Hog Blog Gear Review – Dorcy LED Headlamps

April 2, 2013

Not too long ago, I was bemoaning the dearth of gear I had for review.  Things have been slow since I moved this site last January, and the manufacturers (and their marketing reps) haven’t exactly been beating their way to my door.  But I’ve kept at it, and following the SHOT Show I was able to get a few items sent my way, including a pair of head lamps from the Dorcy company.

Some of you know that I’ve been on the perpetual search for a compact headlamp that is bright enough for night time blood-trailing.  I’ve used several really nice lights, but so far, none of them has really been able to compete with a good, handheld flashlight.  I know, maybe I’m asking too much.  Headlights are awesome for most other activities, from setting up camp or cooking dinner on the grill, to field dressing game in the dark.  Almost everything I’ve tested so far has been perfectly fine for that.

Good lamps at a great price point.

Good lamps at a great price point.

When the folks from Dorcy contacted me, I had the option of testing the headlamps or one of their new, compact LED flashlights.  After some vacillation, I decided I’d try once more with the headlamps.  They sent me two versions, one with a 134 lumen, spotlight beam, and one with a broad, 120 lumen floodlight.

By all accounts, that’s a lot of power in a small light.  But, while I’m no engineer, my research on compact lights has shown that high lumens doesn’t always equate to a quality light.  There are many other factors involved, most of which tend to drive the price point higher and higher.  For example, there are some really high-end, compact headlamps that retail for upwards of $150, and those are only outputting about 100 lumens.  The Dorcy lights, on the other hand, retail for under $25.

So what do you get for $25?

I had every hope of putting these lights to work on an actual hunt, but it turns out that the Mississippi hunt never required much in the way of night operations.  I haven’t had a real hunt since then, much less a blood trail to follow, so I decided just to strap the lights on and mess around out on the ranch.  I was pleased with the performance of both headlamps.

Both are very lightweight, which is a major consideration to me.  I’ve used some of the heavier headlamps, and besides their bulk, they also tended to give me a headache after extended wear.  The Dorcy lamps were barely noticeable.  I kept one on most of the evening in MS, just to see what would happen.  By the time I was ready for bed, I’d forgotten it was there (I won’t blame the Scotch).

They also provide plenty of light.  While I thought I’d prefer the spot beam, I found the broad beam to be most useful while I was poking around in the pumphouse one night, trying to track down a leak.  My pumphouse is black widow haven, and I’ve sort of got a thing about spiders.  With the headlamp, I could see in all the little nooks and crannies before I put my hands in there.  The coverage was excellent, and the light was even and steady.

The spot beam seems to be pretty impressive as well, lighting up the ground nicely from a standing position.  The light is bright white, which I think is best for picking out a trail in the dark, as well as looking for blood.  I’m still not sure if this would do the trick for some of the harder blood trails I’ve dealt with, but it is better than most of my other headlamps (I don’t own any of the really high-end headlamps for comparison).  I also found that the unit fits well in the palm of my hand, and when I use it this way it really lights up the ground.  It may not be perfect, but I believe it will work well.

Both lamps run on three, AAA batteries, and the literature says they’ll provide full power for about 12 hours.  Honestly, I’ve never tested a light to see if it really ran as long as advertised, and that’s no different with these.  I do know the LEDs tend to be very conservative with battery power, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect extended battery life.  I like the fact that these lamps are powered by ordinary batteries, rather than some proprietary components that you can only buy through the company website or certain “authorized” dealers.

Are there specific negatives?  I didn’t find much to complain about with these lights, although there were a couple of things that I think I should point out.

Like many of these headlamps, the lights have three functions… full power, half-power, and strobe.  To switch functions, you depress the on/off switch.  This means that to turn the light off from the full-power position, you have to click twice.  It’s a small thing, but I find it a nuisance.  If, for some reason, I wanted to turn the light of in a hurry, there’s really no good way to do it.  You have to cycle through the other functions before the light goes off.  Personally, I’d rather have a single-function on/off switch, and if the other functions are really necessary (I’m not sure they are), have a second switch to change modes.

Another thing… the lights are not waterproof.  I realize that, from a manufacturing perspective, waterproofing is a bigger deal than it may seem, and it generally increases the cost of the product.  However, under real field conditions, it’s almost guaranteed that a light will eventually be submerged.  I’ve dropped lights in the pond while setting decoys, they’ve fallen into creeks while packing hogs out after dark, and they’ve sat in waterlogged packs for hours during elk hunts.

The Dorcy website suggests that the headlamps are “lightweight weather resistant”, which I take to mean that they can withstand a drizzle while hiking to the stand, or possibly hold up while setting camp in the rain.  I didn’t test them to see how much they can actually take before failure (I’d like to keep them around a while), so maybe they’re a lot more robust than they seem.  I did take a closer look at the construction, and it’s obvious that there’s no significant weather seal around the battery compartment.  The on/off switch is rubberized, but it doesn’t look like there’s any sort of gasket around the switch to keep water from running down into the guts of the light.  What this means to me is that the Dorcy lights wouldn’t be my first choice for serious, backcountry hunters.  I also don’t think it’s the best bet for waterfowlers or fishermen.  That sort of application is going to require something that’s really waterproof… not just “weather resistant”.

But overall, I think these are pretty danged good headlamps.  For the weekend camper, the treestand hunter, or for the day hunter, it’s a perfectly good, economical light.  I plan to keep the broad beam version in my truck, where it should be a handy part of my tool kit.  Both the broad beam and the spot are very bright and clear, the unit is lightweight, and the retail cost is completely manageable.

The Dorcy lights get a qualified thumbs-up.


2 Responses to “Hog Blog Gear Review – Dorcy LED Headlamps”

  1. Albert Quackenbush on April 3rd, 2013 10:39

    Thanks for the review, Phillip. I was wondering how they might handle intense weather. Overall they sound like a good headlamp. It’s nice to see a headlamp without all the extra wires and such hanging off.

  2. Phillip on April 3rd, 2013 12:23

    Al, I’m tempted to go submerge one of the units they sent me (I have one of each style) just to see how much it can take. And knowing the simple electronics, I expect that if you dried them out and replace the batteries, you could recover them after pretty much any drenching…. but I hate to ruin these, as I like them enough to add them to my own pack.