We began by looking at a set of the fairly new to the marketplace Ethos Components series of helmet lights designed for MTB night riding adventures. Since that time I have used them for almost all my night rides, both as a hemet light and as a bar mounted light, typically in combo with one each. I have used all the Lumen levels they offer as well as all the lens options, so I think I have a good feel for the product. Let’s see how they fared.
To recap, this is what Ethos says about the lights from their website:
Our integrated helmet light is the versatile light you will keep in your pack. With a small space saving design and composite materials your helmet light weighs in at 85 grams. Giving you a total system weight of just 100 grams. That’s weight you won’t feel when the light is mounted on your helmet. Though this light is small and light weight, it generates solid output up to 800 lumens [Now offering a 1000L option. Editor] with a warm neutral colored beam. This increases your trail comprehension while riding as well as provide a more comfortable night riding experience.
1 x Integrated Helmet light
1 x Helmet / Handlebar Mount
1 x Instruction Manual
1 x Helmet Strap
1 x Metal Tin package
2 x Random Ethos Stickers
2 x Handlebar Rings
2 x Button Covers
It’s a nice package, all contained in the metal box that can be re-purposed or used to store the lights. The instruction manual is pretty complete, taking you through the programming process and the modes available. Not listed in the above text is a charging cord, mini/USB type, but it’s in the box too.
The light is nice looking and sleek in its simple, carbon tube and alu caps construction. It is light too, and with the 18650 lithium ion battery inside, is all self contained and ready to travel.
There are some standout things about the light that are unique or at least uncommon. One is the ability to charge out of the Ethos light with the USB port. So an iPhone or other device can be charged from the light, at least as long as the Ethos light has greater than a 35% charge. That is pretty cool. Of course, it will also drain some of the battery power that is available for the light to use.
The other very unique feature is the tactile feedback. Whenever a button is pressed to power up or down, change states, etc, there is a vibration that signals the affected change. In short, it buzzes. At first I thought, “who cares?”, but later on it made sense.
With three lenses now…Trail (flood), Spot, and the new 1000 Lumen lens which is more flood than spot, you can mix both the lens and light output depending how you order them. I have used a 600L with the spot lens, an 800L with the Trail (flood) lens, and the new 1000L with the only lens it comes with.
Regarding light output level and lenses as I see it all based on lots and lots of years enjoying night riding and building my own lights:
There are people that really like a high output helmet mounted light. In that I mean over a 1000 lumens. I do not. I prefer the most light to be coming from my bars and the helmet light to fill. The reason for this is, when your helmet light is very powerful, it tends to make the shadows disappear due to the high angle of the light washing out the shadows in the trail. I would rather have the most intense light coming from a flatter angle and the helmet light used for fill, looking around corners, etc.
I prefer not to ride with a helmet light only. I like to climb with a bar mounted light on low, or medium at the most. Having only a helmet light means I am always looking where the light is, even if I am talking to someone riding besides me and I turn my head.
And a cardinal rule: Never go out with only one source of light, just for the sake of safety. Things happen.
So my prime combo would be a bigger light on the bars doing most of the heavy lifting and a lesser light on the helmet filling in the details. Now as far as lenses go, I began with the 800L with the Trail/flood lens on the bars and the 600L on the helmet with the spot lens. In combo this gave me a very wide and artifact free, floody light spill off the bars, but not a lot of reach. The 600L spot was good enough to get out there farther, but not all that far, but in close the brighter spot of the helmet light was actually annoying. It was like those cat videos where you see the feline following a laser pointer beam around…I would see the spot as more intense than the bar mounted flood and my eyes went to that.
I wondered if I should have the flood on the helmet instead and when I was able to sample the 1000L version, I ran that on the bars and the 800L flood lens on the helmet. That was very nice and blended into a very effective combo for trail use.
Now I say all this with a big disclaimer. These are HELMET LIGHTS, yet they obviously will be and are being run on the bars too. So I used them both ways and that pointed out some good things and bad things, which we will keep in perspective as we go along.
I always used it Trail Mode, never any other. No commuter settings, etc. There are five distinct ‘modes’ you can get the Ethos Components lights into.
So the good and the bad, as I see it, with the Ethos Components helmet light, and then a recco-mendo.
- The form factor is excellent. On a helmet it is barely noticed weight wise and it does not intrude up into space much at all.
- The helmet mount is a nice deal. The light just clips into it but keeps it secure. As well, if you catch it on a tree limb, it would pop out, not hang you up on the branch like a Saturday morning cartoon, snatching you off your bike. The mount is the typical velcro strap which will work really well or sort of well, depending on the vent setup of the helmet. For instance on my Specialized Ambush, the vents line up perfectly to put the Ethos Components light at the proper angle for best line of sight down the trail. Since there is no way to adjust the angle of the mount with tilt, you have to get that right by where it is placed on the helmet.
- The Ethos Components light has more levels of battery status than most lights do. For instance, one light I have shows a green LED status until it goes below 25% then it goes red. Well, that allows you to begin a ride at 27% battery life and not know it. I appreciate the added info of battery status the Ethos Components light gives me.
- Charging is fast enough.
- The lights gave me a quite decent amount of run time, with the exception of the 1000L version. I typically ride 1.5 to 2 hours at night so I would run the bar light on low a lot for putting along and climbing and then Med/High the rest. The helmet light would only come on for faster sections of dirt road or singletrack. I typically would only see one to two drops in battery status on the bars, and one to none at all on the helmet light on the 800L and the 600L lights. On the 1000L version, I would see as much as 4 levels in battery status in one ride.
- The mode changing while riding is pretty simple, only requiring a light and brief tap on the button. The tactile ‘buzz’ is nice when on the helmet as it lets you know you made a change, when you might not see it clearly in a group setting with everyone’s lights on as well, or when you have heavy gloves on and are not sure you hit the button. As easy as it is to pull it out of the helmet mount, you can just remove it, change modes, and then snap it back in without removing your helmet.
- The beam patterns are clean and even with no annoying fringing or odd patterns.
- The warmer tint LEDs are nice on the eyes and let you see trail detail well, but do not appear a ‘bright’ as a whiter LED does. I like it. The 1000L version is a bit cooler in that way, being more to the white than the others, but is still warmer than the typical LED lights coming from overseas.
- Made in USA. That’s nice.
- No hidden modes for maximum Lumens. Some lights now make high lumen claims, but that ‘blast’ mode is only accessed by secret button pushes and magic incantations.
The less than good:
- That button on the back. Let’s talk about that. I had two lights that gave me fits. All of it revolved around getting that removable, clear button to work well with the tiny function button underneath it. I would press and get no response or a delayed response and it was maddening. One was traced to a bad mix in the clear button (it was too soft) and it would just deform rather than do what it was supposed to do. The other light developed a sticking function button on the circuit board that would hang up and not release. Both were taken care of by Ethos and the ones I have now have been fine. But If there is one thing that I find fiddly on the light, it would be that button deal. You have to remove it for charging. OK. But it can be lost then. You have to put it back in just so and make sure it is seated well in the groove or it will either not work or will fall out on trail. And while you can turn the light on or off and change light levels without that clear button cover thingy, you will not be able to do that well or at all when riding and with gloves on as the actual function button on the light is teeny tiny.
- I always ran the light in the mode that requires a double tap on the button to power up. Other wise it is too easily turned on when in a gear bag. Most lights require a long press on a more guarded button to power them up, not a gentle, single tap. Even so, I still had one turn on in my bag even when set to a double press for ‘on’. Fiddly again IMO.
- The helmet mount is a lousy bar mount. It just is. But, keep in mind the name here…Ethos Components HELMET light. So although a better bar mount is in the works, I sourced a light mount designed for flashlights from Two Fish for like 8 bucks or so. The simple double rubber block with velcro straps works incredibly well for the Ethos Components light on the bars.
- The charging cord can also depress the power/mode button on the light when I am charging it. The white one included with the light is better for preventing this, but some of the ones I keep plugged into my USB charging station are a bit fatter at the plug end and will not quite work.
- Sometimes when I change light levels, I will get a two level change, which I wonder is related to the vibrator affecting it, as by then, I am no longer pressing the button.
I only have a couple of rides on the new 1000L version that has a triple LED array and a quite floody lens. I think it would be better on the helmet due to the limited throw of the beam and the lesser run times (even with a bigger internal battery capacity). But it is brighter compared to the 800L flood and has greater throw. For a bar mount, as my prime light, I would want longer run time. I do not have the cost at this time for the 1000L, so get in touch with Ethos or any local dealer.
So in some ways, the Ethos Components light has annoyed me with some of the fiddly issues, some were resolved under warranty and are not a big deal at all, and some are built into the design of the light and are not so easily changed if at all. But overall, I think as a helmet light, which is what it is intended for, it is the best I have used. The light weight and smart size, the tactile feedback…all make it swell when worn ‘up there’. On the bars it may or may not be enough, depending on what you need, but overall, when used in combo, I have seldom wanted more light.
So how would I do this if I was to order after all this testing? Well, it would depend on what I had on the bars. Lets say I have an 800L with spot on the bars. With that spot lens in it it has as much reach as the 1000L (IMO), but not as broad a spill. Yet the 800L seemed to have noticeably longer run times. Then I could run an 800L Trail/Flood on the helmet.
Or if I have something like a 1500L light on the bars, I would step down into a 600L Trail/Flood for the helmet just to fill in the details/corners, etc. as I would not care so much about having the helmet light reach down the trail.
The most versatile light for the helmet is likely the 1000L, although I think that is over done power wise for my way of liking a helmet light to function. If that is your only light, helmet mounted, it would be the one to go to as the beam is very nice and even and is brighter than the 800L, but the lesser run times and limited punch at greater speeds would need to be considered.
I would pick the 600L in the trail beam as a great choice for singletrack riding and overall use to fill in where the main bar light is not pointing. I would even like to have one more mode where it is just ON and OFF, High (600L) only. For $99.95, it is the best bargain light of the three.
On another note, if I were to run these as a commuter/city light, I would run either the 600L or 800L (depending on how much light I needed) and for sure with the Spot lens for more distance over the road.
Ethos is doing some neat things here and I know he is not done bringing out new products to the market. Even though I went through some tiny, but frustrating issues with the light, I still got many good, trouble free rides in and I see little else that I would choose as a helmet light over these. As a bar light, I think they fall a bit short for me, but then again they were designed to go up top. If they ever do a bar specific light, I bet it will be a good one.
The pricing of the lights is not exceptional when just viewed on a Lumens per cost basis, but the unique features, the very smart form and the made in USA pedigree is very much in its favor.
Note: The products shown here were purchased at a discount to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.