A headlamp is one of the most versatile illumination tools anyone can own. While they are indispensable for the military and tactical communities, I have found them equally as important in civilian life. Here in frozen Northeastern Vermont, I use mine daily for a wide variety of purposes, which leads me to wonder how the heck I ever made due without one when I was a child. Back then I literally lit a candle to walk 50m to the outhouse at 2am in -40-degree weather. That’s not an exaggeration and while I now have indoor plumbing, it’s still completely dark here because on the top of a mountain on the Canadian border there is no ambient light except for the stars and the moon.
This makes me a very good candidate for testing and evaluating lighting products and recently I was asked to review the Princeton Tec Remix Pro Headlamp for Spotter Up. The light arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I started by replacing my original old school Gen-1 Petzl TACTIKKA with the Remix Pro. As I went along, I took notes and some videos to support this review. When it comes to the review itself, I like to be straight forward. I’m going to run down the features and discuss them as much as is required. That includes a little knowledge and what the company has done with the product that is good, bad or indifferent. Then my final thoughts; and like anything with Jeremy Clarkson in it (for you Top Gear fans), you’ll want to wait until the end of the full story.
Headlamps are like cars. Everyone has a favorite and they tend to have very strong opinions regarding these preferences. Having used headlamps for over 20 years in the military special operations environment, I’ve come to have my own preferences myself. There are special situations that call for special headlamps, like parachuting into the ocean at night. There are colors that don’t play well with other equipment. For example, red light is insanely bright to night vision goggles (NVGs) and you can’t see blood with it. Green and blue light tends to be a lot brighter than red, hard to see with NVGs and highlights blood very well, but is easier to see with the naked eye. There is a constant and never-ending stream of reasons to get one light vs. the other. It’s damn near like talking politics.
For me, I settled many years ago on a Petzl TACTIKKA with a green lens that flips down if I need white light. Why? Because that’s all I ever seemed to need no matter what I was doing. We rarely if ever used red or IR, and in mission sets like direct action there is a movement to use overwhelming white light rather than use the darkness to hide. For one, it’s less gear intensive and that means cheaper. Also, as a low light shooting instructor, I can assure you that leveraging the effects of white light is downright nasty on the enemy and we like that.
That said, the good folks at Spotter Up asked me to review a very capable headlamp from Princeton Tec that seems to serve many needs in one package at a reasonable price. It’s one of those products that honestly packs more into one small package than is generally required, but does so in a way that makes me appreciate the convenience of features I may never use. The thing is that I don’t feel physically burdened or swindled in carrying these extra features. And that’s remarkable. Usually we find something that has too many bells and whistles and we don’t want to go near it because it’s too expensive or weighs too much or it’s too big. The idiots who designed the PRC-112 series of radio ought to be brought up on charges of war crimes for this sort of stupidity. But unlike the Princeton Tec REMIX PRO, the PRC-112 series under delivered every step of the way and got bigger and heavier with each new “advancement.”
That’s not to say that Princeton Tec has nailed it. While I like the product very much and I feel justified in singing its praises, Princeton Tec has rather annoyed me with their failure to do the simple things like knowing how much their product actually weighs, or providing instructions that actually work…
The Remix Pro has a maximum output of 150 Lumens. Lumens has become the standard to describe light characteristics for the majority of the lighting industry for a good reason; lumens equals actual brightness. Given new technologies in lighting the old descriptions (like Watts) that do not directly equate to actual measurements of brightness don’t cut it anymore. 150 lumens places the Remix Pro in the same category as the majority of headlamps sold. That means there is a lot of competition in the market space this light occupies. When it comes to this maximal output, you only get it when the light is in high spotlight mode. This is a positive because one of the standing rules of illumination devices is that you only use as much light and power as you need for the job.
COLORS MODES & FUNCTION
The Remix Pro has four colors: red, green, IR and white. The only real unfortunate news I have regarding the Remix Pro is here… I spent hours pouring over the instructions that came with the light and those I found online. The enclosed instructions failed to bear any relationship to reality, and when I went online, I discovered that there are several variations of the Remix Pro. None of the instructions I found bore any relationship to the light I held in my hand. They were not even accurate enough to turn the light off. That’s a huge problem because any product, especially an illumination tool needs to be intuitive, and the instructions need to match the product. This is a failure point for Princeton Tec as a company, though it does not doom the light per se. Here are the actual instructions:
Red: push button once
Green: Push button twice quickly
IR: From the off position, push and hold the button for 2 seconds
White: From the red or green on status, push and hold the button for 2 seconds
OFF: From any color, push the button once quickly
Then we have the mode issue. The package and instructions clearly states and graphically illustrates that there is are four modes:
The problem is that this isn’t true. If there are in fact four modes, the instructions are completely wrong, and I was not able to find proper guidance online. Again, not the death of the light, but a terrible showing for Princeton Tec’s packaging people.
On the heels of some negative news above, we have some good news. I have been running the Remix Pro for several nights in a broad range of illumination environments, and I have nothing bad to say about its performance. I shot a video in an attempt to show you on camera that it performs very well. The only confusion would be the fact that there is no flood or spot and no high or low. The performance I observed matches, if not exceeds the stated performance on the package. Not only does it exceed these numbers, but it also did so with some ambient moonlight filtered by clouds. That’s a harder test, and I am very pleased with this result.
I did not do a long duration cold test because the snow is not yet deep enough for show shoes and I need to get some new cross-country skis. So I don’t have a lot of incentive to suffer for 4-6 hours at night to see if the cold has a dramatic effect on the battery life. I don’t feel bad about this because the Remix Pro is not significantly different from any other headlamp and so we can safely assume that temperatures below 20 degrees will cut about ¼ to 1/3 off the battery life. The other impact you would see early on under prolonged cold would be the beam width and length reduced much earlier than normal.
The Beam characteristics differ slightly for each color of light emitted with the Remix Pro. Princeton Tec makes a point of calling attention to what it calls a “hybrid beam” on the front of the packaging. What that is amounts to ambient light cast onto the ground close to the wearer. That ambient light is present with the red light and very significant with the green light. However, it is non-existent with the white light. My honest opinion is that this is just an attempt to list more features on the packaging because honestly, this is insignificant as a “feature.”
An excellent feature of the Remix Pro is the swivel-mount it utilizes. This mount allows you to raise the beam approximately 30 degrees above neutral and depress the beam by 45 degrees. This feature, especially the ability to raise the beam is very impressive. Those who have done a lot of work in confined spaces will appreciate this feature! There is nothing more frustrating than trying to look upward but your light is pointed downward. Bravo!
A particular strength of the Remix Pro is the fact that it may be worn as a traditional headlamp on the forehead or around the neck, but it can also mount to on various helmet mounts and MOLLE webbing. I’ve seen people mount them to the front of their body armor, the front or tops of helmets and even on wrist straps. Be advised that when mounting the light on MOLLE webbing, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge. The same goes for removing it. The good news is that once mounted, it’s never coming off. The bad news is that without a multi-tool you’re going to get a workout. Mind you, none of this is bad, just a note to self. I love the fact that this light has that versatility. This is a big plus in my opinion.
Princeton Tec states that the Remix Pro is water-resistant and to reinforce that statement they have included a cool graphic that says, “IPX4”. That looks cool, but when you search for IPX4, it only means that it passed the test for “splashing of water.” Specifically, “Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect, utilizing either: a) an oscillating fixture or b) A spray nozzle with no shield. Test A) is conducted for 10 minutes. Test B) is conducted (without shield) for 5 minutes minimum.”
What that means, is that if you wore this light in the rain, it wouldn’t short out for a while. The battery compartment does not have a waterproof seal, but as long as the water wasn’t continually hitting the light, say, sheltered a bit by a hat brim, I can’t see this light ever suffering from any ill effect. You would need to dry all parts of it as soon as possible because in very wet and humid climates moisture loves to get everywhere.
For some people, weight is a big issue. For me, it depends on what I’m doing and a few grams here and there are not the end of the world in most cases. But given the labeling issues I’ve already identified; I was disturbed to discover that the weight on the website lists 66g/2.32oz versus the packaging that lists the weight as 69g/2.43oz. Again, this has no bearing on the performance of the light; it’s just very bad optics for the company.
The power source for the Remix Pro is a single CR-123 battery. The CR-123 is an excellent battery choice given that it is becoming a standard in the tactical lighting world. The only comment I will make is that when traveling in the third world, it may be difficult to find this battery outside of camera shops so bring some extras.
I began this review on something of a high note and now at the end it feels like a mixed bag. Princeton Tec clearly has some attention to detail problems when it comes to their packaging department, and that can lead to some very annoyed customers like me. That’s bad for business.
On the other hand, when it comes to the headlamp itself, once you know how to operate it, it’s fantastic! I love that from the OFF position I can press and hold for IR light without having to cycle through visible light. I like that when in IR mode I can’t accidentally cycle to visible light. When it comes to visible light, I like that this headlamp begins at a dim red, then a brighter green, and even then I have to do something special to get it into that 150 lumen white light. I love that in confined spaces the headlamp swivels upward to make my life easier. The casing is certainly rugged enough for tactical operations, and I love that you can change the battery with ease while wearing gloves. For that matter, operating the light with gloves is smooth and easy. The head strap is soft but has plenty of elastic holding power, and it too is easy to adjust with gloves. It can be mounted on helmets and MOLLE webbing and honestly when you’re operating at night that is incredibly useful! It’s fantastic!
All in all, the Remix Pro is a headlamp that does many things very well, even if you don’t need it to. Yes, I’ve criticized the packaging and the instructions for being useless. But even they have a bright side. It’s cold as hell here in Vermont, so today I started my wood stove with them. All’s well that ends well, and I must say, I wanted to hate the Remix Pro… But instead, I fell in love with it. I hope they don’t expect me to give it back because I’m not going to.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Princeton Tec from Spotter Up. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.