Black Diamond ReVolt: Waterproof Rechargeable Headlamp

  • Car Camper
  • Wilderness Backpacker

Black Diamond ReVolt Overview

A headlamp that can do it all is harder to find than you might think. There are a lot of factors that go into such a small, useful device: brightness, relative lightness, a simple button mechanism, easy to open, multiple light modes, water resistance, a comfortable headband, and good battery life. That list goes on, because the one device that provides light in the backcountry is an essential and an emergency beacon.

The quest for the perfect headlamp will always depend on user taste, but the new Black Diamond ReVolt gets quite close. It has a positive heap of the above listed qualities, with two major benefits: it’s a waterproof and rechargeable headlamp. With an IPX8 rating, you can submerge the ReVolt in water and it will still work. And, it’s USB-rechargeable, but can still use standard AAA batteries if that’s easier for you. Yes, a solid waterproof rechargeable headlamp does exist.

For these reasons we’ve named the Black Diamond ReVolt our Premium Pick for the Wilderness Backpacker and Car Camper.

There are more expensive headlamps out there, but we believe that spending more than $60 on a headlamp is unnecessary, especially when there are such quality lamps for that cost or less. We find the ReVolt to work excellently for Wilderness Backpackers who aren’t overly concerned with weight, and want a powerful, nifty headlamp that would pair well with a solar charger or battery bank. It’s also perfect the Car Camper, because you can charge it in the car or at camp without a second thought, and tuck it into a pocket for late-night excursions.

Read below to see the full review of the Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp, and check out our comprehensive Guide to Headlamps if you’re keen on knowing more about this particularly illuminating subject.

ReVolt Specifications

Feature Type Feature Specs What This Means
Weight 3.1 oz (89 g) A very standard weight for a headlamp. That’s with the batteries inside.
Max Lumens (Light Output)*

300 for Alkaline

175 for NiMH

The technical max output is 300 lumens, but only if you’re using normal alkaline batteries. The ReVolt is meant to be used with the included NiMH batteries, which are 175 lumens at full power. More on this in our Guide.
Max Beam Distance*

High: 262.4 ft. (80 M)

Low: 32. ft. (10 M)

These distances are for Alkaline batteries, so keep in mind that if using the included NiMH batteries the distance won’t be as far. That said, on NiMH batteries the max distance is still far for basic trail finding at night. More on this in our Guide.
Max Battery Time*

High: 25 hours

Low: 180 hours

Again, all times are based on Alkaline batteries. They are accurate, but the NiMH batteries don’t last nearly as long. The battery always lasted long enough, and being able to recharge on the spot makes up for lost time. More on this in our Guide.
Beam Type(s) Spot, Flood The ReVolt has a spot beam for focused, distant light and a flood beam for close up. You can use them separately or together. Very nice beams. More on Beam Types in our Guide.
Modes Low, Medium, High, Strobe, Dimmable The ReVolt pretty much as it all. You can dim any bulb to full brightness or just a few lumens for complete customization for your environment. The white and red modes have a strobe as well.
Red or Green Light? Red Light The red light on the Revolt works well, and is fairly bright at full power. Dim it for tent use.
Water Resistance IPX8 An industry high rating of IPX8 is one of the most water resistant headlamps on the market. You can dunk the headlamp in up to three feet of water, no problem. More on Water Resistance and ratings in our Guide.
Tilt Yes Easy one-handed tilt to specifically locked angles.
Lock Mode? Yes In the off position, hold the main power button (the only button) until you see a small blue-gray light blink. It’s locked.
Battery Type 3 AAA You can use the included Black Diamond specific NiMH AAA batteries, other AAA NiMH batteries, or regular AAA alkaline batteries. Only the included Black Diamond NiMH ones can be charged with the headlamp, though.
Headband Type 2-band A nice stretchy headband with two point adjustability. A bit loose at times, but easily adjustable.
Manufacturer Warranty Limited Warranty Black Diamond provides a three year warranty for its headlamps. That’s less time than some other major manufacturers, but still pretty decent for an electronic device.
Retail Price $59.95 The higher end of what we think someone should pay for a headlamp. You get a lot of features in the ReVolt for this price.

*Studies show that manufacturer claims on Max Lumens, Beam Distance, and Battery Time are inflated compared to traditional ANSI standards. Our listed specs are those of the manufacturer, which are typically accurate for the first 2-10 minutes of the headlamp’s use with a full charge. While this is unfortunate, it is currently industry standard, which means most headlamps suffer from these inflated specs and wash across the board.

Gear Review of the Black Diamond ReVolt

Origins: Easing You In

When looking at the Black Diamond ReVolt, it’s important to know that the previous version, which debuted in 2015, shook up the industry. Headlamps with rechargeable technology have been around for a while, but none of them had long enough battery life or bright enough beams to be viable against the alkaline versions.

Black Diamond changed that with the ReVolt, and the 2017 model takes it up another notch.

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The 2017 Black Diamond ReVolt. Sexy, no?

I tested the Black Diamond ReVolt for three months. I took it car camping on the coast of California and in the Los Padres National Forest. I took it on night-time hikes with heavy rain. I took it to Thailand for some light spelunking, and it has traveled with me into the backcountry of the Sespe Wilderness.

When it comes to a headlamp, the most important feature for me is that it just works. Sort of like Apple products, but without all the over-the-top marketing videos. A headlamp could be uber powerful and lighter than air, but if it’s complicated or difficult to use, I get frustrated pretty quick.

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Simple headlamp? Happy backpacker.

In almost every use case the Black Diamond ReVolt outperformed my expectations, and is easily my go-to headlamp for backpacking and camping.

Revelation: The Moment I Knew

The numerable shining qualities of the new Black Diamond ReVolt were whittled down to two extremely useful, and revelatory use cases. The whole “waterproof rechargeable headlamp” thing is as accurate as it sounds, despite it sounding too good to be true.

The moment was on a sunset hike that turned into a night hike in the rain. I was breaking in new trail running shoes and enjoying the rare damp season on a trail in Ojai. I went out further than necessary, knowing the real point of this was to see the night-hike quality of the Black Diamond ReVolt. I was also prepared for rain, as it had poured on and off for a couple days, but didn’t really expect it.

The sun was already down when I decided to turn around; the ground was slushy and I had to step carefully to avoid a full foot-soaking. Dusk turned into that dim, almost-dark hour, and rain clouds settled overhead. It began to sprinkle, then rain. I set the ReVolt on my head, strapped it under the Arc’teryx Zeta LT hood with the quick adjust of the headband, clicked it on, and began to pick up my pace.

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The main spot light is bright enough to see at dusk.

With a single touch the ReVolt powers onto the Spot LED, which is not its full brightness, but pretty bright when fully charged. Complete darkness hadn’t settled in yet, but this was enough bouncing light to show me the way. The ReVolt is not the smoothest ride while trail running, but at a quick walk it is plenty comfortable.

I made my way down the trail as the rain increased and darkness descended. I used the PowerTap press on the side of the ReVolt, which toggles on and off the “brighter” setting, which in this case was both the Spot and Flood beams. This gives a wide, even light in front and a far light together, the perfect combination for trail hiking at night in the rain. I could see the ground in front of me or the hillside above.

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That small sun icon is PowerTap. You just press your finger against it to toggle a brighter setting. It’s not even really a button, so it takes a little getting used to, but once you do it’s easy.

When I neared the end of the run, thoroughly soaked, I shut off the headlamp. It was nearly pitch dark. I couldn’t see the trail in front of me, or much of anything, except a few headlights or house lights in the distance. So I switched it back on: easy hiking and plenty of light.

The ReVolt had no issue with the rain on this run either. It’s rated to IPX8 and can handle a full dunk in up to three feet in water. I tested this on numerous occasions, and it always held up. A headlamp that can withstand any rain, or a drop in water, is worth its weight in gold.

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IPX8 means the Black Diamond ReVolt can dunk without a problem. Here it is during some controlled testing.

I could tell by the end of my night hike that the max brightness setting was starting to dim. But I had rationed the light and my time, and made it to the car with plenty of light left.

The most satisfying part of the Black Diamond ReVolt? After carefully putting my muddy shoes in the car, turning on the window wipers, and getting the music going, I just plugged it in. The USB cord goes right into my car charger port, and it was fully charged by the time I got home.

Digging Deeper

The Black Diamond ReVolt has a number of features, all of which work in a simple no-fuss manner that I have come to expect from Black Diamond.

There’s the one click button that turns on the light, toggles it between the Spot, Flood, and Red modes, and allows you to dim. After getting the hang of how long you have to hold the button to get the Red mode, or the Red Strobe mode, it’s a snap to switch back and forth. The dimming is my favorite part, though. You can even dim the red light for reading in the tent! Clutch.

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Red light! Dimming! Woo!

I suck at opening things — bags of chips, overly sealed salami, even ziplock bags. Headlamp battery cases are notoriously hard to open, and the previous line of Black Diamond headlamps (the ReVolt included) were not very easy to open. I typically had to take a knife to them, and always felt like something was about to crack. Black Diamond changed this closure on the new models (both the ReVolt and Spot have them, as do other models), and it is way easier. You just pull hard on the side and the whole back swings open. Smooth and easy.

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A new battery access door makes opening up the ReVolt easier than ever.

I also love the battery lock feature. You hold the main button for four seconds until it hits a pale blue light — you’ve locked it. It can’t be switched on accidentally. This is seriously a godsend, and should be on every headlamp.

There’s also a battery indicator, which is much harder to notice, but it’s helpful. There’s a very small light that is either green, orange, or red, depending on battery life. This turns on for about five seconds when you switch modes or turn on the ReVolt. I didn’t notice it for a really long time because the other lights on the headlamp overpower this smaller light, so pay attention if you want to check the battery life.

black-diamond-revolt-review-green-light-battery-check
This shows two things. First, the battery indicator. See the faint green light under the main bulb? That means it’s fully charged and charging. The second: this is how easy it is to charge the ReVolt. It comes with that micro-USB cable too.

The headband has two movable adjustment points, which is another change from the previous Black Diamond line, which had a single fixed and one adjustment point. While I like the look and feel of the headband material much more, the new system makes the headlamp more prone to loosen over time. I found myself overtightening to be sure it would stay put. That said, I can adjust the length quickly, and it really is comfortable. If Black Diamond wanted to woo customers, they would include the extra comfy pad of fabric that’s on the Storm (another headlamp of theirs) with the ReVolt. This provides extra protection where it rests against your forehead — but alas, the ReVolt (and Spot) don’t have it.

black-diamond-revolt-review-headband-adjustment
The headband is long, pretty comfy, and has two sliding adjustment points. You can also see the single, tactile button on top of the ReVolt.

Then there’s the batteries. The ReVolt comes with three AAA rechargeable batteries. The batteries are made by Black Diamond, say ReVolt on them, and are specifically designed to be used with this headlamp. They work well, and caused no issues recharging over long periods of time.

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The ReVolt with the included Black Diamond NiMH batteries. Also works with other AAAs.

The ReVolt can also use regular AAA alkaline batteries, which is why it’s such an awesome piece of gear (and our Premium Pick). Most other rechargeable headlamps aren’t compatible with real batteries that can be bought in a store, so if you’re out of charge you’re out of luck.

Comfort

Like strapping on a new pair of suspenders, the Black Diamond ReVolt was pretty comfortable out of the box, but every time I spent the extra minute to dial in the perfect fit I was better off. I did use it to read late into the night on camping trips, and had no problem with headaches.

Durability

Over three months, multiple trips, and international travel, the Black Diamond ReVolt doesn’t show a scratch. I tend to be careful with my gear, and tried hard to keep it from hitting rocks or concrete. The plastic housing seems durable, and I don’t imagine it will get hurt during normal use.

Brightness

The Black Diamond ReVolt is bright. It clocks in at 300 lumens with Alkaline batteries, which is really, really bright. But most people (myself included) will use the included NiMH rechargeable AAAs, which are 175 lumens at max brightness. This was plenty for a night hike in the rain, though I wouldn’t ever call it overwhelmingly bright.

Keep in mind that brightness decreases as battery life decreases, so that “max” brightness number is relative to your battery life.

Battery Life

Ah, battery life. While the battery life of the ReVolt is excellent when all things are considered, it’s a shame it isn’t longer. With the Alkaline batteries you get a really, really long battery life. So long I got tired of testing it, and didn’t want to waste a whole day with the light on. With the NiMH rechargeable batteries, the battery life is decent, but not great. I never had issues with it going out, but I did notice that brightness suffered after a couple hours of intermittent use.

The point of a headlamp like this is to be recharged seamlessly, whether it’s in the field via a battery pack or in the car between trips. Because of this, the ReVolt was almost always topped up when I had to use it, and only had serious battery drain when I was actively testing that feature.

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Battery life is less of an issue when you can simply charge your headlamp.

Style

The new line of Black Diamond headlamps look sleek. They bring some cool combinations to a rather boring and cave-dwelling device.

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More headshots of me and the headlamp. Stylish enough, especially in The North Face Thermoball Hoodie.

Grievances

As much as I love the new rendition of the Black Diamond ReVolt, there are still a couple things that irk me.

First, Black Diamond states that the light has programmable memory that will remember what setting your headlamp was on, and turn to that immediately. I didn’t find that feature to be very apparent, so if it is there, I haven’t found an easy way to use it. I don’t necessarily mind this — the dimming feature makes getting the correct brightness a cinch — but why advertise a feature that’s really hard to find and use?

black diamond revolt review tech specs
All of these official Tech Specs from Black Diamond are for Alkaline batteries, specifically the Lumens, Distance, and Burn Time. Yet NiMH batteries will be most common because they are rechargeable.

Second, the claimed lumens. This is an issue with most manufacturers of headlamps — they put a very high lumen number on the package, and the headlamp actually functions at the brightness for a short period of time. I actually think the ReVolt does a great job of maintaining high brightness, but what upsets me is that all of their materials tout the lumens (and battery life) for Alkaline batteries. It has 300 lumens of brightness and 25 hours of life…when using Alkaline batteries.

But this is a rechargeable headlamp meant to be used with the included NiMH batteries. These operate at a much lower lumen count and shorter battery life. The NiMH numbers are written on the box beneath the Alkaline numbers, but for most unsuspecting customers it feels like inaccurate information, because most people will buy this headlamp specifically for the rechargeable qualities, which only work with NiMH batteries.

If Black Diamond wanted to be more up front, they would advertise the NiMH max lumen count and battery life as the main one, with Alkaline usage beneath it.

Final Word

Underwater? Out for weeks? Looking for a little upgrade but don’t want to reinvent the wheel? The Black Diamond ReVolt is a waterproof rechargeable headlamp that makes many features feel simple while providing more than enough light.

Where to Buy Black Diamond ReVolt

The Black Diamond ReVolt tested in this review is brand new for 2017. It’s an update to the very popular 2015 version. The new version has a sleeker housing, an IPX8 rating, a max of 300 lumens, a redesigned opening mechanism, and is styled differently. All in all it’s a much better headlamp, and you should make sure you’re grabbing the new one. Look for “300 lumens” to make sure you’ve landed on the new headlamp.

The Black Diamond ReVolt is available below. We’ll do our best to make sure the links point to the new model.

Daniel Zweier

Daniel Zweier is Editor-in-Chief of Backpackers.com. Beyond orchestrating the daily flow of Backpackers.com, Daniel writes surrealistic short fiction and novels, adventures into the backcountry and abroad, surfs, reads, drinks tea, and obsesses over gear. A lot of gear. Visit his website if you want to learn more about his authorial pursuits.

Review Policy: We do not accept payments or gifts from brands and vendors, and strive to provide unbiased, independent advice. Brands typically provide review samples which we return, and in some cases we purchase the item so we can keep using it long after the review. Affiliate Policy: We support the hours that go into our reviews and testing through affiliate commissions on purchases made through links in this article. These don't effect the outcome of our reviews or selection of gear, as per our Review Policy.