Running in the dark is so much fun if you’ve not tried it, however, if you do not have a decent head-torch it can become dangerous and very difficult and you may not enjoy the experience just because of your head-torch. The better your head-torch the more fun you will have as you will feel safer, have more balance and will trust your kit.
What sort of running are you going to do? If it’s mainly a main road then you really do need to explore your running a bit more and get off-road and what better time to explore your running than now!
If you are a roady, you really probably, most definatly, maybe don’t need a running headtorch. Perhaps if it’s easy pathways (TPT, Dam Flask-esque, for example) you may get away with a £20 one from the petrol station but you still may feel not quite as safe as if you invested in something a bit more lightable and lightable (i.e that shines more light and is light on the head).
If it’s easier trails (Rivelin, Endcliffe Park etc) where there isn’t so much street or urban light filtering through you may want something around the £40 mark.
If you are fell running or doing long ultras in the dark for 4-12 hours or Dark Skies Marathons (these are so much fun!) then invest invest invest.
You would pay £100 plus for a pair of trainers that may only last you 6 months, (that’s nearly £20 a month) so why not invest in decent light that could potentially last you 6 years? (that could be £20 a year)
So, first ask yourself: What do I want it for?
If you are coming out on one of my trail runs in the dark I would expect people to have a decent headtorch (no, not a £10 picked up on your way from your local Esso garage, nor the Shell garage).
Lumens: The brightness of a light. The higher the lumens, the brighter the head torch.
Burn time: The length of time the headtorch will stay on for
What I own and why?
I once owned the Petzl Tikka (no longer available) and it was about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Yum!
I then invested in a LED Lensor H7 (no longer available) but lost it on the Dusk Till Dawn 50 miler around the Peak District. I now own the Petzl NAO – the older model of the now Petzl NAO+. I also own a Petzl Bindi – see my reviews below.
Please note all reviews are views of my own and are not sponsored in any way. They are from either my own personal experience or that of others (not just Google). I’ve done quite a few night races /runs that have involved using a head torch. These are:
- 24 hour lapped races in teams – Equinox and TR24, and another TR24,
- 82 mile Ultras with 8 hours in the dark in late November at the Hardwolds 80
- Another 82 miler with 6 hours in the dark across The Dales Way
- 100 mile Ultra in Summer running up and down the 3 Yorkshire Peaks in pitch black on the Pennine Barrier 100
- A couple of night marathons – Kielder Dark Skies and Midnight Marathon
- Two aptly named ‘Dusk till Dawn’ runs – the first a 50 miler in the Peaks Dusk till Dawn Peak District Ultra, and Dusk till Dawn at Manvers.
- The larger Ultra Trail World Tour ultra’s were Capadoccia Ultra Trail in Turkey which consisted of 8ish hours of running in the dark in unknown terrain and I did finish Tarawera Ultramarathon in New Zealand just in time to not put my headtorch on but carried it with me.
- The White Rose 60 Bonfire night lit up the skies but I still needed my headtorch for the second 30 mile lap.
Petzl Nao Plus
This is an amazing ‘reactive’ headtorch so reacts with the light to give different light outputs, saving on battery too. There are three settings as well. There is software that you programme in for different light settings, for example, if you are doing a 4 hour run in the dark you want it to last 4 hours so you can programme this in and it will give you the max lumens and various settings to ensure you do not run out of power. It also gives you 30 mins before it dies on you (just make sure you are not at the top of Whernside when it starts flashing at 3am in the morning! – read about that venture here)
- Max lumens: 750 over 6.5hr
- Burn time: 1hr 30 to 15hrs
- Approx range: 65m – 140m
- Weight: 185g
- Price: The most expensive, expect to pay over £100
If money is no object or are doing serious nighttime running (long ultra’s in the dark) or can get hold of a Petzl NAO (old model) cheap then go for it
Here is a review if you want the dog’s bollocks (and cat’s whiskers)
Petzl Reactik+ gets good reviews, I can’t vouch for it myself as I have never used it. It still has the reactiveness like the Nao but is half the price and would suffice for a couple of hours running on a trail.
- Max lumens: 300 over a 3.5hr
- Burn time: 2.5hrs to 15hrs
- Approx range: 70-110m
- Weight: 115g
- Price: £70
I’d personally look around to see if you can get the old NAO for about £80 instead, I picked mine up for about £80 a few years ago
You can also pick up the Petzl Reactik (not the plus) for £59 The Plus version has added settings like Bluetooth – being able to control the settings from your mobile phone.
I used to own a LEDLensor H7 which was awesome unfortunately I lost it on the Dusk Till Dawn 50 miler around the Peak District a couple of years ago (whilst using my new Petzl Nao) This has now been discontinued but the replacement is probably the following LED Lensor NEO10R
- Max lumens: 600
- Burn time: up uto 100 hours
- Approx range: Up to 150 metres
- Weight: 179 grams
- Price: £56
Kalenji OnNight 710
If you are a fan of decathlon you could do a lot worse than this one, it’s the Kalenji OnNight 710 It’s not reactive like the Petzl ones but it seems to get good enough reviews – fewer lumens than the Nao or Nao+ obviously
- Max lumens: 300 over 3hrs
- Burn time: 3hrs to 12hrs
- Approx range: up to 75m
- Weight: 120g
- Cost: £30
You could do a lot worse than Alpkit and I know of some GB runners who have used them in mountain runs and swore by them, check out their range here
I’d personally go for the Qark for the money you will do well with this- and don’t forget they have a local shop in Hathersage and can advise.
- Max lumens: 580 lumens
- Cost: £33
A handheld torch is useful too but I decided on my ultra journey that I’d like another headtorch as they are easier and lighter. I love my Petzl Bindi – not for rough terrain but its really small and at 35g you get a really good light torch. It is also great for the compulsory kit check if you have to carry a headtorch but don’t really need to use it, or very useful if you need to change batteries in your main headtorch or just need double light, for example, coming down rocky descents or in dense woodland.
- Max lumens: 200 over 2hr
- Burn time: 2hrs to 50hrs
- Approx range: 6m to 36m
- Weight: 35g
- Price: About £30-40
Silva Trail Runner 4 gets good reviews but I can’t comment on this personally. There is also Black Dimond and other brands about, just please, don’t go for your £2.99 headtorch from B&M or that £10 one from your local Esso or Shell garage.
There are heaps of head torches about, these are just a few based on my personal experience and that of others. If your budget is limited and you are not too fussed about the reactive side and technology then I’d probably go for Alpkit, if you want something a bit more fancy the Reactiv+ looks good and if you want the all singing all dancing (and it runs’ PB’s for you whilst you sit on the sofa scoffing chips and ice cream) then, by all means, splash out on the Petzl NAO+ its an amazing bit of kit.
Where to buy?
Your choice! Of course there is Amazon, SportsShoes, Wiggle etc plus the manufacturers sites and all the running shops’ websites. Alpkit have their own site, as do Decathlon. Google up and get the best price, and don’t forget the discount on SportsShoes if you are an EA Running Club member.
Over to you…
And if you’ve got a different headtorch or even one of the above why not tell us about it, is it any good? where have you used it? how much was it? Share the love and the knowledge.