Around this time of year in Australia as we’re approaching the shortest day of the year, runners everywhere spend a lot of time talking about headlamps.
This is with good reason, since whether you’re on the roads or trails, most runners will spend a fair chunk of each week training or racing in the dark. Not only can running in the dark be terrifying, depending on your location it can also be very dangerous, leading to rolled ankles, serious loss of bark (skin), severe injuries, or worse case even falling off a cliff!
Also known as head torches, a good headlamp can be the difference between a safe & enjoyable run, versus a complete disaster, leading to injury & forced recovery time.
Whether you're into road running, trail running, ultra running or Obstacle Course Racing, this headlamp guide will help.
So, with huge numbers of brands, models & price ranges available, how do you decide what’s important?
One of the first things you will hear discussed is “how many lumens” does a particular headlamp have.
In simple terms, Lumens is a measure of the total amount of visible light (to the human eye) from a lamp or light source – in other words, how bright is the headlamp.
Within reason, the more lumens the better, but it needs to be a balance between brightness, weight, battery life & the amount of heat the lamp generates.
Many headlamps only put out 300-400 lumens, and this just isn’t bright enough to allow you to run safely, especially if you love getting out on the trails.
With most headlamps you will have several default settings (like low/medium/high) that will control the light output, with better designs providing customisable settings to suit the user. These headlamps may also offer strobe & SOS (distress) signals that can be very useful in a survival situation.
Another important factor to consider is how much control you have over the beam of light your headlamp produces. The best designs will not only allow you to adjust the beam up & down, but you will also be able to adjust the width of the beam to go from a long pencil beam to a wide flood, depending on what’s needed for the environment you find yourself in.
You will find that some headlamps will use standard dry cell batteries that you can buy at the supermarket, whereas many of the higher-level lamps will use a rechargeable battery, or even have the ability use both types of battery. As long as the rechargeable battery can be swapped out, or a higher capacity battery can be added, this is a great way to go, since you can charge the headlamp at home, in the car, or even during a race if needed. Based on the activities you plan to do with the headlamp, you need to carefully consider the battery life of the headlamp, also often called “burn time “or “run time”. If you can get 6 plus hours from a headlamp, this will get you through most training & racing situations. When you need more for an overnight adventure or 100K, 100 Mile or 200 Mile race, you need to option to extend the burn time.
Generally, you will also need some type of protection from water – most headlamps offer at least IPX4 protection, which means it’s resistant to water splashes from any direction & won’t be affected by rain.
For obstacle course racing (OCR), you may need a headlamp that can withstand complete immersion, due to water obstacles such as lakes & dams. These are available & will have a rating like IP67, which is Waterproof Tested to operate at least 1.0 meter underwater for up to 30 minutes.
Another factor people may not consider is their comfort when wearing the headlamp. Will the lamp stay securely on your head without slipping or rubbing, whilst not being so tight that it gives you a headache? (Headaches are surprisingly common when wearing a poorly fitted headlamp). You need straps that are adjustable & that will stay in place. You need the lamp to be light enough that it won’t bounce around or cause strain on your neck. These are difficult to assess after a quick trial fit & often overlooked by first time purchasers. Bear in mind that you may need to wear the headlamp for many hours, or even over days, depending on what adventures you have planned!
At Run Vault we use & recommend Ferei Headlamps, as do both our sponsored & coached athletes.
Ferei is a brand that first become known in Australia around 2012 & way back them I purchased a model called the HL20, (600 lumens) with an external battery pack to provide a burn time of up to 17 hours on the high setting.
That headlamp still works today, with the original batteries, & got me through a few Blackall 100’s, UTA 100, pacing at the Great Southern Endurance Run 100 Miler, as well as the 100K CCC at UTMB.
The Ferei Headlamp we recommend to almost everybody today is the HL40II.
This amazing headlamp provides 1000 lumens of light, with 3 default brightness settings, as well as user defined settings anywhere from 10% to 80% power. It also offers police blinking, slow blinking, quick blinking, and SOS for emergency situations.
Its beam is adjustable, both up & down, as well as for beam width.
The standard battery life is 4.3 hours on high beam, but most people run the headlamp on medium since they only need the high setting for very dark or technical trails. The battery is rechargeable & replaceable on the fly and can be charged from the included AC charger, or the optional USB charger. There is also an external battery pack available to extend the burn time to over 17 hours on the high setting.
The headlamp has an IPX4 water rating, as well as super comfortable two-way adjustable elastic straps that will keep the headlamp secure in even the toughest environments. The strap that goes around your head also has a silicon wave pattern on the inside to prevent movement or slipping, without needing to be too tight around your head. Also, it only weighs 140g without the battery.
This headlamp will outperform competitor’s models that cost almost twice as much – lighter, brighter, & with more expansion capabilities, you really do need to consider a Ferei!
If you want to be safe, and run the roads & trails with confidence, knowing that you’ve got enough fire power to light up the darkest night or morning, then check out our range of Ferei Headlamps here. If you have any questions, or are a Brisbane based runner & would like access to a test unit, then please hit us up via our contact page or our socials.
(The only time we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this headlamp is for Obstacle Course Racing that involves total submersion. You always have the option to throw the headlamp off to the side & then retrieve it after the swim, but if that doesn’t appeal we recommend the Black Diamond Storm Series which will survive your water obstacles).
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If you want to be the envy of everyone around you this is the head torch for you! I used the Ferei HL40II during the UTA100 and everyone around me was constantly commenting on how well it lighter up the road and even had some running with me just to use the light it was producing. This is the best head torch I have ever used hands down!
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I'm very happy with the headlamp.
Lightweight, bright, with a simple control button. Comfortable fit.
I especially like the way you can focus the beam to flood the area in front of you with light.
I purchased this to use for the GSER100 later this year.
I would definitely recommend this headlamp if you are looking for a quality product to get you thru a long ultra or just for general training.
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This lightweight headlamp is no "lightweight" when it comes to performance. With three brightness settings and sliding focus you can light up the forest like a searchlight or reduce it down so you can run all night on one charge. You don't notice it while running as it feels like a part of you. Easily the best headlamp I have ever used.