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Head Torches | Buying Guide

by Anna Woodall

The humble head torch, a simple but essential piece of equipment should you find yourself outdoors after dark. In our opinion, you should never go out without one on any outdoor adventure. 

If you're stuck on what sort of head torch you need, check out this guide to give you a better understanding and hopefully you'll be staying out when everyone else has gone home. 


First things first. What sort of activity will you be wanting to use your head torch for? If you have a specific activity in mind, you may want to look for a head torch that is more geared towards that activity, rather than one of the more generic models.


Once you’ve had a think about what you would use your head torch for, the next thing to consider is how many lumens you’ll need. Lumens are a measure of the total visible light emitted by the light source. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. A brighter light not only helps you see what’s up ahead, but it also means you can be seen quicker by others. To give you a rough idea, see the table below:

Lumens Usage - only suggested, on our own experience
40-200 Emergency/backup lighting, urban running.
200-500 Trail running, climbing, hiking, helmet light for biking
500+ Fell running, mountaineering

Light Options

Many torches will have different light options, which may include a wider angle, a more concentrated beam and possibly a red light mode. Some of the Black Diamond models feature a ‘Powertap’ function which can be used to quickly change between full beam and dimmed power. A unit with red light mode can be particularly useful when part of a group, to prevent blinding one another! Some models even have a flashing red light mode, in case of an emergency. 


Battery life can vary, depending on how many lumens you are using. For torches that can change between light modes, the battery life will vary accordingly. It’s well worth checking out how long your head torch will last, and thinking about how long you’ll need to use it for.

This leads nicely to type of battery - some units will only take standard sized AA/AAA batteries, so if you’re likely to loose charge while you’re out on your chosen activity it's always wise to pack some spare. Other models will be USB rechargeable, handy if you remember to charge it before you go out (less than ideal if you run out charge in the middle of nowhere), but also more environmentally friendly than rinsing through single use batteries. The Petzl ‘Core’ range wins out here, allowing the user to switch between both a rechargeable ‘core’ battery, or single use cells.

Other Considerations

Once you’ve narrowed down your search, there may be only marginal differences between a couple of models. Other than price, what other things should you consider to make that final decision? The three main options here are weight, comfort, and additional features.

Some things are non-negotiable - of course a more powerful torch will weigh more, but it may be slightly more cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear for longer periods. If you struggle with an elastic headband, then maybe consider looking at Petzl’s Iko, with its semi rigid ‘airfit’ headband.

If you want your head torch to cover a few activities, look at one that could be attached to your climbing or cycling helmet, or perhaps also double up as a camping lamp. Finally, if you’re planning on being out in all weathers - it goes without saying that you’ll need to consider how waterproof the unit is!

Hopefully by now you’ll have narrowed down your choice to one or two units. If you’re still undecided, give us a call and we’d be happy to chat through your options.

Our Recommendations

Check out our full range of head torches here