With the days getting shorter and the nights longer I am getting many questions about headlamps. As with all the kit I use I spend a vast amount of time researching and testing different solutions, types and brands to hopefully discover what works the best. Often this doesn’t result in a single brand making the ideal product for every situation, but hopefully the following will help narrow down which products I think will either enable or enrich your experience while training or racing at night.
When choosing a headlamp to use I usually have four different scenarios: Everyday (workhorse), Extra bright, Most waterproof, Lightweight.
This would be the go-to lamp for everyday training and racing, for me, this is the Moonlight 700 lamp. Up until recently moonlight only made 2000, 5000, and 10,000 lumen lamps. These are amazing lamps but being so bright makes the lamps a little bulky and the batteries heavy. The 700 is an amazing compromise. The light is still really strong with a nice even spread but it is still super lightweight. Most lamps this weight and size have half the lumens.
My favourite feature of the moonlight lamps is the fixing mechanism. Moonlight have utilised the GoPro fixing with all of their lamps. So you can simply buy extra GoPro mounts and attach them to all of your stuff. I have mounts on all my bikes handle bars, ski helmet, bike helmet, climbing helmet and of course the head strap that comes with the lamp. I can then simply unscrew the lamp and attach it onto something else in a matter of seconds.
Something that is particularly nice about using this lamp is the spread of the light. The light is spread evenly across the entire field of vision, this is easier on the eyes and results in fewer headaches if you use it for hours on end. An even light spread also means even shadows making it easier to run in terrain.
The Moonlight 700 is strong, robust and comes with a lightweight battery mounted on the headband. This configuration would make you think the lamp doesn’t last very long, however I have used it for up to 1.5 hours on full power and to as much as 6 hours on 25% power.
The Moonlight 700 is great but sometimes you need something with more power. Mountain biking, skiing or orienteering are prime examples, a little extra weight is a small price to pay for being able to move faster and safer with some extra lumens.
For this I have the Moonlight 2000, the 5000 would also work great but so far the 2000 has been more than adequate for my needs, as I rarely race these activities at night time. Having the same go pro style fixing means I can use the same GoPro style fixings that are already on all my stuff, I just chuck the 2000 lamp on if I feel I need the extra brightness this brings.
The Moonlight 2000 comes with a Panasonic battery, this is a separate unit that I either chuck in my bag or strap to my bike. I have had over 2 hours at full blast before and 8 hours on 25% power (which is still delivers a crazy 500 lumens).
If I want a lamp that is 100% assured to be waterproof the Black Diamond Storm has proved itself during 24 hours of Worlds Toughest Mudder. Most headlamps will manage a lot of rain and maybe a submersion or two, but to be able to withstand a full night of jumps of ‘The Cliff’, swimming and continued submersion takes a pretty special lamp.
The Storm’s batteries are housed within the lamp unit itself, so no wires or extra bits to get caught on nets or barbed wire. You can put normal AAA batteries in it which means you can simply change the batteries during the race as opposed to changing lamps and it produces a usable light which allows you to jog along safely.
This is a headlamp for when I won’t actually be using a headlamp to race, but for when I am required to bring one because of a mandatory kit list. For this purpose, the Petzl e+Lite is perfect. It’s the smallest and lightest headlamp I have seen with a pull-out string to attach the lamp to your head, wrist or handlebars. The light is by no means good enough to run with safely but would allow you to safely walk your way of a mountain in an emergency. It is also extra easy to enable the red blinking light to be used to attract attention or if you forgot you bike lights for the way home from work.
So in summary, for me I have found the best headlamp for each of the scenarios described above, when choosing a headlamp you need to consider the scenario you are going to use it in and make sure it is the right lamp for the job. In an ideal world buy different headlamps for different scenarios, but always put safety first!