Once darkness falls, it’s impossible to do nearly anything without some sort of artificial light. Thus, your headlamp is perhaps one of the most important pieces of safety gear you can have in the mountains. There’s lots of cheap headlamps out there, and I’ve used quite a few of them. They all seem to fail much faster than name brand lights. Enter Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp.
One constant in headlamps is that they seem to be getting brighter and smaller. Progress marches on. Cosmo is no exception. The unit is quite small, and it’s squeezed into a nice rectangular case which makes for compact packing. It utilizes one large, bright “spot” lamp, which can be dimmed. There’s a smaller bulb off to the side that throws out a lower power, more diffused beam (perfect for reading). In addition there’s a small red bulb. The lamp takes 3 AAA batteries, and is operated by a single button on top. The headlamp weighs in at 51 grams (1.8 oz) without the 3 batteries. With 3 alkaline batteries (lithiums are lighter), it weighs 86 grams.
The Cosmo isn’t Black Diamond’s most expensive or brightest headlamp. However, at 160 lumens it’s provides an adequate beam while while still being small, fairly inexpensive, and practical. MSRP $30.
One major feature of the Cosmo is the simple, physical button located on the top of the case. This shouldn’t even be a feature, it should simply be the way it is. Unfortunately in the past few years almost every major headlamp company has insisted on equipping their high-end head lamps with “touch” capacitive controls, rather than a traditional button.
At first I thought the touch controls might be a brief experiment, but it’s continued and expanded to many new models. Why this seems like good idea is beyond me (anyone who has any ideas, please comment). Even $400+ smartphone screens only work when dry, and only with bare skin. It’s incredible that anyone can think that a $50 headlamp could do any better. Even in the warm, dry, controlled environment of a gear shop these things often take a few tries by the clerk to get them to turn on. During a relatively mellow, dry sport like jogging, a bit of sweat on the hands or thin gloves renders the controls useless.
I’ve never had the displeasure of using touch control headlamps in the mountains, but it doesn’t sound like it would be a great time. “Innovation” for innovations sake, isn’t really innovative. Solution without a problem, anyone?
I digress. Soapbox over. The main point here is that the Cosmo uses a nice, big, solid button. Bravo! The lamp takes one click to turn on, and then the next click to turn on the small diffused light. Simple. Further clicks simply cycle through the two. By pressing and holding, the lights can be dimmed or brightened.
The headlamp also features a lock mode that can be easily turned on by pressing and holding the button when the lamp is off, whereby the red light blinks, and the headlamp is locked. Reverse the procedure to unlock the lamp. The controls are simple, intuitive, and work well.
Note: I have found the lamp to easily turn on in a pack or pocket if it isn’t locked. When locked I’ve seen no issues.
Headlamps get beat up. I keep mine in my pack for most activities, so it gets smashed and banged quite a bit. The Cosmo has held up well. The battery door functions with a burly hinge. A nice feature, since I’ve found that that’s one of the first things to break on many headlamps. I haven’t gotten involved in any all-night epics since I got the lamp, so haven’t used it for any prolonged periods. That said, the battery life has been excellent. One minor gripe is the Cosmo doesn’t have a rechargeable battery option.
I find the “spot” type lamps most useful for skiing, as they are able to shine the furthest and brightest. The Cosmo spot is bright and sufficient for skiing. For reading, the smaller diffused bulb shines an even, low power light across the page.
The Cosmo is a very functional lamp. It’s the one I have been keeping in my pack for emergencies or late days. It’s small and light enough to be forgotten about, but bright enough to be able to ski and navigate by. The price is good as well.
Black Diamond headlamps available here.
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.