The Vault Regulars

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Xtar VC2 battery charger review.

The review I did earlier here of the Xtar H1 flashlight showed that it used a 3.7 volt rechargeable battery, the 14500, as well as std AA batteries. To recharge the 3.7 volts you need a charger that will cope with the lithium ion battery obviously.
Xtar as well as making quality flashlights also make excellent smart chargers.

I was sent a VC2 charger FOC with the flashlight to review as an end user. The latest smart charger.

What’s in the box.





The VC2, takes two batteries simultaneously but the smart thing is that it reads each battery channel seperately and has a unique dash board type gauges to keep you informed of what's happening to each cell. There are no switches, knobs, sliders etc, its all very neat and tidy. Just an LCD display.



The power is supplied by a USB - micro USB cable.

There is no mains plug socket supplied, probably due to the many configurations of pins around the world and to keep costs down. I suspect we have all got a few usb power sockets lying around anyway but ensure that the one you use is compatible.

The charger has a sliding negative position to allow the charging of numerous lithium ion battery sizes.
It will charge the following types without the need for any spacing. Battery lengths can vary from 30mm - 71mm and also includes the flat top type as well as button top.

Battery compatibility Li-ion.

  • 26650
  • 25550
  • 22650
  • 18700
  • 18650
  • 18500
  • 18490
  • 18350
  • 17670
  • 17500
  • 16340
  • 14650
  • 14500
  • 10440
  • Compatible with IMR lithium and small capacity batteries.

Power.
The maximum charge per channel is 0.5A. This is non adjustable by the user. The charge times will vary for each battery type from 0 charge.

The smart thing about this charger is that it can bring life back to those batteries that have over discharged or “sleeping” lithium ion batteries. In some other chargers this facility is missing and therefore the batteries get discarded as useless.
Screen. LCD digital display.
When in charge mode the last digit in the capacity display flashes.
Will charge with 2.4mA from 0 volts and the display will show ERR.
At 0.2V it will start charging at 340mA and display will show mAh.
At 2.9V the regular charge current will apply.
The chance is that when charging 2 batteries they will not charge at the same rate.
When charging is complete it drops to 0.3mA.
Charging will re-start if voltage drops to 3.9V
Charge will restart after power loss or a battery insertion.
If batteries are left in the charger but no connected to mains then a discharge drain of 0.1mA will occur.
If USB voltage drops too much then current will step down and visa versa if one battery finishes charging before the other then voltage will step up.
mAh display flashes FULL when the battery is charged and the background lights will flash.
In the event of an incompatible battery being inserted then NULL will be displayed.
It has reverse polarity and short circuit protection.
Shell material is fireproof.








Conclusion.

A very smart well made and well thought out charger. I think the 0.5mAh charge per channel is about right considering the variety of USB/mains chargers on the market. 1.0mAh would seem a better option for the larger batteries but some batteries may not take such a high rate. As this charger is not controllable by the customer i think 0.5mAh is the right decision.

The LCD screen is clear and precise and its great to see just what is happening per battery rather than just a red light to say its charging and a green light to say its full.

The 0 voltage recovery is fantastic feature and could save the cost of the charger itself.

Cost in the Uk is a very keen £12.80 here. with free shipping.

Thanks to Xtar for allowing me to review their product.




Monday, December 29, 2014

Out over Christmas in South Lakes

Although my knee is on the mend it was not a wise idea to hike anything but low level paths at this time.
We had booked Christmas in the Lake District in a small village called Torver. Its a nice place and well positioned for all types of sports. The Old Man of Coniston and adjoining ridges are within easy access for those who want a bit of adventure.
The Wilsons Arms, Torver on a particularly dark night.

Unfortunately the Church Inn pub has now closed and is up for sale but thankfully the Wilson's Arms is thriving and has no competition so it can get pretty full at times.
Our cottage was a cosy spot to enjoy Christmas and we had friends over from Seathwaite on Boxing day to share it with us and a large steak too.
The dinning room has a large window and the view from it covered the whole Coniston range and included Wetherlam.
It was beautiful but somewhat frustrating to sit there and watch the scene change minute by minute as the weather changed from sunny, rain, cloudy, mist and then snow. We had all seasons in one day.

We listened to the weather forecast and it seemed that we were to escape the worst of the snow conditions that so many others were having although above 2000ft we eventually did get a covering.

We have not done traditional Christmas lunch for many years, we prefer to leave the eating and present opening until Christmas day night. This year we had one of Sheila’s turkey curries. By leaving lunch until late it gave us the chance to get out and enjoy a full day.

With binoculars we could pick out folk walking up the Walna Scar track and up onto Brown Pike and along to Dow Crag where we would lose them as they dropped down to Goats Hause.
The Old Man also had lots of visitors and especially so as the tops became snow bound.

Our walk was in the rain and with a chilly breeze but it was good to be out after such a lay off. Numerous rainbows spanning the valley bottom made it special as did the moody weather, going from bright sun to periods of almost darkness as rain swept by.
Coniston water was mill pond still when we approached but both ends were as though they were in different seasons. The south shrouded with black cloud, wintery with the occasional burst of brilliant sunshine. The north end appearing as though autumn had only just arrived.

I have put together a slide show of the walk plus a few other images from our time in Torver.
Click here. Hope you enjoy the scenery.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Xtar H1 Commander torch review

Boundaries of the review.
My review of the Xtar H1 flashlight is an enduser, customer review.
It is not my intention to test or prove one way or the other the specifications and data which is provided by Xtar themselves. I will provide a link at the end which anyone who is interested in that type of review can go to for further information and testing results.

I have been kindly supplied the head torch free of charge by Xtar for the purpose of this review. No restrictions or limitations have been put on my post writing whatsoever although i have been asked if i would provide a graphic of the company card with its media connections.
I think that is a reasonable request.

What’s in the box.

As purchased the torch comes in a clear plastic case. 
Included are:-

  • The H1 torch
  • Silicone headband that is wide and adjustable along with the torch mount.
  • Lanyard
  • Stainless steel pocket clip
  • Instruction sheet
  • Warranty card
  • Spare ‘O’ ring.

  • NO BATTERIES ARE SUPPLIED.
  • The unit can be used as a stand alone hand held torch or as a head torch.


First Impressions.

It is much lighter in weight than it looks.
After assembling the torch to the headband i did expect it to be somewhat unbalanced with the torch being a tube type and not the usual shape for hiking head torches, normally round or oval. This was not the case, it is well balanced in the holder.
The switch position which is in the LED end of the tube is simple to use when the torch is in situ. Much easier than my Petzl E light for example.
The silicone head band is good quality and the torch is nicely finished.
Xtar H1 Commander with head band.

Basics

Weights:- 
  • Torch (Body only) 53 grams
  • Head band with mount 33 grams
  • Battery 20 grams.
Dimensions:-
  • Length 97mm
  • Diameter (Max) 23mm
Lighting:-
  • Main light. Cree LED XP-G2 R5. Lifespan 50,000 hours.
  • Secondary. Red night light with auto flash SOS. Cree 5mm dia. Signal light.
  • Luminous ring around the reflector top when not in use.
Power:-

This H1 takes the standard AA 1.5volt non rechargeable battery, the rechargeable AA size 1.2 volt batteries and the powerful 14500 3.7 volt rechargeable Lithium ion battery.
The H1 recognises which battery is in place and alters the output and features to suit. The user doesn’t have to change anything which ensures at all times that you are getting best efficiency of battery life.
Very neat feature.


Torch Material.
Anodised aircraft grade Aluminium alloy 6N01, with Type III hard anodised anti abrasive finish.
Ultra - clear tempered glass with an anti -reflective coating that allows 98.5% transmittance. (Normal glass gives 89 - 92%)
Deep orange peel reflector around the main LED.
The battery spring is gold plated to resist corrosion.

Waterproof.
To IPX8 std. Specified as Protected against water submersion and continuous submersion down to 2 metres.

Using the torch.
As i mentioned earlier, depending on what battery you have installed alters the features and the outputs.
Starting with the easily obtainable Non rechargeable 1.5v battery. ( This section also covers the features for the 1.2v rechargeable battery too). The torch has 3 main light settings as well as the red night light and the SOS.

With torch switched off. 
  1. Press the end click switch once to enable the minimum or Low output level to illuminate. This gives a 3 lumens output which is suitable for use around and in the tent and for general close contact for example porch cooking and reading. This setting gives 95 hours of use.
  2. Press end click switch again to enable Mid level illumination. This gives a 60 lumens output which is suitable to most flat ground night walking and has a usage time of  4 hours.
  3. Press end click switch again to achieve the Maximum illumination with this battery type.
  4. This gives an extremely bright light which is only really necessary to be used when walking in difficult terrain for short periods. It gives 120 lumens for 2.1 hours.
  5. The maximum beam throw is 65 metres with the AA batteries.
  6. To turn the torch off from any position hold in the switch in for around 2 seconds.
  7. To turn on the red night light double click the switch and again double click to get the red flashing SOS.
Moving onto the large 3.7v lithium ion rechargeable battery.
  1. All 3 levels give the same lumens outputs as for the AA battery but the longevity increases to the following:- Low 180 hours, Mid 6.0hrs, high 1.5 hours*
  2. With this 14500 battery you get an extra Turbo power level with 330 lumens. This has a run time of 1.2 hours. Unless you were in search and rescue or similar i doubt that any hiker would need this 
  3. The red night light and the SOS function is the same.
  4. Maximum beam throw is increased to 106 metres.
Features during use.
  • When using the fully charged Lithium Ion battery in Turbo mode the H1 will automatically change to High mode after 5 minutes to save power and to reduce heat. It can be switched back to Turbo as required.
  • When changing batteries in the dark the H1 has reverse polarity protection just in case the battery is fitted wrong way round.
  • Waterproof down to 2 metres.
  • Shock proof from 1.5 metres.
  • To help maintain a light as long as possible, if the battery voltage (Lithium) drops below 3 volts  it will revert to Low Mode.
  • If the voltage drops below 2.5 volts then the torch will switch off. (Over discharge protection)
The light beam and Luminescence.

Pic1 
With setting on lowest 3 lumens. Distance to building from head torch 20 metres.
Beam hardly noticeable.

 Pic 2. 
Settings on Mid level  60 Lumens. Good spread and beam length.

 Pic 3. 
Setting on high level 120 Lumens. Much brighter and good beam and spread.

 Pic 4. 
Turbo setting 330 lumens. 




Conclusion

Well made, head torch and useable hand torch with sturdy headband that supports the torch well. Lower end beam is better suited to reading or in tent use or wherever a low level light is required.
The Turbo setting has limited use. Otherwise output is pretty good.
The red SOS is always a must have feature for any mountaineer and hill walker and works very well as well as the steady red light..
Nothing much wrong with it as you would expect from a quality light.

Likes
Weight.
Rugged design.
The ability to use 3.7v batteries as well as everyday 1.2v batteries.
The stability of the light.

Dislikes
The luminescence ring around the reflector is not good enough. It doesn't make it easy to find in the dark. I need something better than this.

Suggestions
For my own use as a hiker i would much prefer that there was an extra setting between the 3 lumens and the 60 lumens. I would easily give up the Turbo setting as it is so limited in battery time that i think it would rarely get used. I would consciously not use it to ensure i save power on longer walking trips.

Other torches of interest.
Xtar H2 Commander

Link to test data for those more interested in a technical review.

* I have queried this time with Xtar and am waiting confirmation.

The charger i have for the 3.7 volt Lithium-ion batteries was supplied by Xtar and is the VC2. I will review this separately.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bloggies 2014 Award. Part the Second.


I would just like to thank Every 1 who voted for me to achieve joint third place in this years Bloggies Awards.
It is indeed quite surreal to walk side by side with fav outdoor blogger Alan Sloman.  We didn’t hold hands on the red carpet btw.

The winner of this years ordeal went to, drum roll……….Alen Mcfadzean with Because they are there blog he is a worthy winner and has my respect as somebody who provides a great read with lovely images and just the odd advert of which i am sure he has no control over.

The long term blogger award went to Mike Knipe with Northern Pies another absolute stalwart of the bloggersphere. Nice to see. Unfortunately he didn’t make the awards in person as he is still trying to extricate 20 followers from the snowdrifts of Durham. His dog Lucky has drank all the whisky and can’t find his way home.

Yes, i know its all a bit too much but its great to get a mention from fellow bloggers who do actually read some of the stuff we pen rather than some company pushing itself.

Thanks again and hopefully if my initials are AR and my blog is A Blog on the Landscape and my better half is called Sheila i may achieve stardom again next year .

Thanks must go to OM for staging the event and providing the banter.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Christmas Walk via The Cat and Fiddle.

Sheila and I always look forward to this event that is put together by fellow blogger Martin Banfield. It involves a walk of around 16km with Christmas lunch included half way. The numbers vary from year to year but roughly about 25-30 hikers attend. Its a jovial affair with like minded souls with good banter. Usually due to overstaying in the pub it ends with an evening where the sight of 25+ head torches marching across the moors may cause locals concern. So far no Mountain Rescue teams have been out to check on the strange lights.

However this year with my poorly knee, we had to miss the walk and just drive to the pub. The Cat and Fiddle. England's second highest pub with lots of history.


Martin and the crew were due to arrive between 12.45pm and 1.00pm. We made it in good time, had a chat and a coffee with the Staff and waited the 1/2hr. The fog was well down and visibility poor although the occasional break did allow split second views, but you had to be quick.

Right on time the first 4 hikers appeared out of the gloom. We didn’t spot them until they were about 50 yards from the front door. Although the temperature gauge said 4 degrees it was very windy and with that the wind chill felt well below zero. Five minutes later the whole crew was accounted for. All had bright red faces from the wind.

As if by magic within a few minutes of arrival it started to rain quite heavily. Great timing.

Lunch was a credit to the chef and staff, i would go as far as to say it was the best Christmas Lunch of the 4 years we have partaken.
It was simple, tasty, fresh fare. We chose Potato and Leek soup and the Turkey lunch followed by Mince pies and Coffee. There was plenty of it and i’m just glad that we didn’t have a pudding on the menu. Others said the same.

Martin always runs a quiz which is only to do with hiking and consists of about 25 photographs where you answer a question or two about the image. We did well this year achieving 28 points out of a possible 35.

Eventually with numerous folk looking at their watches and noticing that it was getting gloomy outside the party had to end. We applauded the Chef, paid the Lady said our farewells and watched as the intrepid lot set off back onto the moor.

Its a beautiful area to walk and we were really sorry that we couldn’t participate. Next year hopefully.
Here are a few images of the afternoon.

Thanks to Martin and Sue for organising another event and to the Staff of the Cat and Fiddle for making the meal so pleasurable.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Xtar H1 Commander Multifunctional head torch

A few weeks ago i was contacted by a lady from the Shenzhen xtar company in China asking me if i would be interested in reviewing one of their “Professional” flashlights. 

As it happened my forthcoming itinerary included a hike this coming weekend as part of a large group where a torch would be a necessity.
A number of emails went back and forth between us and i was very wisely sent the Xtar H1 Multifunctional Head torch. It came today along with a really smart VC2 charging unit but alas no batteries. The unit takes the 14500 type of battery as well as the std AA battery we are all used to.
What better a time to put it through its paces.

However, in typical fashion i have hurt my knee and the likelihood of me being able to walk this weekend is looking slimmer by the day. I am still hopeful and fingers crossed that the swelling around the knee joint will subside and the pain disappear. I am doing all i can to make it happen.


I plan to do an end user review of the H1 and the charger as soon as possible and so i won’t bore you with spec’s etc here. Anyway, anyone who is interested can have a glimpse at this address. Its a nice piece of kit that’s for sure and i can’t wait to try it out.

Find it Here