As headlamps for the backcountry have continuously improved in terms of brightness, versatility, and low weight, some have acquired a level of complexity that demands spending a little time learning how to use it. Not so with the latest version of this longtime top-performer. Still among the brightest ultralight headlamps, Princeton Tec’s Vizz 420 stands out for many reasons that others do—plus simplicity: You don’t need a degree in electrical engineering to operate it—almost anyone who’s ever used a headlamp will intuitively understand how to use it. But many will most appreciate not having to study a user manual.
I’ve used generations of Vizz headlamps on countless backpacking trips over the years and the Vizz 420 most recently in camp on a five-day September backpacking trip in the Pasayten Wilderness and a six-day rafting and kayaking trip through Desolation and Gray canyons in southern Utah.
With quick, one-button operation, you can click the power button to cycle through the two white modes and one red mode and depress and hold the button to control the dimming function in all three modes. Holding the power button for several seconds turns the lockout mode on and off.
At max power, the 420-lumen spot LED projects a beam 79 meters (over 250 feet), according to Princeton Tec. In my experience with it on dark nights in the backcountry, at max power, the beam illuminates at a distance well over 200 feet (60 meters). But most of us will more commonly use any headlamp at medium power, which is 90 lumens in the Vizz 420. That’s bright enough to light your foreground for 25 meters (65 feet)—certainly adequate for hiking a dark trail—and the Vizz 420 can provide that level of light for over 50 hours on three fresh AAA batteries, longer than most backpackers need on typical trips.
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Two white LED bulbs cast a broad flood light with a range that PTec puts at 24 meters (almost 80 feet), for up to 90 hours. The red mode formaintaining night vision has a max brightness of 16 lumens, fine for walking around camp in the dark, and will last 135 hours, but lacks a strobe option. Plus, the headlamp’s regulated circuitry delivers consistent light output even as the batteries run down.
Like many leading ultralight headlamps, the Vizz is rated waterproof down to a meter for up to 30 minutes (IPX7).
While not rechargeable, the Vizz’s battery compartment is accessed by simply turning a small screw, easily done with your fingers. Lastly, the head strap is comfortable whether on the move or lying on your back.
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Still among the brightest ultralight headlamps for dayhikers, backpackers, climbers, trail runners, and backcountry skiers, the Princeton Tec Vizz 420 shines for its versatility and simplicity.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page for categorized menus of all my reviews and expert buying tips.
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