- Reading in your tent – 20 lumens (yellow light to help you relax)
- Hiking and Camping – 200 lumens
- Urban Running – 200 lumens
- Trail Running – 300 to 900 lumens
- Mountain Running – 500 to 900 lumens (white light to keep you alert)
- Cycling – 900 lumens+
How long you need your battery to last for will depend on your activity. How long the battery lasts will depend on the size of the battery and the brightness setting. All batteries will decay over time, which means the brightness after several hours will be significantly lower than when you first switched it on. To reduce this decay and be mindful of the planet, always choose a rechargeable torch. The output will always be far superior, it’s efficiency in the cold will be better and you will save yourself money in the long run. There are some situations however, particularly if you are in a remote location for an extended period of time, when you need to use disposable batteries.Some torches have interchangeable batteries.
For most head torches with a battery that is of a functional size (i.e. not heavy) you will get roughly 2 hours at full brightness. The only way to get around this ,other than REACTIVE lighting as mentioned above, is to either take spare batteries or reduce the brightness. Some torches also come with a smartphone app allowing you to program the duration you need the light for and it will calculate resultant lumens.
Considering how long it takes to recharge your torch is also important. For bright torches, you will need to charge them for up to 9 hours at a time and for less bright torches, up to an hour. It’s extremely important that you only buy from reputable manufacturers. Lithium-ion batteries are highly volatile components and those made by non-approved companies have been known to explode. It’s also recommended you don’t charge batteries unattended.
To sum up, if you don’t need a super bright torch, compromise slightly on the brightness for one that is lighter and quicker to recharge.
- Reading in your tent: A month worth of reading a couple of hours a night
- Camping and hiking: A few hours each day for up to a week
- Urban and Trail Running: Up to 2 hours
- Mountain Running: 6.5 hours+
Head torches often get quite a beating! They get thrown in the bottom of a rucksack only to be used in horrendous rain and biting cold, yet are expected to be reliable. When you need a head torch, you really need it, so it’s important to look for a decent IP (ingress protection) rating. It should be IPX4 rated which means it can cope with all weather conditions.
Other things to note is that connecting wires should remain intact and any elastic headbands remain elasticated to provide a solid build. Every head torch should also have a travel lock-function so that it doesn’t accidentally get switched on in your bag, which is not only a fire risk but also really annoying when you go to use it!
In 1973, Petzl had the ingenious idea to purchase some knicker elastic from a lingerie store to mount the first wearable head torch! Since then, the advances of torch and battery have been huge, but the mounting principle has remained unchanged, keeping the torch attached securely and comfortably on your head.
Head torches weighing more than 200g are cumbersome and uncomfortable. Cyclists can use a much heavier battery for a brighter torch, as it can be mounted to their bike frame and they are not bouncing up and down like a runner would be. However, if you are wearing the torch on your head, you’ll need it to be light for comfort and stability. A stable torch should stay in position if you shake your head from left to right
Thinking about how you want the weight distributed on the torch is also important. If wearing it on your head, we recommend wearing something like a buff or hat underneath the torch for added comfort.Some torches also offer the ability of moving the battery to an inside pocket to keep the batteries warm in extreme cold through the use of an extension cable. There are also a few designs which allow a torch to be worn on a waist belt.
- Back-up torch: <50g
- Camping, Urban and Trail Running: <100g
- Mountain Running: <200g + evenly distributed weight
Head torches are usually designed in 3 ways: one very powerful LED; a couple of relatively powerful LEDs; or several less powerful ones. Powerful LEDs are more capable of providing not just a bright light, but also a focussed beam that is great for looking into the distance. For torches with two LEDs, one usually provides the focus for distance and the other a wide beam for close-up. The multiple LEDs are less capable of focussing on the distance but they are a lot lighter. It’s important that there are no dull spots in the beam pattern as our brains try to compensate for them,which leads to tiredness, so often a mixed pattern is best (focussed and wide).
- Camping and Hiking: Wide Beam
- Urban and Trail Running: Mixed Beam (Focus and Wide)
- Mountain Running: Mixed Beam (Focus and Wide)
For most people, choosing a head torch will come down to cost. However, I hope you have realised by now that the most expensive isn’t always the best for your needs, nor is it the brightest. You need to find a good balance between weight, brightness and battery life that is most suited to the activities you’ll be doing. A torch for reading in your tent can cost less than £20 and there is no reason to spend more. If you are hiking and camping or urban running, you can get a brilliant head torch for less than £60, which will do everything you need and last a long time; mine is now 15 years old and still going strong! If you are running on trails though, we suggest you invest in a brighter torch for better comfort and safety. If you are heading for all night adventures, then moving towards the top end of the range will mean you can plan your adventures and never get caught in the dark.
Head torches don’t need to break the bank. Your decision should be based on what you will be using it for. Finding a comfortable lightweight torch is just as important as one that is bright, because if it gives you a headache, you won’t want to wear it!
At the end of the day a torch is an investment, ensuring you enjoy staying active safely. Getting a torch that is reliable, easy to use and bright enough for your needs, means that you can forget you are even wearing it and just enjoy getting outdoors!
- Urban Running, Camping and Hiking: Up to 200lm and lasts on a low setting for using multiple times during 1 week, quick to charge, simple to use, ideally with a red light setting, low cost.
- Trail Running: At least 300lm up to 900lm; lasts around 2 hours on max setting, mixed beam (focus and wide), comfortable weight distribution.
- Mountain Running: At least 500lm up to 900lm; lasts around 6 hours, mixed beam (focus and wide), comfortable weight distribution with easy replacement of spare batteries.
While most of us would prefer to run during the day with the sun shining, busy schedules and limited daylight hours often mean running in the dark evenings or the low light of the morning.
Although it can seem a little daunting, don't let the dark stop you heading out; stay alert and follow these tips for staying safe while running at night. Remember, it you don't feel comfortable outside, there's always the treadmill instead.