping, hiking etc. and report success in most outdoor activities. 

Next to a 2008 incarnation of Petzl's decent Tikka headlamp.  I like the Byte much better, it's lighter and  has a better beam throw than the Petzl.

     As I mentioned it's only about 2.25 oz, an ounce being 28.3495231 grams, the Byte weighing 64 grams.  It's certainly the lightest headlamp I own, and with our recent spate of power outages from min-November to just last night, the Byte has definitely been getting used, taking frequent rides on my head (I know, sounds bad) to take the trash out, look for the cat, or simply to have available when the power is out.  The strap is thinner than most, and I mean width, it's very comfortable.  I'm easily bothered by straps, beanie hats and other headwear,& I find the Byte's little red strap very comfortable.  I'm fairly certain the 146 hr. runtime is for the white bulb on low while you can get 80 hours out of the high setting, though in a testament to Princeton's design, I have yet to change the batteries in mine after several weeks, and haven't noticed much, if any loss of brightness.  I should note that 2 brand name AAA batteries were included, and I'm still on that set.  

     The red light seemed almost like an afterthought at first, but I really like it.  It's perfect for those times when you need light but don't really want, or need to be noticed.  If you needed to get up and investigate a noise in your home, and wanted a bit of light to orient yourself as you exit your bedroom, without giving yourself away, the little single brightness red LED is perfect.  I always like to have a less bright option for not waking others in a tent as well, and for this, the Byte is perfect.  Princeton Tec's lights are water resistant, if not bordering on genuinely water proof.  Of course unless a light is IPX Dive rated, you should not submerge it.  This one is not meant really to take anything more than rain outside, but I took my Byte off the band and set it on the shower floor, on the low setting while I showered one morning.  I toweled it off (and me!) and after making sure the exterior was dry, I opened it up and found no sign of moisture inside.  This bodes well for the little light, and is probably the most effective, and demonstrative test I've performed on any piece of gear in recent months.  The Byte was blasted with warm spray, soap residue & runoff and splashes, and had water running around its body for a good 5+ minutes, and seemed no worse the wear.
Byte goes strapless again, back bracket visible.
Princeton Tec has continually impressed me across my personal experience with 4 different lights across about 3 years, the Byte being my newest purchase, and their newest release.  It's super light around 64 grams, boasts a long runtime, even on high, and the red LED is useful for more covert applications, or where you'd like to keep your night eyes unaffected and ready.  The strap is comfy, and more narrow than many, they could offer an all black strap, but the included one is no big deal, at least for me.

Like I said, if I'd have had time to get cracking on my intended Gift Guide, this would have definitely been a recommendation!  I paid about $16 USD for mine, and MSRP is about $19.99 USD,  This may be the best price-to-immediate-usefulness ratio of anything I've bought recently.  I actually had a chance to test it out the night I brought it home, the power went out, from wind, at about 1am, and stayed off until about 6am, from 1 to 3 I used the darkness to explore the yard and surrounding areas, the Byte is definitely competent, and priced right.  I'd be inclined to take this on road trips or hikes, because of the weight and the overall runtime, not to mention the weatherproof factor.  Overall I'm pretty impressed.  Princeton Tec has a pretty cool Company Blog, and you can see the new Byte and many others at princetontec.com.

A press photo

At a suggested price of under $20 USD, the Byte is way more than a good deal, and one of my top gift picks for the 2010 holidays.

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