Petzl Nao+ 750L Headtorch Review

The Petzl Nao is a great headtorch for serious off road running so is the upgraded Nao+ with 750 lumens even better?

I’ve had the second generation Petzl Nao headtorch (the 575 lumen version) for a couple of years and have had chance to get the most out of it on long overnight runs. I used it on the Charlie Ramsay Round and the High Peak Marathon where long battery life was vital and the reactive lighting setting was really useful when using a map and compass. I’ve been fairly impressed with it so wondered if the updated Nao+ is even better.

photo of Petzl Nao+ headtorch

Petzl Nao+ head torch, distinguishable by its red trim

What’s new?

Looking at the Nao alongside the updated Nao+ the most obvious difference is the colour scheme with the Nao+ having a red, black and white head unit as opposed to the old light grey and white. Also the battery compartment is changed to red and black from the old grey.

photo of Petzl Nao+ battery pack

Red and Black on the Nao+ battery pack

Shape and size are still the same but there is a change to the attachment system with the non elastic black cord being replaced by elasticated red bungee type cord. I feel this gives a slightly better fit and is more comfortable. Other than that the versions appear the same.

photo of Petzl Nao head strap

elasticated bungee replaces static cord on the head strap

Cosmetics aside it’s the performance and operating system where the main differences lie. The Nao+ has the same Reactive Technology which senses the ambient and reflected light and brightens and dims the torch accordingly. Some people don’t like this but if I find that it is very useful if doing a lot of navigating, especially with a plasticated or laminated map as it significantly reduces the glare. Yes the Reactive function is affected by fog and even condensation from your breath on a cold night, but one twist of the large button switches to constant mode. Although still powered by Petzl’s own 3.7 V 2,600 mHa USB rechargeable Li-ion battery, output has increased from 575  to 750 lumens (actually I found the existing power to be perfectly adequate, even in the Mamores in the wee small hours). What is more useful is the increased battery life which now gives a claimed 12 hours in Reactive mode at 305 lumens. Whilst I’m generally sceptical of manufacturer’s claimed performances I can say from experience that it does have great battery life. I used the Nao+ on the Bob Graham Round using the low (305 lumen) Reactive setting and after 6 hours use the LED indicators still showed 2 bars (3 bars being fully charged). My old Nao only just got me through the night during the High Peak Marathon as it dimmed to reserve mode just as dawn was breaking, the Nao+ is able to last all night.

One new feature on the Nao+ is the addition of a rear red LED. This is very useful if leading a group or running along a dark lane with your back to traffic but it’s not a feature I want for racing as I don’t want people following me! So you would think “easy, just turn it off” but therein lies a problem; you need to use Petzl’s Bluetooth app to do so. Yes, if you want to turn the red light on or off mid run you have to fish out your smartphone, turn on Bluetooth, open the MyPetzl Light app and then change the settings. Oh and it’s probably raining and you’re wearing thick gloves. Great technology or a bit of a faff? You decide!

photo of Petzl Nao rear light

new for the Nao+ a rear red LED

The big difference

Which leads to the main difference between the latest version of the Petzl Nao and the previous incarnations. Now, to change any of the preset modes on the torch you need to use the “MyPetzl Light” Bluetooth app. Petzl market this feature saying that this makes it easy to change the settings in remote locations, so for example if you haven’t been able to recharge the battery you can reduce the brightness and thus prolong battery life using your phone. Hmm, not sure if I buy that! To me it’s just another app to bloat my phone and for some people who don’t bother to update their phones the app might not even be compatible!

photo of My Petzl Light app

Petzl’s Bluetooth app – great idea or a gimmick?

On the earlier Nao models you changed and customised the settings by plugging the torch into a computer and using the Petzl OS software, but the software doesn’t work with the Nao+ so you’re forced to use the Bluetooth app or stick with the factory settings (the latter have worked fine for me). Another annoyance is that the battery from my Nao isn’t compatible with the Nao+; so if you did want to do an event where a spare battery was needed you’d have to fork out for a spare (around £50) as the new version doesn’t allow for the use of AAA batteries as an emergency backup either.

Petzl Nao battery chart

Petzl website shows earlier batteries aren’t compatible

Petzl claim that the batteries aren’t interchangeable even though the connections look identical so I had a try at swapping them around.

photo of Petzl Nao battery connections

identical connections?

Oddly the Nao+ battery pack does fit onto the older Nao and the torch works, but annoyingly not the other way round. The connector doesn’t accept the battery and I’m reluctant to force it and damage something.

photo of Petzl Nao battery

the new battery works on the old torch but not vice versa!

I’d hoped that the Nao+ would have a strobe mode but alas no (although you can programme a Morse Code signal using the Bluetooth app). So whilst almost all cheap head torches can simply be switched to give an emergency signal the one torch that I am most likely to take with me to remote locations and runs where the consequences of injury are serious doesn’t!

Good Points

Just like the previous version of the torch the Nao+ gives a great spread of light and now has even longer battery life. The big switch is easy to operate even with bulky gloves. Reactive lighting means that you don’t get dazzled when looking at a map and it preserves battery life. If you don’t like the feature then one twist switches it off. The new bungee cord on makes it slightly more comfortable than the previous version.

Things to improve

The Bluetooth app isn’t for everyone! No problem if settings could be customised using Bluetooth as well as the existing OS system, but not instead of. Compatibility with the existing Nao battery packs would be a welcome feature (particularly for anyone upgrading from the Nao 575 lumen torch). The need to use a smartphone app just to turn the rear LED on and off is just too much hassle. An easily accessible emergency / strobe function as available on budget head torches should be a standard feature.

RRP £140

Verdict

The new Petzl Nao+ retains the great features of its predecessor and adds even more brightness and battery life. It is certainly my first choice torch for long overnight runs involving navigation. However it is over complicated by reliance on a smartphone to change some of its basic settings. Sometimes simplicity rather than complexity is a selling point.


Alpkit Viper 2 Head Torch Review

There are a lot of very bright, very expensive, feature laden head torches on the market these days. But not everyone needs a hugely powerful torch with batteries that last all night. What if your night runs take less than a couple of hours and are done at a fairly slow pace on easy ground; are there any head torches that are up to the task that don’t cost a fortune? The new Alpkit Viper might be worth a look.

Alpkit Viper head torch

Alpkit Viper 2 head torch

Alpkit have built up a reputation for cheap, no frills head torches and their Gamma has become very popular. The Gamma along with the original Viper provided a lightweight effective torch for less than £20. However at less than 100 lumens these torches weren’t really bright enough for anything but slow paced running on very even ground. However Alpkit have recently upgraded their torches giving them a bit more power.

Alpkit Viper & Gamma

Alpkit Viper & Gamma (mark 1) – great value torches, but not quite bright enough for trail running

Features:

Several things have changed on the 2017 version of the Viper. The new model now offers 160 lumens (compared to the previous 100) which makes it bright enough to cope with slightly faster running on more uneven terrain. The most obvious change though is a cosmetic one; the large button on top of the torch has gone and been replaced by two smaller buttons underneath the housing. This includes the on / off button and also a boost button designed to give a quick, focused beam of 280 lumens. This is ideal for picking out distant objects such as looking for the gate or stile to exit a field.

Alpkit Vipers version 1 and 2

Alpkit Vipers version 1 and 2

Alpkit Viper buttons

the buttons are now underneath the torch

The torch still takes 3x AAA batteries contained in the torch housing and is compatible with rechargeable batteries. The head unit itself can be angled down, pivoting through 5 positions whilst the elasticated strap is easy to adjust and can be removed for washing if it gets grubby from sweaty foreheads!

Alpkit Viper head band

headband is easily removed for washing

The Viper is very easy to operate; a single press gives a sequence of; Medium (51 lumen), High (160 lumen), Low (6 lumen), Red Constant, Red Strobe, Off.  The white light being provided by a single central LED and the red light by two small side LEDs. Mine also came supplied with batteries and in a handy little stuff sack which is useful for protecting it inside a rucksack or bum bag.

Alpkit Viper 2 x red LEDs

2 x red LEDs

What I like:

The Viper is lightweight, reasonably bright and easy to use. The button sequence is intuitive – no double clicking or press and hold just a simple, single press to change lighting modes. The boost button is a great feature when you want a quick burst of extra light. Even with the batteries housed in the unit itself the torch feels balanced and doesn’t bob too much when running. 2 hours battery life on full power is enough for most night runs and using rechargeable batteries makes it affordable. At less than £20 it is a very good value torch.

What could be improved:

Having the buttons underneath the torch housing takes some getting used to and I found that I inadvertently pressed the boost button when trying to adjust the angle of the housing. (It also means that you might instinctively put the torch on upside down!) Also the buttons are quite small and can be difficult to locate whilst wearing gloves. My biggest problem with the Viper is that I found it very difficult to open the battery compartment and I was worried that I was going to snap the little clasp. I found it tricky even indoors with warm hands so swapping the batteries mid run with cold fingers wouldn’t be a an easy task!

Alpkit Viper battery compartment

opening the battery compartment was tricky!

When would I use it:

The Viper is fine for short, steady paced runs on fairly even terrain where brightness and battery life aren’t paramount. I also find it useful on night time club coaching sessions when I use the low power or red mode so that I can talk to runners and see them without dazzling them. It’s an ideal torch to go into my emergency kit for mountain running and it will also go in my bum bag on evening “twilight” runs when I might just need a torch for the last fifteen to twenty minutes of a run.

Verdict:

The new Alpkit Viper is a great value for money head torch for times when you don’t need a huge amount of brightness or long battery life. It gives enough light for trail running at a steady pace on terrain that isn’t too technical. It is great as a back-up torch or to chuck into your bum bag just in case. At less than twenty quid can you afford not to have one?

Technical Information (as measured by me, not manufacturer’s stats)

Weight: 93g including batteries
Battery life (tested with 3 fully charged AAA eneloop batteries): 2 hours on full power before dimming
Price: £18 (as of Feb 2017) direct from Alpkit

 

head torch collection

What is the best head torch for running?

What is the best head torch for running? I’ve heard the question asked lots of times.

The answer is a bit harder to determine, a bit like asking which is the best car; whilst a Ferrari might be great for some things it’s not what you’d choose for taking the family on a camping holiday.  Go on any forum where the question is asked and you will have people swearing that their torch is the best and that everyone should buy the same model that they’ve got.  Well those people are wrong!!  What they actually mean is that think they have the best head torch for the type of running that they do. Whilst it might suit them it won’t suit the requirements of everyone. The person who says that their 100 lumen torch is perfectly adequate obviously doesn’t try to run down rocky, uneven ground at speed!

head torches for running

is your head torch a Ferrari or a camper van?

There is a huge range of head torches to choose from: cheap, dazzlingly bright Chinese imports, torches that automatically react to the ambient light levels, USB rechargeables, AAs, AAAs, 18650s, batteries in the head unit, batteries worn on the back of the head, batteries carried in an external pocket or waist belt, additional white, red and green LEDs, SOS mode, adjustable zoom, combined flood and spotlight…. the list goes on.

So rather than asking what is the best head torch you need to ask yourself some further questions.

What type of running will you do?

If you only intend to run at an easy pace on fairly even ground then you don’t need a very expensive or very bright torch. However if you’re planning long nights out on remote terrain then a more powerful torch with long battery life is essential.  If you are only going to be running for a couple of hours then again long battery life isn’t vital and so a torch with fewer batteries will suffice.  If you think you might progress to longer or more remote running it might be better to buy a torch that will be suitable for that rather than buying one that suits what you are currently doing and then finding that you need to upgrade.

Alpkit head torches

inexpensive torches for less challenging runs

Is brightness everything?

Some people mistakenly think that a brighter torch with more lumens is best; ever heard someone say “I got a cheap 1000 lumen torch off Ebay!”?  In some situations having a very powerful beam is important, for example when you need to see a long way into the distance, but if you’re night running rather than on a search and rescue exercise then the extra brightness can be overkill. What’s more it can dazzle other runners and dazzle yourself too if you are reading a map! Brighter torches need more powerful batteries which means extra weight, so your mega bright torch might weigh twice as much as your mate’s head torch which does just as good a job. In misty or foggy conditions a bright beam is actually worse than a dimmer one as the reflected light makes it harder to pick out features.

More important than brightness is the beam pattern. A bright, narrow beam is good for looking into the distance but doesn’t give a good spread of light. A wider, flood beam allows you to use your peripheral vision to see things rather than needing to turn your head and so is better for running, especially on technical ground.  A torch that lets you easily switch between spot and flood is a good option.

more expensive torches give a better spread of light

more expensive torches give a better spread of light

What features do you need?

Do you really need 8 different modes and brightness that is fully adjustable from bright to dim?  Is that red night vision mode really useful or is it just another setting that you need to cycle through before you get to the setting you want?  What about a rear light; some torches have a rear facing red LED which is great for leading a group, but not for leading a race!  Some torches can be turned off by infra red, you just wave your hand in front of them to switch them on and off.  That’s a great idea – until you scratch your forehead and accidentally plunge yourself into darkness!  Sometimes a simple on / off, bright / dim is all you need.

Will it be easy to carry?

A compact torch with batteries in the head unit will easily slip into a bumbag or even jacket pocket and can be put on in seconds. This makes it ideal for a twilight run when you don’t need to wear it at first but need it later in the run as it gets dark. That super bright torch with battery pack extension won’t be as comfortable to carry and your mates will have put their torches on and gone whilst you’re still trying to route the cable down the inside of your jacket and into your bum bag!

some torches have the option of carrying the battery off the head

some torches have the option of carrying the battery in a bum bag rather than on the head

Will it be easy to operate?

That might sound a bit daft but some head torches have tiny buttons. They’re easy to operate when you’re in the nice warm shop but what about when you’re out on the cold hillside with your thick gloves on. Will you still be able to feel the button then?  Most of the time you won’t need to change the mode whilst you’re on the run but sometimes you might want to turn the torch off to look at the stars or turn it to zoom to look for a field exit.  It can be really frustrating if you have to go through a sequence of clicks and holds to to do this, and then again to get back to the setting you were on.  Torches with lots of modes are fine, but sometimes less is more and simplicity wins.  Also have a look at the battery pack and imagine trying to change the batteries with gloves on or with cold hands.  Some can be very fiddly – not what you want to discover on a wet and windy night!

Will it fit your head?

Again, it may sound obvious but we’ve got different shaped heads! It might be that the torch your mate loves has a battery pack on the back that just doesn’t suit the shape of your head or that your pony tail gets in the way.

will the torch be comfortable on your head?

will the torch be comfortable on your head?

Do you believe the hype?

If you read the manufacturer’s technical details you might think that your 200 lumen torch has a life of 20 hours on maximum setting. It might last for 20 hours but the chances are that 16 of them will be too dim to allow you to run. Some cheap imports claim to put out a huge amount of lumens, but how do you know that’s accurate?

Dare you trust a cheap import?

It’s true that you can pick up a very bright Cree LED torch for less than £20 on Ebay and many people have bought them and are happy with them.  But there are others who have had them pack up and even catch fire or explode whilst charging!  Are those UltraFire batteries that came with it really the genuine article or are are they fakes?  If it does stop working you’ll be out of pocket as you won’t be able to send it back but that might not be your only concern.  If the lights go out on a country lane close to home it’s not the end of the world, if you’re up a mountain in the middle of the night it’s more serious.  So depending on what you’re using it for you might want to think about paying a bit more for a torch from a reputable company.

Can you justify buying two?

Anyone from a cycling background will know that it’s perfectly acceptable to have more than one bike, even if they cost thousands of pounds each!  Likewise you might justify that you can own more than one head torch; a powerful one with long battery life for serious outings and a lighter one for less challenging runs and as your “back up” torch.

head torch collection

it’s ok to own more than one torch!

Personal Experience

I’ve tried lots of different head torches in different situations, from long night outings such as the High Peak Marathon, the Paddy Buckley round and the Charlie Ramsay Round to short fast training sessions in the dark.  I use a head torch whilst coaching on winter evenings and whilst leading off road night runs.  I’ve also tested different torches for various magazines and the thing I’ve found is that there isn’t a “best torch”.  There are torches that are really good for the type of running that I was doing at the time and torches that weren’t suited to that type of running.  Even the most expensive torches lack some features that could be useful.

night running on technical terrain

night running on technical terrain

The first torch I bought was too bulky, the second had poor battery life and let me down on a night race. Only now on my third purchase have I found what works best for me for the majority of the running that I do – but this won’t suit everybody – and even still I use other torches for other runs.

So there’s no such thing as the best head torch for running, just an ideal torch for the run that you are currently doing, but tomorrow’s run might be different!

fell running guide

Petzl Nao

Petzl Nao (2014) 575 Lumen Headtorch

Some types of trail and fell running only require a modestly bright head torch giving a couple of hours battery life.  For more serious ventures you need a torch with a bit more power and one that gives you several hours of battery life on a bright setting.  For example an overnight event such as the High Peak Marathon requires runners to spend upward of 8 hours in the dark during which they must navigate across the notoriously difficult Bleaklow, whilst 24 hour rounds such as the Bob Graham require route finding in the high mountains during the hours of darkness.  In these situations, having a powerful head torch to see the route and not having to stop to change batteries saves both time and hassle.  So is there a head torch that is up to the task?  Step forward the new Petzl Nao 575 lumen.

Petzl Nao 575 lumen head torch

Petzl Nao (2014) 575 lumen head torch

The first version of the Nao got good reviews for its brightness and Reactive Lighting feature but fell short of expectations on battery life.  The 2014 model not only has an upgrade in brightness from 315 to 575 lumens it also gives a much better battery life.  I tested Petzl’s claim of 8 hours on constant lighting at 120 lumens and the battery lasted 7 hrs 50 mins before the torch flashed a warning and dropped to Reserve Mode (a dim light of about 20 lumens which should last for an hour)

Reactive Lighting – is it a gimmick?
When I heard about this my first thoughts were yes.  However I then found myself navigating on a night run and being dazzled by the glare from my laminated map and having to manually adjust my torch’s brightness.  When I tested the Reactive setting on the Nao I didn’t think it was working – the change in brightness was instant as I looked down to open my bum bag and then looked up again to continue running.  I also realised the other benefit of the Reactive Lighting function; improved battery life.  As you look at close objects such as the ground immediately in front of you the torch dims, thus saving battery life.  Only when you point your head to the distance does the torch illuminate on full power.  If you don’t want the feature you can simply twist the switch to turn it on to constant lighting with a choice of two brightness settings (the default settings are 480 lumens or 120 lumens but can be altered using the OS software)

I’ve heard stories that the reactive lighting gets confused in foggy conditions or by your condensing breath in cold, damp conditions.  I haven’t really found this to be a problem although the torch was affected by the glare from the reflective trim on someone’s rucksack when I was following them and it kept flaring from bright to dim.  I don’t feel this is a major problem because if it annoys you then you can simply switch to constant lighting mode.

Programmable Power
A clever feature of the new Nao is that you can customise the brightness using Petzl’s OS software.  You simply plug the torch into a computer with the supplied USB lead and you can change the torch’s settings.  For example if you know that you are going to need the torch for five hours you can tweak the settings to allow this.  The software allows you to set up different profiles for different activities.  To be honest, unless you are going to be in darkness for over 5 hours you probably won’t need this feature.  However for an overnight event such as the High Peak Marathon it is really useful to know how long your battery is going to last! Many people won’t use this software but the techie minded may love it!

customising the torch using Petzl's software

customising the torch using Petzl’s OS software

How easy is it to use?
Some torches can be quite confusing to operate requiring a sequence of press, double press, press and hold etc to select the desired light but not the Nao.  One big button needs a single twist to turn on (from the locked off position which prevents accidental turning on) and another twist to change between brightnesses.  A long twist changes from constant to reactive mode.  One thing I really like is that the big button is easy to find and twist even when wearing bulky gloves.  This is a huge advantage that the Nao has over Petzl’s other Reactive torch the RXP which is terribly fiddly to use.

A feature that is missing is a flashing / strobe. It’s probably the least used function on your torch but considering that the Nao is the type of torch that you are most likely to take on remote runs I’m surprised that it is missing.

The Lithium Ion battery pack is easy to disconnect and recharge, it simply plugs in to a USB charger (so can be recharged via 12v socket in a car).  A full recharge takes around 5 hours and three green LED’s indicate battery level.  These also illuminate briefly when the torch is turned off so you know how much battery is left.  In an emergency the battery can be replaced by two AAA’s but this gives reduced brightness and no Reactive Lighting functionality.

recharging the Nao's battery

recharging the battery (note the green LEDs)

The Nao is comfortable to wear and well balanced.  The whole unit weighs 185g with the head and battery units being connected by a simple elastic and cord system.  An additional over the head strap is supplied but I didn’t feel the need to use it.

Petzl Nao head torch

well balanced and comfortable

Performance
I’ve been using the Nao over the winter for both guided running and training.  I was particularly impressed when on a trip to an unfamiliar forest I was able to run on wet, technical, narrow trails at full pace; it was leg speed rather than illumination that was the limiting factor!  As much as the brightness it is the wide pool of light that the Nao gives off that is impressive.  Some torches give a narrow beam but the Nao allows you to use peripheral vision rather than you having to turn your head to see objects at the side.

I chose the Petzl Nao for my Charlie Ramsay Round. I needed a torch with enough power to illuminate the rough steep terrain (especially the descent off Chno Dearg) and yet enough battery power to last through the night with no faffing with battery changes. The reactive function also really came into its own, dimming every time I looked at the map then seamlessly brightening as I looked back at the terrain. I also pre-programmed the torch to give me 5 hours of battery life so I knew that it would last until dawn.

brew stop at Loch Eilde Mor

brew stop on the Ramsay round

The power and spread of the Nao’s light is really noticeable when you compare it with other torches. When running in a group one thing you need to consider is that if you run behind someone with a dimmer torch you will put them in their own shadow!

the Nao outshines lesser torches

the Nao outshines lesser torches

Is it worth it?
Over £100 is a lot to pay for a head torch especially as there are some decent torches around for less than half the price.  But having used the Nao and got used to how comfortable and easy to operate it is and how it literally outshines the opposition I’d say it is definitely worth it. For serious winter fell running or for anyone considering night runs where both brightness and long battery life are important factors, the Petzl Nao is a great choice.

Nao 2014, good choice for serious fell runners

Petzl Nao 575 lumen, a good choice for serious fell runners

Verdict

Pros: Great battery life, easy to use whilst wearing gloves, simple sequence functions, reactive feature is excellent when map reading.

Cons: Expensive, no strobe function.

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Fell Running Guide

AP ProSeries 100 Lumens Head Torch Review

AP ProSeries 100 Lumens Head Torch Review

Active Products isn’t a name that immediately springs to mind when thinking of head torches.  However this little torch with its interesting features might be worth a look for easy trail running.

Those of you who know the Alpkit Manta will instantly recognise its design and whilst it shares some features it has some differences too, not least a built in motion sensor that lets you switch it on and off with the wave of a hand.

AP Pro Head Torch

AP Pro Head Torch

The key features of the AP Pro include the smooth dimming function: rather than clicking through a series of brightness settings you press and hold the on / off button and the torch cycles through 100 lumens down to 10.  You simply release the button when you have found your desired brightness.  The focus can be manually adjusted from spot to wide beam by moving a lever above the lens.  This is particularly useful when you need to change from illuminating the ground immediately in front of you to looking further ahead – for example looking for the gate or stile where your path exits the field.

As well as the main 100 lumen Cree the torch has 2 smaller red LEDs that work in either constant or flashing SOS modes.

3 AAA batteries supplied

3 AAA batteries supplied and a 3 yr guarantee

The stand out feature of the torch is the second button that switches to motion sensor mode: press this and the torch can be switched on and off by waving your hand in front of the lens.  It’s an interesting feature that might be useful for people wearing big gloves but I haven’t quite worked out where I might use it whilst night running, I certainly wouldn’t want to inadvertently plunge myself into darkness whilst on the hoof!

The 3 AAA batteries (supplied) are housed within the main unit and so all the weight is on the forehead although at 109g this isn’t too much of an issue.  A piece of foam protecting your forehead and the single, adjustable elasticated headband give a comfortable fit and the head unit can be angled down through 8 notches on a seemingly secure ratchet to give varying angles of illumination.  Battery life on full power is claimed to be 8 hours, however this doesn’t mean you will get 100 lumens all the way through an 8 hour night run!  The torch feels sturdy and is designed to last as Active Products give a 3 year guarantee.

All in all, a neat little torch suitable for non technical trail running, just remember though – if you set it to motion sensor don’t go wiping the sweat from your brow as you run, your lights will go out!

See the features of the AP Pro here:

Interested in trying out the AP Pro?  Why come on one of my guided night runs http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/courses

 

Alpkit Headtorch Review

What’s the best headtorch for trail running?

Well if you want to light up the whole hillside with hundreds of lumens you could shell out the best part of £150 on a Petzl Nao or the 550 lumen Silva Runner.  Even with these “serious” torches you’re not guaranteed that the batteries will last the overnight section of a 24 hour event, especially in winter.

But what if mega brightness isn’t the be all and end all and you want an affordable headtorch that will do for a few hours night running on easy trails?

Last year I used an Alpkit Gamma (88 lumens) and loaned it to clients for guided night runs on non technical trails.  I also used it as my back up torch when doing more serious overnight running (I even wore it as a waist torch to supplement my headtorch whilst doing the Paddy Buckley Round) and found it perfect for my winter coaching sessions.

Lightweight at 118g including batteries

Lightweight Gamma at 118g including batteries

The Gamma has an overhead strap and rear compartment taking 3 AAA batteries and weighs in at only 118g (including batteries).  As well as the main Cree light it has single white, red and green LEDs which are useful when map reading or when lower brightness is all that is needed (such as when coaching as I can use the single LED without blinding the runners!)

Alpkit Gamma rear LED

rear red LED on the Gamma

Now Alpkit have launched a new torch, the Viper.  Again powered by 3 AAAs but housed in the main unit rather than in a separate compartment the Viper does away with the overhead strap and weighs in at a slightly lighter 97g (including batteries)  It is also slightly brighter with a 100 lumen main beam and two lower powered LEDs giving a wide beam option.

Alpkit Viper head torch

Slightly lighter Viper

Both torches have a tilt mechanism on the main body which move with a sturdy “click” (unlike some more expensive torches) whilst one press of the single button allows you to cycle through different brightness levels and flashing modes. (the Gamma has a second button at the rear for the rear red light with a choice of steady or flashing).

On the run the Gamma was slightly more balanced due to the batteries being at the rear rather than in the head unit.  It was interesting that the Gamma gave a cooler, blueish light compared to the warmer orange of the Viper.  The extra lumens of the Viper gave a slightly greater range of beam.

Alpkit Gamma vs Viper

Gamma left vs Viper right

Battery life for both torches on full power is around 4 hours (constant use) before gradually dimming – not enough for a full night on the hill but fine for a couple of hours. (I prefer to use rechargeable batteries so that I can go out fully charged every run).

Whilst neither torch is bright enough for fast, technical night running they are perfectly adequate for straightforward trails and footpaths and make a great, affordable back up torch.  At only £15 and £12.50 respectively (including 3x AAA Duracell batteries!) the Gamma and the Viper offer fantastic value for money.

So if you’re thinking of spending a lot of money on a headtorch you might want to ask yourself if you need reactive lighting, 250+ lumens, USB rechargeable batteries etc. etc. Unless you’re running very technical trails this winter….

… you could buy an Alpkit headtorch and spend the rest of the money on a decent waterproof jacket!

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LED Lenser SEO5 Review

So the clocks have changed and our trail and fell running is limited to daytime – we can’t possibly run off road in the dark can we?

Of course we can – fell running in the dark is great!  All we need is a decent head torch and a bit of common sense.  I’ve got a selection of head torches, the latest being LED Lenser’s new SEO5

So what do I look for in a running head torch?  Well: bright, light and comfortable would sum it up.  Years ago when I first tried fell running at night it was difficult to get a head torch that was bright enough without it being huge and cumbersome with a battery the size of a malt loaf!  With today’s technology bright and light is possible at the same time.

My first impression of the SEO5 was that it was only slightly bigger than my old Petzl Tikka – I just hoped it would be brighter.  On the scales it weighed in at 104g (nice to see that’s below the claimed 105g on the packaging)

LED Lenser SEO5

LED Lenser SEO5 on the scales

It is powered by 3x AAA batteries housed in the light unit itself so no separate battery pack on the back of the head.  The on / off / mode switch is a small button on the top of the torch.  The torch came pre assembled with headband (removable for washing) and batteries plus a spare set of batteries – all Duracell too rather than some cheap rubbish which was a nice touch.

After spending 5 minutes trying to decipher the not very well translated manual I gave up and resorted to pressing the button numerous times for different durations and figured out that you had the choice of:

Bright (180 lumens) Dim (20 lumens) or Flashing.  It is also possible to select a brightness anywhere between bright and dim.  There is also a separate red Led that gives steady or flashing option.  In steady white mode a turn of the housing around the lens allows you to alter the beam from a wide circle to a focussed point.

The headband is easily adjustable to allow for use over a hat and is just one single strap around the head (nothing over the top).   This gave a good snug fit and despite vigorous head shaking the torch stayed firmly in place, a reassuring sign as the prospect of it coming off and tumbling down the hill in pitch dark isn’t a good one!

SEO5 gives a snug fit

No separate battery pack means a comfortable fit

The light can be swivelled down on a ratchet through 8 positions if you need to look at things closer to hand; for example whilst map reading, and the ratchet is quite firm and it seems unlikely that the light will droop whilst on the run – a problem with some torches.

On test whilst night time fell running in the Peak District the torch performed really well giving ample brightness for the type of moorland and woodland terrain I was on.  I prefer to run on floodlight mode giving a wider pool of light but sometimes a focussed beam is needed to pick out distant objects such gates or walls.  The SEO5 on full power coped with this need, a simple twist allowing me to go from flood to spot and back again.

SEO5 is bright

Bright and light

If I was to be picky and find fault with the SEO5 it would be that the on off switch and focussing beam are tricky to operate with gloved hands (however this is the case with several torches) and it takes a while to remember the sequence of presses and holds required to switch between the modes (again no real difference to other torches and not really an issue once you get used to it)

I haven’t tested the claimed 7 hr battery life on full power (25 hrs on low) but unless the claim is very inaccurate the torch will have enough juice to last all but the longest night run. If I’m unsure how much life there is left in my standard batteries I prefer to use rechargeables and set off all charged up to avoid being caught out.

Tip: If you are taking spare batteries with the intention of changing them “in the field” make sure you take a secondary light such as a key fob light.  It will be almost impossible to find your spares, take the back off your torch, remove the old batteries, put the new ones in the right way round… all whilst in the wind and rain, with cold hands in the dark!

So whilst it might not be your chosen torch for an extended overnight winter outing such as the High Peak Marathon the LED Lenser SEO5 is perfectly suited to shorter night time fell and trail runs.  Bright, light and comfortable it is.

LED Lenser SEO

LED Lenser SEO

 If you would like to experience an off road night run contact me to arrange – I might even lend you the SEO5!

info@fellrunningguide.co.uk