A word about lighting.
When running, your chief concern from dusk til dawn – is night time visibility. That much is obvious.
But as you strive to secure that largest, most powerful equipment known to mankind, it might be wise to consider some of the more practical concerns associated with moving at speed through the darkness.
Here is my advice, based entirely on experience:
Criteria for a running headtorch are as follows:
Light – enough, but not over kill. There are torches out there which put my car’s headlights to shame, but in reality – if you can see the ground before you and you’ve enough warning of what’s approaching, you’ll cope. Which leads neatly into point 2…
You’re moving at a pace, so it appears that obstacles are hurtling at you from the gloom. Bear in mind, that if you have enough power to illuminate 20 meters of ground, you’re unlikely to ever be taken by surprise. You’d have to be running at an inhuman speed over uneven terrain to come a cropper due to something appearing out of the blue.
The difference between one torch and the next, aside from raw power, is the quality of the light itself. Years ago, you’d be blessed with a very warm yellowy glow from a filament bulb, perhaps if you were lucky, it’d be backed by a little mirror to enhance the strength by bouncing the light that would otherwise be lost. Soon after came the various Halogen options and then LEDs. In various ways technology has improved the characteristics of a low power light source (via additional lenses, etc, much the same as with lighthouses), to the extent that at roughly 200 Lumens, you can see further than necessary, while also flooding the immediate area in such a way that you’d swear you had you own personal patch of daylight, as I like to call it.
The remainder is purely a matter of comfort. Secure headbands, easy to operate controls, no nonsense battery installation and so on.
The clincher in many cases, might just be the little extras that get thrown in for good measure. For example, some products come complete with a range of accessories. Some arrive alone, but with the promise of accessories available separately. Things like extra batteries, spare headbands of alternate colours, extension leads, belt clips, mounts for bike handlebars and so on and so on..
Weight. None of the above counts for anything if the damn thing threatens to break your neck. For a good while, it was a given that your torch would employ a pack of batteries, which would have to site on the rear of your headband, or if you had it good, upon your belt – via the aforementioned extension. Well these days, it’s incredible just how impressive a super lightweight torch can be, while self contained on the front of your head, weighing in at a mere 86g, with the 3 x AAA batteries in! You’re hardly burdened by the torch then, while still able to spot objects at 30 or so meters and the floor around your feet illuminated at the same time, thanks to twin lamps and an intelligent system of mixing flood beams with spots to offer exactly the right balance of light for all occasions.
And there’s burn time. Where once you might have factored in a change of batteries at around an hour and a half, these days even the most modest of units could last up to 30 hours on its strongest setting.
So, with all of this, your buying guide might be something along these lines:
Get a simple, front mounted headtorch – that weighs next to nothing. Try to make sure it runs on AAA batteries if you can, since it’ll be possible to stock up on Lithium versions, which are lighter, more powerful and more resilient against cold weather conditions, while offering you the chance to always have spares upon your person for safety.
Choose a torch with something like 200 Lumens available. I have one that kicks out 180 and only ever really use it on half power, but it’s enough to see where I’m going. So the many torches out there with three times as much power or more, are nice to be sure, but they’re a bit over the top and can’t be used in a group setting or when close to residential areas without causing offense, if not temporary blindness.
Make sure that it has a comfy stable headband and won’t irritate, or slide out of place.
Keep it simple, perhaps in a self contained unit without trailing wires or obvious points of weakness, but if these are vital, then be sure that they’re constructed out of good quality materials that won’t break while stuffed in your bag.
Waterproofing would be a bonus, since you’re inevitably going to get rained on at some point. You might even accidentally drop the thing and it’d be nice to fish it out from a puddle/river/toilet and find that it still works just fine.
Finally, if you can see the value in it, grab one which allows a variety of light modes for use in close proximity, map reading without disturbing night vision, preserving battery life and so on.
An in-built power meter can be a good extra feature, since it might help you avoid heading out with batteries due for replacement mid-run.
And if it’s at all possible, make sure that your torch has more than one beam, working in conjunction, so that you can exploit a long distance spot, with a wide flood of light around your feet.
Sounds like a tall order, which might cost the earth if you’re not careful.
But in actual fact, we currently sell a torch that does all of the above for just £30!
It’s the Ninox2 from SILVA and it represents the lowest end of our current range of headtorch options in-store. Dynamite.