The thing about LED torches is that they’re either on, or off. If you want to dim one to less than 100%, what you’re actually doing is making the LED flash on and off really, really quickly to give out less light. Normally I don’t notice this flashing, but last night it was drizzly and, in an effort to conserve battery-life, I was using the Fuel headtorch on its lowest setting. The effect was to freeze-frame the rain in front of my eyes which was slightly disconcerting.
The Princeton Tec Fuel is a low-cost light, coming in at £24, which runs on three AAA batteries. It’s quite light weight and inoffensive (78g and similar to an old 35mm film canister… remember those?), and small enough that it doesn’t feel unwieldy on your head. The wide elastic strap is comfortable, easily adjusted and holds it in place when you jump up and down to keep warm.
The Fuel has four LEDs, and four modes. Despite this correlation, all the LEDs are used for all the modes, so you get BRIGHT (43 lumen), QUITE Bright, Quite dim and FlAsHiNg modes with a nice wide spread of light and a focussed central beam. It’s a very easy light to walk with on pitch black evenings and bright enough to pick out detail easily up to around 20ft away.
One thing I don’t like about the Fuel is that it cycles from BRIGHT to dim, and not the other way around. Which means that if you switch it on in pursuit of a map-reading glow, you get blinded by the reflection from your own hand. I’d much prefer if the button increased brightness in stages.
Whichever mode you choose, after 10 seconds of inactivity, the next button-press will turn the light off.
The battery compartment of the Fuel is extremely well secured. In fact, it’s a bugger to open unless you use a tool, or aren’t afraid to break a fingernail.
The button is a large, rubberised and easy to find job. Oddly, the Fuel has a rim detailing around the top of it, which means that rain settles around the button. This is slightly odd since the Fuel is only rated as splashproof (IPX4).
SUMMARY: The Fuel is a very solidly made and comfortable light. It’s bright enough to walk or jog by but a few things niggle at me. The button cycling through bright to dim strikes me as the wrong way around, and the battery compartment is a pain to open on the trail. That said, it does what it says it should very well and at a good price.