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  • Adam Morris

Favorite Headlamp for Boat Projects

Note: I/we are not sponsored by any companies mentioned in this article. We cruise full time on our test bed, SV Confianza, and we enjoy sharing our tests and opinions to give back to the community.

Over the years, we've amassed a small collection of headlamps, 8 or 9 of them maybe. In our defense, we've tried many models and varieties, and I have a hard time throwing things out.

Out of the motley crew, one is leaps and bounds ahead as our daily driver: the Hurkins Orbit. See below for some side by side comparisons with what we consider our #2 headlamp, the Pelican 2760. Both are comparably priced at around $60.

We use this thing on almost a daily basis, when we're tackling an upgrade, maintenance project, or executing a late-night anchorage maneuver. It was even the goto cooking aid when the light fixture died above the galley.

The right gear makes our work simpler, more enjoyable, and less like work. If one of us grabs the Orbit, and the other gets stuck with a different one, it's a noticeable disappointment.

Here's why we're such a fan:

Illuminate Everything, Not Just a Spot

The Orbit really lives up to its name. It doesn't just spotlight what's directly in front of you; it lights up your whole work area. Be it down below or on deck, the Orbit ensures that not only your immediate task area is illuminated, but also your surroundings. This kind of visibility is an advantage to prevent accidents and make work significantly more comfortable.

Let's look at the Hurkins vs the Pelican on the foredeck. The Pelican is set to maximum brightness, as well as all 3 lights (main light and two side lights) illuminated. I tried my best to even out the brightness of these photos and match what I saw in the actual world.

Judging by the light coming through the hatch from inside the boat, I might be giving the Pelican a little extra credit, but reality looked pretty similar to this.

Avoids Shadows

This is a big one when working in an engine compartment, under a cabinet, etc. The way the light is diffused and angled bounces light around the compartment, and significantly reduces shadows. This makes working in tight spaces seem like you’re working in daylight. It’s a significant improvement, and probably one of the best features.

Let's look a the Pelican vs the Hurkins under the sink in the forward head. I had to reroute the wires for Raritan Marine Elegance Control box to fit our Whale Gulper Shower Pump (still in progress, obviously). As a side note, I wrote up articles on both of these upgrades:

You can see that the Orbit is creating significantly less shadowing around the pipe fitting and junction box, plus lights up the whole area nicely.

This also wasn't the greatest demonstration of the effect, because the cabinet under the sink is quite small, and I couldn't get the camera to properly take a picture while the entire Orbit was in the Cabinet. Some of the side lights that normally help bounce light around the cabinet were actually outside the cabinet.

It's Very Bright

It's hard to really compare a more traditional headlamp to the Orbit, but the overall brightness is far and above the rest that we have. The specs on the Orbit say that it outputs 1000 lumens. The Pelican, by comparison, only claims 133 lumens. Almost a factor of 10x. I don't usually trust these types of claims, so I wouldn't put too much stock in it, but the Orbit is definitely brighter.

You would need to get up to the Pelican 2780R at 533 lumens to even come close, but that comes at double the price of the Orbit, and still would be spot focused.

Brightness Control

The physical dial for controlling the brightness is just great. It's a refreshing departure from the awkward click-and-hold buttons that plague many other headlamps. The dial lets you adjust the brightness with ease, even if your hands are otherwise engaged. Plus, a quick push on the dial toggles the light on or off.

Hurkins Orbit Brightness Control Dial
Hurkins Orbit Brightness Control Dial

Couldn't be happier with the controls.

Of course, the Orbit isn't perfect. It does have a couple of drawbacks:

Not Exactly a Marine Device

My favorite pick isn't actually a marine headlamp. And it suffers from a problem that most other water resistant headlamps don't when dropped into a marine environment: the connector to the battery pack is exposed.

After about five years of faithful service, my current Orbit is on its last leg. The connector to the battery pack has corroded beyond repair. But will I replace it with another Orbit? Most definitely. I'll probably buy a backup this time.

Update: My newer version has a new connector that resembles a headphone jack connection. Let's see if this change results in a longer life span in salty air.

No Red Light Mode

The Orbit doesn't do a very good job saving your night vision as it's got no red light mode, although we haven't found it a problem for what we're using it for.

Not Waterproof

The Orbit won't be joining us for any under-the-boat work. It's not waterproof, so we have to keep a separate headlamp for that.

Final Note: We Didn't Have Luck with the Knockoffs

We've been using the Orbit for a few years now, so there's been plenty of time for companies to create copycats. We've tried a few of the cheap ones on Amazon just to compare, and it just wasn't worth it.

The connectors fell apart much more quickly, the battery packs would fall out while you're working, and the brightness and light pattern were not nearly the same.

The Hurkins Orbit may not be the typical marine headlamp, and I'm sure it's not the only good option out there, but it certainly has impressed us. I'm already on my way to purchase another to replace the one that's finally given up the ghost after half a decade of hard use.

Disagree? Have a favorite? Drop a comment!




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