Princeton-Tec Scout

Princeton-Tec Scout

The Scout is possibly the smallest headlamp offered by Princeton-Tec at the present time. The diminutive pocket sized light powers its two bright white LEDs from four CR2032 lithium coin cells, and controls them with a proprietary electronic circuit. The single button offers easy access to six operating modes including dimming and blinking. It is adjustable to point straight in front of you or down at an angle depending on the task, the headstrap can be quickly released to allow the light to be clipped to a strap, belt, etc, and an integrated switch guard protects it against unwanted operation during transport.

Princeton-Tec Scout

Specifications.

Size- 52mm wide (2 inch) x ~34mm high (1-3/8 inch) x ~28mm thick (1-1/8 inch) including mounting clip/bracket.
No of LEDs- 2.
LED colours avaliable- White.
Body colours/finishes- Back half and headstrap black, front half various, including black, blue and OD green with camo headstrap.
Batteries- 4x CR2032 lithium coin cell.
Switch type- Electronic controlled pushbutton.
Waterproof?- Water-resistant.
Approximate beam half-angle- ~10 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- Not yet measured.
Model tested- Blue body.

Packaging.
The Scout comes in an unusually shaped plastic retail clamshell pack as pictured. The seams have not been glued, but the two halves fit together very tightly as if they had. You`ll probably need something like a knife to pry them apart enough to get your fingers in and free the little lamp. The headstrap is already fitted, as are the batteries, so it`s ready to use straight away. The card inside the pack gives details of the warranty and battery changing instructions.
ptscout
Batteries.
A total of four CR2032 3 volt lithium cells power the Scout. These are the same sort of coin-cells as usually found in keychain squeeze-lights, but are bigger with more capacity, meaning the light should last a lot longer before they need replacing. They appear to be arranged so one pair powers one LED and the other pair powers the second LED independently, yet both LEDs are controlled together by the electronic switching. In an emergency if batteries were in short supply, it would be possible to fit just two cells into the light to power one LED, still giving useful illumination. It also safeguards against a faulty cell causing the light to give out completely ahead of time.

ptscoutbeam

When they do finally give out, you will need to find a small Philips-head screwdriver before you can get inside. Open out the head away from the mounting plate and you`ll find one screw in the back. It is quite easy to unscrew and not one of those tiny fiddly ones either. Once out, the battery-change instructions say the two halves will need to be gently pryed apart to release them. But don`t worry about having to find a second screwdriver to perform this, as there is a tool built in. One side of one of the buckles on the head-strap is narrowed down and fits the slot on the bottom edge of the case – nice touch! I actually find the halves can be seperated just by pulling them once the screw is out, and think that a more useful design would be to have the light held together by firm clips. It is nice that a prying tool is built in, but you still need to find a screwdriver first so it almost defeats the object. If the light were clipped together, all you would need is that handy built-in tool to gain entry to your light. As it is, you need a screwdriver, but once the case is open it`s easy to pop the four cells out from under their retaining straps and slide the new ones in. They all go with their positive/flat sides facing upwards as indicated by embossing on the metal straps. Make sure they are in straight, and then you can drop the top section back on (make sure it is the right way up or it won`t fit) and re-fit the screw. Done!
Battery life is given as 24 hours on full power, 36 hours on medium power and 48 hours on low power. I do not yet know if this is accurate or not. Generally I find that run-times for coin cell lights are given to the point where the light is barely usable, and experience dictates the time from peak to half-power of a single-LED squeeze light using CR2016 cells is half an hour at best. The bigger 2032s have a lot more capacity – they will not drop so fast, and each pair in the Scout is only powering one LED, so in theory the run-time to half power could be a couple of hours. It isn`t going to be 24 though. On lower power settings the run-time will certainly be longer, and it could be possible that after nearly 2 days on low power, *some* light will still be emitted, but don`t expect it to be a whole lot. A battery life test will be conducted sometime in the future to see just how long it does run.

scout_bezel

Bulbs
Two white 5mm LEDs provide the light. As with many other LED lights, they are permanently soldered in place and are not designed to be replaced. Not to worry though, as the life of a typical 5mm LED is in the order of 100000 hours at full power. This would be some 11 years of constant use, which you`re never going to get near with a battery powered light. Therefore it`s safe to say that the Scout`s LEDs should last a lifetime – and indeed it does carry a manufacturere`s lifetime warranty against defects. The colour of the light in this particular unit is quite blueish at the center of the beam, turning more pink/purple tinted towards the edge. The blueish center is an unfortunate but normal characteristic of the type of LEDs used, and is not a fault of the manufacturer`s. While the blueish light looks strange in the day, at night I find I get used to it and don`t notice the tint nearly so much.

Performance.
Though small, the little headlamp is still pretty bright. The two LEDs are of a good quality (possibly Nichia types) and despite being very blueish, are also bright – they appear quite overdriven when on full-power with fresh batteries. I have never been camping, but imagine the light emitted by the Scout would be more than adequate for most tasks encountered. It`s very useful here indoors, whether just using the computer late at night (as a nerd I find I do a lot of typing in the dark), rooting through a cupboard for something, or carrying out repairs to a blown fuse or burnt-out light bulb. The beam is soft-edged and quite wide, but on the high setting it`s plenty bright enough to navigate a path. My only complaint about the beam would be the fact that at a distance it appears to have two distinct blue-tinted hotspots. This is probably just due to the fact that the LEDs in this particular unit are not perfectly aligned. It is also not hard to correct if yours suffers a similar problem – with the front open (as if changing the batteries) the LEDs are exposed and can be gently straightened out. Take care not to exert too much pressure up or down though, which could damage the connection between LED and circuit board.
The light is not regulated, it starts out bright but dims quite a bit over the first 10-15 minutes – a common characteristic of coin-cell powered lights. This one doesn`t sag nearly as much, or as fast as the common keychain squeeze-lights though, because of the much bigger batteries. To me the initial dimming isn`t too noticeable, other than the fact that the blue/pink tint that is evident when first turned on, becomes a lot less. This could be my eyes adjusting to the colour, but it could also be due to the LEDs becoming less overdriven as the batteries lose that initial peak charge.
The reduced-power modes are achieved using PWM – that is, the electronic circuitry rapidly switches the LEDs on and off giving the overall effect of dimming. It is a simple and common way to dim lights, and since the switching is done so quickly, to the human eye it still appears as constant light. In these dimmer settings, the power drain on the batteries is a lot less. The result is longer run-times and less fading during the initial minutes. Even in low power mode it emits enough light to read, or find your way around familiar surroundings with. If the manufacturer`s battery life claims are to be believed, in low power it should give enough run-time for around a week of fairly heavy use every night. Another bonus for ultra-light backpackers who won`t need to carry spare batteries!

battery

Durability.
The Scout is small and also very tough. Princeton-Tec say it has been “engineered to last a lifetime” and I would be inclined to agree. The construction is all plastic and feels very sturdy and solid – it doesn`t mind being dropped and probably can withstand being squashed up in a pack with loads of other gear and bashed around for days on end (hiking, climbing, etc). I mentioned before about preferring the halves to be clipped together for ease of access to the batteries, but having got this far I think the screw it has to secure it is a good idea. Clips have a nasty habit of becoming seperated when subjected to big drops, and usually spill the insides all over the place at the same time. This doesn`t happen with the Scout, it remains secure. The two LEDs are tough, and made more so by being recessed and protected behind a clear cover, as you can see in the photo at the top of the page. Additionally, the lithium batteries are extremely resistant to cold weather as well as hot – it will survive being used anywhere you will!
Its hinged mount to the headstrap/clip plate is firm and stays at the angle it`s set to without wanting to droop forwards. It can be adjusted to make it looser or tighter too as desired, by simply loosening or tightening the screw holding it together. As mentioned before, the elasticated headstap is also easilly adjusted to suit just about anyone. Even if set quite loose for comfort, it doesn`t want to drop down in your face because it is so small and lightweight. The inbuilt clip holds quite firmly to straps and belts too, when used without the headstrap. My only slight concern about the mount is with those split slots that hold the headstrap in place, yet allow it to be quickly removed. Because they are not solid bars, but rather four seperate plastic tabs, there is a chance that one or more could break off if subjected to enough force. However they seem pretty tough to me, and so long as you don`t just yank hard at it to remove the strap, it should be fine.
The light is supposed to be water resistant so should not be bothered by being out in the rain. It doesn`t appear to be depth-rated so don`t take it diving and be careful around deep water, but don`t be too afraid of dropping it in puddles. Should it leak and start acting a little crazy, just open it up, remove the batteries and leave it someplace warm until it dries out. I havn`t tested it for water resistance yet, I don`t want to risk damaging it before I get the opportunity to perform at least one run-time test, but I see no reason why it shouldn`t mind being rained on at least – there is an o-ring seal protecting the seam between the two body halves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *