Shining some light on HEAD TORCHES

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-6435

I have been running around some Lakeland fells in the dark looking for a head torch.

Talking of head torches!

Winter is looming. It’s dark in the morning and dark earlier and earlier in the evening. The lure of the treadmill or training in a gym is just not an option for some, me included. I get it! The need to be out in the environment getting in some fresh air is essential to function on a day-to-day level. So, if you are going to keep running during the winter months a head torch is going to be essential.

It is an important piece of kit and arguably one that is ‘mandatory’ when heading to the trails particularly at this time of the year. It may be light when you leave home but have you noticed how suddenly the light switch is flicked and what was daylight disappears into blue, dark blue and then black. If you are on the road (with street lights) this is not too much of an issue but if you are off road, you are going to need a light that illuminates the trail, has durability and good battery life.

My first tip is don’t skimp on what you pay. Yes, you can get a head torch for £20-£30 but it will probably be as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Trails throw all sorts of obstacles at you so you NEED to see what is coming.

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-6410

BEAM 

One thing I hate about running at night is that I eventually fall into the beam and I feel that I am in a tunnel. It affects my mind, my vision and my concentration. Many head torches have ‘beam options’ that usually are ‘narrow’ or ‘wide’. This option is an essential item to allow you to adapt to the environment and your vision needs.

NARROW will focus the beam. For example, you may be running single-track and need vision in a very specific area. You need to see roots, rocks or any other obstacles. The narrow beam will facilitate your vision and allow you to make on-the–go decisions without loosing speed.

WIDE as it suggests provides a softer more widespread light that provides a much general field of view. This tends to work well with clearer skies or on open trail when obstacles are reduced.

Some head torches allow ‘variations’ between wide and narrow. In some scenarios this may be appealing? In general though, two beam widths are adequate. What is important is the brightness of the lamp!

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-6384

BRICHTNESS

Brightness is measured in lumens and I have a general rule. Buy a head torch with the biggest number you can afford. BUT be sensible. You don’t need a 140 lumen lamp for street running. Equally, you can’t get away with a 40 lumen lamp on pitch black trails with 100’s of obstacles.

As lumens go up, so does the price.

Some head torches have a manual way to adjust brightness, for example, one button press = 60 lumens, two button presses = 100 lumens and three presses = 140 lumens. In addition this it may well have a ‘flash’ option that can be used for safety. A manual facility is for me preferable to some of the new head torches that ‘auto-adjust’ to conditions. I have issues with these when in fog, clag, mist, rain and so on as the sensor becomes confused. It over engineers a simple problem that a button click resolves; simple!

Be careful of the ‘boost’ mode that some torches boast about. Yes, it may make you feel like a motorbike on the trail but this amount of power comes at a price. It will mean the light only last 30-minutes or you need to carry a huge battery to facilitate this.

Understand your needs and be specific when purchasing. A light that provides too much power can be turned down BUT a light with no ‘additional’ power cannot be turned up.

Also, when looking at power and brightness, this goes hand-in-hand with the beam. A narrow beam may well require less power because the beam is so concentrated, however, when on wide, you may wish to up the power as the light provided is softer.©iancorless.com.IMG_7467Transvulcania14

BATTERY LIFE

What a dilemma. You have purchased your super-dooper all singing, all dancing head torch at 140 lumens with wide and narrow beam BUT it eats batteries. Bugger!

Use new batteries as often as you can. Many head torches use re-chargeables and that is a good (the best) option providing that you can also use conventional batteries. I like head torches that will allow me to run into a store, purchase a pack of ‘AA’ and be functioning again in minutes. It also means that it is easy to carry spares while running.

It’s like we discussed above. Be specific. If you run typically 1-2 hours on dark trails, a 140 lumen light will be ideal and the batteries will last for the duration of the run. But battery life falls off very quickly after one or two runs. If you are doing anything important or long use FRESH batteries and have spares! This is where ‘re-chargeable’ batteries come in.

If you have this option, you can re-charge after every run and therefore every training run will be illuminated just as you thought it would be.

If you are running a 50 mile race and 8 hours are under darkness, you will almost certainly need one spare set of batteries and maybe even two! This why the option to use conventional and re-chargeable is important. Either that or you need 2-3 head torches!

On a final note, batteries can either fit in the lamp unit at the front (typically 2 xAA or 3 x AAA) or at the rear in a battery box that is sealed from the weather. The latter option usually means that you will have more power and the light will have more autonomy but you will need to check! Is one better than the other? It all depends on your preference, I have found that a lamp at the front and batteries at the back balances the light well when in use. However, I do like the simplicity of everything in the head unit as it does allow you to use the light in other scenarios.

©iancorless.com.IMG_7436Transvulcania14

ADJUSTMENTS

Head torches will tilt and some swivel. This function will allow you to adjust the angle of the light based on your running style. This is important as we all have different run styles. You want the beam to be in a natural position taking into account your head angle whilst running and what field of vision you require. I usually prefer to see 2-3 meters in front of me as this allows me to run at a natural pace without slowing due to vision problems. If the trail is gnarly, I adjust the angle, power and beam based on my needs.

Nearly all head torches use an elastic system to stretch around the head and hold the light in place. One or two also include a strap that goes over the top of the head too. This adds extra stability but often is a problem when wearing hats and so on. Ultimately you just want something that is comfortable.

SUMMARY

Night running is awesome. I love it. If you haven’t tried it, head out with friends at first, you will feel more secure as It can take some getting used to as you may feel disorientated.

But once you have the feel for it, it will be something you embrace and of course it adds some spice to your running.

If snow falls, embrace the opportunity and run under darkness, it is arguably one of my favourite times to be on the trail; dark skies, white snow and the glow of a light!

Embrace the dark!

©iancorless.com_SkyRun14-3840#ETRkathmandu

Running MDS or a another multi-day race? Why not join us in Lanzarote for our training camp. We have a night run, bivouac and morning run planned. Perfect opportunity to test your lighting and multi-day set up. Go HERE

Multi-Day Camp Image

PHD Summer Lightning Review

© www.NICKMUZIK.com

Fast and Light. They are buzzwords in the world of trail, mountain and ultra running. We could argue all day about how this came about. Many would potentially give Kilian Jornet credit for the movement but I think it’s fair to say that men and women have been going light to the mountains and trails for quite some time, it’s just recently that we have all become far more aware.

Light does have its problems!

We have many documented reports, articles and stories of runners, mountaineers or alpinists being ‘caught out’ on a mountain and as a consequence in certain circles, mountain runners have gained a bad reputation.

Travelling light is all well and good providing that you are able to move fast! The two words go together; FAST and LIGHT! But what do I mean? Well quite simply, the process of going light will almost certainly mean that what you carry as a runner or alpinist will be minimal. Minimal of course is subjective and dependent on the person. For arguments sake, lets call light as follows:

  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Pack to carry water
  • Mobile phone

In essence, that is going light to the trail or mountain. Should conditions become difficult or problematic, this is where FAST comes in. You need to get out of trouble, danger or the cold fast and to safety. In many respects, this is part of the challenge. Running in the mountains is not a risk adverse sport.

Question:

What if though you could add a 1000 fill down product to your pack for a weight addition of 3oz (85g) or 6oz (180g)?

I kid you not.

UK based company PHD currently have 2 remarkable products that embrace low weight, low pack size and ultimate functionality in a limited availability range of products called Summer Lightning.

PHDsummerlite-jck-1-5-15_med

PHDwafer-vest-28-4-15_med

A SUMMERLITE DOWN JACKET (£199 6oz) and a WAFERLITE DOWN VEST (£99 3oz) are part of the K Series range of products that offer ultimate warmth against minimal weight. Filled with 1000 fill power European goose down (responsibly sourced) the jacket has a water-resistant Ultrashell outer fabric, stitch through construction and the vest has a 10x inside and out fabric that is not water-resistant and stitch through construction.

I have to say, having tested both these products I think PHD should make them available all year around. As a brand, my understanding is that they see them as a warm alternative for summer months but to be honest, they are a great addition to any kit list irrespective of the time of year. Both products would provide ideal warm layers to any multi-day adventure such as MDS. The potential to combine a warm layer and lightweight sleeping bag are endless. The apparel would also make a perfect addition (for every run) to any mountain runner’s kit list and lets face it, for fast packing they are brilliant. You see, these products are so light, so small I simply can’t think of a reason not to take them! I even have the jacket packed away in my day-to-day laptop bag or camera bag for that ‘just-in-case’ scenario.

On Test

I have had both products for 1 month and I have tested them ‘in situ’ at Richtersveld Wildrun in South Africa and at the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira. Both races provided me with changeable weather and an opportunity to test each product to the full.

On first impressions it’s difficult to believe that when one looks at these items compressed in a small stuff sack that they could possibly be a down vest and a down jacket. You pick up the vest and you don’t even notice any weight. It is just 3oz. The outer Ultrashell fabric on both products is silky smooth and a pleasure to wear against the skin. I wore the vest and jacket with just a t-shirt underneath and found them both really comfortable.

They may be light but they are warm, really warm. Let’s be realistic, they are not for polar conditions. But if you need a warm layer to protect against morning or evening chill, daily colder or cooler temperatures or an additional warmth layer to be added under a Gore-Tex (or similar) or windproof jacket, they are the perfect choice.

They are arguably the lightest down products in the world? Both pack to the size of an apple!

I have to say, I was spoilt; having a vest and jacket did allow me to regulate my temperature extremely well and on one occasion I actually wore the vest under the jacket on a very cold and damp night in South Africa.

They are simple, no frills products. The vest has no pockets and just a half-zip to reduce weight. The jacket has a full-length zip, two side pockets and a short stand up collar with no hood. However, it is possible to add a hood when ordering for the additional cost of £27.

As with all PHD products, items are made to order and this does allow you to customize any apparel exactly to your needs. For example, you could have a jacket with a half-zip, no pockets and a hood! The choice is yours.

Please keep in mind that if you need or require products by a certain date, you will need to allow for manufacturing time.

On the go, I found adding or removing either the vest or the jacket easy. They pack so small that I could actually just stuff either item in the pocket on my shorts. This is important because as soon as you start to move quickly, they retain heat exceptionally well and you find that you need to remove them so that you don’t sweat. Of course, as soon as you stop, you can quickly access the vest or jacket and wear them so that you don’t get cold

I wore the jacket all day on a very wet and chilly South African day and the Ultrashell outer fabric did a great job protecting the down from wet and moisture. Admittedly, I did wear a waterproof layer over the top. But in and around base-camp I was often moving from one tent to another with no waterproof layer and the product held up well with no problems despite constant drizzle and rain. Notably, the vest and the jacket did a great job of blocking out the wind.

Summary

PHD has come up with two incredibly light and small items of apparel that are now part of my ‘essential’ kit. They are so small, light and effective that I can’t be without them. Yes, they are that good!

Do I have a negative comment?

Down does not like rain, wet or moisture and it effectively becomes useless should this happen. Ultrashell fabric does protect the insulation in the jacket but this would only protect to a certain extent. So, if you anticipate bad (wet) weather you would almost certainly need a Gore-Tex or similar 100% outer layer to maximize the 1000 down fill. To be honest though, if you were going to the mountains a waterproof outer layer should be mandatory no matter how light you are going!

On a final note, I can’t recommend these two products enough. They may not be the cheapest apparel available but what you get are two incredible products that are functional, pack small and are superlight. Did I also mention that PHD has two sleeping bags that are also part of this range: ELITE RACER DOWN BAG (8oz) and RACER DOWN SLEEPING BAG (90z) more news on those to follow.

 PHDracer-sleeping-bag-26-4-15_med

PHDelite-racer-down-sleeping-bag-10-5-15-1_med

 

Specs as provided by PHD 

Summer Lite Down Jacket £199 

PHDsummerlite-jck-1-5-15_med

  • A PHD ‘K Series’ product: Ultimate warmth / weight performance
  • PHD’s Unique 1000 fill power European Goose down
  • Water-resistant Ultrashell outer fabric (our lightest-ever proofed fabric)
  • Ultralight 10X inner fabric
  • Stitch-through construction for lightness
  • Pockets: 2 zipped hand-warmer pockets

Not only is this our lightest-ever insulated jacket, it’s made in water-resistant Ultrashell fabric too.

A super-light down jacket with exceptional summer race and trekking performance.  At just 180gr it weighs less than many base layers, and it packs down tiny taking the absolute minimum space up in a summer rucksack.

The amazing Ultrashell outer fabric (our lightest water-resistant material) protects the down from damp and its 100% wind block qualities enhance the performance of the unique 1000 fill power Down insulation.

  • Ideal companion for summer nights
  • Pack without noticing the weight or bulk
  • Outer layer or mid-layer warmth
  • Warmer, lighter and a smaller pack size than a fleece jacket and 100% wind block too.

5 deg C

180g / 6oz

Add a hood £27

Three colours 

XS, S, M, L, XL

 

WAFERLITE DOWN VEST

 PHDwafer-vest-28-4-15_med

  • A PHD ‘K Series‘ Product: Ultimate warmth / weight performance
  • PHD’s unique 1000 fill power European Goose Down
  • Outer & Inner fabric: Ultra light 10X
  • Stitch-through construction for maximum weight saving
  • Down-filled collar to seal in the warmth

At 85g (3oz) the WaferLite vest is the lightest down vest in the world. 35% lighter than our superlight standard Wafer Vest.

The 10X fabric gives total wind block and the unique 1000 fill power down provides the highest warmth-for-weight performance possible. Packed into a tiny stuff sac, the WaferLite vest is simply breath taking for summer racers and ultra-light trekking.

The WaferLite vest will fit snugly under any of our down jackets, even the Minimus or the Yukon.

  • Ideal companion in a cool camp, bothy, or hut.
  • Pack without noticing the weight (or the bulk).
  • Midlayer to boost warmth

Add performance to your sleeping bag.

5 DEG C

85G / 3OZ

£99

 

PHD are available HERE 

SummerLite Down Jacket and WaferLite Down Vest are currently only available in May/ June.