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The Headlamp That Helped Me Podium at Leadville 100: Black Diamond Distance 1500 Review

The Distance 1500 headlamp from Black Diamond makes it possible to zone out and plod on all night long without worrying (too much) about surviving until sunrise in a racer like the Leadville 100 Run.

Lucie Hanes finishing the Leadville 100Lucie Hanes finishing the Leadville 100; (photo/Lucie Hanes)
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The worst part about running through the night is the sudden drop in cognitive capacity. As soon as the sun sets, circadian rhythms settle in. It’s the body’s way of saying, “If you won’t put yourself to bed, I’ll do it for you.” The challenge then becomes one of not just running for obscenely long periods, but also fighting against the basic human instinct to call it a damn day. 

By mile 90 of the Leadville 100 this past August, I found myself deep in that incoherent hole. The combination of exhaustion and cold air rolling off the water sapped all sensation from my extremities. I couldn’t feel my feet hitting the ground or my arms pumping back and forth, and couldn’t place myself in space. “Floating” seems like a more accurate description of how it felt to cover those final miles than anything resembling actual running. 

One key reason that I was able to push through the numbness, and carry myself to a podium finish, was my headlamp. The Distance 1500 lit my way from sunset straight through to 3 a.m. with a luminous, undistorted beam that never once wavered in brightness.

I may not have been able to feel my feet. But I could see every landing so clearly that I could trust each step anyway. And when the battery did run out after 4 straight hours at near-max output, I could swap it out one-handed without wrestling the entire contraption off and back on my forehead. Compared to many other headlamps, this one had the perfect set of features for an ultramarathon.

In short: The Black Diamond Distance 1500 Headlamp includes plenty of customizable features to tailor the beam exactly how you want it. But once that’s done, you’ve got yourself a set-it-and-forget-it setup that eliminates whatever hassle could threaten to throw a sleep-deprived brain for a loop. Nothing feels easy in the final miles of an overnight ultramarathon — so Black Diamond designed a headlamp meant to be effortless.

Shopping for a headlamp? Read our full breakdown of the best headlamps.

Black Diamond Distance 1500 Headlamp


  • Lumen output Up to 1,500 lumens
  • Rechargeable Yes, via USB-C or micro-USB
  • Burn time 40 hours on low
  • Weight 7.5 oz.
  • Red light Yes
  • Rear light Yes
  • Waterproof rating IP67

Black Diamond Distance 1500 Headlamp Review

Saving Time With Ease of Use

By sunset, I’d already held my position as the second-place female for a few hours — but not by much. A flock of challengers remained tight on my tail that entire time. The risk of them overtaking me only grew as the mile count continued. While they weren’t gaining on me, I certainly wasn’t putting any extra distance between us either. It was all I could do to just hang on.

I didn’t go into Leadville with the intention of ending up on the podium. But once the possibility became apparent, I pivoted. Suddenly, I craved it more than I could have expected. That meant I couldn’t just shuffle my way to the finish. Every minute mattered. Any lollygagging meant running the risk of that gap closing tighter.

distance 1500 headlamp
Testing the beam, post-Leadville; (photo/Lucie Hanes)

My crew helped me streamline all of the minute details that, if we weren’t careful, would add up to eat away at my lead. We tore notches in my gel packets for faster consumption, rigged my vest for faster pole transitions as the terrain changed, and — thanks to the magnetic battery attachment system on the Distance 1500 — kept my headlamp fully charged without so much as a single pause.

Let’s remember that my hands functioned no better than paws at this point. There’s not much worse for circulation than cold temperatures in tandem with extreme fatigue. Wrestling the headlamp off of my head, fiddling with fingery clasps, and praying that the electrodes lined up right the first time would have taken more time than I could spare. If the aforementioned paws could finagle any of that in the first place, that is.

The battery pack on the Distance 1500 attaches via a magnet on one end and a clip on the other. Removing the battery is as simple as squeezing two large levers that release the clip, and then pulling off the magnet.

Black Diamond Distance 1500
(Photo/Lucie Hanes)

To replace it, slide the fresh battery pack into the magnetic hinge and push it into the clip. It requires fortunately little force, accuracy, or dexterity, none of which remained in high supply by nightfall. It only takes one hand — err, paw — to maneuver. Plus, since the battery attaches externally, there’s no need to remove the cradle from your noggin.

I didn’t even have to slow down (no matter how much I may have wanted to). Ten seconds and a couple of strides between fresh batteries and I was back in business. You can’t do that with many other headlamps.

Staying Sane With 1,500 Lumens

Black Diamond Distance 1500
(Photo/Lucie Hanes)

The Distance 1500 has more to offer for delirious ultrarunners beyond the idiotproof battery situation. As the name suggests, this headlamp provides up to 1,500 lumens of light. All it takes to access that max brightness is one tap on the side of the casing.

The lamp then maintains that peak for 10 seconds. That’s just enough for a confidence boost on short sections of hairy trail — or to check if the snake you think you see slithering by is a hallucination or not (there was no snake). 

You can also keep it at maximum brightness by switching to Temperature Control Mode. In this setting, the headlamp will keep churning out 1,500 lumens within safe operating temperatures. Otherwise, the low and medium settings supply plenty of coverage on a more sustainable level. 

The only time you’ll notice the light lessen at all on its own is after that 10-second “Power Tap” time cap. Some headlamps dim at the same rate as the battery, so runners gradually lose light long before the battery actually runs out. It happens so imperceptibly slowly that you start to wonder if it’s just your vision getting blurry.

That’s a very real concern after so many miles. So Black Diamond was kind enough to design the Distance 1500 so that’s not even a question. This headlamp holds the same continuous beam until the battery enters reserve mode. Every battery pack has an easy-to-read charge indicator on the back, activated with the press of a button.

black diamond distance 1500 headlamp
(Photo/Lucie Hanes)

No matter the brightness, though, the light travels through a specially constructed lens that’s designed to improve depth perception. The multifaceted glass diffuses the light for smooth output and minimal distortion. The uneven ground feels noticeably more navigable when every rock doesn’t cast an inordinately large shadow in the glow of your headlamp.

And when eye fatigue sets in, the Distance 1500 offers four different colors to cycle through. Sometimes casting your surroundings in a different light helps change your mental perception, too. Switch from plain ol’ white to red, blue, or green for the late-night energy spike you need to shake off the weariness. 

Worth the Weight

The Distance 1500 weighs more than most headlamps anywhere near its caliber. That might ward off some ultrarunners who understandably count every ounce. This headlamp wears its heft well, though. It doesn’t bounce or sink down, and the cradle contours the head for a stable, comfortable fit. 

Besides, convenience comes in other forms beyond weight savings. What the Distance 1500 lacks in terms of minimalist construction, it more than makes up for in ease of use. I’ll take a headlamp that I can trust to guide me through the night without slowing me down or tripping me up over an ultralight design that can’t offer the same security.

Don’t judge the Distance 1500 by its bulk right out of the package. It’ll save you more time and sanity than a couple of fewer ounces ever could.

Black Diamond Distance 1500 Headlamp: Final Thoughts

Lucie Hanes finishing the Leadville 100
The author, second from left, wearing the Distance 1500 at the Leadville 100; (photo/Lucie Hanes)

The Black Diamond Distance 1500 packs a ton of power into a simple system. It’s so easy to operate that even a brain-dead ultrarunner can manage it. There’s no better judge for ease of use than those final miles.

This headlamp provides the coverage, convenience, and clarity you need to save time and stay sane through the night. There are already more than enough nuances to worry about out there without your vision being one of them.

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