Headlamp for cave excavation

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Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby hallaly » Mar 30, 2014 11:21 pm

Hey guys,
I'm totally new to any of this, but I have a question and I figured I'd go straight to the experts.
I'm doing an archaeological dig in a cave this coming summer and I need the best and brightest (literally) headlamp that I can get. I know nothing about specific specs and all of that, so I'm sorry I don't necessarily understand all the lingo. I just need something very very bright, since we'll be looking for very small artifacts in the dirt, that will stay bright for hours, for like 10 hours a day with some batteries. If you can help me out PLEASE let me know!
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Re: Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby VRcaver » Mar 31, 2014 11:34 am

Well, now, if THAT question isn't opening a can of worms.

There are several headlamps out now that will put out 1000 lumens or more. You will need to look for something that uses the Cree (brand) XM-L2 (model) LED. You should also evaluate whether you need a flood light, a spot light, or both, and whether those should work singly or in combination. And, with more brightness comes more power consumption, so you need to evaluate the battery capacity.

The Top 3 commonly available headlamps that are made for cavers and are the brightest of the bright are the Scurion, the Rude Nora, and the ElSpeleo. Of those the Scurion is the most expensive and the ElSpeleo is the least expensive.

As the distributor of the ElSpeleo, :waving: of course that is my recommendation! My site is: http://elspeleo.com/
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Re: Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby rlboyce » Mar 31, 2014 11:59 am

The best and brightest is going to put a seriously large hole in your wallet.

You'll want a light that isn't concentrated. Either a diffusing collimator or a frosted lens.

If you're looking for something with lots of light output for a reasonable price I'd look at Zebralight, Spark, Armytek and MagicShine.

If you're truly interested in the best and brightest, and are prepared to spend a small fortune, I haven't seen them come much more serious than the Lupine Betty.
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Re: Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby caverdan » Mar 31, 2014 2:05 pm

We have a local caver that makes a great light that won't break you pocket book. Check out this thread if you want more info. viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13713&hilit=manly+light
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Re: Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby Caving Guru » Mar 31, 2014 2:59 pm

The Petzl Ultra is also pretty bright which I am wearing in my profile picture and the reason I bought it was because it was the brightest light I was aware of at the time.
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Re: Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby Leclused » Apr 1, 2014 5:33 am

Why do you need such a powerfull headlamp? Why don't you invest in led-tablet lights. These can be placed around your digsite combined with a small headlamp on your helmet.

An example of such a led tablet http://www.videomaker.com/article/15510 ... hts-review

Advantages :
- you can buy a few tablets + a small headlamp for the price of a scurion
- the tablets can be placed around the site in several angles.
- you won't get neck pain from the headlamp on your helmet. For cavers it's less an issue because we will face forward with our head straigt up and move our head more around. But you as an
archeologist will be looking to the ground most of the time in a static position. The heavy headlamp can then cause pain in you neck muscles.

Just some thoughts


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Re: Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby tncaver » Apr 1, 2014 6:24 am

Seems to me if the light is too bright the reflection from it will practically blind you when using it close up. Any objects will be difficult to see due to
over bright light where you are looking. Just like an over exposed picture, all you will see is a super white blob with no detail. There are some extremely bright LED's available that are basically overkill. Frankly, I recommend an LED that has adjustable output levels and includes a spot mode
as well as a wide mode.

Brightguy lights has a variety of headlamps available with varying brightness and other features. You can buy online and they are a reputable company.
Something in the 200 lumen plus range will probably be all the brightness you need and you can buy online. Just click on headlamps once the page opens.

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Re: Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby LukeM » Apr 1, 2014 8:36 am

Just going to second the comments about using supplemental lights rather than a single mega-bright headlamp. Light shining directly along the axis of your vision will eliminate all shadows and make the surface of the dig seem flatter. With some angled lighting little bumps and protrusions will be much more noticeable. Also, like tncaver mentioned, 1000+ lumens shined at something right in front of your face may be too bright. The high end headlamps are very efficient though, so buying something capable of 1500 lumens and running it on a low or medium setting could easily give you days worth of light.
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Re: Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby Leclused » Apr 2, 2014 3:36 am

Some 2nd thoughts.

How far are you in the cave. In general mostly not that far for an archeological digsite. So why not using a small generator outside the cave with a power-line running into the cave. You can then use simple halogen lamps on tripods. That combined with a small headlamp as backup in case the generator stops.

Honda has some good portable silent generators


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Re: Headlamp for cave excavation

Postby struebe » Apr 2, 2014 10:57 pm

Everyone's nerding out a ton here, with vocab that might not be totally understood to a new caver (hi hallaly! Lights tend to be something that gets us all excited given that we operate in a perfectly dark environment...so I'm going to join in the fun!).

I generally suggest one of three lights for new people:

(1) Black Diamond storm (entry level, great for everyday, 4 AAAs I think, 2013 edition sale for $34.96 now)
http://blackdiamondequipment.com/en/hea ... rm&start=1

(2)Black Diamond Icon (better battery life, more options for brightness, 4 AAs; $79.95)
http://blackdiamondequipment.com/en/hea ... on&start=1

(3) Princeton Tec Apex (really great light, runs on 4 AAs for a full day on the lower setting if you're using rechargeables...and use rechargeables because this light is well regulated...which means the light output stays constant for a very long time even as the batteries are being depleted; $89.95)

Better yet, get all three because you need backup lights. Some of the other suggestions on this list are of comparable price, but the things you want to look at are run time vs. brightness. Most light manufacturers report this on their webpages; look at other sites to buy though because sometimes you can find them cheaper.

When I was doing excavation and sherd survey in caves in Belize two years ago, I found my caving light (Lupine Pico X3) far too bright, even on the lower settings (i.e., 60 lumens), especially if I was doing any drawing. I went back to my "beginner" light (PT Apex) on low setting for any closeup work, and saved my bright, long-run-time light for moving from place to place in the cave. The comment about neck pain is legit--I had terrible neck pain for the first week I was excavating because I held my head a little to the side relative to my normal caving posture (allowed me to use my right hand to trowel and put my head to the left to get some contrast as I dug). So it's not a bad idea to consider a light with a waist-mounted battery pack, or something similar that keeps the weight off your head.

Other considerations:
-darkness of dirt you'll be excavating in (if you know). Some caves have really dark dirt, and this can feel like it sucks up your light. Do you know yet where you'll be working?

-how wet are the caves you're working in? If your light is ever going to be maybe dunked in water, that might change some of the recommendations.

-how remote will you be? If you're going to be away from electricity (or generators) for recharging lights for a few days, that can be a serious problem, and I would consider bringing a different light or finding a solar charger or something similar.

-are you going overseas? Make sure whatever light you get takes batteries that you can get in that country, if you won't be have electricity. For instance, anything other than AAAs and AAs can be really hard to find (thus why I try to find cameras that run on AAs)

That's all that sparked (har har) when I read your post. Good luck!
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