Save Your Night Eyes With The Right Headlamp

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

Having the right headlamp makes a world of difference.

Whether you are floating the river at night or find yourself tying knots in the twilight hours of a spinner fall, one piece of gear that you’re likely to have with you is a headlamp. And if you don’t, you should. During the twilight and moonlight hours, a headlamp can be an invaluable tool to make tasks, such as knot tying, navigating, and casting, much easier. Having said that, the most important piece of gear is still your eyes.

Even on the darkest nights, there is usually enough ambient light to find your way around. The human eye is an amazing thing and is designed to react to lighting conditions and optimize your vision. Your eyes are vulnerable, though. At night, just one quick flash of a flashlight or headlamp in the eyes can take you out of the game.

High intensity light (especially white light) bleaches the chemical held inside the rods of our eyes (rhodopsin), which allows us to see at night. Once hit with high intensity light, it can take several minutes for this chemical to regenerate allowing you to see and function, and up to a half hour for your night vision to completely recover.

On the river, losing your vision for only a few seconds can be disastrous, several minutes is not an option. Treading around water after dark can be a risky endeavor. Falling off of a boat or losing your footing and taking a dive into any body of water can certainly put an end to your trip, or worse.

To avoid ruining your night eyes, and crippling your vision when you need it most, make sure to purchase headlamps and flashlights with low-intensity green lamps.

Screen-Shot-2018-01-07-at-12.48.28-PMRed was widely used by the military in the past, however green lamps are becoming the standard. Low-intensity green lamps better increase your visual acuity, provide better color differentiation, and have less negative impact on your night vision.

Any high intensity light, no matter the color, will kill your night vision, so be sure to purchase lamps with low-intensity bulbs. While you’re at it, buy some extra batteries to keep in your gear bag. Nothing will frustrate you more than a dead flashlight or headlamp!

If you don’t yet own a headlamp, I would definitely recommend making the investment. There are plenty of inexpensive options out there, and many headlamps integrate two or three lighting options along with a low-intensity green lamp. Be sure to check out the specs before you buy and get comfortable with its usage before you hit the water so you’re not fumbling with the buttons in the dark.

Keep those night eyes sharp!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Save Your Night Eyes With The Right Headlamp

  1. Great advice. I switched to a GREEN headlamp last season; it was a big improvement over red lighting.

    Here’s a tip for tying flies in the green light that makes threading the eye the biggest challenge:

    Purchase a set of C & F Design midge threaders (4 for $10). Pre-threading flies is limiting and can lead to lost flies. Instead I drilled a small hole in the grip and threaded some old fly line as a lanyard. Now tying on a new fly in the dark (green light) is quick and easy. Just pass the threader tip through the eye, pass your tippet through the threader wire, and pull! Fly ON!

  2. Great, the way you create links! I clicked on the pic of the headlamp in the blog & it took me straight to Amazon where I bought it with one more click! Slick!!!

  3. Nice article! I love my Fenix HL50. Even though it does not have a green light option it does have a very low “moonlight” setting that is extremely handy. Super bright lights are great for advertising but next to worthless for most real world applications.

    • I mean, super bright lights are pretty great for route finding… The walk in, the walk out, when you drop your keys, when your buddy falls in the creek…

      • I hope that you don’t lose your keys or that your buddy falls in the creek MOST of the time. LOL

        When you do need bright light the hl50 will put out 365 lumens, which is amazing for a light this size that runs off of one AA or 123 battery.

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