Three decades of cranking out superior climbing and skiing gear put Black Diamond at the top of their class, and their headlamps compete with the best of them. Here’s a breakdown of two of the company’s most popular models: the Spot and Storm.
Like most outdoor products, a well-designed headlamp tends to disappear into the background of your outdoor activity. It represents a means to an end, and hands-free lighting in the wild is worth its weight in gold. Whether you’re setting up a late-night camp, trail running by moonlight, or hunting in the dark blue hours of dawn, a dependable headlamp can go a long way.
Both Black Diamond models offer reliable, comfortable lighting performance, but there are subtle differences that make each one better for different adventurers. Here’s how to choose between the two depending on your gear priorities.
Quick note: the main comparison we’ve offered is based on the 2018 and earlier version of the Spot. In early 2019, Black Diamond released the Spot325, a lighter, more powerful headlamp with a few tweaks in performance. We’ve updated our review to reflect all three models.
The Spot and the Storm: A Comparison
Comparing the Black Diamond Spot and Storm side-by-side, you’ll find the Spot as a smaller, lighter and less powerful headlamp that still offers plenty of performance. The Storm is larger, heavier, and offers brighter lighting and more features. Both have stellar reviews and work well for the average outdoorsman, so choosing one over the other is a matter of personal preference more than anything else.
To get the best features of each model, we now recommend going with the improved Spot325, a lighter version of the Spot with a max light output that rivals the Storm.
The light output of both the Spot and the Storm are comparable: the Spot’s 300-lumens range is 80 meters, the Storm’s 350-lumens gets around 85 meters (the newer 83-lumens Spot325 is somewhere in between). Only Black Diamond’s Icon has a higher range — the rest of their lineup stays in the range of 8 to 70 meters.
For most activities, 80 meters is plenty of output, and in our own field tests we rarely needed to use it beyond the 15 to 30 meters directly in front of us while setting up camp or making dinner. We also tended to use the dimmed version of the light most of the time. Still, having 80+ meters of light comes in extremely handy when you’re peering through trees or across landscapes you’ll need to navigate.
The minimum output is also similar for both lights — 6 lumens for the Spot, 4 lumens for the Storm — and the red LED light appears to be about the same for both models.
If you’re looking for max output, go with the Storm, but know that the Spot325 isn’t far behind.
At its max output, the Spot burns for about 30 hours, while the Storm operates for about 40 hours at max strength. The fourth battery in the Storm helps battery life, but it also adds extra weight.
The new Spot325 is a solid improvement over the older Spot model, with a burn time of 65 hours at its max output. Black Diamond used a new “optical lens design” to improve battery life and clarity, and of the three models, it’s now the workhorse when it comes to burning as long as possible.
For the best battery life, check out the new Spot325 model and its improved optical technology.
Weight and Space
The pre-2019 Spot is lighter and smaller than the Storm, and the newer Spot325 is even lighter than that. The Spot’s housing is smaller because it takes 3 AAA batteries compared to the Storm’s 4, and the Spot body itself is about 10 grams lighter (the Spot325 is about 2 grams lighter than that):
- Spot325 weight with batteries: 86 grams
- Spot weight with batteries: 88 grams
- Storm weight with batteries: 110 grams
The Storm’s housing is larger, sure, but it’s not an obnoxious difference, just a few millimeters extra in every dimension. This makes the Storm take up slightly more space in your pack, though we typically store ours in a front or top flap pocket that has plenty of room to spare.
When both models are in use, the difference in weight is perceptible, but the size of the headlamp housing wasn’t necessarily a factor for us one way or another. Both headlamps are still small and compact enough to not interfere with your tasks or fall from your head because of excess size.
To cut as much weight as possible, go with the Spot325 or older Spot model.
Both the Spot and Storm offer standard dimming, strobe and red LED light features, along with Black Diamond’s signature PowerTap™ Technology that allows you to dim your light simply by tapping the headlamp’s housing.
The Storm features an additional blue and green LED light, and offers additional dustproof protection. With an IPX8 waterproof rating, the Spot will function “at least 1.1 meters underwater for 30 minutes.” The Storm’s IP67 rating makes it capable of usable “immersion up to 1m for 30 minutes.”
If you need the extra LED lights, go with the Storm – otherwise, the lighter Spot or Spot325 should cover it.
Both headlamps appear to use the same headband and plastic hardware to keep your headlamp in place. They’re comfortable, easy to adjust and generally stay in place while you’re doing your thing. You may need to spend some time to find the right fit — based on your head size, equipment, hats, etc. — but both models are more comfortable than some of the other lights I’ve used in the past.
The Spot’s headband passes through the housing so the band is on your forehead when in use. The Storm has its own thin padded section sandwiching the headband between it and the housing, so it tends to feel a little more comfortable over time. Still, both options are ergonomically designed to minimize stress on your head, and I wore both for long stretches of time before either one started to become a physical irritation.
It’s a close call, but the Storm is slightly more comfortable because of its extra padding.
All things considered, the Spot, Spot325 and Storm are all in the same general price range, so we didn’t find this to be a major deciding factor in our field tests. You can find the older Spot model and Storm discounted on Amazon, while the Spot325 is still a sub-$40 headlamp even when it debuted in early 2019.
All three models are covered by three-year warranties, and the stellar reviews for each headlamp suggests that there isn’t one or another that comprises on quality to cut costs.
While you can’t go wrong with the Spot, Spot325 or Storm, each one serves a slightly different purpose. The lighter Spot and Spot325 are more popular with trail runners and backpackers looking for lightweight output, while the Storm is better for camping and other activities where weight and space isn’t an issue, but overall distance and lumens reign supreme.
With the introduction of the Spot325 in early 2019, Black Diamond created a hybrid of sorts, combining the lightweight design of the Spot with the better light output of the Storm. While we only tested the original Spot and Storm models, we won’t be surprised if the Spot325 takes over as the headlamp of choice in this area of Black Diamond’s product line.