As a triathlete and runner who utilizes heart rate based periodization training, I was very interested in reviewing the LifeBEAM Smart Hat. As workouts are prescribed based on training zones, athletes need a reliable source of gathering heart rate data during the session. For years I used a Garmin chest strap, which is generally considered to be the best measure of heart rate data. However, the downside of a chest strap is that it can chafe the skin, causing redness, soreness, pain, and broken skin. Fortunately for those of us who battle with chafing, products with optical sensors are becoming increasingly popular and there is a fair variety to choose from. The downside of optical sensors has always been their tendency to be inaccurate at times, when compared to a chest strap. Dips, surges in heart rate, and high or low readings tend to happen occasionally, which can be frustrating when the numbers don’t match your rate of perceived exertion.
Enter the LifeBEAM Smart Hat. It comes in a nice carrying case with a charging cord. You can choose a white or black hat. One size fits all, with a Velcro strap for adjusting.
There is a small electronic unit that plugs into the hat and tucks neatly into a small pocket on the back side of the hat. The electronic unit is to be removed when washing. The optical sensor is built into the hat, and rests above the brim, on the forehead.
The charging cord plugs into the electronic unit. Tuck it into the pocket (it stays closed with a thin Velcro strip) so that the power button (small circle on the unit) aligns with the power icon on the back of the hat.
Put the hat on, adjust, press the power button (it will beep, and a blue light will flash through the clear circle next to the power icon) and pair with your watch or smartphone app via Bluetooth 4.0 or ANT+.
I found the hat paired easily with my Garmin 920xt. It was comfortable to wear and I did not notice the presence of the electronic unit, much to my surprise. The hat also easily fit my head, which can be an issue for me with Velcro straps. I liked the feel, and the gray stripe around the edge adds some reflectivity.
I wore the hat, paired to the Garmin 920xt, on a free run which included one stop and some varied terrain. I also wore a Garmin 110, which was paired with a Garmin heart rate strap, for comparison.
Here is the data from the hat paired with the 920xt.
Here is the data from the strap paired with the 110.
I was pleasantly surprised that the Smart Hat was in line with the readings from the chest strap. The biggest deviation I saw during the run was only three beats, and most of the time they were the same, or within one or two beats of eachother. I took the hat on multiple runs and had good accuracy every time (even in the rain). The advertised battery life is 17 hours, which I found to be accurate as well. The hat has an auto shut off feature, so when you’re done with the run, you can just take it off and be on your way.
I would recommend this product for anyone looking for accurate heart rate data in an easy to use optical sensor. The Smart Hat will pair with most watches and smartphone apps (full list here http://support.life-beam.com/hc/en-us/articles/200832681) and provides heart rate, cadence, calories and steps. This makes it quite versatile for the fitness enthusiast at any level of experience. The price point does at first seem high at $99. However, considering a premium chest strap alone can run $69, considering all this hat can do, I find it well worth the price tag.
You can buy the LifeBEAM hat at their Website or intermittently at the Amazon link below. Buying from either of these links will help the site out with a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Degrees/Certifications: B.A., ITCA, NESTA Sports Injury Specialist and Lifestyle Weight management specialist, US Masters Swimming certified Level 1&2 Coach
Race Experience: Boston marathon 2010, 2011, 2012; Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013 finisher; Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2014 finisher