A headtorch is a piece of equipment that we recommend that all walkers own.
Staying as safe as possible when out walking at night or in low light conditions is important.
Unlike a traditional handheld torch, a headtorch allows you to keep you hands free for reading your map or perhaps allowing you to use walking poles unhindered in dark or low light conditions.
There are many different types of headtorches available to the walker ranging from the basic lamps through to super-featured units that offer many functions making choosing one that is right for you a sometimes confusing experience so the Walk Fife team have put together a simple guide to help you.
The first decision you have to make is how much money are you are willing to spend on a headtorch. When considering this you have to remember that a head torch forms part of your safety equipment and has to be reliable in all conditions and situations so you want to avoid some of the cheap, flimsy and low-featured offerings that are available.
What do you want your headtorch to do for you?
Modern headtorches are featured packed but you may never need to use them all. Think about how and where you will use your headtorch and how long you need it to last (burn time) by doing this you can start to look more carefully at what you require.
Can you operate the headtorch easily or is it a fiddle?
Ease of use is important especially when trying to switch your headtorch on in the dark with winter gloves on. Make sure you can access the features you need easily.
Does it fit your head well and is it comfortable?
It is amazing how many people don’t try on a headtorch before buying it. Many outdoor stores have demonstration models that you can try on to make sure you can adjust it correctly to fit your head (remember to take your wooly hat with you) and is comfortable to wear. Avoid headtorches that are heavy as these can quickly become uncomfortable after a few miles of walking.
It is waterproof?
If you are going to be walking in Scotland then rain is something you have to be prepared for and so making sure your headtorch can survive the inevitable downpours is essential. Look for a IPX rating of between 4 and 7 to make sure that your light source will keep up with the weather.
Do you require a red light?
A red light helps maintain your natural night vision which is invaluable when walking through the hills and mouton in low-light or in the dark. Not all headtorches feature a red light so make sure you check the features list before purchasing.
All headtorches require some form of reliable and long lasting power source. The standard offering until recently is the trusty alkaline battery. These batteries can be found in a multitude of outlets around the world making them the most flexible power source for your headtorch. The only real downside to alkaline batteries is they tend to be quite heavy.
Lithium batteries are another option and are commonly used in small lightweight headtorches intended for the users more concerned about weight than features. Lithium batteries tend to last longer than alkaline batteries but do cost a significant amount more to buy. Not all headtorches can use Lithium batteries so make sure you check the manufactures instructions before installing them.
Thanks to recent technological innovations in battery manufacture, rechargeable power packs are becoming more popular as a source of power for headtorches. They tend to last the longer than alkaline and lithium but they can take quite long time to fully recharge (between 2 and 8 hours). Some headtorch designs allow the user to replace the power cell when spent with standard alkaline batteries which we think is a great feature.
The bulb that a headtorch uses is an important consideration as it will dictate what sort of light you will get from your headtorch and how long your burn time will be when powered up.
Older headtorches used tungsten bulbs. These bulbs were dim, power hungry and quite delicate. Making them quite unsuitable for use in the outdoors. It is becoming very rare to see tungsten bulbs fitted in modern headtorches.
Halogen bulbs used to be a favourite of walkers for many years as the provided extremely bright light and could project that light for quite a distance. The downside of halogen bulbs is that the burn time was very low and required the walker to carry plenty of spare batteries adding to the weight of their pack. Halogen headtorches are seldom seen these days.
Manufacturers further developed the halogen technology and created hybrid bulbs that reduced the power consumption but maintained the brightness achieved by using purely halogen. The xenon and krypton bulbs remain very popular in both headtorches and flashlights made for professional and industrial use especially but the outdoor industry has moved on to something even more efficient.
Today LED is the go to technology for most headtorch manufacturers. LED bulbs offer far longer burn times than the other technologies and at a fraction of the cost. LED bulbs are tough as well taking drops and bashes in their stride make them ideal in headtorches for the outdoor user.
As mentioned previously, burn time is the length of time that your headtorch can operate. Manufacturers often state the brightness and burn time on their packaging and promo material as a way of encouraging you to buy their product. These figures can only be viewed as a guide as everyone uses their headtorches different ways and in differing conditions. Burn time is important as it brightness but you have to balance these out with the features you require and the price you are prepared to pay.
Lumens are the measurement of light and it is something that people tend to get hung up on. Some people mistakenly think that they should have the brightest headtorch possible and opt for models that blast out many hundreds of lumens illuminating the countryside around with the same intensity as the sun. While these types of headtorches do indeed provide a massive amount of light it does come at a heavy cost in terms of burn time.
In terms of brightness, a headtorch that provides between 100-150 lumens is more than enough for many walkers needs. A headtorch that sits around that figure will light your way for many hours, allow you to read your map easily and it will project enough light on the path ahead to see any dangers lurking in the dark.
Read our reviews
The Walk Fife Team have been adding reviews of our personal lighting solutions so other walkers can easily find out which headtorches really live up to their hype and which ones are really worth the money. You can read our opinions by visiting – http://www.walkfife.com/category/light/