Princeton Tec Sync Headlamp Review and Giveaway

Posted by Sue Quinlan | 04.29.2016


Princeton Tec has been a pioneer in lighting our way on the trail since 1975. The Sync Headlamp is one of their go-to headlamps for outdoor adventures at night. Features like an easy to use interface, direct access to a red LED, spot beam and flood beam and 200 hours of burn time make this model stand out. Backpacker Magazine agrees, the Sync made their 2015 Editor's Choice 2015 list.

Recently, one of team had the chance to try her new Sync Headlamp on an Owling Expedition. Take a look at her experience below.

Finally, a clear, calm evening! Too good to pass up. My husband and I had been trying to get out owling for the last few weeks, but each time we had the time and inclination, the weather wasn't cooperating. Two feet of new snow stopped us the first time. Our next attempt, rising winds turned us back. This night, conditions were perfect.

Many local parks and natural areas close at sunset, so these aren't places one can go owling. Fortunately, Fort Collins has a few places where trails remain open until an hour after sunset and most city trails remain open until 11 pm. We had pre-selected the area we would visit--a well-wooded trail along a stretch of the Poudre River.

Enroute, we reviewed the calls of the owls we hoped to hear using the i-Bird Pro app on my iPhone. Thirteen species of owls occur in Colorado, but only four of these are likely to be found in the riparian forests along the Poudre: Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, and Northern Saw-whet. Each has a distinctive call. With many owling trips in our past, we knew that just hearing an owl would be good luck, but of course we hoped we might have the great fortune to see one too.

We arrived slightly before sunset, just as most other users of the area were departing. I stuffed my wool hat and gloves in my belt pack and tucked my small, new Sync headlamp in my coat pocket. It was still warm enough and light enough that none of these were needed now, but I knew they would all come in handy before our evening expedition ended. We grabbed our binoculars and set off down the trail.

Owls are difficult to spot because of their camouflaged markings and tendency to sit quite still. Dusk is a great time to look for them as they often begin moving around just before dark. We walked slowly along the trail, pausing frequently to listen, watch for movement, and carefully scan the tree branches for possible owl silhouettes.

The air was quiet save for the rushing water of the Poudre River. A pair of mallards quacked as they drifted along. A robin chirped a springtime greeting from the top of a large spruce. Somewhere from across the river, we heard the distinctive chatter of a belted kingfisher--all welcome sounds of spring. The scent of opening leaf buds and damp soil filled the cool evening air.

As the pink glow in the western sky paled and the sky overhead grew darker, the branches of the cottonwood and maple trees etched darker and darker patterns in the sky. The twisting interwoven branches tempted me with the form of an owl several times. On closer view, through my binoculars, each of my imagined owls dissolved. Once a quick movement in the shadows caught my eye. Nope, not an owl. Just a fox squirrel scampering along a branch.

As the evening grew darker, it was time to turn around and retrace our steps. The view going back seemed unfamiliar. From the new angle, different branches formed new owl-like shapes. None sorted out as real owls. Suddenly, I heard the hoot of a great horned owl and stopped to listen. Oops--my imagination again--just the distant honking of some Canada geese. Night had fallen now, so the chances of seeing an owl clearly were pretty well past, but I still hoped to hear one.

The temperature had dropped enough that I felt chilled. I stopped to put on my hat and gloves. While doing so, I gazed up toward the darkening sky through the now black branches of the trees. Just then a large bird flew high overhead. My initial thought due to its altitude and size was red-tailed hawk, but a quick look through binoculars revealed its large head, puffy body and slow wingbeats: Great Horned Owl! My glimpse was a bit too fleeting and distant to be absolutely certain. My owling partner had taken a slightly different path, so I couldn't ask his opinion, but I felt pretty certain of my id.

My eyes had adjusted to the dimming light, but it was now too dark under the trees to be sure of my path. Time to pull out my new headlamp! I had tested it before our trip, so I had already adjusted the comfortable elastic band to fit my head and knew how to turn the sideknob to get just the light intensity I wanted. The Sync headlamp offers three levels of white LED light, easily bright enough to cook a camp meal, read in your tent, or spotlight a camp intruder. But I didn’t want to use any of the white light options just now, because I didn’t want to blind myself, my owling partner, or any owls or other wildlife that might be around. So I twisted the knob to switch on the red light - a handy feature I have never had on other headlamps I’ve owned. The Sync headlamp also allows the user to adjust the direction of the light beam, so I turned it to point slightly downward rather than up or straight ahead. The beam of red light gave me just enough light to see the ground and my near surroundings well enough to walk safely without danger of walking into a tree branch or tripping over a rock or branch in the path.

My husband easily spotted me by the red light and soon joined me for the return walk back to our car. We compared notes. He too had seen the large bird fly overhead and agreed that it was definitely a Great Horned Owl.

As we neared the parking lot where we had left our car, I heard geese honk again, then a sound that I thought could only be the strange, unmistakable whinnied cry of a screech owl. I abruptly signaled my partner to stop. We both stood still in the cold night air and listened carefully, hoping to hear it again. A goose honked. A jet soared far overhead. Otherwise silence. Had I imagined that strange call? Maybe. If it was an owl, it didn't call again.

By all counts, this owling trip had been a resounding success. We had spotted one owl and maybe, possibly, I had heard another. However, the real reward was just having gotten out at a time of day I too often spend indoors. Our walk in the peaceful evening, soaking up the quiet, the tree branch artwork against the evening sky, and tasting all the hints of spring had been as pleasant an April evening as one could hope for. As we drove home under the gaze of the Orion constellation, I thought of Jane Yolen's words in "Owl Moon," her classic children's book about owling: "Sometimes there's an owl and sometimes there isn't." Either way, this trip, like every owling trip I've made, had been well worth the effort.

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