The Best Running Head Torches For 2021
Written By: SportsShoes
WHY DO YOU NEED A HEAD TORCH FOR RUNNING?
Dark nights bring inevitable safety risks, especially when running next to busy roads. Head torches allow you to be seen by motorists, cyclists and other pedestrians, but most importantly, they will help to light your way, showing you where best to run in order to avoid potholes and kerb edges.
In winter, head torches are essential for off-road running, allowing you to complete your favourite routes in the dark by providing necessary light and giving you confidence on unpredictable and challenging terrain. In the unlikely event of an emergency a head torch will also help you be seen at night and therefore serves as an important piece of safety equipment. It’s always advisable to carry a small lightweight head torch, especially if you’re planning on running alone.
WHAT ARE LUMENS AND HOW MANY DO YOU NEED FOR A HEAD TORCH?
Lumens are a unit of measurement and used to rate the brightness of a head torch – the higher the number, the brighter the light. For road running, a minimum amount of 50 lumens is required in low-light conditions and for the trail, it should be at least 100 lumens.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A HEAD TORCH
Aside from lumens, head torches need to be practical in shape, weight and size. As you’re wearing the device on your head whilst moving at pace, it must fit comfortably and stay in a fixed position. Buy a head torch that suits your needs and demands - for example, if you are only using it to be seen on short road runs, then you won’t need to go out and buy the brightest, most expensive device on the market. We would also recommend buying a head torch from a reputable and trustworthy brand – be careful of purchasing cheap items that make bold promises. If something on the internet seems too good to be true, then it usually is! In which case, do your research and read the reviews.
Our Sportsshoes.com Running Ambassador Ben Mounsey, has been busy testing our range of headtorches. Here he gives his lowdown on the best models and his top recommendations:
THE BEST HEAD TORCH FOR TRAIL RUNNING: SILVA TRAIL SPEED 4XT
If you’re looking for some serious light output then the Silva Trail Speed 4XT certainly packs a punch. This lightweight model delivers up to 1200 lumens on full power mode and makes it possible to run at speed in the darkest of conditions. It has an intelligent light system which can readjust to focus on objects both near and far, helping to widen your vision and perspective when travelling at pace.
The 4XT is flexible in design, allowing you to run with the battery on the backplate, or detach and use with an extended cable to carry the battery in your pocket or inside a pack. It is also suited to multi-sports as it comes with extra attachments for a bike and helmet.
This is the most powerful compact head torch that I’ve ever used for trail and fell running. It’s opened up a whole new world for me during the winter months, allowing me to run in places I would have previously avoided in the dark. The Silva 4XT has 3 light modes, making it really easy to use. If I’m running for less than a couple of hours then I use this device on max power mode and take full advantage of its most powerful beam, especially when I’m training on the fells or moorland in pitch black conditions. However, if I intend on running for longer, then I usually opt for the second mode, which boasts 600 lumens and is more than ample for every type of condition and environment. It’s rare that I use the low power mode, but at 80 lumens it is adequate and suitable for running in low-light conditions.
It took a couple of training runs to adjust and perfect the size and fit of the headtorch, but now it sits very comfortably on top of my head. Previously, I’ve tested models with a similar specification and found them to be extremely heavy and uncomfortable. The Silva 4XT doesn’t compromise on weight or power and strikes a perfect balance between the two.
I also like the fact that the USB cable can be plugged straight into the side of the battery pack which means I can easily charge it without having to take the head torch apart. I have also found the battery power indicator to be a really useful guide, as I know when the headtorch needs to be recharged. When the battery is running low, the headtorch beam will flash to give you an early warning that it’s time to recharge.
So, if you’re serious about fell, mountain or trail running and you need a powerful and lightweight head torch to help you train in the darkest conditions, on unpredictable and gnarly terrain, then the Silva Trail Speed 4XT is the ideal model for this task.
THE BEST HEAD TORCH FOR ULTRA RUNNING: PETZL NAO+
In truth, I could easily be recommending the Silva Trail Speed 4XT for this category and vice-versa, as in my opinion, both are the best models for trail and ultra-running. But for me, the reason the Petzl Nao+ edges it as the best head torch for ultra-running is purely down to two things - comfort and weight.
Boasting an impressive 750 lumens on max power, the Nao+ isn’t as powerful or as bright as the 4XT, but it does weigh less at 185g compared to the latter at 257g. Although it has to be stressed that both head torches are very much powerful lightweight models. The other slight advantage the Nao+ holds over its rival in this instance is its ease of adjustment. Rather than having to push and pull a series of straps to tighten or loosen the device, just one tug of the top strap will do the job and it’s so easy to adjust that it can be done whilst running and without having to remove from your head. When your hands are cold and/or you don’t want to stop – I can assure you that this is an extremely handy feature! The unique strap design also helps to evenly distribute the weight of the torch across your head and ensures maximum comfort for long periods of use.
I would also recommend buying an extra battery pack (or two) for ultra-running, depending on the distance and time you intend to be exposed in the dark. The battery pack is sleek in design and easy to carry and change. It requires only a single twist of the power cable to unlock, before the battery case can be pushed out and detached. This exposes the USB A connector which can then be plugged straight into a laptop, or plug, for a quick and simple recharge. Another fantastic little feature of this compact battery case is that it flashes red when in use, which is especially good for increasing safety on the roads, as you are more visible to cars from both the front and rear. Like the 4XT, there is also a useful battery power indicator with 3 bars to show exactly how much charge is left on the device and you can also detach the battery from the headband to store it in a race pack, running vest or waist belt.
There are a number of light options to choose from, single or double beam (Reactiv and Constant), plus two lighting modes within each of these lighting technologies. Although less bright, the Reactiv will prolong battery life and provide ample light for all types of running, automatically adjusting the brightness and beam pattern based on whatever is in your field of vision. Personally, I’m just a fan of Constant max power mode, especially for shorter runs, as I prefer as much light as possible and I don’t need to worry about prolonging the battery life. However, any activity over two hours forces me to be far more conservative!
THE BEST BUDGET RUNNING HEAD TORCH: PETZL ACTIK / SILVA SCOUT 2XT
Let me be perfectly clear - you don’t have to rush out and buy the latest and most expensive device to enjoy the benefits of owning a headtorch. There are plenty of budget models that are more than fit for purpose and probably more suited to someone who is only occasionally running in the dark or wants something to provide additional light and enhance their safety during training sessions.
I have two comparable recommendations for the best budget head torch. The Petzl ACTIK and the Silva Scout 2XT , both offer 350 lumens of brightness, have multi-beam options and are well suited for a range of dynamic outdoor activities. In addition, the latter uses Silva intelligent light, which provides a unique combination of long reach spot light and a close flood light - giving you a clear view of both near and far obstacles.
The Petzl ACTIK has red lighting which preserves night vision and prevents members of a group from blinding each other. It also has an easy-to-adjust reflective headband and is compatible with mounting accessories for a helmet or a bicycle.
Both lightweight models are the perfect companion for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on something they will only use a handful of times or just wants a head torch that is affordable without having to compromise on quality and performance.
THE BEST LIGHTWEIGHT EMERGENCY HEAD TORCH: PETZL E+LITE ULTRA COMPACT EMERGENCY HEADLAMP
For the safety conscious trail runner, the Petzl e+LITE Ultra Compact Emergency Headlamp is an essential emergency item. It even comes with a unique and compact carry case, plus an integrated whistle which can be used for attracting attention. Weighing just 26g and with 50-lumens of power, this head torch is always ready to use and can be easily carried in a backpack, or vest, as part of your emergency kit. It can be stored with its batteries for up to 10 years and has white or read strobe lighting which is visible from a distance.