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Coast HL7 Review

Winner of our Editors' Choice award  the Coast HL7 impressed us with a combination of high-power beam  great close-proximity lighting  relatively light weight  and low-price.
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $50 List | $29.52 at Amazon
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Pros:  Incredible brightness and beam control, great value
Cons:  Short battery life
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Coast
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor
Tuesday

Our Verdict

Scoring the highest overall in our comprehensive tests and metrics, the Coast HL7 earns our Editors' Choice Award. With great performance in close proximity lighting and one of the highest measured brightnesses, it only costs $50, trumping many of the lights that cost over $100 and were twice the weight. It comes in a lightweight package (for its brightness) and had the most intuitive beam control lever. Its only stumbling point - and this is significant - is short battery life when in high beam mode. For this reason, we gave a second Editors' Choice award to the Black Diamond ReVolt which does a better job of balancing brightness and battery life and can also be recharged.

Update - January 2017
This award-winning headlamp has received some functional updates since our review, scroll down for a summary!


RELATED REVIEW: The Hunt for the Best Headlamps

Our Analysis and Test Results

Update - January 2017


Coast has confirmed that the Editor's Choice winning HL7 headlamp has been updated since we reviewed it. While the look of the headlamp remains the same, here's a summary of the changes:
  • Increased Lumens — Coast claimed 196 lumens when we tested the HL7, the newer model boasts 285 lumens.
  • Beam Distance — At the time of our review, Coast claimed a high beam distance of 152m, the newest claimed distance is now 119m.
  • Price — This excellent product's list price has dropped to $50.

Hands-on Review


The Coast HL7, in nearly every way, from unboxing to the most nuanced performance metrics, feels and works like a piece of high-end, expensive electronics. The price, smack in the middle of our test roster, is surprisingly reasonable for this slick and confidence-inspiring design.

The Editors' Choice winning Coast HL7 throws an incredibly strong and bright light for the price.
The Editors' Choice winning Coast HL7 throws an incredibly strong and bright light for the price.

Performance Comparison


The Coast HL7 was one of our favorite headlamps that we tested. See how the rest measured up next to this top performer in our Overall Performance chart, below.


Trail Finding


While the beam power of the Coast is incredible, the evenness of the light is a just little off, which prevented it from getting a top score. Interestingly, the light and lens is diffused such that the brightness is the same right up to the hard edge of the beam pattern. The best trail-finding lights, we found, are slightly brighter in the middle of the pattern and smoothly diffuse out to nothing at the edges. That said, this light lets you see almost as far as any other we tested. As you can see below in the beam comparison photo with the Black Diamond Icon, a headlamp that is twice as heavy and more than double the price, the beam of the Coast goes further.


Beam Distance


Coast HL7Black Diamond Icon

Only our Top Pick for Trail Finding, the Fenix HP25R is brighter overall. The beam of the Fenix is also fairly even, but focuses a bit more intensity in the middle of the spot. As noted above, we found this preferable in most action situations than the Coast's even distribution of light.


The difference between the Coast and another popular headlamp, the Black Diamond Spot is particularly dramatic as you can see below:


Beam Distance


Coast HL7Black Diamond Spot

How does the Coast compare against a 10 of 10 trail finding light? The comparison below shows the Petzl NAO being noticeably brighter. But, the NAO is 5 times as expensive, 50% heavier, and had an ANSI high-beam run time of only 2 hours vs. 3.3 hours for the Coast.


Beam Distance


Coast HL7Petzl NAO

Close Proximity


This is the best headlamp we tested at close proximity. Not only does it have the most even beam with no hot spots, it gives you incredible control of how wide and bright you want that beam to be. No other headlamp gives as much control or made controlling the beam diameter so easy.


As you can see below, when tested against the Spot, the Coast's beam pattern is perfectly even whereas the Spot, which scores high, can't match the Coast and puts more brightness in the middle.


Close-proximity


Coast HL7Black Diamond Spot

Battery Life


Here the Coast falls flat: just a score of 5 since it only lasts for 3.4 hours in our measured high mode run-time test (ANSI).


Check out this battery life vs. beam distance graph against the ReVolt and this matchup against the Black Diamond Icon.


Beam Distance


Coast HL7Black Diamond ReVolt

The tradeoff is clear: the Coast is three times the brightness of the ReVolt but has less than half the battery life in ANSI measured high beam mode. This is why the ReVolt also earns a Editors' Choice award. Read our complete Headlamp Review to learn more about the ANSI standard.

The separate battery pack on the rear of the Coast  which sits on the back of the head.
The separate battery pack on the rear of the Coast, which sits on the back of the head.

Brightness


The brightness numbers here are staggering: 131 meters. Compare that to 80 meters for the Icon (which weighs twice as much) and 56 for the ReVolt. Only our Top Pick winner, the Fenix HP25R exceeds the Coast in brightness.


It is worth noting that the Fenix throws light 22% farther. No other light in any other category crushes the competition with such authority. That being said, the Coast has a pretty authoritative brightness victory over its next competitor too. The Petzl NAO is the next closest, but as we've pointed out already, is far heavier, more expensive, and chews through battery life much faster. In a matrix of cost per meter of light broadcast, the Coast would be in a league of its own.

The Coast HL7  with its strong but readily adjustable beam  is a very versatile light for general purpose use.
The Coast HL7, with its strong but readily adjustable beam, is a very versatile light for general purpose use.

Weight


At 128 grams, this is about 30% heavier than standard compact headlamps like the Spot, ReVolt, or Petzl Tikka XP. It also has a battery pack separated and placed on the back, which makes it even less compact. None of the truly compact headlamps have even close to the same brightness. Only the Petzl Tikka RXP comes close. However, it does so at the cost of battery life and the mass creeps up close to that of the Coast.


If you compare the Coast to the next highest scoring headlamps with a high brightness score, the Petzl NAO or Fenix HP25R, it is a half to a third the weight. So this is really an ultra-light powerhouse if you are looking for a headlamp with a powerful beam. The heavier Icon, also an overall strong performer, is twice the weight of the Coast.

The battery packs on some of our tested "two-part" lights. Clockwise from upper right: Coast HL7  Fenix HP25  Black Diamond Icon  Black Diamond Sprinter.
The battery packs on some of our tested "two-part" lights. Clockwise from upper right: Coast HL7, Fenix HP25, Black Diamond Icon, Black Diamond Sprinter.

Ease of Use


The score here is hard to beat. It features a simple on and off button and then a separate lever/dial on the back that adjusts beam power. Few headlamps are as intuitive to use. For gloved use, the Coast is slightly above most of its competition.


Not everyone loves the placement of the battery pack at the rear of the headband. We don't consider it a problem, but it is a factor to consider. One advantage of the battery-in-back design approach is that the front and back parts of the light are more equally balanced on the head, a feature we found to be a significant advantage in our Top Pick for Running Award winner, the Black Diamond Sprinter.

Curiously, with just one bulb, only the brightness is adjusted is with the lever. Other lights, including the Black Diamond ReVolt, have a primary big bulb for great distances and a secondary bulb or bulbs for close proximity use. This means that the bulbs can be projected over different angles for the different applications. The Coast is definitely the highest rated lamp with only one bulb. For most intense use, where the user is apt to switch between looking close and looking far, we've come to appreciate the ability to switch between two light patterns. The next strongest scoring lamp with one bulb is the Zebralight H602, which sits well down the hierarchy in our review.

Best Applications


Need power? Riding a trail at night or hiking through terrain with difficult route finding? This is the ultimate light because it is so lightweight and powerful. It is also ideal for around camp because the beam is so even that everything in your immediate vicinity is easy to see.

Value


If this weren't the Editors' Choice winner, it could be a contender for our Best Buy award just because of the serious light output. Most other lights that were even close to as bright cost 2-3 times as much and yet still had the same short battery life. At $50, this headlamp makes it hard to justify paying $80 or more for one.

Conclusion


This headlamp comes very highly recommended. It has incredible beam power, incredible beam control, and is available at an unbelievable low price.The only reason not to get it is the short battery life. If you need more than five hours of battery life, check out our other Editors' Choice winner, the Black Diamond ReVolt. The ReVolt is not nearly as bright nor does it have the same easily controllable beam lever, but it does give impressive lighting power for a solid battery life, and can be recharged. It is also lighter weight and available at many more retailers.

Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier
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