HM65R: Simple, Solid, and Dependable

Whether I’m exploring the outdoors, at work, or somewhere in between, the HM65R has worked its way into every aspect of my EDC over the past few months. It’s no-nonsense design and straightforward operation means it won’t constantly get in the way during use, or require the user to break focus to change modes. In short, I have not found a more broadly useful headlamp with a better balance of versatility, ruggedness, and lightweight design.

Like any other well-designed tool, the HM65 almost becomes an extension of your body. Even during the most intense activities it doesn’t shake, rattle, or bounce thanks to Fenix’s new innovative mesh headband. Unlike the standard elastic band seen on virtually every other headlamp, this band is less porous and bulky resulting in phenomenal breathability and decreased moisture retention. The underside of the band has a strip of silicone that keeps the lamp from sliding off slick or sweat-drenched surfaces. Regardless of your choice in headgear, the band’s adjustability and stretchiness can accommodate thick hats and climbing helmets with ease.

Another surprising innovation Fenix has brought to the table is a solid magnesium alloy body; a material used in things such as high-end camera bodies, sports car rims, and aircraft components. The alloy body is rugged enough to withstand daily wear and tear and drops up to about 2 meters while not weighing down the user like a boat anchor. Unlike previous versions of their dual-beamed headlamps, Fenix has chosen to keep the battery compartment and the head of the light together eliminating the wire between the two and a possible point of failure. This combination in tandem with ultra-light materials and a light-weight, energy-dense 18650 cell remains very well balanced on the head.

The biggest thing that sets the HM65R apart from the competition is the separate spot reflector and flood optic, both of which can be controlled independently. I’ve found this combination of beams to be incredibly versatile, letting the user choose between a longer throw or a wide and even field of view. The flood beam has become my go-to mode providing a reasonable amount of throw with about a 40° hot spot. This makes it perfect for close up tasks and activities like hiking, climbing, and trail running. In comparison, the narrow beam has a slightly tighter hotspot which due to the headlamp’s compact nature, can’t illuminate much farther than about 120’. If the job at hand requires lighting up objects at a farther distance, you might be better served by a more throw-oriented handheld flashlight or headlamp.

Another one of my favorite design choices Fenix made with this headlamp is the user interface. Thankfully, they omitted any blinky disco strobes and SOS modes which in reality only just get in the way instead of actually being useful. With such simplicity, one doesn’t have to take their attention away from the task at hand to cycle through numerous modes or memorize sequences of clicks. While the buttons are easy to operate, even whilst wearing gloves, they are protected from inadvertently getting pressed while stowed away thanks to a thoughtfully designed button shroud.

Thanks to some impressive run times on high (which we’ll talk about in a little bit), you won’t have to worry about recharging your headlamp too often. When the helpful charge indicator lets you know your battery is running low, the headlamp has a rather convenient USB-C charging port tucked away on the back. The HM65R uses either a single rechargeable 18650 cell or two readily available CR123As. Thankfully, Fenix did not use any non-user replaceable cells or proprietary batteries which significantly reduce the lifespan of the product or makes it expensive to replace. For those venturing into more extreme conditions, Fenix even offers cold-resistant batteries that can operate in temperatures as low as -40°.

While it might seem like I’ve glossed over any negative points, and have avoided any real criticism, it’s not for lack of trying. There simply aren’t any major deal-breaking issues with this light. However, that being said, I do think they’re a few minor changes that could make this light even better! The first of which would be to use a TIR reflector, similar to that found in the E18R, for the spot beam. This reflector could more effectively shape the beam without compromising the overall size and resulting in better throw distances. While flashlight tints are generally a personal preference, I would love to see a warm (preferably High CRI) tint on flood beam. I find warm tints are much easier on the eyes and result in less eye strain with extended use. Last but not least, I find the total claimed run times are just a little misleading. According to other users and Fenix’s website, almost every output setting gradually ramps down over time. This dimming, however, is extremely gradual and imperceptible during real-world use and serves to prolong run times. Again I just prefer a constant regulated output. Strangely enough, with exception of the TIR optic, these are all changes that Fenix has already made in the updated “SuperRaptor” edition, which is unfortunately only available in Scandinavian countries.

Despite all these minor issues, the HM65R is still a tremendous performer. After over three months of hiking, trail runs, climbing, and numerous night-time rescue calls, this light has proven it’s worth time after time. It’s obvious Fenix has taken the time to listen to their customers and design what I have no hesitation calling the most versatile and solidly performing headlamp out there.

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