Super Wide Angle Headlamp
Updated 11-20-2007

While experimenting with different LED bulbs with different flashlights, I hit upon a combination which gives a 90 degree cone of view. Yes, a 90 degree field of view. The headlamp in the above photo is about 12 " from the wall. This is perfect for hiking at night. Just enough dim light to cover the full width of the path and preserve you night vision. A pattern this wide and flat is difficult to achieve with any other LED headlamp I have seen.

The upgrade started with two Princeton Tec headlamps, the “Vortec” (4 AA cells) and the “Solo” (2 AA cells).

Click any thumbnail for larger image.

Both these headlamps came with regular filament bulbs and with smooth and dimpled reflectors. I prefer the dimpled reflectors. The Solo has been discontinued and has been replaced (looks identical) by the “Quest” ($16.95) and the “Predator”. The “Vortec” ($29.00) is still offered along with the identical “Predator Pro”. All these have in common the same internal bulb holder and lens cover seen below

Predator......................Quest.....................Vortec...............Predator Pro

The upgrade LED that produces the super wide angle beam is the "Nite Ize" LED Upgrade for the Mag-Lite C&D flashlights (about $8.78 Walmart). I found that it is quite poor for upgrading the Mag-Lite, because for $10 more you can purchase the true Mag-Lite upgrade for their C&D flashlights, which is so much better there is no comparison. But the "Nite Ize" upgrade, when used in the Princton Tec headlamps, produces the best super wide angle beam. It also has the advantage of semi-regulating current for 2 to 6 cells, which means that it can be used in 2 or 4 cell headlamps. The "Nite Ize" has been upgraded (product number LRB-07-PRSC on the back of the package) and now puts out twice the light as the old bulb for the 2 cell headlamp, and three times the light for the 4 cell headlamp. The current drain on both is about 120 ma., so the light should have about 10 hours of good light. It now brings the brightness to just about perfect for night hiking. Beware: I have had one old style bulb fail out of three, and one new style fail out of three, so keep your receipt and packaging for exchange and carry an extra bulb or light on your adventures.

The closeup of the "Nite Ize" bulb below shows why it does not work in a regular flashlight very well. The phosphor coating in the "Nite Ize" is depressed in a small cup, while the Mag-Lite $18 upgrade LED has a small chip of phosphor that stands up. This gives the Mag-Lite chip a better view angle for the reflector. The Mag-Lite bulb has a large base to facilitate heat transfer (3 watt bulb), but that means it will not fit in any other flashlight. The "Nite Ize" will fit in any PR type socket which is used for almost all flashlights.

Nite Ize................Mag-Lite..............Mag-Lite

To upgrade any of these 2 or 4 cell headlamps, just replace the filament bulb (a PR-2 or PR-4) with the "Nite Ize" bulb. The photo below shows the assembly.

The beam pattern for the “Vortec” and the “Solo” are shown below. All the beam photos on this page are about 10-12" from the wall. This upgrade gives a fairly even beam pattern which is about 90 degrees. When using these headlamps the beam pattern appears smoother and the unevenness seen in the images below is not as apparent.

Vortec beam pattern.......Solo beam pattern

The "Nite Ize" can also be used in a normal flashlight as the old Sportsman light below. The beam pattern is about 90 degrees but suffers from light and dark rings. But is good for a 'close range' closet or toolbox light. Because the bulb is regulated, it can pull more power from a standard flashlight batteries than when using a filament bulb. The "Nite Ize" bulb as designed for a Mag-Lite is focusable from wide to narrow beam , but is very dim compared to the true Mag-Lite LED upgrade. The beam patterns for the "Nite Ize" in a Mag-Lite are shown below.

Vintage flashlight.........Vintage beam.........Mag-Lite beam wide...Mag-Lite beam narrow


The “Solo” had a LED module upgrade (not for 4 cell lights) available from Princton Tec that was an improvement over the filament bulb. The pattern on a wall about 12 “ away is below. The LED module draws about 30 milliamps and is not very bright, but gives the headlamp a run time of about 40 hours The automatic camera exposure makes it look brighter than it actually is.

3 LED upgrade.......It's beam pattern