As we get into the cooler months, you’ll notice it’s getting darker earlier and lighter later. Many of us are already spending part of our runs in the dark. So it’s that time of year when you need to have a headlamp. Not only is seeing in front of you essential, but it’s also essential to be seen by others including drivers.
These days, there are just about as many headlamp choices as there are running shoes but which is the best? As we know from running, no product suits everybody and that includes headlamps. There is only what is best for you.
If you are running in the pitch dark on single-track trails, you’ll need a different headlamp than if you’re running in a more urban area. Some headlamps adjust to the light where you are, and others have different beam types. The amount of headlamps available out there is overwhelming!
Fitting Your Headlamp:
Start with the straps. Most headlamp straps are made of stretchy rubber. Make sure your headlamp is strapped on securely enough that when your head bobs up and down it won’t fall off. But you don’t want it too tight either, or it will give you a headache.
How Bright Should Your Headlamp Be?
You’ll notice the light emitted by headlamps is measured in “lumens.” Lumens are the standard means of measuring brightness, and it ranges from 20 lumens to over 1,000. The brightest headlamps are not always better. The amount of lumens you need depends on where you’re running.
Another thing to keep in mind is that lumens are measured when the headlamp is brand new. As it ages, the maximum amount of lumens deteriorates. Plus, many headlamps come with the options of low, medium, and high brightness output.
If you are out running for an extended period of time, using the lowest brightness setting that is a safe setting for your situation will help preserve the battery life.
General Guide To Lumens:
- Under 100 Lumens: Is usually safe for city running
- 200 Lumens: When you’re running on wooded trails or dark areas, you’ll want something around 200 lumens.
- 500+ Lumens: Set your headlamp for the brightest setting for high-speed sports, such as skiing or biking.
What Should You Look For In A Headlamp?
Burn time tells how many hours a headlamp will produce a usable light to a distance of at least two meters. The light won’t be as intense at the end of the burn time, but it should be enough to get you where you need to go in an emergency. Those who go on long runs or who participate in races in the middle of the night will want a longer burn time. Many headlamps have different burn times for different light settings. Brighter lights will burn faster and dimmer lights will burn slower.
There are two different beam types. Many of the more expensive headlamps will have both. Most less expensive headlamps will use just a spotlight beam.
- Spotlight: The spotlight beam is also known as a single light. Spotlight beams produce a concentrated light straight ahead. They are brighter in front of you. A focused spotlight beam will have a crisper, more focused light that allows you to see farther ahead.
- Floodlight: Floodlight beams allow you to diffuse the beam, and it sprays light farther to the sides. This helps with peripheral vision. These beams might not be as bright straight ahead, but you will see more from side to side.
Beam distance measures how far ahead of you that a headlamp will produce usable light. It’s measured when it’s brand new, and it will decrease over time.
Rechargeable vs. Battery
Headlamps powered by batteries have been around since headlamps were created. Their advantage is that, if your headlamp loses power, you can power it back up instantly with extra batteries. The downside is that battery-powered headlamps are often heavier and, of course, you have to maintain a supply of additional batteries.
Rechargeable headlamps don’t use the kind of single-use battery that their counterparts use and are usually much lighter. The downside is they often don’t stay powered as long. If you find yourself running long runs in the middle of the night, you might need a headlamp that allows you to replace its batteries quickly so you can keep going.
Does Weight of a Headlamp Matter?
Yes and no! One of the most critical factors in choosing a headlamp is: are you comfortable? When you have something on your head for hours, even a few ounces can cause fatigue faster. Headlamps that use batteries are usually also heavier. Using rechargeable headlamps can decrease the weight.
Finding the right headlamp for you is tough. Decide on those features and factors that are most important for you. The brighter and fancier and more expensive headlamp is not always the option that best suits you.