A Head Torch Guide for the Winter

As we head rapidly into short days and dark nights, night running no longer becomes optional if you’d like to squeeze in your running around your work and family commitments. So we asked regular TrailFest runner Ian Garnett to give us his opinion on the best head torches around.

My Top brands

  • Petzl
  • Silva
  • Black Diamond
  • LED Lenser

What should I be considering in a head torch?

Rechargeable vs buying batteries?

Both have their perks obviously. A lot of ultra races require 2 head torches with 2 sets of spare batteries, I’ll go into detail on my kit later on how I pack my kit light to work for me. Which points me more in the direction of buying batteries but re-charging torches is great for quick and easy use.

Price vs Lumens?

(Lumens basically means how much light is emitted from your head torch). I would always suggest paying more, especially when trailrunning and you’d want a wide angle of light and also the possibility of a spot light to see far off into the distance.

Entry Level – Minimum £40.00

You can get them for less than that but as you’ll know if you go for the cheaper ones you get less lumens which is not a good trade off.

This one is great, takes 3 AAA Batteries, pretty robust and water resistant in heavy rain. Comfy torch but can be a bit of hassle swapping around the batteries when caught off guard.  There are different variations of this torch now which seems to offer rechargeable batteries.

Pretty waterproof torch to survive heavy down poors is always good. Again requires 3 AAA batteries which could be a plus for races requiring the use of more than one torch.

If I could do it all over again, I’d probably choose this as my first torch. As you can see the photos show the batteries being housed as the rear, in my opinion this is better as it doesn’t give you as much bounce when they are usually all housed up front on your forehead. 4 AAA batteries is a lot but I have seen these used multiple times at races, recently helping a Catalan change his batteries for it mid race at Ultra Pirineu.

Mid Range – Around £40.00 – £80.00

I would only suggest this one if you are really only wanting ones with clever lighting technologies which Petzl offer now.

This is a fantastic head torch and I would even argue the best on the market for the price and output. The ‘reactive’ light technology is great for battery saving, this means it automatically adjusts the beam to your useage. If you are looking at the ground it will output a lower level of brightness for you to see, then if you look up into the trees it will give out more, then into the distance it’ll go full beam to let you see. Its very clever and works well 90% of the time. This lighting does save the battery but lets you down significantly during; A) Races when everyone around you had reflective clothing on the back, it’ll go dim/bright/dim/bright as you run and it keeps catching the reflective decal. B) In cold Scotland, when you can see your breath this annoyingly affects the light and makes it go dim as it passes the beam.

Overall I do highly rate these torches and I use them on the standard lower setting which has always been sufficient enough. Note that this is rechargeable and doesn’t allow the use of outside batteries into it.

Top End £80.00+

Yes that’s right, 575 which is far more than you’d realistically ever need when running, and would burn the battery out very quickly!

This torch also has the same ‘reactive’ feature as mentioned above but putting out a brighter beam in the process. I have used this for all my ultra trail races and it has lasted a maximum of 7/8 hours on the lower setting which I’m not overly happy with. For the price I would expect it to last longer as described on the website. This head torch is bulky and the battery sits at the back. The huge plus is that you could also take out the large rechargeable battery from the white plastic housing and put in 2 AAA to use if it did run out mid-run.

Of course there are Black Diamond, Silva and LED Lenser in this price category but I’ve never had any experience with these ones.

Highly recommended

This should be with every runner going on longer runs stored in their jacket/pocket. Its about the size of a large Bon Bon and is only to be used in the worst case scenario, its so light you won’t even know its there!

My kit for races

  • Petzl Nao with fully charged Rechargeable battery, along with 2 AAA spares in case that runs out.
  • Petzl E+ Lite with 2 standard size watch batteries in case that ever runs out.

My kit for evening runs

  • Either Silva Ninox 2 – Or – Petzl Reactik+
  • Then Petzl E+ Lite just in case of an emergency with the main torch when running alone.

Ian blogs about his races at: www.irunthehills.com

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