Running with a head torch

Photo credit: Illuminator Night Trail Race, Glen Tanar

As winter approaches, we are suddenly engulfed in darkness and the days seem remarkably short. This is almost an instant occurrence and we habitually switch to ‘lazy mode’… or at least I do! As runners, there are many benefits of continuing to train through these ‘dark times’ (pun intended) and consistency through winter will make a huge difference come next year. Persevere!

One of the most essential pieces of kit for running in darkness is a good quality head torch. This will allow you to navigate the dark streets and trails with confidence and also be seen by other road users.

The benefits of running with a head torch

There are numerous benefits to training with a head torch. They are comfortable and lightweight to wear; most have an elastic headband that is easily adjusted and stays in place without bounce or a bulky feel. You can just pull it on, power up and go! Most often you barely feel its there and it keeps your hands completely free.

Another plus is the ability to adapt the angle of the beam, without having to adjust your normal head position, to illuminate the path ahead with ease. Finally, head torches are very straightforward to use, so fear not technophobes!

Choosing the right running head torch for you…

More lumens. More light.

The power of head torches is measured in lumens and the greater the lumens the more light you will have at your beck and call. Petzl are the leaders in lighting technology and have a wide range of head torches to suit every runner and every price point. I’ll be giving you the rundown on the Petzl range available here at Run4It.

To help determine what head torch is best for you, consider where you’ll be doing the majority of your running (i.e. on partially-lit roads or remote trails) and also the length of time you need the batteries to last for.

Ideal for proximity lighting:

£20 | 150 lumens

£20 | 150 lumens

Starting at the entry level model from Petzl we have the Tikkina. For the bargain price of £20 you will get 150 lumens of light output and a wide beam with three lighting modes – proximity, movement and distance vision.

A simple, compact model that is ideal when there’s some light already around you. The Tikkina is a HYBRID headlamp – it’s powered by standard AAA batteries, but is also compatible with Petz’s CORE rechargeable battery.

Specs: 150 lumens | 55 metre range | 60 hours burn time

Ideal for long-range lighting:

£30 | 200 lumens

£30 | 200 lumens

Next up is the Tikka. With stronger light output (200 lumens) three different lighting modes – proximity, movement and distance vision and a 60 metre range; this head torch is far better suited to running in complete darkness and will allow a far greater field of view. It also features red lighting which preserves night vision and if you’re running in a group, prevents you from blinding other runners with white light.

Like the Tikkina, it’s a HYBRID headlamp – powered by standard AAA batteries or Petzl’s CORE rechargeable battery. With a burn time of 60 hours you won’t need to worry about fading light!

Specs: 200 lumens | 60 metre range | 60 hours burn time

Ideal for venturing off the beaten track:

£50 | 350 lumens

£50 | 350 lumens

The rechargeable Actik Core headlamp offers 350 lumens of power which, combined with its mixed beam reaching up to 95 metres, makes it ideal for off road running and varied terrain.

It offers two beam patterns (wide or mixed) and several lighting modes: proximity or distance vision and rapid movement. Plus red lighting. The Actik Core comes with Petzl’s CORE rechargeable battery which is rechargeable via USB port. However it can also be powered by standard AAA batteries. Reflective writing on the headband helps you stay visible and the torch is equipped with an emergency whistle for rescue situations.

Specs: 350 lumens | 95 metre range | 2 – 160 hours burn time depending on lighting mode

£90 | 300 lumens

£90 | 300 lumens

The multi-beam rechargeable Reactik+ features REACTIVE lighting – an intelligent in-built sensor that detects the amount of light around you and automatically adjusts the brightness and beam pattern to preserve battery and prolong burn time; delivering the most amount of light when you really need it.

The Reactik+ also boasts Bluetooth compatibility. You can sync it with the MyPetzl Light app on your smartphone to monitor your battery life, select the lighting profile that best suits your activity, or control brightness and burn time – all on the fly. Need the headtorch to last 8hrs? Need the full 300 lumens for a training run? No problem! All of this can be customised and preset via the app. You decide when your batteries will die!

It’s powered by rechargeable batteries (recharge time 4.5hrs), weighs 115g and will deliver the 300 lumens of light output in pitch darkness at long range (110 metres). The Reactik+ is perfect for off-road, trail or ultra runners who need to maintain battery life for longer periods of time!

Specs: 300 lumens | 110 metre range | 2.5 – 10 hours burn time depending on lighting mode

Delve into darkness

Once you’ve decided on the best head torch for you, embrace the darkness and practice with it. Through this, you’ll build confidence and start to enjoy a different type of training. Initially, running in the dark can feel quite isolating, as all you have to focus on are your footsteps, but that sensation soon becomes the norm.

My first few head torch runs were in the woods and felt like something out of a horror movie –  I hate horror movies! Surrounded by imaginary movements and glinting eyes… or so I thought. Turned out to be nails in the trees and sign posts! However, after the first few times, it was great to be the only person out there and I was soon running with confidence.

Don’t let the long nights spoil all your hard work. Embrace the darkness and run with confidence under your own light!

Before you venture out, check out our Safety tips for Running in the Dark blog, for more advice on how to stay safe on the roads and trails.

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William Stewart

William Stewart

William returned to Scotland and Run4It in June following a successful running year in Cape Town having run several PB’s and his first Comrades. Good performances in Glencoe Marathon and the Illuminator have given him a taste for trail running, since being home. William has a background in Sport Science and used to be a keen triathlete.

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2 thoughts on “Running with a head torch

  1. A forward facing lamp is surely only half the story. When running on unlit streets I can see what’s coming towards me; I’m more worried about vehicles coming from behind me and not spotting me.

    Now, I have bought a wonderful pair of Craft Mind Reflective running tights, but they are no longer sold in the UK.

    So, what about headlights that also have a rearward-facing red light?

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