The DiNotte went for 9 hours yesterday and has now gone for 3 this morning. That's two full Alaskan summer nights at ~100-150 lumens on a single $7.15 set of batteries. It's still going, but I'm getting weary of monitoring it!
The DiNotte 7.5 hours in on medium. I see no loss in brightness vis-a-vis the picture at 3.5 hours. We are approaching a full night's riding in the summer, with a blinkie to handle dusk and dawn (for being seen rather than seeing).
DiNotte XML-AA on medium after 7.5 hours
I am testing the Serfas on the second-to-low setting, which in a beam-against-the-wall test seems comparable to the XML-AA on medium. That is consistent with my understanding that the Serfas puts out 500 lumens on high, then 250, then 150, then 75, and the DiNotte puts out 200/100/50, perhaps adjusted upward by modern LEDs (per Sam's comment below). The coloration is different but the brightness appears comparable.
Serfas left, DiNotte right
That is better than I had imagined, in particular given the unit's sitting unused since Last Chance. It also may be plenty for a backup use model. If the batteries on the DiNotte go at 2 am, the Serfas can get you to dawn, at least in the summer.
The next test for the Serfas: charge fully, wait 24 hours, then test.
In contrast with the Serfas, now more than 4 hours in, the DiNotte on medium with AA Lithium Ion is showing no signs of slowing down.
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Stuff to Consider
Damon blogs about electronics (and other gear) he used on our 400K at Remembering Jaron. My two cents:
1. The Garmin 810/iPhone link was pretty cool. I don't know whether it is much more than cool, as a cue sheet plus find-my-iphone does the same thing with a little more effort on the follower's part. But the software and output that he describes was objectively cool.
2. Damon's helmet-mount lamp from Exposure was quite nice. For reasons Sam points out in his earlier analyses of ergonomically attractive lighting systems, I would need to see more to be sure. For example, Damon's NiteRider lamp performed like my Serfas lamp (which I did not bring) -- i.e., it didn't perform just when we needed it to. But the Joystick did perform, so maybe somebody has cracked that nut after all.
3. The 6000 mAh Morphie Juicepack is an elegant solution to a vexing problem. It even makes the Serfas light (which uses a USB cord charger) a possibility again. Envision the Serfas and Garmin both bar-mounted, both plugged into the battery pack, for all-night riding. (Pack would fit easily in a basic bento box or frame bag.) Charge the Juicepack at a control. Rinse and repeat. There is also a ruggedized version for $75 on Amazon. One caveat: I had a hunch on my aborted attempt at the Last Chance 1200K that nonstop downpours contributed to the failure of my Serfas lights. An insufficiently sealed unit will flop no matter how well the batteries perform.
QUERY: is 6000 mAh necessary, or is the (presumably smaller and lighter) 4000 mAh version sufficient for the use model I describe?
Now back to my own gear: DiNotte lights. Based on my experience and Sam's recommendations, steady output at 100-150 lumens -- low to medium on most lights -- would be sufficient for nearly all night-riding applications; the sole exception is bombing descents. (I hear that people bomb descents at night, but I can't personally recall ever doing so myself.) The 200L with AA battery packs is still available, but you have to dig around DiNotte's website to find it. (Mine is the XML-AA, which is the same light with the updated XML look.)
DiNotte does not make any huge claims on battery life -- 2 hours on high (200 lumens), 4 on medium (50%, per DiNotte -- 100 lumens), and 8 on low (25%, per DiNotte -- 50 lumens?) -- with AA NiMh or NiCAD batteries. DiNotte is very explicit (same link) that the XML-AA should not be used with the longer-lasting lithium ion batteries. This is inconsistent with Sam's experience. Is the DiNotte 200L sufficiently different from the XML-AA that the permissible batteries have changed? (Also note that Sam's information on the 200L suggests different output levels -- 100, 140, and 200.)
The 400 lumen DiNotte XML-1 with the larger lithium ion battery pack, $199 from DiNotte, boasts 5 hours use at 400 lumen output, 10 hours at medium, or 200 lumens, and a whopping 20 at low (100 lumens). On those numbers, for a 1200K in midsummer in Alaska you would need precisely 0 charges -- the light first goes on at 10:30 pm on low, goes to medium around midnight until 2 am, back to low until 4 am, and off until the next night at 10:30 (when any sane randonneur is down for the second night anyway). This has a huge negative of an expensive sealed battery pack that if lost or degraded needs to be replaced. The beauty of the DiNotte AA systems is the ease and low cost of changing batteries.
If, as Sam suggests, I can use lithium ion with the XML-AA, I'm set. If not, I need something that will give more light for longer, at least for night riding south of the 60th parallel.