Product test: LED hat for night painting

If you like to paint outdoors at night or sketch in dark restaurants, it can be difficult to see what you're doing. Streetlights aren't reliable in color, so there are a variety of options for getting light on your work. One solution is the LED headlamp, which I demoed in New York City in a previous post. It works fine, but the light is rather strong and it can be distracting to people around you.

John and Ann over at the Artist Road website sent me a light-up hat that they've developed and asked me to review it. The hat comes with three LED bulbs tucked into the edge of the brim, so when it's turned off, it looks like any other hat. 

The hat is made of gray microfiber. You can wear it as a normal hat in the daytime, and just turn it on when you need it. The angle of the bill is perfectly aimed at the area where your hands are working.
The switch and bulb are hidden inside the visor and the battery is tucked in sweatband. The switch is operated by squeezing the bill with your right hand. There are three modes: Low (2 bulbs), High (all three bulbs), and Off. The light looks a little bluish, compared to other typical night sources, such as incandescent, so I might try tinting one or two of the bulbs with a little Indian yellow oil paint.

Battery life is rated at 25 hours, though I haven't run it that long yet. The coin-type batteries are removable and replaceable, and you can take them out to wash the hat. 

Once I gave it a try, I started using it everywhere. I tried out the hat in a dark restaurant, where it really helped to see the menu and the sketchbook, though my dining partners reminded me not to shine it in their faces. I also tested the hat in a nighttime sketch group, where it helped me to see what I was doing. I found it very useful in a dimly lit gallery to light up those hard-to-see paintings.  Jeanette has tried it for seeing her knitting and for reading a map on nighttime car trips. 

The Artist's Road LED hat is available at the Artist's Road store site for $25. Comparable LED hats are also Available on Amazon, but I don't think they're as well made. You can also get a Light unit with 5 LEDs that clips to the brim of your hat, in case you like to change hats.

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