How to pick a headlamp for night running ? - Petzl, Fenix, Princeton, Black Diamond, ...

In order to be prepared for the upcoming TheRelay 2010, I'm planning to start running in the night. This is my first venture into night running and there are several tips to follow (reflective gear, run against traffic, no dark colors, no headphones, etc). One of the most important one is to wear a headlamp that can show the trail sufficiently ahead and keep you aware of any breaks in the sidewalk, a fallen branch, debris or may be even a loose pet.

As with any product, there are several headlamps available in the market and it's confusing for a first time buyer. There is Moxie, Petzl, Princeton Tec, Petzl, Black Diamond, Fenix and many others. Fortunately has a good variety of them and the beauty is that you can visit your local store and try them on. And as always, the staff is very knowledgeable about the product line and don't suck you into higher end products which may be an overkill for your adventure. And of course, you can compare the products on, read blog reviews, see product reviews from actual customers, read about them at, tweet about it and get suggestions.

Some of the criteria to keep in mind while making your pick for a headlamp:

  1. Lightweight - It should be lightweight as it'll be strapped to your head all the time you are running. Any extra weight to your head will be a bothering soon.
  2. Good grip - The lamp should fit nicely on your head and not bounce up & down otherwise it'll be a pain very soon. Personally, I'd hate to run with holding headlamp in my hands instead.
  3. Brightness - 35-50 lumens is bright enough for night running as it gives you 9-19 seconds of visibility depending upon your pace from (7 - 10 min/mile). See a more detailed table below.
  4. Cost - The headlamps vary from $10 - $500. As with other products, invest wisely depending upon whether this is a one-time gig or you plan to continue this longer term. There are reasonable ones available close to $50.
And then there are several other factors like what kind and how many batteries are required (adds up to total weight), how long before it runs out, Halogen / LED, does it support multiple intensities, waterproof, and rechargeable unit.

Here is a comparison of the short listed headlamps on the features mentioned above:
Features / Models Fenix 7 Petzl Tikka XP 2 Petzl Tikka Plus 2
Weight (with batteries) ?? 3.1 ounces (88 gms) 2.9 oz (82 gms)
Lumens 7 - 225 60 50
Batteries 4 AA 3 AAA 3 AAA
Running time 2.5 - 210 hrs 80-160 hrs 55 - 140 hrs
Range (meters) 120m 17-60m 35m
Intensity 5 (Strobe, SOS, Warning) 2 (Flood/Spot) 2 (Flood only)
Waterproof IPX-8 IPX-4 IPX-4
LED Cree XR-E Q5 1 high-output LED / red LED 1 high-output LED / red LED
Cost 64.95 54.95 33.99
Where to buy ? Amazon Amazon Amazon

After reading forums (here, here, here), product reviews (1, 2), 6 5\* reviews @ Amazon, talking to friends, tweeting (1, 2, 3, 4) and getting a strong recommendation from the local REI store, I have decided to purchase Petzl Tikka Plus 2.

Black Diamond Sprinter got good reviews on but there is no point paying additional $40 for the rechargeable unit. I'd rather buy a recharger separately and use it elsewhere as well. Fenix HP10 is similar to Fenix 7, slightly more expensive and no noticeable difference. It's not worth paying extra money for the lumens that are not required.

Read more about IP waterproof ratings. Basically, IPX-4 provide protection against splashing water and IPX-8 provide protection against continuous immersion beyond 1m.

Here is a table that provides the visibility (in seconds) for a 35m or 50m range headlamp:

Now Amazon has tight restrictions on the usage of pre-paid credit cards and so the payment cannot be split between two of them. All merchants allow such arrangement at least in their physical shop but I guess this is one disadvantage of online shopping.

What headlamp do you use for night running ?

Technorati: running night headlamp petzl fenix therelay gear


Hi Arun,

Sorry for sending you this message this way. I searched for days for a way to contact you and since I couldn't find a direct email, I decided to give it a shot and write to you this way :)

I'm writing to ask for your help and make a proposal at the same time.

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I hope you'll enjoy your experience on runreviews and I look forward to your feedback. Please send me an email if you would like to receive more details about us.

Thank you so much for looking into this.

Kindest regards

Posted by ana on January 26, 2010 at 02:20 AM PST #

Hi Arun,

I am just beginning training for the Ragnar Race in Sept 24-25, 2010. I've never run at night before and was looking into head lights. I really appreciate the information you provided above. I did check out REI and they had one that generate 16 Lumens. It was very small and light. Is that not enough light for a 10min/mile pace?


Posted by Lorraine Grothoff on June 11, 2010 at 05:19 AM PDT #


Typically, 30 lumens is what I hear, didn't experience much night running after buying the lamp. But it also depends a lot upon the terrain as well.

Posted by Arun Gupta on June 15, 2010 at 09:25 AM PDT #

This is an outstanding post. I cannot say how important it is to wear lighting of some sort when running at night. A headlamp provides 2 benefits: (1) it alerts motorists to your presence; and (2) provides you illumination in front of you while running to help avoid obstacles, potholes, etc.

You thorough treatment of this topic is much appreciated. I would opt for as much illumination as possible so you can see as much terrain in front of you as possible.

The fact is, many of us are busy and running at night is our only opportunity to train and stay in shape. I love using a treadmill as well, but not much will keep me working out indoors on a warm summer night ... even if it's dark.

Posted by Stephen Bancroft on March 29, 2011 at 05:35 AM PDT #

LED is a perfect replacement for daytime running lights. The conservative power and longer lifespan is a good installation for daytime running lights.

Posted by Car Detailing on February 04, 2013 at 12:53 AM PST #

Recently I have heard about Armytek company. They are planning to produce headlamps. Does anyboby know anything about it?

Posted by Armytek headlamps for running on February 12, 2013 at 02:54 AM PST #

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Arun Gupta is a technology enthusiast, a passionate runner, author, and a community guy who works for Oracle Corp.

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