I’ve been using Mammut’s super bright headtorch, the X-Sun, and it’s little brother, the X-Shot, for a few months now. Given the dark nights they’ve had a fair bit of use and have generally impressed me. First for review is the 950 lumen X-Sun, with the X-Shot review to come very soon.
At 950 lumens, the X-Sun is bright enough for just about anything. Very bright headtorches are now widely and cheaply available, but what distinguishes a torch like the X-Sun is the quality of the light. The beam pattern is great, with the 4 modes giving anything from a low flood beam (enough for running on good trails at night but still low powered enough to use around camp) to a high powered beam that still has flood lighting at your feet (bright enough for just about anything, and no tripping over tree roots). Using this torch for night orienteering events I have typically had it on the 2nd or 3rd mode – the brightest is almost too bright for this, though is very useful out in the mountains or cycling. The light is a nice white colour, not too far on either the blue or yellow scales!
This combination of bulbs and the beam produced is some of the best I have used. The boost setting simply gives you an extra powered beam for 20 seconds, which you can flick into from any of the settings – very useful, for example, when running with a lower setting but needing to look ahead for a trail quickly. What lets the torch down slightly (and took me a long while to figure out) is that the two fast clicks required for entering this boost mode are easily replicated when turning the torch on and scrolling straight to one of the brighter settings. Accidentally pressing the button too fast and engaging the boost means you think you’re in the brighter setting, only to have it turn off and go back to the lower setting 20 seconds later. To solve this, simply press the button slower to get to the higher setting. It’s not the best design feature out there but shouldn’t cause you too many problems as long as you’re aware of it – and don’t rant that your torch is faulty as I did! Perhaps a better solution would be to have a second button for the boost mode, leaving the main one for the four main settings only.
The X-Sun is surprisingly stable on your head even with the battery pack on the back – alternatively you can stash the battery in a pocket or pack using the extra cable included. Unfortunately the top strap pulls out of its retaining plastic clips a little too easily when tensioned or pulled on. As it only comes out when pulled hard, it shouldn’t get lost as the second end would immediately loose tension, but is a little annoying, especially when switching the helmet from being on your head to a climbing helmet which obviously stretches the top strap further.
The other thing to note is that the provided charger is an EU plug, meaning you have to use either an adapter or your bathroom’s shaver socket to charge it in the UK. The torch will not charge unless the battery is less than 60% full (easily identified by the battery indicator). This is, presumably, done to stop the degradation of the battery through charging from half-full, however it does mean that you can’t top-up the torch before a big night out – you must run it down to empty first. Probably a good thing in the long run, but slightly annoying for those as impatient as me!
The X-Sun also comes with mounts for attaching to bike handlebars or a bike helmet. These are, effectively, useless and appear to have been thrown in as an afterthought (not surprising as Mammut make no other cycling products). The velcro strap for helmet attachment is fiddly to use, and mine broke within a few weeks. The handlebar attachment is rubber bands that are meant to loop around the strap attachment points on the back of the lamp unit. These are incredibly hard to use, too small to fit on most mountain bike bars, and I felt although I was going to break the flimsy plastic of the lamp unit by using them. Detaching the torch from the elastic headstrap in order to use either of these mounts is also fiddly and time consuming. In short, this is a headtorch designed for use on your head or a climbing helmet, using the headstrap. In this use, it is great, but for multi-sport use on a bike there are much better designed units, such as the Hope R4, on the market.
Conclusion: A fantastic choice for running, climbing and ski touring where great light quality, a powerful beam and light weight is required together with a long battery life. Slightly let down by a couple of not-quite-right features (the top strap and boost mode), though these do not overly affect performance. There are much better products on the market for regular use with a bike.