By Dave Westlake
A reliable headtorch is one of those bits of kit that every outdoor enthusiast should have in their bag. Whether you’re climbing, scrambling, hiking, biking or paddling, you never know when you might need to find your way in the dark. I’ve been testing the Silva 3X for the past few months to see if it could match the likes of the better-known brands. I kept it in the stash pocket of my bag or jacket whenever I ventured outdoors, and I found myself using it hiking and getting down from the crag. I also tested it out on my climbing helmet, while doing ‘one last route’ at dusk, and in and out of my tent at various campsites. Moreover, in a show of true versatility, the 3X has even come into use during the dark winter evenings, when I’ve paired it up with a big floodlight on my handlebars to go mountain biking on the trails in my local woods.
The 3X is a compact, barrel shaped headtorch that packs everything it needs into a single small unit, meaning there are no wires or separate battery packs to get in the way. The single headband is lined with a grippy strip that makes it feel secure on your head and helps it stick to a helmet, but never becomes uncomfortable (as I had initially feared). The 3X strikes a pretty unassuming pose, in a functional black and white design, which many will favour over its more colourful and extravagant peers. It’s also remarkably lightweight considering how powerful it is.
The two major things you need to take note of when choosing a headtorch are lumens and burn time. With a nod to the candle power of times past, these metrics tell you how bright the light will be and how long it will reliably last. Unfortunately for the savvy consumer, there are different ways of measuring lumens, and no shortage of marketing charlatans, so a quick internet search will yield lots of cheap knock-off headtorches that claim to have high luminosity. Don’t be fooled though, many of these will turn out to be inferior – choosing a trusted brand such as Silva will ensure you get an accurately rated and reliable torch.
The Silva 3X packs an impressive 350 lumens into its small interior, beaming it firmly into the higher end headtorch market. Since its 2019, the torch uses USB charging through a standard micro USB port which is neatly tucked away (and sealed from the elements). When the 3X is juicing up a small light glows red, and when its fully juiced it turns green – simple!
Whatever I used it for, and in varied temperature and weather conditions, the 3X proved reliable and bright. It didn’t faulter and stayed firmly attached at all times. The 3X is so light that you really can pop it on your head and forget about it, so it becomes a must have when the darkness sets in. Although I mainly used it for hiking and climbing, I was especially impressed with its performance as a secondary light when mountain biking. Having 350 lumens on my head gave me the confidence to tear round corners at a reasonable speed.
The 3X also boasts what I’ve taken to calling ‘camping mode’. This is a simple but brilliant feature, whereby the white cloth bag that comes with the torch transforms it into a soft ambient hanging lamp. Pop this inside your tent, or outside on a tree, and the intense beam of the headtorch is transformed into a bright white glow.
It’s easy to forget how the gear we are using today outperforms the technology of even 5 years ago. Performance wise, the 3X proved much brighter than I expected and comparisons with my old Black Diamond model were stark. The 3X is lighter, brighter and more reliable by a long way.
Lighting is a vital department of outdoor gear, but for many of us it is overlooked or an afterthought. With limited daylight and winter evenings threatening to curtail our outdoor adventures for a large chunk of the year, we’d be well advised to sit up and take note of products like the Silva 3X. As one of the most versatile, reliable and bright headtorches out there it has the power to renegotiate our time in the wilderness at both ends of the day.