Tested: Outbound Lighting Trail Evo and Hangover
Don't ask "How many lumens?" unless you want a science lesson
-Evo Downhill Package combines Hangover and Evo lights
-Hangover: Self-contained 6-LED helmet light – 100 grams
-Evo: Self-contained 9-LED handlebar light – 275 grams
-Advanced reflector and lens design
Lightweight and Compact
Smart mounting solutions
Superior beam patterns
Thoughtful brightness settings
Battery life is different between helmet and bar lights
Can’t carry an extra battery with you for mid-ride swaps
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The times have changed. Literally. We just passed daylight savings, and, with the extra hour of daylight, sunset is now just a hair after 8pm for me. So if I delay making/eating dinner I can sneak out of a full ride in the light. Just a few short months ago, however, sunset was right at quitting time. In fact, the winter solstice here, on the southern shore of Lake Superior, offers a sanity-testing eight-and-a-half hours between sunrise and sunset, usually with thick cloud cover overhead. And while it may not exactly be night-riding season now, I was able to put Outbound Lighting’s new Evo Downhill Package to the test throughout the cold, dark fall and winter here.
Outbound Lighting is a relative newcomer to the lighting world. They launched their lights via Kickstarter just 4 years ago. And in that short amount of time, they have shown they are contenders in the space. They have also shown they aren’t afraid to do things differently. Every other major light manufacturer has its lumen count front-and-center. Which is really what we’ve been programmed to look for when comparing lights: Because, well, more lumens, means more light, right? Well, more or less, but, Outbounds’s take is that: It’s not the brightness of the beam that really counts, but rather how that beam is used. Outbound believes in this statement so much that they made the bold move of basically burying their lights’ lumen counts on the website, if they show them at all.
The Evo Downhill Package’s name is perhaps a bit misleading, as this definitely isn’t a downhill-specific setup. Plus, isn’t Enduro the better buzz word these days? Anyhow, I digress: This package is really just Outbound’s Trail Evo bar-mounted light paired up with its Hangover helmet light.
The Trail Evo has an impressively wide and even beam pattern. It is slightly brighter in the center, but smoothly tapers down and to the sides creating what Outbound calls the wall of light. I found this pattern perfect for a bar-mounted unit, as it makes for really nice depth perception while also eliminating blind corners and rocks that disappear into darkness right in front of your wheel. Even on jumps and drops, the wide downward beam spread helped me make out landings much earlier than I’ve experienced with other lights, which allowed me to focus my helmet beam further down the trail rather than trying to spot and scope out my landing zone. Even with the light spread nice and wide, I never felt I was out-riding the lights even at high speeds. And since I’ve not been fully trained out of thinking about lumens just yet, the Evo Trail puts out about 2,000 of them, but it definitely seems like it’s working with a bit more than that. For those who really nerd on numbers, peak intensity is 62 lux at 10 meters.
The Hangover, conversely, has a more narrow-focused beam. This is for focusing further down the trail, peering around extra tight turns, or just providing a bit of extra light to the rock-garden at hand. I definitely found that this sort of beam pattern paired well with the Evo Trail. The Hangover throws around 850 into a tightly focused beam with a peak intensity of 100 lux at 10 meters.
Along with the industry standard—bright, medium, low—settings, Outbound offers a unique adaptive setting that slowly tapers down brightness as you ride to squeeze out battery life. The Thought here is that it allows your eyes to slowly adjust to the lower output as your ride wears on. For constantly undulating, mid-speed, terrain, where changing brightness setting often is a chore this makes a lot of sense. I did a few rides where I set it to adapt and let it run, but more often than not, the trails I rode were best suited for low-setting climbing/meandering, and high-setting descending. If you push the Outbound to the end of its battery life in the high, adaptive, or medium setting, it will steadily power itself to low for about 15 minutes before going completely dark.
I really appreciated the well-thought out mounting for both the Evo and the Hangover. The Evo uses a quick-release ‘bracket’ mount very similar to that commonly found on tripods for cameras. This mount was secure, quick, and efficient. Most of my test time saw temperatures below freezing, so the easier I can pull lights from my bike, especially with gloves on, the better—A-plus here. The bolt-on bar receiver is a nice touch too, as I’ve often had hand-tightened barrel/wing-nut/indexed receivers slip, slide, and rotate in rough sections of trail, especially in colder or rapidly changing temperatures—no more surprise mid-ride Predator “There’s something in those trees” LARP sessions.
The Hangover takes a different mounting approach and uses a GoPro receiver, which is smart as most helmet brands offer GoPro mounts that integrate seamlessly into their lids. Plus, if you ever wanted to run this light elsewhere, GoPro mounts are easy to find. I was also fond of the Hangover’s low vertical clearance, as this greatly reduces the chances of branches grabbing the light and trying to pluck the helmet off the top of your head.
My initial ‘big’ complaint for the Outbound—and basically all other self-contained lights—was going to be that you can’t just buy and pack a few extra batteries to swap out during extra long rides, or multi-day trips. Well, this isn’t exactly true for the Outbounds, as they offer pass-through charging via the USB-C port, this means that if you have an external USB power bank, you can charge your lights as you ride. It’s not quite the same as having an external swappable battery, but it’s a pretty fair compromise, and quite an awesome feature.
As for the price, for $365 you get a package of two lights at a price similar to what some well-established brands offer for one light with outputs and battery lives very similar to the Trail Evo. That said, yes, there are also less-expensive options out there boasting more lumens, but the performance and thoughtfulness packed into the Evo Downhill Package makes it a really reasonable value.
I really, really hate to admit this, but I was first drawn to Outbound via an Instagram ad: It showed the Outbound’s beam pattern compared to another brand’s light, and, like basically all Instagram ads, it looked too good to be true, but I wanted to see for myself. And, if seeing is believing, well, I guess I am a believer.