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).
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.
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.