Dorcy Headlamp Review

Backpacking Traveler on street

For years while traveling, I stuck with my trusty handheld rather than go with an LED headlamp as so many other travelers were already carrying. So I jumped when Dorcy offered to send me out a couple of their best as a trial. After putting them to good use through a week on an organic farm in harsh, winter conditions, I’m sold on the idea of having both hands free.

Spot or Broad Beam?

Both Dorcy headlamps are identical with the exception of the front lens/filter. A milky lens on the 41-2096 provides a softer, more diffused light (broad beam) while the 41-2097 has a clear filter and pushes light as a focused beam to a stunning 118 meters.

Unfortunately, changing filters on these two headlamps is not an option, so you’ll have to choose at purchase time. Or go with both. Opt for the broad beam (41-2096) if you intend to use the headlamp for travel, reading in bed, and around the house. Go for the spot beam (41-2097) if you plan to use the headlamp in the field or primarily outdoors.

Dorcy Headlamp

About the Dorcy 41-2096 Headlight

  • Beam Type: Broad
  • Bulb(s): 1 x white LED
  • Lumens: 120
  • Batteries: 3 x AAA
  • Run Time: 12 hours
  • Beam Distance: 157 feet (48 meters)
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces (with batteries)

About the Dorcy 41-2097 Headlight

  • Beam Type: Spot
  • Bulb(s): 1 x white LED
  • Lumens: 134
  • Batteries: 3 x AAA
  • Run Time: 12 hours
  • Beam Distance: 387 feet (118 meters)
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces (with batteries)

Suggested price for both Dorcy headlamps is US $24.99 each.

How it Works

You’ll have to do a minor surgery to get past the tight packaging job without accidentally cutting something. Once you’ve freed the headlamp, installing the three included AAA batteries is a no-brainer.

Press the single button once to get full power, again to get half power, then a third time to enter ‘strobe’ mode, and again to turn the unit off.

Slide the buckles to adjust the stretchable band, then put the headlamp on your head. Give the LED a click or two downward just so that you won’t inadvertently blind people, and voila — you’re ready for action.

Features and Caveats

Dorcy HeadlightsThe LED bezel on these Dorcy headlamps tilts downward to as much as 50 degrees — great for getting light where you need it. I used the option for more comfortable reading, typing on a laptop, and focusing light to see where I was stepping at night.

If I could change only one single thing about the Dorcy headlamp, it would be to eliminate the annoying ‘strobe’ mode. With only one button to control power and cycle through modes, you’re required to pass through a rapidly flashing mode before pressing again to turn the unit off. Sure, the flashing light may come in handy if you’re in an emergency situation or need to set up an impromptu disco somewhere, but until then it’s more likely just to annoy people.

Field Testing

I did a week on an organic farm in Kentucky and took my headlamps along. Winter saw to it that both myself and my new headlamps got more than we planned. I used my broad-beam headlamp nightly to gather eggs and round up chickens in sleet, freezing rain, and ridiculously low temperatures — single digits, even — and never had any issues.

As advertised, the Dorcy headlamps are weather resistant and survived some absolutely miserable polar vortex conditions better than more expensive alternatives.

Broad beam Dorcy Headlight

What I Liked

  • Even loaded with batteries, Dorcy headlamps are enjoyably lightweight; you’ll actually forget that you’re wearing one.
  • The LED can be tilted downward to avoid blinding your adventure partners.
  • The rubberized power button is easy to find in pitch dark.
  • Batteries are included!

Possible Room for Improvement

  • On more than one occasion I caught the headlamp already turned on while in my bag.
  • Eliminating the ‘strobe’ mode would eliminate an annoying extra button push.
  • A red light option would be great for not ruining night vision or not waking up friends in communal sleeping conditions.

In Summary

The Dorcy headlamps that I reviewed were lightweight, simple, and reasonably priced for an around-the-house or go-to headlamp while camping.

Disclosure: The author received two demo headlamps for free to do testing for this review.

Meet the Author:

Greg Rodgers is the editor of Startbackpacking.com and the Asia travel expert for About.com. He left Corporate America to begin traveling in 2005 and has been happily living from a rucksack since!