Gadling gear review: Solite 150 Headlamp from Light & Motion

A good headlamp is one of those pieces of gear that you really don’t know you need until you have one. Then you find all kinds of great uses for it. During my various travels, my headlamp has proven useful, in so many situations, that it is now difficult to think about leaving home without one. Whether I’m headed to a mountain campsite or a five star resort, I always bring a headlamp of some kind.

I do seem to have been cursed however, with an unnatural proclivity for leaving headlamps behind when I travel, so as a result, I’ve had the opportunity to test more than my fair share of the devices over the years. Every good headlamp that I’ve ever used has had a couple of things in common. First, they are all lightweight and comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. They have also offered a good combination of battery life and brightness, while also remaining rugged and sturdy enough to withstand a variety of harsh conditions. The Solite 150 headlamp from Light & Motion not only meets all of those standards, it offers a few extra surprises as well.

The first thing that strikes you when you take the Solite out of its box is just how small it is. The light itself is unbelievably tiny, which is partially achieved by the fact that the batteries are housed in a separate pack, detached from the lamp itself. The entire package weighs in at a mere 135 grams (about 4.7 ounces) and yet in a testament to its build quality, it still feels solid, tough, and ready for action in all but the most demanding environments. The included headband is also extra-stretchy to fit over a helmet if necessary, and is well designed to accommodate the light and battery pack.The second thing that impressed me about this headlamp was just how bright it is. The Solite has three levels of brightness, and even on the lowest setting, it provides plenty of illumination for working around camp or navigating a dark trail at typical walking speeds. The second level of brightness is useful for trail runners or cross country skiers who need to see further down the path while moving quickly on foot. The third, and highest setting, cranks out a stunning 150 lumens which is perfect for those traveling at an even higher speed – say on a bike for instance. Which of the three settings you choose however, has a direct impact on battery life.

Speaking of batteries, as mentioned, the Solite comes with a battery pack that incorporates state of the art rechargeable lithium-ion power cells. The decision to use this type of battery is both a strength and a weakness of the headlamp however. For example, on its lowest brightness setting, the Solite can burn for as much as 40 hours, which is enough to last most people for the length of a trip. Jump the brightness up to the second level however, and battery life drops to just six hours, and the highest setting cuts it down to three. In other headlamps you would simply bring spare batteries as a back-up, just in case your power cells ran dry. But that’s not possible with the Solite, which needs to be charged via USB. Yep, that’s right, USB. That means you either need to bring your computer with you to charge it or pick-up a third party battery pack or power strip that provides a USB input. Those options aren’t so bad if you’re traveling somewhere with your computer, but on a two week trek through the Himalaya, you’re probably going to want another option.

The Solite is nothing if not versatile. The light is designed to be used not only as a headlamp, but also a hand torch as well. Both the lamp and the battery back can be detached from the headband and connected to one another to make a very useful flashlight. The versatility doesn’t end there however, as Light & Motion also provided a mount for the handlebars of a bike as well as a cycling or climbing helmet. These small, but much appreciated extras help to make the Solite 150 more useful than your typical headlamp.

Despite the concerns with recharging the battery pack, the Solite is the best headlamp I’ve ever used. I’m continually impressed with its performance, both in terms of brightness and battery life. It doesn’t hurt that it packs so much functionality into such a small and lightweight package. Add in the ability to use it not only while traveling, but also while running or riding my bike, and you have a headlamp that extends its usefulness well beyond just sitting in the drawer until the next trip.

With an MSRP of $179, the Solite isn’t cheap when compared to other headlamps, but it still delivers a lot of bang for your buck. At that price however, I’d better not leave it behind when I take it with me on my next trip.