Headlamps are a must when it comes to camping. They light your way, allow you to go handsfree, and thanks to the latest LED technology, they're bright as heck and can shine farther than ever. One of the big contenders for the space is a brand that you might not've heard – Fenix.
In this Fenix HM65R review, we share our thoughts thoughts on how it performs and why it's easily one of the best headlamps for camping.
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Table of contents
- Why headlamps for camping?
- Fenix HM65R review
- Comparing with other headlamps
- Why is this the best headlamp for camping?
- Frequently asked questions
Why headlamps for camping?
For those that don't currently use headlamps, it's something I recommend in almost all of our packing guides. The key to why it's essential for any type of travel is because of how versatile it is.
These days, headlamps come in a small form factor and more importantly fit on your head instead of your hand. This allows for hands-free operation in the dark.
Out of all travel uses, headlamps for camping is the best example. Lighting is key while in the backcountry or somewhere like Pinery Provincial Park. Once the sun goes down, you'll need light around your campsite, in your tent, and when walking to the vault toilet or comfort station.
Often, you'll arrive at your campsite after dark. With a headlamp lighting up your working area, you'll be able to set up your tent, hammock, and other camping gear with ease since you'll have both hands to work with.
Fenix HM65R review
An essential part of your camping must haves kit is a headlamp. When it comes to headlamps, they've gone through quite the evolution thanks to high-powered, bright, efficient, and small LEDs. One company that's leading the way is with rugged lighting products is Fenix. This is an in-depth review of the popular Fenix HM65R.
Fenix is pronounced “phoenix” and is a high-end lighting brand that sells products ranging from flashlights, headlamps, bike lights, and lanterns. Their calling card are their ability to withstand harsh environments, durability, and ridiculously bright LEDs.
To be honest, when I first heard of Fenix many years ago, it seemed like just another Chinese copy-cat selling generic LEDs. That perception has changed over the years as they've continuously pushed out high performing products for both consumer and industrial uses.
All that said, their most intriguing products are the Fenix headlamps that might not have the brand power is BioLite, Black Diamond, or Petzl, but come in at a really good price point and will last forever.
A feature I've gotten used to having with my old Mammut Lucido TX1 is the combination of a floodlight and spotlight. This combination of these two separate optics and all together at once are so useful to have and the Fenix HM65R does this very well and more efficiently than previous generations of headlamps.
- Spotlight – 1000 lumens with 163m (178 yards) throw
- 4 output levels of brightness
- Floodlight – 400 lumens for wide field of lighting, soft/even beam, with 55m (60 yards) throw.
- 3 output levels of brightness
- Together – Since both lights are separately controlled, you can have both on at the same time
These modes give you the ultimate flexibility depending on your activity.
While functions and headlamp design are factors when choosing the right piece of gear, ultimately, it's the brightness that matters the most.
This is measured by lumens which is defined as “a unit of luminous flux in the International System of Units, that is equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candela intensity radiating equally in all directions.” I know, this isn't the most helpful so an example is more useful.
To give you an idea, a standard 60W incandescent bulb is roughly 800 lumens. Most basic headlamps are between 200-300 lumens.
The Fenix HM65R is rated at 1400 lumens which is the combination of the two types of lights it has at maximum output – 1000 lumens for the spotlight, and 400 lumens for the floodlight.
That's the maximum power which is incredibly bright but sometimes you don't need all of that brightness so it's also good to know the other output modes, their lumens, and the distance it can get up to.
- Turbo – 1000 lumens, 164 meters
- High – 400 lumens, 101 meters
- Medium – 130 lumens, 57 meters
- Low – 50 lumens, 37 meters
- High – 400 lumens, 55 meters
- Medium – 130 lumens, 30 meters
- Low – 8 lumens, 6 meters
From a practical side though, when would you use one or the other? In most use-cases around camp, you'll want to use Floodlight mode because you'll want the biggest spread of light and you actually don't need that much intensity.
The spotlight is useful though especially if you'er on a trail and need to see much further in the distance. There are also instances where you're perhaps looking for something in a small area and need a very bright light source.
With the multiple steps in each mode and the ability to combine both LEDs together, you have a lot of flexibility.
Does it remember the last lighting mode used? Yes, a feature that isn't mentioned explicitly is that if you turn off the light at say High. When you turn it back on, it'll start at High instead of making you start from Low and upwards.
What powers the headlamp?
One of the things that have always frustrated me with older models of headlamps is that they use conventional batteries such as AA or AAA. I've switched to using rechargeable batteries but when you're camping, you don't have easy access to an outlet which means bringing extra batteries in case.
The Fenix HM65R solves this and goes above and beyond with a number of built-in solutions.
First of all, it's rechargeable by USB-C. This is a huge leap because you'll most likely bring a power bank to charge your phone and other devices. You can now charge your headlamp on-the-go if you need to.
Secondly, it uses a high capacity removable Li-ion battery rated at 3500 mAh. While this is specialized size (18650), you can buy replacements for it. You can also substitute it for a more common CR123A.
While yes, this means this isn't as convenient as popping in a AA, the reason why it uses higher capacity batteries is to provide that longer runtime which you simply can't achieve with conventional batteries.
I'm thankful I don't need to deal with using 3 AA batteries on my Mammut headlamp which always meant having a heavy and large battery pack against the back of my head.
How long does it last?
Anecdotally, for a 4 day camping trip, I didn't need to charge once albeit I didn't need to use it for activities like trail running, cycling, or any sort of climbing where it needed to be on for long periods of time.
What's worth is seeing the runtime based on different modes. Thankfully, Fenix has a handy chart that breaks it all down.
As you can see, even at the worst case where you're running your spotlight in Turbo mode, you get 4 hours. On average though with varying uses between spotlight and floodlight, 50-100 hours is completely realistic.
The max runtime is 300 hours.
A bonus is that built into the product is a battery level indicator. When you single tap either button, a 4-level blue indicator lights up to show give you a guage of how much is left.
This is a game changer because I hate it when you're testing a light at home and it looks like the battery is good but after a couple of uses it dies because you had no idea how much was really in the battery.
Battery saving mode – Something else that came up from our testing is that if your battery is running low, the Turbo setting in Spotlight Mode will not activate to protect the light. Instead, it outputs at a reduced level. I noticed this when the light was down to one bar and I was very confused initially as to why I couldn't get maximum output. Even at High, I was seeing it automatically switch down to Medium.
This headlamp is rated IP68 which means it's protected against dust and fully submersible to 2 meters for 30 minutes, making it completely waterproof if you're thinking about on-land use.
The only area that I can see being an issue is the cap that twists off to access the battery. The o-ring used could degrade over time or get dirty which might affect the seal. Luckily, they've thought of that and provide an extra o-ring in case anything happens.
This thing is flat out the most comfortable headlamp I've ever owned. A big part of it their headband and top band that goes away from the traditional cotton-like elastic bands that Black Diamond and Petzl uses and instead leverages a vented elastic material that helps with sweat.
In addition, the band also features these silicone channels which I thought initially was for stability but turns out they also have the dual purpose of preventing sweat from dripping down above the eyes.
The headband adjustments are pretty standard and easy to loosen or tighten.
While the unit does get hot if at peak brightness, the heat is emitted away from your head so you don't feel it.
The headband also has built-in reflector lines on it so if you're using it at night while running, you'll be easily spotted.
Naturally, the headlamp is a bit more front-heavy as the battery pack isn't shifted to the back but I do prefer this as it means there's no need for a wire running to the back and awkward wearing procedure which I had my fair share of with the Mammut.
Functionality and user friendliness
The buttons are easy to use and access and have a crisp tactile feel to them. The only gripe I have with them is that when the headlamp is sitting flush towards your head, the plastic headlamp holder gets in the way. This could be by-design to prevent accidental activation in storage.
The holder allows the headlamp to swivel a full 90 degrees from the light pointing straight ahead or down to your feet. There are distinct clicks for each angle and it's held in place quite confidently.
Functionality wise, all the modes are easy to get to but you have to remember to hold the button for a tad longer to first activate the light because tapping it only gives you the battery level indicator light.
Since each button independently controls each of the flood and spot light, there's no convoluted operation where two buttons are required.
Lastly, there is also a lockout function. This is the only time when pressing both buttons is required. Press and hold both buttons for 3 seconds to activate the lock and the same operation to unlock.
The HM65R is made of magnesium alloy which they claim is 32.6% lighter than regular aluminum alloy.
The weight of the headlamp itself without battery is 69.5 grams (2.45 ounces) but the full weight is 146.4 grams (5.16 ounces) which I measured myself. For comparison the BioLite HeadLamp 750 is 150 grams (5.3 ounces).
With the all-metal housing, this also means that the unit can withstand just about everything. It's rated for 2 metres of impact resistance because, why not!
Something important with any sort of LED product is warranty because that's the most important part of the headlamp and it's one that can't be replaced.
The Fenix HM65R has a built-in 5 year warranty for the device and 1 year for the battery.
Compare this to 3 years with Petzl and Black Diamond, and 1 year with BioLite.
The Fenix HM65R is priced at $94.95 USD.
Ultimately, for something with this much power, functionality, and advantages in size and weight, it's hard to find something else that rivals this headlamp.
I primarily use headlamps for camping but it's such a handy piece of gear that it's just handy to have anywhere you are.
At home, use it to get around your basement if you're working in dark spaces and need to be hands free. If the power goes out, this probably has way more brightness than any flashlight you own.
Outdoors, the uses are plenty. There's camping of course but any sort of active sport that you'll be doing in dark or near-dark environments count. Think trail running, climbing, snow shoeing, caving, and cycling.
For those in industry, there are a lot of contractors, electricians, carpenters, inspectors, and anyone in construction that use the Fenix HM65R.
Tips on Use
In using this headlamp while camping, there are a couple of things I've learned:
- Remember to tilt the headlamp one click before operating, otherwise you'll be frustrated with why the buttons don't work.
- While the top headband is good for a more secure fit, it's actually more of an optional feature. For a more lightweight package, remove the the top headband.
- Remember that short taps won't turn on the headlamp. You have to press and hold either button to turn on or off the headlamp
Areas of improvement
In our gear reviews, we always try to balance things out with identifying things that can be improved or sometimes things that absolutely suck about a product.
Luckily, in this case, there aren't any major issues with this high-performance headlamp.
There are a few minor changes we'd love to see:
- Additional night-vision red light although that's a feature I never really used in my other headlamps.
- Strobe light function is something that high-end headlamps have but again, is something that I never needed to use but perhaps that's just an emergency function.
- Memory feature which remembers your last used mode for quick on and off operation. This means not having to cycle through all possible modes each time.
- Ability to charge via USB-C while using it. Currently it's not really possible since the port is on the back side of the light.
- Easier headband adjustments and ability to tighten on-the-fly (looks like this has been solved with the new Fenix HM65R-T).
- Love to see a headlamp that's more low profile.
- Aesthetically, I would love to see a more streamlined design that doesn't feature the clunky knobs where the battery is housed.
Comparing with other headlamps
The best way to see how the Fenix HM65R performs is to compare it with a few other headlamps. Currently, I own a few older models but I think a look at light spread and brightness is something that might help you decide whether this is worth it or not.
Below are a gallery of photos for different modes from the same position. All photos were taken with the same settings to make sure they can be compared.
Petzl Tikka Plus 2
70 lumens with 40m max beam distance.
Despite the Tikka being one of the entry models for Petzl, the high power mode does a pretty good job as a floodlamp.
Mammut Lucido TX1
Unfortunately, this product didn't come with a rated lumens spec. The floodlight is 70 lumens but the spotlight is much higher. It does have a 105m max beam distance.
The strength is certainly in its floodlight where you get an extremely tight beam and while I've found that useful when looking for something in the dark, having seen the Fenix HM65R spotlight power, I much prefer a wider circular beam that gives me strong light in a general area instead a very tiny focus spot.
In terms of the floodlight, the performance is a bit lacking.
1400 lumens with 163m max beam distance.
Floodlight + Spotlight
Looking at the above, it's clear that the Fenix HM65R headlamp is the best-performing with a clear advantage of having additional modes. Also, I found that the button control to get any combination of spotlight + floodlight to be so much more intuitive than the very confusing button presses of the Petzl and Mammut.
Notice how the spotlight is a circular beam as opposed to a much broader coverage you get with the floodlight.
It's also insane how bright the spotlight turbo is.
I know the other products are 10 years old but focus on the specs to decide what you need and why you need the higher performance.
Why is this the best headlamp for camping?
The overall verdict? This has to be one of the best headlamps for camping and practically any other use case for a headlamp.
Why the Fenix HM65R rocks:
- Extremely bright with 1000 lumens alone on the spotlight
- Comfortable headband with good ventilation and secure hold
- Rechargeable by USB-C
- Long-lasting battery life (up to 300 hours)
- Easy to tilt
- No complicated front light + back battery pack layout
- Battery level indicator built-in
- Bang for buck and beats pretty much any other competitor in the market at its price point
Ultimately, my thought is this. For under $100 and performance at this cost, you really won't find any other headlamp that does better for brightness, size, functionality, and quality.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, the Fenix HM65R uses a 18650 li-ion battery that can be removed and replaced.
This headlamp is rated at 1400 lumens but that is divided between a floodlamp LED that's 400 lumens and spotlight LED that's 1000 lumens.
At the lowest setting, the Fenix HM65R can last 300 hours. Using the brightest spotlight LED, it will last 4 hours.
Cree XM-L2 U2 White and Cree XP-G2 R5 Neutral White
3.17’’ x 2.17’’ x 1.57’’ / 80.5 x 55 x 40 mm
Yes, you can use the headlamp but both modes will only be in medium output.
Yes, the headlamp is fully submersible up to 2 metres for 30 minutes which is why it has an IPX8 rating.
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