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See and be seen with patented LEAD-DOG Helmet Light: Alaskans develop technology for bright lights.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Leave it to Alaskans to see a problem and invent a product to solve it. Sixteen years ago two longtime Alaskans, Bill Fischer and Steve Karcz, invented the LEAD-DOG Helmet Light in their garage. At the time, Fischer was a trailbreaker for the Iron Dog snowmachine race. Karcz was building a cabin across Cook Inlet from Anchorage, ferrying building supplies by snowmachine. Both needed a light to help them see off trail and illuminate the reflective trail markers at night. A flashlight clamped in their teeth wasn't cutting it. They began to tinker. The first helmet light used a 90-degree elbow from a vacuum cleaner. They continued to refine it and now hold several US patents on the technology, most recently from the Canadian Commissioner of Patents.

Powerful Halogen Illumination

The Helmet Light is fitted with a Halogen bulb powerful enough to illuminate the trail up to a mile away and it attaches to a helmet with a sturdy, self-adhesive VELCRO strip, so whereof one looks, that's where the light shines.

"With the light on, the entire LEAD-DOG Helmet Light glows a brilliant red for others to see in back of you and from the sides, like a taillight on your helmet," Karcz says. "The brake light comes on when you apply your brakes for even more safety when riding with other people, especially when your machine's taillight is obscured by snow or dust," he says.

No need to worry about batteries going dead because the Helmet Light is wired into the machine's existing electrical system. "It should take about forty-five minutes to install the wiring. A reasonably good home mechanic should be able to do it with no problem using our instructions," Karcz says.

It's a small company, really just the two of them. In the early stages of its development kids, friends, and family helped test prototype lights, comparing different models in all kinds of weather conditions. Parts are made out of state, but the lights are built, packaged, and shipped in Anchorage. Cost is between $80 and $85, and the lights can be ordered online at helmetlight.com or purchased at power sports retail outlets.

Not Just for Snowmachines

The light doesn't just cater to snowmachines; it also will mount on ATVs and motorcycles, with or without a battery. Karcz says they have shipped the lights to dirt bikers in Hawaii who say it is invaluable at night when they ride across pitch-black lava flows.

Search and rescue teams mount LEAD-DOG on their ATVs to help in their efforts. The Hamburg Volunteer Fire Department ATV Search and Rescue Team in New York state has two lights that they use during searches, rescues, and other off road emergencies. "They are also fantastic for lighting up patients when we are administering first aid," says Captain Ted Cheney of the department in a testimonial on the LEAD-DOG website.

Customers have asked about using an LED light instead of the Halogen bulb they currently use. Karcz says that is in the works, but he cautions the difference. "A Halogen bulb burns warm so any snow that builds up on the lens is going to melt. LED lights burn cool so you won't have that advantage and there will be a danger of reduced illumination," he says.

It's no coincidence that its name is LEAD-DOG Helmet Light because of Fischer and Karcz's close association with the Iron Dog snowmachine race, Alaska's 2,031-mile cross country race between Anchorage and Fairbanks via Nome. Many pro class racers use it, including the 2016 winning team Tyson Johnson and Tyler Aklestad.

"We figured if the light could survive the punishing conditions of the Iron Dog, then it's a tough light," Karcz says.

Freelancer Scott Banks writes from Anchorage.
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Title Annotation:Telecom & Technology
Comment:See and be seen with patented LEAD-DOG Helmet Light: Alaskans develop technology for bright lights.(Telecom & Technology)
Author:Banks, Scott
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Jul 1, 2016
Words:625
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