Gear Review – LED Lenser H7 Series Head Torch

As some of the bigger races (in terms of distance) creep upon us in the next few months, this means running through the night where a good quality head torch an essential bit of kit. We feel that this can often be one of the areas overlooked when you’re planning your race day, such is the planning that goes into splits and nutrition for example.

I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation whereby the torch we’re using is either poor quality, thus making it difficult to keep a good clip going through the night, and it’s during the night that can often make or break a good time in the race. I remember the final stages of North Face in 2010 as I ventured through the last section of the pairs race. I’d taken the whole head torch thing for granted and not thought that much about it, as at the time, I thought I’d only be running in dark for 30-45 mins. So bad was the torch I’d flung in the pack that I was reduced to walking because the light was not god enough to illuminate the trail.

It’s important to note that there are a lot of really good torches on the market right now, and just as with running shoes, much of it is about preference of the individual. Some people prefer heavy-duty car beam-like head torches that turn night into day. But with that generally comes a heavy battery pack to power the thing. Others like lighter ones, but sacrifice on the power – the important thing is to find the right one for you, and importantly remember that it’s going to be resting on your head for the best part of 10 hours as well.

The Top Line

The reason we’ve chosen to review the LED Lenser H7  first up is because we think it presents a good all-round option for the average trail runner. It’s pretty powerful and very cost-effective too – and importantly for me, very lightweight for the power that it emits. To give you some background on LED Lenser, they’re made in Germany and have a wide range of torches to suit different environments. Importantly they only make torches too, and word on the street is that these guys have a solid reputation for building innovative, powerful torches. If you take a look at their website, you’ll notice around six or seven different ranges, and the H-series stands quite obviously for ‘head torch’. But there are other options too, and it’s worthwhile you scouting around to see what they have and the technology that runs behind them.

I’ve been using this head torch for over two years now, and the version I have is the 140 lumen one, but they’ve recently brought out a 170 version, which I currently have on order. The main reason I chose this head torch is because of three main factors:

  • It packs a punch for its weight: 170 lumens for 120grams. That’s nothing on your head.
  • It’s cost-effective. Compared to other models of similar power, this one is very good value. RRP is around $104 for the new model.
  • It takes 3 AAA batteries, which last up to 54 hours (this will be on the lowest setting).
A beam shot of the H7R - This lightweight head torch really does pack a punch for its size, knocking out 170 lumens at just 120 grams

The Details

Now for the nerdy bits and pieces for all you gear freaks. I’ve outlined some of the top line stats above, but when you do the sums, it’s the stats above that point to this being an all-round great head torch. With regards to the power, I personally stick lithium batteries in there to boost it some more, which does add to the expense somewhat. However I only add those in for race day and on my recent Northburn 100 miler race, I used this comfortably for 12 hours on a medium light setting.

The whole light can be moved and positioned according to where you'd like to direct the beam

This is one of the great features of the H7, the slider power bar that allows you to adjust the brightness according to your terrain. Admittedly, for dense bush and single file track you’ll need it on the highest setting, but for Northburn where the trail was wide open a medium setting is perfectly adequate. From memory, if you place the bar on the highest setting, you’ll get a good 6-8 hours of quality light from 3 x AAA lithium batteries. I generally have it placed on a setting just slightly less than that and that’s good enough to get you through the night.

The other bonus with the H7R is the ability to change from a broad beam to a very focused spot beam. I’ve found in the past that after a few hours of wearing a head torch, tunnel vision sets in as your eyes adjust to the beam and everything is viewed only through that ‘tunnel’ of light. Having this option has helped me to reduce that as you can constantly tweak with how you’d like your beam to appear on the trail, depending upon the terrain you’re running on. In addition to that, and as a little tip, I also carry a smaller hand-held torch, which enables me to focus the head torch beam on the immediate trail around me, whilst using the hand-held to point into the distance and look for markers further up the trail. Some people I know don’t like carrying things in their hand, but I find this a really good combination to help in dense bushland.

The beam range, as quoted on the LED website is up to 180 metres, so again it gives you a very solid range to see up the trail. It’s not as strong as others on the market e.g. Ayup, but when used to light up your immediate surroundings, I’ve never had any trouble at all and the beam is very bright. As for the way in which it sits on your head, one of the other reasons I’m a big fan of this is that it’s a single band around the head, and doesn’t have the strap that runs over the top of the head like some other brands do. It can do this because it’s so lightweight compared to others on the market, and there’s no need to have the additional support. The fact that it only uses 3 x AAA batteries also means that it feels lightweight on your head and you don’t need to go down the gym three weeks prior to your race to do neck strengthening exercises!

The Bottom line

As you’ve probably gathered, I’m a big fan of this head torch as it suits me down to the ground in terms of its functionality and all round good options for cost, weight and power. However there are a number of considerations you need to make when considering a purchase. As mentioned, I use this in conjunction with a strong hand-held too, particularly for dense bushland as it helps to have both an immediate view of the trail from the head torch and then the distance view with a hand-held. But this is just me and what I like. If you don’t like holding hand torches, and you don’t think 170 lumens is enough, then I’d advise going for something like an Ayup. Those things are like fricking laser beams and are bright enough to distract low-flying planes! But with that comes the drawback of a bigger battery pack and a more limited battery life, depending on the pack you chose.

I also like simplicity, and this is what the H7 is. You use it straight out the box, stick the batteries in and off you go with what I think is a very powerful torch for its overall weight and size. I don’t want to mess around with battery packs and building the damn thing myself, so for me this torch is perfect in that regard.

Finally, just a word of warning on the LED Lenser ranges. Due to its popularity and I think reputation, there’s a whole heap of imitations on the market which look, feel and operate exactly like the originals. Be careful if you do buy online, and if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. For the H7R head torch, an authorised dealer in Australia will sell this at around the $100 mark. If it’s a lot cheaper, just be careful. Although that’s not to say that it isn’t cheaper in other countries, because they are – we all know that everything in Australia is priced significantly higher than elsewhere in the World! My advice is to buy from an authorised dealer in Australia to get the warranty, so check the websites thoroughly before you go ahead.

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Dan
I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

16 thoughts on “Gear Review – LED Lenser H7 Series Head Torch

  1. Good review Dan, definitely an often overlooked area but so critical come race day (night) I have been using an old Petzl Tikka Plus for a few years and at its time it was a half decent light, but LED’s have improved loads. You certainly get what you pay for and there doesn’t seem to be any short cuts. It is an area of trade-offs, the more power required, the bigger the battery you have to carry. Agree with your comments about the Ayups. I have just got myself a set with the lightweight battery pack and they certainly turn night into day on an extreme level !

  2. Hi Dan
    I’m currently looking to buy my first head lamp. I’ve seen some others in the market (eg. Black Diamond) that don’t have a battery holder at the back of the strap – which would appear to be lighter and more comfortable that the LED Lendser one pictured. Have you tried any without a separate battery pack (I think the batteries on the Black Diamond version for example are situated behind the light). Are you aware of the battery pack when wearing this model? I’m attracted to the brightness of the LED Lenser version though.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Stephen, what type of running will you be doing with the light i.e. trail, bush, mountain or road? And how long do you anticipate running for in terms of hours? The reason I ask is that different lights do suit different terrain. I’d say that the LED Lenser above is a good all round light for all types of terrain. If you’re worried about the weight of it, I wouldn’t be. At 120grams, this is one of the lightest lights you can get for the power that it puts out. I personally havent tried Black Diamond lights, but there’s a reason for that – Ive not heard the greatest of things about them, but like I said, I’m yet to actually try one, so couldn’t comment with authority.

      If you’re doing bush running, you can’t go past the Ayup. Seriously bright and although the battery pack is heavier, for the power you get, it’s like having fricking laser beams on top of your head! Just shout if you have anymore questions.

      1. Thanks Dan. Single track medium technical trails (although at this stage I’m a bit spooked about running these types of trails in the dark!!) and fire road trails (which seems more achievable in non-daylight). I’ll start off running about 2 hours using the headlamp ’til I get used to it and build up gradually from there. I know this is a lame (!) question but what sort of head lamp does Kilian use??! Just interested, because I know it will be (a) a friggin’ fortune, (b) very good and (c) make me run as fast as him!!!
        Cheers
        Stephen

      2. The H7 is a good first bet I’d say, just make sure you’re not running with someone who has an ayup as it will basically screw up your light and vision too! Longer term though you might be better with the Ayup. They are seriously bright and on single track work a dream. As for what Kilian uses, I’m not sure but I’ll try and find out!

        Is great running in the dark… Very quiet and peaceful… I love it

  3. Thanks to your review i purchased this from ebay and went out on my first early morning trail run this morning. I was more than happy with the comfort and power of this light. A new experience running in the dark was made a lot easier with this great bit of kit. Thanks again.

    1. That’s great to hear David, glad its worked out for you. The H7 is a good option to start off with. As you do more and more night running and in dense bush, the Ayup is a good option to consider too… but lots of variables depending upon what you’re doing. All the best. Dan.

  4. I’ve picked one of these up after reading the article, and have been using it for a while now – including the GNW. The concept is great, and I love the adjustability of both lens angle and intensity. However, I’ve got to say that two things disappoint me. Firstly, the lack of an overhead strap means that the battery pack drops down behind my head, and the head strap follows suit and digs into my ears. The second thing, and this is most annoying, is that the 90 degree swivel which allows the light to point from right ahead through to directly at the ground, lacks a robust method of securing the light at the required angle. In a recent 55k race, I experienced a light that dropped to point at the ground every eight to ten steps … that was frustrating.

    Overall, a great concept, but it does need a few bugs ironed out. Oh, I picked up the rechargable model by the way. It is great, as the batteries can be recharged via USB or traditional 240v outlet. For race day I have been changing the rechargables out for lithium batteries, as they have a much longer life.

    1. Hey sandon, good to hear from you and your experiences. This is probably a stupid question from me, but have you adjusted the straps at all to secure it tighten it? You probably have but thought I’d check. Also not heard of the light dropping like that, but seems like you’ve had issues. I’m not affiliated with lenser in anyway, but if there’s sme kind of fault with the light, I’d send it back to the manufacturer.

      1. Thanks Dan. Just thought I’d share my experiences as its worth prospective buyers getting as much info as they can.

        I have tightened the straps, but maybe it’s the dodgy shape of my head? Anyway, interesting that you haven’t heard of the lens dropping, as it looked like a design fault to me – maybe mine is faulty. I’ll definitely get in contact with Lenser.

        Cheers for the comments, and keep up the great work with the site – I’ve been a voyeur here for ages and I think you guys have a great formula that’s working well.

  5. I discovered both trail-running and the Lenser H7 last year. What a heady combo.
    I used the headtorch on the mobile flashmob that is Oxfam Trailwalker, and while the 100k proved that i like distance more than crowds, it also served to give me a great gear test with the Lenser being a highlight (sorry i had to). With fresh batteries you can cook a koala at 100m and birds just drop out of the trees smoking.
    Regarding Stephen’s issues re comfort of a rear battery pack i found that it is more balanced with the split weight distribution than having all the weight at the front. Especially on the bouncier single track moments.
    Thanks for all your gear freakin.
    Aaron

    1. Thanks for the reivew. Overall I think it is a great head torch (lightweight and bright) but I concur with Sandon – I have the same two issues. Despite tightening it to the max, it falls down on my ears without a centre strap. More frustrating is the way the lens ‘bounces’ down to just illuminate my feet when running hard. There is no way of securing this. Im gonna jam a piece of blu-tak in there, but disappointed there is no proper mechanism to tighten.

  6. The headgear leaves to be desired. No matter how much you tighten it, it ends up falling on your ears while running. Should have another strap. Easy to fix.

    Same goes with the hinge. Weak and sometimes it lets go. Gets worse as the time goes by. Easy to fix with a drop or two of cianoacrylate.

    The cable is a piece of crap. I wish they would have used a thicker cable. I would happily trade off a few grams for a headlap that could actually use. Mine now sits taken appart in a drawer. The thing is that I used this headlamp for running, camping, climbing and also working in a car. That lead me to give the hinge a workout… and the cable also got bent one way and the other quite a few times. Since the cable is so think and the rubber coating so soft… it gets pinched by the plastic pieces that hold the cable to the elastic strap. It also gets mangled in the front plastic piece as well.

    Anyway, one day the lamp started acting up. I traced the problem to be a broken cable (when twisted it would go on, and when released, go off). I took it appart only to find out that the gauage they are using is ridiculous… and that instead of two conductors… the cable actually has three.

    So far I haven’t found a suitable cable to replace the original one. The headlamp is thrashed.

    Other than that… yes, the light output is great. But I am sticking to Petlz from now on.

  7. the light outpus is great, very lovely, i use it almost everyday for night riding … but unfortunately the cable is broken after 6 months use and the hinge is broken after 8 months use … to bad ..

  8. My H7 now points towards the floor with remarkable frequency, taking only a hundred or so meters to achieve this position! It’s a good light when it’s on the area I need to see though.

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