Tuesday Jan 19, 2010

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 REI.com 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 Amazon.com, read blog reviews, see product reviews from actual customers, read about them at epinions.com, 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 runnersworld.com 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

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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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