Silva Trail Runner Free Headlamp Review

A headlamp, a good one! is an essential item for any runner, be that for racing or training. Winter, short days and what can feel like constant darkness can stop training and force sessions indoors, however, a good lamp can make all the difference for helping you get out of the door. Recently I looked at headlamps by Norwegian brand, Moonlight, HERE who produce lamps with serious lumens for running, mountain biking, skiing or any sport that takes place in pitch darkness and bright illumination is required.

Read a guide on headlamps HERE

Silva with the Trail Runner Free have taken the head lamp to a superb next level offering a specific product for running with 400 lumen output. Comfortable, lightweight with beams optimized for running this is proving to be my ‘go-to’ lamp. The ability to use AAA batteries or an optional rechargeable battery in a Hybrid battery case make this extremely user friendly, even for long and relentless outings.

Use 3x AAA batteries or a rechargeable battery for ultimate flexibility.

There are countless pluses to this new incarnation from Silva:

The free in the product name refers to the power cord being integrated into the headband. This provides a comfortable headlamp experience without distracting cords or tangled wires. The headband is soft with a silicone on the inside to stay in place. Gladly there is just one strap that goes around the head, there is no strap over the top of the head.

The weight is super-light coming in at 125g with the battery. Every part of the headlamp has been compressed and the unit only weighs 55 grams.

Hybrid battery case which can be used with AAA batteries (provided) and the option to purchase a Trail Runner Hybrid (1.15AH) battery for increased flexibility. The case has grip friendly surfaces and holds an integrated red rear safety light – adding extra visibility. 

There is a small switch with 3 settings: Off, permanent red light or flashing.

Importantly, the battery case can be used on or off the headband. An additional extension cable is provided so that you can store and use the battery in a pocket or a run pack – especially important in cold climates when warmth will allow the battery to last longer.

An extension cable (supplied) facilitates ‘off the head’ use of the Hybrid battery pack.

Customized light distribution via a double light beam with light settings that are perfect for running. A combination of a long reach spotlight and a close floodlight provides an excellent balance of close and long view perspectives which allows one to run with confidence, even at speed.

Spot and flood for ideal visibility.

It has 3 modes of varying brightness, 400, 200 and 50 lumens. In good weather conditions, you can expect 2.5 hours on full power or 12-hours on minimum power.

IPX5 water resistance

Price

77.00 (with AAA) 

The 1.5Ah Hybrid battery is an optional accessory for the Trail Runner Free and is supplied with the ‘H.’

Hybrid Battery is 32.00

The TRAIL RUNNER FREE H is 109.00 and includes Hybrid Battery.

The TRAIL RUNNER FREE ULTRA is 127.00 and includes 4.0 Ah long-distance battery.

OPTIONS

The base version Trail Runner Free is at a great price and is provided with 3x AAA batteries which means you can use it straight out of the packaging. The option to use AAA and a rechargeable is a deal breaker for me, especially if I am out on long adventures or if I was racing. The flexibility to be able to purchase batteries anywhere and use the head lamp is a win! 

Choose Trail Runner Free with the Hybrid battery case and 3 x AAA batteries if you don’t run on a daily basis, but still value long burn time.

3x AAA battery is great for flexibility and a back-up to the 1.5Ah Hybrid battery.

In reality though, the best option is to purchase the Trail Runner Free H that comes with a Hybrid Battery. I also purchased an additional spare battery for increased flexibility. This allows me to charge a battery while using the torch (I carry 3 x AAA in my pack as spares and for a ‘just in case’ scenario). Equally, I can carry a charged Hybrid battery as a spare too.

The Hybrid battery case takes 3x AAA or the 1.5Ah battery.

If you always run long, the Trail Runner Free Ultra has the largest battery and burn time offering 9-hours on full-power in good weather. This can reduce to below 5-hours in sub-zero temperatures.

TOP TIP

Choose Trail Runner Free Ultra if you want to go for really long sessions with the 4.0Ah long-distance battery. With Free Ultra you also get the Hybrid battery case which can be used with either 3 x AAA batteries or by complementing it with a Hybrid battery (1.15Ah).

IN USE

The head lamp, head band and Hybrid battery case is the same irrespective of which option you choose. Please note that with the Ultra, the larger 4.0Ah battery does not fit in the Hybrid case but can still be used on the head band or in a pocket using the included extension cable.

Comfort level is high with the Trail Runner Free and I would go as far to say, it’s arguably one of the most comfortable head lamps I have used, especially with no cables flapping around. However, because the cables are incorporated within the headband, adjusting is a little more laborious than in others I have used, it’s a minor niggle. On the head band the battery is well balanced, secure and comfortable.

Cables are incorporated inside the headband and you connect the battery via a connector.
The pack simply connects via a short cabe is the pack is attached to the head band.

The Hybrid battery pack easily attaches or removes from the head band allowing for great flexibility.

Using the battery off the head and it’s easy to change batteries and turn the red safety light on or off.
Off the head you use an extension cable so the battery can placed in a pocket or pack.

It has an inbuilt red LED for safety.

Rear red safety light can be off, flashing or permanent.

This rear light has its own switch which you turn on by opening the rear battery cover and moving the small toggle switch, flashing or constant is available. There are pluses and minuses to this. The plus is that you do not need the rear light on, which will save some battery, especially if storing the battery and using in a pocket. The downside is twofold: 1. It’s easy to forget to turn the rear light on. 2. Opening the door and flicking the switch is just one extra thing to do and if it’s cold, almost impossible to do with gloves on.

The lamp itself is small, rotates up and down easily (even with gloves on) and the switch on the left-side is easy to press for illumination.

Green shows good power in the battery, red shows recharging or new batteries are required.

You press and hold to turn off, if you see a red light, the battery needs charging or changing. If you see green, all is good. There are two lamps, a spot and wide and they work exceptionally well. 

At 400 lumens, the head lamp sits at a very comfortable balance of illumination v battery life. Lumens and brightness are not always the be all and end all for a head lamp, especially when running. For faster sports, MTB or skiing, illumination is crucial because everything is moving so much faster, with running, especially at night, everything is a little slower and 400 lumen works really well. I also feel that our eyes and perception adjust accordingly but I am aware that for some, this is not the case.

Not all head lamps are the same and the Trail Runner Free has become my ‘go-to’ and most likely the product I would recommend to others as a first option.

The reason being weight, comfort, price but most importantly the Hybrid battery combination and the flexibility it brings.

Using the battery off the head is a real plus of the Trail Runner Free.

I have actually only used the Hybrid case on the head band three times (it was comfortable, no problem.) I have found that the best solution for me is to store the battery pack either in my run vest or in a pocket on my clothing.

The reasons for this are countless:

  • Less weight on the head.
  • Keeping the batteries warm so that they last longer.
  • I can change batteries without having to take the head lamp off.

Another key point is the flexibility to daily use a rechargeable battery (thus saving on costs and the environment) but also having 3x AAA with me should I need to have additional backup power. Of course, you can carry another rechargeable too OR use the larger 4.0Ah battery.

CONCLUSION

The combination of battery options, free technology, comfort, flexibility and 400 lumens all packaged into a running specific lamp make the Trail Runner Free a winner. There are a couple of minor niggles, but they are nothing to worry about and are certainly not real considerations when considering should I or should I not buy this head lamp. When purchasing, consider which model best suits your needs. But have knowledge knowing that you have complete flexibility afterwards to switch between batteries and how the battery is used. Highly recommended. 

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6 thoughts on “Silva Trail Runner Free Headlamp Review

  1. Pingback: Shining Some Light On Headlamps For Running | iancorless.com – Photography, Writing, Talk Ultra Podcast

  2. being a nighttime runner living in the US midwest, 400 lumens/2-4 hours capacity / possibility to carry batteries in an inside pocket in winter is exactly what I need. I don’t think I will ever need anything more than 400 lumens (I am usually pretty happy with 200-300), unless I go back to orienteering. Thanks for the review. Maybe you could post some links so you could make a little $$ from the sales!

  3. Pingback: Episode 199 – Hayden Hawks and Camille Herron | iancorless.com – Photography, Writing, Talk Ultra Podcast

  4. Ian hi,
    Thanks for the detailed review. This head lamp look like what I’m looking for, for night runs and multi day fastpacking. especially because of the hybrid battery pack. The dual beam is a welcome feature as well.
    few questions, based on your experience:
    1. is the band stay fit on the head, or start to slide when become wet of sweat?
    2. is the beam light on path stable, or swinging up & down during run?
    3. How do you estimate durability of this torch? assuming replacing band is quite problematic & expensive. do you think it will keep tight after year of use?
    Thanks a head, Uri

    • I think the Moonlight will last longer, BUT, the Silva can use normal and rechargeable, so that is a plus. No slipping from Silva. Beam is stable all times. Durability? Ask me after winter…

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