Lighting the Limelight: The Fenix HP25 Headlamp

Rush sang their 1981 song of angst, “Living in the Limelight,” of the challenges fame and notoriety bestow. Fenix better be prepped for the acclaim the HP25, hands-down winner of Best in Class 2013, will receive.

Fenix HP25 Headlight: 2013's Best of Class

Fenix HP25 Headlight:
2013’s Best of Class

As Rush Guitarist Alex Lifeson noted, “That sudden success can really change you, and you become lazy . . . ” though the continuum of advances generated by Fenix belie that notion for them. From the earliest years their product development rolls with segment-leading hardy flashlights utilizing different combinations, forms and types of battery power to blast out human lumen-vision.

Now with the HP25, they have their nameplate, their Metallica “Black Album,” where all the pieces come together, wah-lah, creating a masterpiece that will stand the test of time.

Returning to the trailhead after an overnight journey running through tight, rolling forested-trails near the Twin Cities, a sudden heat wave in the region providing a toasty 82 degree reading at 4:00 a.m., I drop my heavy backpack, grab a banana from the cooler and continue mixing-and-matching light combos available with my new best friend.

The lamp encompasses two separate and individual Cree XP-E LEDs. On the right is the spot, left is the flood. LEDs are key when it comes to headlamps, and Cree, Inc., leads Durham, NC as a $1.4 billion dollar giant from their humble 1987 origins. Cree means LED quality, and there they sit, duo-style, with a small footprint on one’s forehead ready to go on a button’s notice. To protect against an accidental light turn-on, the switch requires a moment’s hold-down before snapping to life.

Note both flood and spot LEDs have separate on/off switches that also select the power choices

Note both flood and spot LEDs have separate on/off switches that also select the power choices

Each light has its own control, easily found by touch, with the 90-degree flood offering four variances while the spot is three. The lights illuminate first on their lowest power, and each click of the control moves the process up the scale to brighter for the flood and to a stronger reach for the spot. I like that progression low to high vs. high to low.

When turned off, the smart, mild yellow-orange chassis sits back with an overhang protecting the two switches from accidentally getting clicked on, a thoughtful touch.

Additionally, the flood offers a super-lo mode utilizing tiny battery power to produce just four lumens. I found that setting, not usually available on headlamps, useful on a number of occasions like needing to step off the trail for a moment to tend to business or grabbing an individual bag containing my night’s supply of figs and dates out of the backpack. Now making way, I simply click up the scale to the light I want. Go too far on the clicks and the light advances back to super-lo. A nice feature, the light doesn’t circuit to “off” first, a huge help in keeping you from the dark of night.

Combining the flood and spot lights “on” simultaneously makes for a lot of fun in the woods. Illuminating the flood reminds me of a movie set lighting a scene; light painted everywhere one looks. Looking forward, I glanced up without moving my head noting light reaching the tops of some very tall oaks.

Combo the two clicked on turbo, the highest setting, and you’ll generate 180 lumens each; 360 total! Note the highest ranking for the spot, its third, is termed “high” for 180 lumens; the 180 lumens setting for the flood, it’s fourth setting, is called turbo. I call them both turbo when they’re spewing 180 lumens.

Turbo soaks up battery power like a Bounty towel on water. To achieve ample lighting power for a full overnight trek, use as a standard the next step down from either light’s maximum output, though I found a lower setting for the flood while turboing the spot a favorite.

The spot drills laser-like when on its top power, reaching through the dew-fog to really range out there, like end zone to end zone if spotting a distance similar to a football field. That is an amazing accomplishment with just four non-lithium, regular AA batteries.

The two LEDs rest encased in a lightweight protective aluminum sheath dissipating heat while swiveled at the base to adjust 60 degrees to the exact spot a user wants. Here is another example of the creative attention to detail the HP25 possesses: each click feels like a half-step so one can fine tune the adjustment instead of, say, restricted to just up, middle or bottom one often finds. This feature surprised me. Like John Travolta’s Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction” explaining Europe to Samuel Jackson’s Jules Winnfield, “It’s the little differences” that set the continents–and lighting products–apart.

At the end of a night, simply press the case back to its perch; protecting the switches is a clever and small overhang.

At the end of a night, simply press the case back to its perch; protecting the switches is a clever and small overhang.

The case protecting the batteries, resting comfortably on the back of one’s head, is remarkable on its own merits. A twist-knob turning, lifting the encompassing case off the batteries reminds one of astronaut Dave Bowman removing memory modules from HAL’s computer in Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Each battery rests in its own pod, laid flat in a row; there’s no stacking. The case slides smoothly over the components while the twisting knob closes the case flush-tight like the vault in “Die Hard.” Just don’t let the FBI (“You ask for a miracle, I give you the F-B-I”) get near and circumstantially open it like the movie.

A strong, professional quality cable connects the lamp and battery pack, not a flimsy wire to break or get in the way. Near the battery, the cord coils so there is some “give” built into it. One doesn’t generally see that detail. The entry points into the light and battery pack are sealed with aircraft quality.

For waterproofing the Fenix HP25 is rated IPX-6, a high mark, which means rain or snow would not enter the light under any condition. Still, I prefer not pressing the point on any device in the rain. I’ll use a clear baggy on a light to add an additional layer of protection. Note the light is not protected against water immersion like dunking it; an IPX-7 rating is needed for that. For the record, IPX-8 is the highest ranking possible (fulltime submersion okay for those so rated products) to IPX-1 meaning, other than condensation, you’re screwed. IPX-0 equates to zero moisture tolerant.

Construction utilizing top-flight components cuts weight to a feathery 6.4 ounces. Adding four batteries totals weight at just 9.6 ounces, slightly more than a half-pound.

The entire assembly weighs under 10 ounces riding comfortably on one's noggin.

The entire assembly weighs under 10 ounces riding comfortably on one’s noggin.

The unit’s straps for the sides and top of the head are comfortable and wide, displaying a refreshing blend of woods gray with mustardy-orange accents matching the light’s case. A black stripe circles the center of the strap for a sharp look.

The Fenix HP25 headlamp breaks the mold for the class, raising the bar like that of the World Record for Pole Vault last broken nearly 20 years ago. The height remains “immortal” says Bleacher Report. Here are a few observations I would make to keep this headlamp’s record and coming dominance intact:

a. Have available a Fenix drawstring felt bag to cover just the headlamp case, protecting the lens from scratching. I use a small sock on other lights, but this one is too special for that.

b. Design a second battery pack one can carry as a spare, so if desiring to switch out the current batteries, one just exchanges the pack; no fumbling, no muss. Obviously the cable connecting the current pack would need to be “connectable,” but for the Fenix team this would be a walk in the park.

c. A more difficult addition but would be remarkable: engineer the spot LED adjustable up/down on its own, independent of the case platform; uh, oh, yeah . . . without adding (much) bulk or weight.

I intentionally did not check the price of the headlamp prior to working with it; if I ever knew, I forgot it. With its features and advancements, I guessed the retail number well above $100; I was wrong. It is lower. Much lower.

At $69.95, the Fenix HP25 Headlamp offers exceptional value when compared to the class irrespective of their cost.

As an ode to Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” some 400 years earlier, Rush’s popular anthem “Living in the Limelight” recalled the “All the world’s a stage” speech. Lighting the trail addict’s stage, those wooded dirt and snow-covered trails winding throughout the globe, the Fenix HP25 leads the way with its dual beamers, keeping one company and safe on those black nights, earning its duly desired spot in the limelight. It just doesn’t give autographs.

Fenix Lighting:
Direct to the HP25 Info:

Fenix is ANSI/NEMA FL1 certified for lighting equipment standards. These standards help users discern fraudulent claims on any number of lighting products by those who do NOT subscribe to these standards. Here is a nice pdf on the ANSI/NEMA FL-1:

Pole Vault information and quote courtesy Bleacher Report “Men’s Pole Vault: An Impossible World Record to Break” by Eric Rivera, 7.31.11

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  • Phillip Gary Smith

    Phillip Gary Smith, Senior Editor, published "The 300-Mile Man" about Roberto Marron's historic doubling of the Tuscobia 150 mile endurance snow run. He publishes "iHarmonizing Competition" on various forms of competition, including drag racing, his favorite motorsport. Earlier, he wrote "HARMONIZING: Keys to Living in the Song of Life" as a manual for life with chapters such as Winning by Losing, Can God Pay Your Visa Bill?, and a young classic story, The Year I Met a Christmas Angel. His book, "Ultra Superior," is the first written on the Superior Trail ultra-distance events. He mixes writing with his profession--the venture capital world--a dying art. He is a creator of CUBE Speakers, a group espousing themes in "HARMONIZING: Keys" in a unique way. Currently, he has two books in the works. Write to him at, or find him on Twitter or Facebook @iHarmonizing.

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1 Comment

  • Your great review makes me want one now and I will immediately get one for any upcoming adventures. Thanks for the great write.

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