The Black Diamond Flare head torch is an interesting one to place, sitting near the bottom of Black Diamond’s range in terms of performance and cost, but in fact being something of a standalone class of lighting: the ‘emergency head torch’. While its lumen output won't compete with most of the entrants in our best head torch roundup, this little lamp is still well worth a look for outdoor adventurers. Read on for our full Black Diamond Flare head torch review.
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Black Diamond Flare head torch review: design and build
The Black Diamond Flare head torch is positioned as an ‘emergency head torch’, which immediately sounds like it could be a poor relation to non-emergency head torches, vaguely disposable and fragile. However, that’s absolutely not the case with the Flare. Constructed mainly from a knurled aluminium ring, the initial impression is one of solidity, in spite of weighing in at a straw-weight 27g. Ingeniously, that ring is also the means of switching between the five modes (red, flash red, white low, white high, and SOS), which makes accidental triggering very difficult.
A simple hinged backplate gives 180 degrees of movement for the lens, itself a simple dual-LED array, one white, one red, and there’s a minimalist slightly stretchy fabric headband that merges into bungee for the majority of the strap. A simple cord grip adjuster tightens or loosens the head strap in a basic but effective manner.
That ‘emergency head torch’ billing means you’d not be shocked if the Flare didn’t put out epic lumens, which is lucky, because it doesn’t. A full beam of 40 lumens isn’t vast, but certainly better than nothing, and enough to navigate campsites or walk off a hill following a longer-than-planned day. The two CR coin batteries are compact and lightweight, but won’t give extended burntimes, although they do store well for long periods. A solid IP67 rating puts this well above some of the competition though, being dustproof and 1 meter/30 minutes full immersion-proof.
Black Diamond Flare review: comfort and performance
Surprisingly, the Black Diamond Flare head torch is actually quite comfortable to wear, the super-light weight really helping the cause as very little pressure is needed to keep the Flare where you left it. That simple strap fits over pretty much anything, from hats to hoods, helmets to wrists, and can even be worn like a necklace for Nyctophobiacs.
Performance is a bit more varied: the red LED does fine work for night-vision retaining tasks such as reading maps and the like, but the main beam is relatively underpowered for anything beyond mid-distance. That said, if you’re planning serious navigational enterprises at night there are plenty of better choices – such as the Petzl Iko Core or the Biolite 750 – but they weigh in heavier and won’t store anything like as well as the Flare. Burntime from the two coin cells is relatively modest, 10.5 H on main beam, 18 H on the lowest setting, but they are light and easily changed out before a big adventure.
The one setting that really does lift this little torch is the ‘SOS’ setting, a simple set-and-forget switch position that gives you a flashing white beam – three short, three long, three short – a morse SOS beacon. A brilliant innovation for genuine emergencies, and a proper value-add in such a lightweight package.
The twist control method is great for preventing accidental switching on, but the downside is that it’s quite fiddly, especially wearing gloves, and makes changing the beam once you’re wearing the Flare quite difficult.
Black Diamond Flare head torch review: verdict
The Black Diamond Flare is all about light weight and durability, and it delivers on that promise well. The only missing element is a small fabric tab on the headband to help tighten and remove it, especially if the bungee is flat against the adjuster. We added a loop of cord, but there are certainly more elegant solutions. The bungee lets you attach this to pretty much anything you want, even hang in a tent for proximity lighting if needed.
The SOS function is downright genius, and although the main beam isn’t as potent as many, the light weight and general flexibility of this little light make it a bit of a no-brainer to keep in a first aid kit or forget about in a rucksack pocket. It’s also a great choice for around town, where the flashing red light is brilliant for after-dark cycling and running manoeuvres. In short, we dare you to not find the Black Diamond Flare useful, and it’s at a price point that really can’t be beaten.