Headtorch Buying Guide
Whether you’re night walking, trail running, mountaineering or just want to read in your tent, a headtorch is an essential accessory for most adventures, especially in winter. There are lots of factors to consider when choosing the headtorch that’s right for you, so here's our expert guide to help you get started.
Lumens measure the brightness of the headtorch: the higher the number, the brighter the torch. The brightness of the torch is not only important for how well the wearer can see, but also how well they can be seen by others. For campsite use or nighttime urban environments a headtorch of 100-250 should be sufficent. If you're using your headtorch for nighttime walking and navigation go for something between 300 - 600 lumens depending on your budget. If you are mountaineering, trail runnnng or skiing in the dark you'll want your headtorch to light a wider space and quickly provide greater visibility on unpredictable terrain, so go for something between 500-900 lumens.
Consider how far ahead you will need to see. A greater distance is usually a good option to have, especially for mountain pursuits, but usually involves a trade-off with weight. A wider beam shape are great for close up tasks as they allow for a spread of light, but they don't stretch as far as a focused beam which can be useful for things like navigation.
Maximum battery life
The settings of the headtorch will affect the actual battery life, but the consideration should be how long the battery will last at the maximum number of lumens. Bear in mind that a shorter battery life will mean you need to carry spare batteries or a solar panel to recharge, so if you’re trying to pack light for your adventure, a longer battery life will be key. As a rule, the brighter the head torch, the more power is required to keep it going, but if your torch has various dimming and strobing settings this will help preserve battery life when maximum brightness isn’t required. It’s worth considering also whether the output of a head torch is important for the activities you are using it for. Regulated torches run at the same lumen intensity until the battery is nearly dead, then enter a short low-power backup mode until it’s out of charge. Unregulated torches offer full brightness only when the batteries are new, but then continuously dims at a slow pace until the battery dies.
The main source of weight in a headtorch is the battery. So a brighter torch or one with longer battery life tend to be heavier. The headtorch’s weight is important relative what activity you will be doing and how long you’ll be wearing it for, as it will obviously become uncomfortable if it’s too heavy. To improve the balance of a head torch for sports such as running, some models s have a battery pack placed on the back of the torch rather than the front.
A torch’s waterproofness is measured using an IPX rating, from IPX1 to IPX8, with a higher number representing a higher waterproof level. As a general rule, IPX4 will protect your headtorch from splashes so will be enough for everyday use, but you should consider the conditions in which you’ll be using the torch to make sure it’s waterproof enough.
The red light setting on a headtorch is intended for preserving your night vision while still providing some light so you can see, making it useful for reading maps or GPS at night. Additionally red light modes aren't as blinding to your friends, so it is ideal when using your headtorch as part of a group.
Number of light settings
If you plan to use your headtorch for a range of activities, then it may be useful to have different light settings, so you can save battery life where possible. These are usually controlled using buttons on the headtorch and can be tricky to operate when using gloves. Some headtorches come with reactive light technology which can detect how far objects in your field of vision are and adjust the light automatically, which reduces the need to fiddle with buttons.
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