Head Torches

This year I've switched to doing most of my running in the early morning before work. I also like to do it off-road where possible where it isn't too well illuminated now that its getting dark in the mornings.

Has anybody tried running with one of those headtorches often worn by winter climbers ? Is it a feasible option ?


  • I speak from some experience, having tried a number of head torch options over the last few years.

    I've had most success so far with the Petzl "Mega Zoom". This has a battery pack that can eb worn on your belt or in a bum bag. There is a (cheaper) variety that has the battery pack mounted on the headband, but in my experience these bump about too much. The Peztl lamps have adjustable beam and can moved up and down on the mounting for extra adjustment. Get a halogen bulb as this gives a much better beam. I'd also suggest investing in NiMH rechargable batteries. Not only will this work out cheaper over the course of the winter, but rechargables seem to offer a better power delivery to give a constant bright beam until they expire (which they will do suddenly and without warning - so keep them charged up!). Alkalines fade away gradually and so the beam gets gradually poorer and poorer until you fall over a sleeping deer.

    In the quest for ever brighter illumination I tried fitting a bike lamp (5W) with a lead-acid cell in a bum bag but the lamp simply jumped around too much. It did give brilliant (in both senses) illumination, and this year I'm tempted to buy one of the (expensive) headtorches used by night orienteers. These can cost over £100 but do come with switchable 10W/20W bulbs: at least they'll keep my head warm!

    I can thoroughly recommend off road running in the dark and have been amazed at what I've come across in the early mornings: meetings with deer, badgers, foxes and owls. I would advise keeping aware of less savoury "wild life" however, and carrying a back up torch in case the main one expires.
  • I used to run a lot in the desert at night when living in the Middle East (running in 40 - 45deg C in summer is ok at night, but is not a great idea in the sun with the extra radiant heat).

    I think head torches are a bit weedy - eg for picking out dead sheep, barbed wire or potholes. I preferred a powerful hand held torch, and even then was very wary about going full tilt unless on a track of some sort. I tried night running back in blightly last year around a local common with a weak torch and nearly came a cropper, so definitely get a bright one and take it easy.

    Even better is to go at lunchtime in winter from work and catch those rays.
  • I've invested in a little LED thingy, and it's brill, but I suspect you have to learn to run with them.
    Better than falling in a river tho'.
  • The Petzl Tikka is your best bet. It's an LED headtorch. Gives a good general light, batteries last a lot longer than for standard bulb type torches. It will not illuminate very far in front of you though if you are off-road.
  • Thats the one!
  • Graham,

    I would be most grateful if you could let me have details of the torches used by headtorches used by night orienteers. I am heartened to know that it is possible to run at night with a head torch as I have taken up fell running in the summer and was not looking forward to have to go back to the road !

  • I hasten to add that I haven't tried any of them yet (saving up the pennies) but Ultrasport in Shropshire (www.ultrasport.co.uk) stocks torches by Silva, Tika, and Mila plus battery packs & chargers. The Scandinavians are into night orienteering in a big way so their kit is probably ideal for the job. A lot of UK orienteers also go down the DIY route, but my attempts at this were unsuccessful.

    I forgot to say that one of the problems with the Petzl lamps is that the elastic headband tends to go floppy after a few years. I've tried using hand-held torches - great for picking up potholes but a real impediment if you push the pace a bit.
  • Strange but true...I only read this post yesterday,and at work,one of the wigs people said look at my new gadget,and guess what she briught out of her apron?A Petzl head lamp...so I said to her that I was reading about then on runners world forum, for night running and she said to me....Strikes me that anyone who wants to run at night with a head torch needs to get a life....Well the air turned blue I can tell you but perhaps this is not the right place to rant!!!!
  • I have a Petzl Zoom headlight which i used to use for night time orienteering. it takes two AA batteries which seemed to last about 2 hours or so (two and a half night runs!).
    Available from www.cotswoldsoutdoors.co.uk (think that's the website). Cotswolds Outdoors are a chain of outdoor type shops which are fairly good for orienteering stuff, including studded off-road shoes for anyone interested.
  • Looking at head torches now have been recommended led lenser but looking it to all types ??? any suggestions off road and on road
  • KC - this thread is 7 years old! if you look a bit further down the gear page you will find a very new thread about head torches
  • MACbMACb ✭✭✭

    I thought the LED lenser was a handheld torch, I noticed the P7 was about half price on amazon.

    But I use the Petzl Tikka xp and recenlty bought a Tikka plus 2, very good indeed. I also have a adaptor kit to use it on a belt, i.e. at waist height, this is a lot more use.

  • I've not run off road with one, but used to use my Petzl Tikka for running along country lanes. It was okay, but I gave up in the end - the verges rushing past the edge of my vision made me feel a bit funny! Another issue is that you have to learn to breathe out downwards on cold nights or you just get dazzle back from your condensation, like car headlights on mainbeam in fog.

    Now I just rely on getting my nightvision in, which is usually fine. Like I said, I don't head off-road in the dark though - I just savour that at the weekends. 

  • I use these things all the time.

    I have the following:

    Petzl Zoom  (Old School) with normal and Halogen bulb.

    Petzl Zipka (New School)

    and now the good news. Do not buy any other head torch than this one:

    AlpKit Gamma (go google)

    Sure these guys work from a shed, but they ship next day and the stuff is very cheap and the quality better than Petzl. The only downside is no rechargeable batteries.

     I often use the Zipka for a normal trail plod as the light is enough and the batteries last for ages (months). If it is tempo or intervals I use the Gamma. Sometimes run with the zipka on my head and the Gamma in hand to give extra light when needed.

    Why the Gamma. well for £15 it has the same light output as the £60 Petzl. Plus it is a better light for running as they aren't so mass market they do not have to compete for the longest beam and therefore focus on the most useful beam. A good pool of light is better than spot in the distance when running.

    One click, bright, dim, flash, off

    Press and hold and it switches to a much lower wattage led switching between white, green, red, red flashing and off. This gives days of battery life from 3AAA held on the head. This balances the weight of the light so it sits nicely on the head.

    On the battery pack is another switch for the rear bar LED. Red, Red Flashing and off. Great to be seen from behind, the motorists should never miss now.

    This is the best head torch bar none for running. I have two. Big light when required, small light for battery life, rear light for visibility.

    Actually I lied, the best head torch has got to be the Petzl Ultra but isn't really for a trail plod, more like Moutain Rescue (£300+). The Silvas are very nice if you want a bin lid on your head.

  • MACbMACb ✭✭✭
    I ran a Halloween night race on Friday wearing my Petzk Tikka Plus 2, I was 20 seconds quicker than when the race was held in the day time earlier in the year. I was really impressed how good the beam was, even on the fast downhill sections I had no problem with the beam distances. There were about 160 runners and I was shocked at how poor some of the head torches were, but this one is better than the tikka xp.
  • Just for info the Gamma is back in stock.
  • Just ordered the Gamma. The reviews it gets are brilliant!image
  • Just bought one. Great looking bit of kit.

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