A Rosetta Stone for the Black Diamond Spot

Written by an ancient race of god-like extraterrestrials, the Spot hieroglyphics were indecipherable to modern man. Until now!

In my review of the Black Diamond Spot, I waxed rhapsodic about the Spot's boatload of useful features. I also noted that getting at those features is not very intuitive. And I skewered the user manual, which employs arcane pictograms to "explain" how to use the Spot's features.

Well, after some experimentation and a bit of head scratching, I've sussed out all the features. I thought I would document it here as a monument to the lost art of technical documentation.

Actually, I needed to write it down because I'm sure I'll forget some of it and I don't want to have to figure it out again. My memory loss is your gain.

So, here is the definitive guide to how the Spot works. Throw the user manual out and print this instead.


The Spot has 4 different operating modes, each of which uses different configurations of lamps in the headlight.
  • Standard Mode – Uses the main lamp, which provides the best long distance illumination. I consider this the usual operating mode.
  • Proximity Mode – Uses the lower power proximity lamp. Proximity mode is best when you're doing things near you like reading a book, working in your car engine bay, or tying a fishing rig.
  • Strobe Mode  – This mode flashes the main lamp. This would be very handy in a night time emergency such as a boat capsize and you need a rescue. I doubt it would qualify as a USCG-approved strobe, but it's handy nonetheless.
  • Red Light Mode – Uses the red lamp. White light will temporarily kill your night vision, or the night vision of anybody you look at while wearing a headlamp. To avoid that, and as a courtesy to others, you can use the red light mode which doesn't have this problem. The red light mode also doesn't attract as many insects, so try it out when the bugs are killing you on a nighttime fishing trip.

Turn It On

With the light off:
  • Standard Mode – Press the top button once.
  • Proximity Mode – Press the top button twice.
  • Strobe Mode  – Press the top button 3 times.
  • Red Light Mode – Press and hold the top button for 2 seconds.

Adjust the Brightness

In Standard, Proximity, and Red Light modes, hold down the top button. The light will gradually dim and then gradually brighten, cycling continuously between the two extremes. Release the button when you reach the desired brightness.

In Standard Mode, when the Spot gets to the brightest setting, it will also activate the proximity lamp to get even more light (and the maximum 200 lumens) before cycling back down. 

Brightness cannot be adjusted in Strobe Mode.

Power Tap

Think of Power Tap as a nitrous oxide switch for your light. Simply touch the side of the Spot and it will instantly go to its brightest setting. Power Tap works in Standard, Proximity, and Red Light modes

In Standard and Proximity modes, it will activate both white LED lamps at full-power. So you have one-touch access to the maximum 200 lumens of power. In Red mode, it turns the red LED up to its brightest setting.

To turn off Power Tap, just touch the side of the Spot again.

Power Tap remembers your previous brightness setting. So you can instantly switch from a dimmed setting to maximum power and back. This, by the way, is perfect for kayak fishing.

Turn It Off

In all modes, you can turn off the light by simply pressing the top button.

However, in Red Light mode, when you turn the light back on it will come on in Red Light mode again. To turn off Red Light mode, turn off the light by pressing and releasing the top button, then hold down the top button for 3 seconds, which will put the Spot back in Standard Mode.

Lock It

The Spot has the ability to disable momentary presses of the top button from turning the Spot on. This is handy when you put the Spot in a backpack and don't want other content jostling around to accidentally turn on the Spot. It can be a nasty surprise when you open your pack that night and discover the batteries have been drained.

To lock the Spot, while it is turned off press and hold down the top button for 4 seconds. During this period, the Red Light mode will come on. But keep holding down the button until the Red lamp turns off and the little status LED blinks several times in blue. This is the indicator that the Spot is locked. When locked, you can't turn on the Spot with the usual button presses. The LED will blink blue at you if you try.

To unlock, hold down the top button for 4 seconds again. Now you can turn on the Spot in the normal fashion.

How I Use the Spot

Unless you use them a lot, it's easy to forget all the settings and modes available on the Spot. So I have a simplified way of working with it.
  • Turn on the light by pressing the top button. This turns on the light in Standard Mode.
  • Hold down the top button to adjust the light to the desired brightness and then release the button. In general, I set my light to the dimmest setting I can get away with and still accomplish what I'm doing. I do this in order to conserve battery power and to minimize blinding people I look at.
  • When I need to do something that requires strong light, like say, unhooking a fish, I tap the side of the Spot to get maximum brightness. I do whatever needs doing, then tap the side again to go back to my dim setting.
  • If I'm fishing and trying not to attract insects, I may do all this in Red Light Mode.
The more artificial light you use, the worse your natural night vision will be, the more insects you'll attract, the faster your battery will wear out, and the more likely you'll be a nuisance to other people on the lake. Of course when you're fishing, attracting insects can be a good thing. But generally, I use only enough light to 1) be able to do whatever it is I'm doing safely, and 2) be in compliance with whatever local laws there are.

In addition to the Spot, I have a 360o white, pole-mounted light on my kayak to help other boaters see me. I use it when I'm on the move (especially in open water) or when I can see or hear boats near me. If I'm anchored, and there aren't other boats nearby, I will turn it off. I use the Spot mainly for navigating, dealing with fish/tackle, or for finding/doing stuff on the kayak. If I'm just anchored and fishing, I usually turn it off. I like being in the water when it's dark.


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