I’ve been sadly fascinated by flashlights and pretty much anything that glows and takes battery since I was a kid. I currently own a lot of headlamps, and have been known to spend an hour or two reading about batteries. Yeah, huge dork. I used the UltrAspire Lumen 600 2.0 (the previous version) at the 2018 Georgia Death Race and again at Mogollon Monster 100 and for the most part, I liked it. Let’s see how version 3.0 fared!
Light specs (taken from manufacturer’s website):
Something happened when I turned 40 recently: my brain started to think in puns. Maybe it’s having two kids and fully admitting that dad humor both exists and that I’m also guilty of using it a lot. Where am I going with this? I almost started this review with one of several puns: “I’m having a lightbulb moment”, “let’s shed some light on the subject”, “whose bright idea was this”, etc.” Puns are the lowest form of humor, so I’ll start the review thusly: fuck me, this is a good light!
There’s been a lot of lumen creep in new lights. I remember when over 100 lumens seemed like a lot, and now closer to 200 seems standard. The Lumen 600 packs…600 lumens. How bright is that? Imagine having a car headlamp situated just above your crotch–yeah, that bright. On high, you can discern every subtle detail of the trail.
On the medium setting, this thing will last through the entire night (I clocked 12+ hours of solid light) and still brighten up the trail admirably. Hell, on medium it’s better than some 200+ lumen headlamps I own, and those won’t last as long.
On the low setting, you get a dim beam that lasts for almost a day and a half. This is less practical for running, but means if you take it camping you’ll get a lot of hours of camp lighting or emergency light in a pinch.
Okay, so it’s wicked bright and the battery lasts long, but how did it fare when running? Siiiiick (do the kids still use that phrase?). If you’re going to be out in the dark for a long time during a race or adventure, most headlamps have a way of flattening out the terrain with a narrower spread of beam that makes you feel like you’re running in a tunnel.
When you add head strap pressure on your dome that can lead to an eventual headache, it’s a recipe for disaster when everything else in your body already aches. The beam is incredibly wide-angled and even, with no hot spotting. The light color (temperature for light dorks) feels pretty neutral, so you don’t get the eye-strain you can sometimes feel when the beam is too white.
Because it’s waist-mounted, the light comes from less of an angle and the trail is rendered in incredible relief. This allows you to see all the contours and obstacles that await you. If you haven’t run with anything but a headlamp, try strapping it around your waist and you’ll see the difference. UltrAspire calls this innovation “3D Lighting.” I found the light to be even better than v2, with a very evenly distributed beam that seems to cover a wider section of trail.
I used the UltrAspire Lumen 3.0 primarily on a Caribbean mangrove adventure, and on technical sections of the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts. On these runs, I also brought along my trusty Black Diamond Storm (the second most recent version) and my Zebralight H600w Mk IV headlamp to see how they fared against the Lumen 3.0.
Out of the three, I felt the Lumen did a better job. The button interface of the Lumen 3.0 is very user-friendly—one button that’s clicked for each of the settings: low, medium, high, and strobe. The button is large and easy to access; I’m willing to bet it’s gonna be much easier to operate during winter with gloves on. Yes, it’s bulkier in size than a headlamp, which means you’re keeping it strapped on you more likely than throwing it in your pack. But it rides much more comfortably than a headlamp, which over time can put pressure on your forehead.
The light itself is made of very light but durable aluminum. It rotates easily up and down 90º in the rubber housing that attaches it to the belt.
One area of improvement over the original design is in the battery case cover. The prior versions had a somewhat finicky internal pin that you had to line up with the end cap to screw in correctly. This made swapping batteries a bit of a pain, and was an issue for my crew at one point as they weren’t intimately schooled in the particulars of the battery housing. The new model has a dead simple screw-on end cap and simple, push-button operation to select modes (clicking cycles through the intensity settings).
On the rear, UltrAspire has included a somewhat larger, stretchy zipper pocket, that fits my iPhone 8, as well as some other small goodies such as a small jacket or flask. It’s not going to replace a pack, but it’s a great option for storage, especially if you’re racing through the night with hand bottles. If you prefer to go more streamlined, you can simply slide the pocket off the belt.
The belt has also has some nice upgrades, including an easier to use buckle, as well as a limited-stretch elastic fabric that allows for the expansion of your stomach from breathing, but still conforms well, eliminating any bounce. I liked the old belt and buckle, but this one is much better.
UltrAspire builds things to a high standard and this is no different. Build quality throughout is first rate: from the finely machined metal housing of the light to the belt itself. I love their subtle details like the rubberized and large zipper pulls (good for cold weather or when you get tired later in a run) and the fact that nothing flaps around—everything is accounted for.
I don’t have anything really bad to say about the lamp. I see room for improvement, but that’s more about refining something that’s already really solid. The previous version had a little pocket on the front, and it was helpful to have the storage split up a bit between the front and back.
I usually carry a spare battery with me, and the 18650 is a pretty big battery so having another pocket to put it in would mean I could keep things a bit organized and not overstuff the back pocket. The rear pocket is a good size, but I wish they had put pole carrying shock cords on the back, similar to what you get with many utility belts on the market (including one from UA too!). ”
This isn’t a bad feature, but the IPX 7 means that while it’ll be safe in rain and drops into a short creek (less than 3 feet) I’d be careful around deeper water, as it’s not designed to be submerged in water deeper than 1 meter. This is pretty standard for lights, but just a word to the wise.
Last thing: woof, this light is expensive, coming in at $159.95. I don’t think it’s overpriced for its build quality or how it functions, but it is definitely pricey for a light, especially when there are solid headlamps in the $50 range. I think that’s less a “bad” thing about the Lumen 3.0, and more about what you’re looking for in the end.Shop Lumen 600
UltrAspire Lumen 600 3.0 Conclusion
Overall the UltrAspire Lumen 600 3.0 is a fantastic option for nighttime trail adventures. It’s crazy bright, has a long battery life, and has some decent storage options. It also rides really comfortably on the waist, with no noticeable pressure and no bounce.
Where it really distinguishes itself from cheaper, head-mounted options, is how much better it lights up the trail—not purely from a lumen perspective, but because of how widely it casts the light, and the way it renders the trail in greater relief. Simply strapping a headlamp to your waist isn’t going to get you the full effect of the Lumen 3.0, that I can tell you. There is no light I have that lights up the trail this well, for this long, and doesn’t cause fatigue from wearing.
The 3.0 is definitely a solid upgrade over the 2.0, and I’m happy to recommend it to anyone needing a light for overnight adventures. You can pick it up at Running Warehouse by using the shop link below.Shop Lumen 600