Customer Reviews: Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp
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on April 3, 2011
I love the design of this headlamp. I have owned a few different kinds of LED headlamps and I love the design of this one best of all. Unfortunately they do tend to break after a short while.

The first one I owned broke the cap that holds the batteries on the opposite side of the battery door. It pops off under certain conditions. When you are out in the middle of nowhere, and the cap pops off leaving you in darkness, it can be a problem. On inspection, I noticed that a crack had developed that made it increasingly easier to pop off as the crack progressed.

I bought a second light. The same model in a different color (green). I thought that the first one was a fluke and just in case, I tried to be extra gentle with it. Exactly the same thing happened again.

As I am writing this, I have also noticed that both headlamps, in addition to developing the fatal crack in the battery case, have also both cracked in the same place on the battery door side between the switch and the lens.

I hope that someday these flaws can be addressed.
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on May 19, 2010
The Princeton Tec Fuel is a great affordable headlamp. It's lightweight, bright, simple to operate, and easy on the batteries (see product specs for ratings on lumens & battery life). Highly recommended in the $15-$20 price range. Apologies for the weird effects the light plays on my camera! Thanks for watching.
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on February 7, 2012
I have always loved Princeton Tec products and I love that they are made in the U.S.A. However, the fuel is a poorly designed light. The thin plastic piece on the end of the battery door breaks very easily, making you unable to close the battery door. I liked everything about the light until this piece broke a few weeks after I got it. If you want to get one anyway, be very careful when opening and closing the battery door. Also, they claim that it is "water resistant", but it's really not. There are no rubber seals anywhere to seal the battery or bulb compartments from water getting in. I recommend the Princeton Tec EOS headlamp over this one. It is a little more expensive, but well worth it. There are no little pieces on it that can break easily and it IS actually waterproof, with a good rubber seal that blocks any water from getting inside of it. It is also much brighter.
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on August 3, 2012
First let me say that this is an amazing little lamp. It works fantastic and provides plenty of light. The ease of turn on/off and the ability to angle the light up and down are absolutely perfect. The flasher mode is also very nice and SUPER bright for catching the attention of oncoming cars if you are biking or running in the morning after sunrise (or even mid day).

I use my Fuel headlamp for running in the dark, and use it about 6-7 hours per week every week. So my headlamp may get a lot more use and abuse than the "average user". Also, I use the fuel in all conditions in Michigan - snow, sleet, rain, hot weather, cold weather, etc. The batteries seem to last pretty long, and I use rechargeables anyway; so I don't really care if I have to recharge them every 2 weeks.

One thing that REALLY impresses me about this lamp is the customer service from Princeton Tec. It is bar none, the best service and easiest company to deal with I have ever had. So don't worry about the fact that some part might break or snap, it has a 5 year warranty and Princeton Tec will take care of you and fix your lamp for free. (One thing you might consider is buying 2 of them, in case you absolutely cannot be w/o a lamp for 2-3 weeks while Princeton Tec is fixing or replacing a broken unit that you sent back to them)

I purchased my Princeton Tec Fuel about 9 months ago and have been very happy with their customer service. I dropped mine about 4 months ago and had the little plastic clip that attaches the headlamp to the head-strap broke. I called up Princeton Tec, and they sent me a new plastic piece out right away, no charges & no hassles! Note that they did this w/o saying that I had "register the product" or email them a copy of my receipt. This is the way all companies should run their customer service.

Just this morning (August 3, 2012), I was out on a run and the light switch failed on me. I called up Princeton today and they are going to send me a new one free of charge. They gave me an RMA to send mine back, and they will get the new one out as soon as they get mine back. Again, no hassle with receipts or product registration. I am slightly annoyed that I will be w/o a headlamp for 2-3 weeks, but I can't complain too bad when they are going to send me a new one.
December 21, 2012 update: I have been running with the replacement headlamp that Princeton Tec sent me back in August for a number of months now with no problems. I ran yesterday with it for about an hour in a steady (but not hard) drizzle of rain. When I got up this morning to go for a run, the light switch pushbutton is experiencing the same problem as I had back in August. I am attempting to dry it out and see if it "starts working", but I am not too hopeful based on what happened back in August. I appreciate Princeton's great customer service, but the very fact that I have to call them and utilize their warranty process every couple months is making me consider buying a different brand. I'm not saying this is a bad headlamp and to for sure avoid it, but the reliability does seem to be questionable, and you would be much better off having 2 of these lamps and keeping one for a backup.

November 15, 2013 update: I have moved on from this headlamp due to the very poor durability. I have been using a Petzl Tikka XP2 for the last year with no problems at all. Unless you just really enjoy mailing out broken headlamps, and waiting for the replacement to come back, I can't recommend this Princeton Tec model for anything more than use as a "backup" or perhaps "around the house" headlamp. I am finally going to send my 2nd dead lamp back in the Princeton Tec for a replacement, but it will just sit on my shelf as a backup while I continue to use the Petzl almost daily.
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on October 31, 2011
I have owned for several years, but only used it sparingly. Carried it a protected pocket in my daypack in case of emergency. After limited and rather careful use the clip on the battery door broke, making it useless since there is nothing to hold the batteries in place. Try another brand.
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on December 2, 2011
I make it a habit to use a product for a while before writing a review, things have a way of going bad 10 minutes after the return policy leaves you hanging in the wind. This is the case with this product. It worked great on the original batteries that came with it, but when it came time to replace the batteries the plastic door, the very end that clips around the catch, broke off with my fingernail! I can only think that either this is a very poor design, or something is wrong with the plastic. I've had $5 LED headlamps and $50 LED headlamps. None of them have had issues. This one did. It's now completely useless and when I clicked on Amazon's return policy I was told I'd need the original packing slip, etc, etc, would have to pay for return shipping, and would only be refunded a "partial" refund. Not really worth it for a $20 product is it?

In short, I couldn't be more disappointed, both in a product which might just be suffering from a batch of bad plastic during manufacturer, and with the obstacle course of a return policy from Amazon.
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on August 10, 2009
I have owned this light for about 4 months, and have really liked having it. I ordered it because it had high ratings on REI's website, and it looked sturdy (I really dislike headlamps that lose the ability to stay pointed the direction you set them at). I have used it to ride my bike in the dark, hike, and read books after my wife goes to bed. It works great for all applications. The pivot works great, and doesn't show any signs of losing its grip. The different light settings are great for different situations. The Fuel is inexpensive, but worth the money. I even saw a review of the Tactikka Plus (Petzl) where someone switched and liked this lamp a lot more. This is a great lamp for anyone, and at the price, you could have two for the price of other comparable models. Would recommend to anyone.
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on January 3, 2013
I have purchased 2 of these because the design is the best that i've found for under $30. Unfortunately, the battyery cap is very fragile. Both of mine lasted through approximately 30 uses (running in the morning). One of them broke on its own while on my head and the other broke when opening with the headbands tab. Never again. I just ordered the Black Diamond Cosmo.
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on October 18, 2012
I was initially so impressed with these headlamps that I bought several for stocking stuffers, etc, and still have a couple of them at locations I am apt to need a lamp in emergencies. However, of the 5 I kept in the house/garage/shed, two have already failed - the battery door cracks and cannot stay shut - and at least one of the units given as a gift has also failed (same problem).

I probably don't need to mention that you only find out about this failure when you NEED the light. Several other reviewers have complained about this same failure: The battery door is just a plastic piece with a slot cut in it to snap over a retaining mechanism. The plastic of this battery door is just too thin to bear the spring tension on the batteries, and it cracks. When it does, you may still be able to get the light to work by holding the unit together with your hands or perhaps with a cable tie or VERY strong rubber band, but that defeats the whole purpose of a "hands free" light.

But the really alarming thing is the failure rate. If my experience is any guide, it is on the order of 50% within 1 year. These are great units when they work, but my advice is that if you're going to buy one, you might as well go ahead and order a spare with it, because this type of failure (see other reviews) is way too common.

For my purposes, I need a unit I can store with the batteries in it and not worry that its materials will fail, so I'm looking at other designs.
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on September 16, 2012
I use this lamp for running after dark. From this point of view the lamp does a good job, I almost forget I'm wearing it.
The battery life is excellent and you should not refrain yourself from using the full light intensity (it has 3 intensity levels)
Additionally the blinking option is great feature, making yourself better noticed by the incoming traffic.

Why only 2 stars (I don't like it)?

Because the designer chose the wrong plastic for it. A lamp like this is supposed to be water-resistant and ruggedized. If I never had problems when running in the rain with it, when I dropped it on a wooden floor, the bracket holding the elastic strap broke. I dropped it because the elastic strap was poorly sewed and it snapped when I tried to wear it over my head.
I bought a second lamp, and this one had similar problems with that cheap plastic. The battery lid broke while running, making the lamp useless.

"Luckily", each lamp had different parts broken, so I dismantled them both and I re-assembled the good parts in a new lamp.
I hope this one will run me through this winter.

Otherwise, rest assured, I'll not make the error to buy, for a third time, the same thing again.
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