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Comparison Review: Black Diamond Sprinter, Spot, and Icon Headlamps

Posted Jan 04 2010 12:00am

When I introduced my series of headlamp reviews in December, I mentioned that one lamp was something of a category changer. Since then, that particular outlier has also become one the favorite products I’ve tested this winter: the Black Diamond Sprinter.

Why is it a category changer? It doesn’t easily fit within the standard size/weight classifications, is versatile enough to replace two distinct varieties of headlamps, and has features that are unique among all of its peers.

Obviously, a full review is in order … so that’s just what I’ve written over at After you read the review, check back here for a comparison of the Sprinter with other Black Diamond offerings, and well as a link to a discounted purchase offer for the Sprinter. See you later.


Did you read the review? It’s a pretty impressive little lamp, huh? You could make a strong case for the Sprinter to replace any other headlamp you’re currently using – but there are definitely some situations where you might prefer one of Black Diamond’s other offerings. To refresh your memory, the Spot is a compact lamp that gives you great bang for your buck, and the Icon is a very affordable external battery pack lamp that provides all the brightness you’ll need for technical trails.

With that as our starting point, let’s compare all three. However, instead of giving one lamp and “advantage” over another as in my other comparison posts, I’ll just include a general comment, and try to indicate the conditions where one would be preferable to another. Away we go!

Weight (with batteries):
Spot: 85g/3.0oz
Sprinter: 100g/3.5oz
Icon: 187g/6.6oz

Recommendation: Although the Sprinter is an external battery pack unit, its weight is remarkably low, and it sits on your head comfortably enough to hammer out some fast road miles. Compared to the Spot, you get a huge brightness boost for a very slight weight increase. How much more brightness, you ask? …

Brightness (high setting):
Spot: 47 lumens
Sprinter: 68 lumens
Icon: 100 lumens

Recommendation: If you’re a road runner, or stick to groomed trails, the Spot is perfectly adequate to light your way. The Sprinter is bright enough to give you some confidence over tricky footing – but if you’re taking on consistently technical terrain, I’d stick with the Icon for as much candle power as possible.

Beam Type:
Spot: spot and flood modes
Sprinter: flood, with rear LED
Icon: spot and flood modes

Recommendation: Here’s one of the Sprinter’s unique features that gives it a huge advantage: the rear blinking LED that alerts passing cars to your presence. Better still, the rear LED can be turned off manually, so if there’s a group of runners behind you, you won’t blind them after several miles. If safety on the roads is an issue for you (and it should be), the Sprinter is ideal.

Maximum beam distance (high setting):
Spot: 70m
Sprinter: 50m
Icon: 100m

Recommendation: The Sprinter comes up short here, primarily because it doesn’t have a spot mode like the other two lamps. If you shift from flood to spot mode a lot, pick one of the others.

Battery type and lifespan:
Spot: 3 AAA, 100 hours. Not compatible with rechargeable batteries per Black Diamond specs.
Sprinter: built-in lithium rechargeable battery, 5 hour burn time.
Icon: 3AA, 80 hour lifespan on high setting. Compatible with rechargeable batteries as well as the NRG rechargeable battery pack sold separately.

Recommendation: The Sprinter is the first - and to this point, the only - runner’s headlamp powered exclusively by a rechargeable battery pack. It’s the greenest headlamp available, although its battery life at full power is quite short, so you have to remember to dock it after each run. Almost equally impressive is the Icon with the rechargeable NRG battery pack, which gives you a much longer lifespan between charges.

Spot: $40 from Wilderness Running Company (currently out of stock, but available shortly).
Sprinter: $80 from WRC
Icon: $60 from WRC, with $30 NRG rechargeable battery pack sold separately.
(*all of the above items are available at a 10% discount with coupon code R&R10 – but you knew that already.)

Recommended: if you grabbed the Icon when WRC gave away the NRG pack for free, congratulations - you made off with the best possible bargain. At this point, the Sprinter is the most expensive of the trio, but if you shell out for the Icon’s NRG pack (typically $30), the Sprinter is a relative bargain. However, the Icon is still priced quite competitively, and the extra money you spend for rechargeable batteries with either model will quickly be made up in saved batteries.

So which one is best for you? If you’re on a budget and need something basic and dependable, the Spot can’t be beat. If you need something with extra safety features for the road that is bright enough for basic trails, lightweight enough for fast running, and eco-friendly enough to make your inner tree hugger smile, the Sprinter excels in all of these aspects. If you need maximal brightness for technical trails and don’t mind lugging a bit more weight around, the Icon is an outstanding choice.

Regardless of your selection, these are all very solid offerings from Black Diamond. If there’s any comparison info you’d like explained further, leave a comment below and I’ll follow up in reply.

*Sprinter headlamp provided by Black Diamond
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at

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