One piece of kit you really can't do without whenrunning in low visibility is a good-quality headtorch. Not just any will do, you need one with a strong enough beam, that's wide enough to light up the trail ahead and around you, and can cope with an extended period on the go.
You might think you're an ace at a technical decent, but throw in low visibility conditions and you'll be glad you invested in a headtorch to light your way safely. Running in the winter is not always the most pleasant affair, especially when the days are short and you must rely on your torch to guide you home. It's a vital bit of safety kit, giving you visibility and making you more visible to others on the road/trail and in case of emergency.
Don't forget to always charge your headtorch to the max when venturing out on a run, and make sure it's fully functional. If you're heading out for an extended period of time or in an isolated area, it's worth taking a spare battery just in case yours fails.
Best headtorches for running
Petzl NAO RL
Best in Test
1. Petzl NAO RL
The first thing that grabs you about the Petzl NAO RL is the massive 1500 lumens on offer. That's
- Bright lumen count
- Not cheap, but you get what you pay for
The Ledlenser NEO5R is a light and comfortable headtorch, with a very reasonable price-tag. It’s
- Decent beam
- Not as bright as others
Silva Terra Scout H
Best for the environment
3. Silva Trail Scout H
Possibly the most stylish headlamp of the lot, the Silva Terra Scout H is made of hemp and 100%
- Easy to use and comfy
- Sustainable materials
- Affordable price
- Not as bright as others
- Less beam options than others
Silva Trail Runner Free H
Best for comfort
4. Silva Trail Runner Free H
The Silva Runner Free H is a good-looking headtorch with some interesting features to make it
- High price for the lumens
Biolite HeadLamp 325
Best lightweight option
5. Biolite HeadLamp 325
At a mere 50g in weight and with a maximum output of 325 lumens, the slim BioLite Headlamp 325
- Not super durable
- Not as powerful as others
6. Ledlenser NEO9R
Another pick from Ledlenser, the NEO9R produces up to 1200lm with three light options to suit your
- Different beam strengths
- Great battery life
- Good value
- One beam mode
- No light option for between 200lm and 600lm
Silva Trail Speed 5R
7. Silva Trail Speed 5R
Silva bills the Trail Speed 5R as the ‘ultimate headlamp for runners who want to optimise every
- Comfortable headband
- Strong and bright beam
- Powerful battery
- A little heavy
- On the pricier side
Petzl Iko Core
8. Petzl Iko Core
Instantly noticeable when first donning the Petzl Iko Core was the ergonomic, ultra thin, and
- Can use with normal batteries
- Not as bright as other torches
- Short life in full power mode
- No rear light
What to look for in a running headtorch
Light output is measured in lumens (see below). A headtorch may have different light functions such as strobe, floodlight, wide, or flashing, and some will allow you to scroll through these to choose the right mode for your run conditions.
The lumen is the unit of measure for the strength of a light beam. In general, 80-100lm is suitable for camping, whereas hikers will want at least 200lm and runners 200+. Ideally, a minimum of 350lm will help keep your vision clear and you safe while navigating the dark trails. Many lights have stronger beams at 500lm or more for running, just make sure that the burn time will run long enough for you to make the most of it!
This is how long the battery will last on certain light outputs. The higher the lumen and thus stronger the beam, the less time the torch will typically burn before it needs to be recharged. You want a burn time to be at least double your intended run time, in case you run into any difficulties.
The ability to swivel the light beam down during technical sections or when you want to avoid blinding a passer-by is a must, while you’ll also want to be able to swiftly tilt the beam upwards during ascents and to see the trail ahead.
Your headtorch will likely come with a rechargeable battery, either with USB-C, USB or a brand-specific charger. It’s worth considering whether you need a lamp that can take your standard AAs though, as some race situations require you to take spare batteries and for this you’ll need a hybrid torch.
Torch headbands come in all shapes and sizes and there’s not necessarily a rule for what works best, it really is a matter of build quality. In general, thick headbands can sit more comfortably across the head as the pressure is spread more evenly. But we’ve also see thin, hardly-there headbands that feel to lightweight they’re a pleasure to wear and feel just as secure. It’s a matter of personal preference. Look for silicone grippers or some form of friction or a balanced cradle design that helps hold the structure in place on the head.
It’s a good idea to get a headtorch with a decent level of waterproofing if you’re going to be wearing it in all weathers and getting sweaty. Most will be at least weather-resistant, IP54, while some will be water-resistant, IPX4, and others will be waterproof, IPX5.
This is an important one. A headtorch shouldn’t feel heavy on your head, dig in uncomfortably, or even slide down. Going for a light headtorch will make your run much more enjoyable. The absolute max we’d recommend for headtorch weight is 200g, but if you can get sub 150g even better, and under 100g you’re on to a winner. It can be hard to find a powerful torch with long-last batter that’s also light, so it’s about striking the right balance for your needs.