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Talk to This Headlamp, and It Listens: Coast RL35R Review

The Coast RL35R is the first headlamp with voice control. And shockingly, it really works.
Coast RL35R headlamp review
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It’s pitch black in a canvas wall tent at night, and I softly speak two words, “Coast on.” Almost instantly, a beam of light shoots from my headlamp, illuminating the inside of the tent. Then, a snicker from the neighboring cot.

“Coast off! Coast disco!” The laughter crescendos, and of course, the light turns off. Fortunately, there is no “disco” mode.

In a matter of seconds, I had witnessed the pros and cons of one of the most exciting headlamp launches I’ve witnessed, maybe ever. That’s because the Coast RL35R does something no headlamp (that I know of) has done previously. It responds almost flawlessly to voice commands. And that could bring very meaningful change to the industry.

Check out the video below to watch the voice control in action.

In short: The Coast RL35R ($80) responds to specific voice commands that control the intensity and color of its lighting and turn it on or off. It also has very solid specs, with a max output of 1,100 lumens, a range of 170 m, and five color settings. While not without shortcomings, the light is revolutionary in the headlamp space.

Coast RL35R


  • Lumen output 1,100 combined high, 530 spotlight
  • Rechargeable Yes, USB-C
  • Burn time 80 hours spot low (16 lumens)
  • Weight 7.02 oz.
  • Red light Yes
  • Waterproof rating IP54 water-resistant


  • Hands-free voice control
  • Nice warm, soft light in ARC280 mode
  • Red, blue, and green light
  • Good spotlight and floodlight performance


  • Heavy for output
  • Minimal water resistance

Coast RL35R Overview

Before I get into the voice control part of this review, let’s remember this is, first and foremost, a headlamp. As such, its lighting characteristics are foundational. Fortunately, Coast did not skimp here, building a good headlamp first and adding voice control second.

The light performed well in testing. It’s not the best overall lighting performance, but it stacks up well against the competition and will almost certainly earn a spot among the best headlamps on the market.

It has a spotlight capable of throwing 530 lumens to 155 m. Running on high will result in 6 hours of battery life. Dial the spot to low, and you get a solid 16 lumens for 80 hours. Those respectable specs carry through the lighting modes of red, blue, green, and flood.

The RL35R goes beyond most headlamps with its “Area Light System,” which uses an LED with a large surface area to illuminate close objects with a soft, warm light. This system is unique and wonderful for inside a tent, reading, cooking, or other generally slow activities around other people. You won’t blind your friend so easily, and the light is more like a soft mood light than a typical bright headlamp beam.

Coast RL35R Headlamp Area Lighting System
(Photo/Sean McCoy)

While this light’s callout is its voice control, users can also press buttons to operate the headlamp. It is easy to use, with three buttons to turn it on or off, scroll through lighting modes, and vary power levels. A dial on the top of the light also adjusts power. It’s easy to use and increases or decreases the light as you spin it.

As this is a rather heavy headlamp, the battery sits on the back to balance the system. My primary gripe with this headlamp, and it’s a minor one, is that it’s a little heavy.

It runs a single strap system, so it must be worn somewhat tightly to be secure. After a couple of hours, I noticed some discomfort from wearing it. It’s a small ding, but worth noting if you’re sensitive about headlamp weight.

A red taillight on the back of the battery can provide a solid red or flashing red light. This operates through a button on the back and does not work with the voice control.

Coast RL35R Review: Voice Control That Works

Over about 2 months, I put a pre-production version of the RL35R through some serious real-world testing. I used it hiking and camping in a blizzard and took it turkey hunting. It was on my head as a pre-dawn storm chased me off a ridgeline in southern Colorado. And it spent about 10 nights in tents and campers next to my sleeping bag.

I generally really liked the RL35R. It provides good lighting and voice commands, which work better than Siri. But they are less exclusive. By that, I mean they respond to everyone’s voice, not just mine. And with friends like mine, that can be problematic.

To use the voice commands, you first must turn the RL35R on. It has a small button that glows a faint green on the bottom. Once you push that one, it is in standby mode and ready to use. It will stay in standby mode for about 20 minutes before turning off if you don’t use it.

(Photo/Sean McCoy)

But if you say, “Coast on,” the light will pop on. If you say, “Coast off,” the light will shut right down. You always begin the voice command with “Coast” followed by the words on, off, red, green, blue, arc, flood, spot, low, high, up, down, minimum, medium, or maximum. I found it intuitive and pretty self-explanatory.

And mostly, it worked spot on. There were occasional glitches when the light wouldn’t respond. In reality, it was more accurate than pushing buttons and generally got the right mode on the first try. It didn’t require me to speak very loudly and even worked pretty well at a whisper in a quiet environment.

Now, here’s a funny thing about this headlamp. Because it works well with pretty much anyone’s voice with a pretty neutral Midwestern accent (sorry, I haven’t had the chance to test it with other accents), it relies on the behavior of those around you. And as I have some rather silly, fun, and mischievous friends, it became obvious that those with the power quickly abuse it.

It’s easy for someone to walk by and say, “Coast off,” while you’re in the middle of some task and leave you in the dark.

(Photo/Sean McCoy)

That said, the pranking would probably be a pretty short-lived phenomenon. I think they’d stop once the novelty of the voice activation wears off. But the reality of my buddies telling my headlamp what to do showed the remarkable functionality of this feature. Yes, it really works.

Voice-Activated Headlamp: Accessibility and More

So, why would you want a voice-controlled headlamp? Who should consider buying one? I’ve puzzled over these questions a lot during my testing and have a few ideas.

The first obvious answer is people who can’t use their hands, whether due to disability, activity, or equipment. For example, think of someone operating equipment that requires two hands who wants to change lighting modes. Or maybe a job or recreational activity that requires cumbersome gloves that render buttons useless. Or a quadriplegic who wants to control a headlamp on their own.

I certainly don’t know of every possible use, but I do know that they indeed exist.

In those cases, the Coast RL35R may be a godsend. Yes, it does require a button push to turn it on. I don’t know if there’s any way around that. However, once activated, the voice control is efficient and effective. For some users, it will be revolutionary.

And here’s the kicker. This headlamp is $80. That’s a great price for a quality headlamp. Adding in the voice control, I’m surprised it’s under the $100 mark.

Do most people need voice control on a headlamp? No. Is it nice? That depends on how you use it. Regardless, it’s an effective new tool that will allow people to light their way in a whole new way. I’m excited to see how others apply the technology in the future. And maybe they really should consider that “disco” mode.

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Sean McCoy

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