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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Fastpacking LIGHT – A Guide

My recent article on Fastpacking (here) gained a great deal of attention. In many respects, I am not surprised, I think mini or extended semi or selfi-sufficient journeys are extremely popular and only on the increase.

The above post was in-depth and provided an overview of options that are available to make a fastpack trip effective. In some cases, coffee being a prime example, I did not go with the lightest possibilities available. The main reason for that? Comfort usually comes with a little more weight.

After a recent fastpack trip (just one-night wild camping,) I posted a photo of my pack contents and it created some interest as the weight was 5.4kg including pack, food, water, tent and all my essential items.

I received countless messages for more information, so, here goes. A detailed breakdown and description of the items and why I use them or more importantly, why I take them! Gladly, some of the items I do not need to use but need to have, just in case.

Below is a video, in-depth, where I discuss all the items listed below.

Tent:

©Earl Harper – MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent

My go to tent is a MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent (here) which is 1600g which is 2-person tent. It has loads of space both in width and height, it has two access doors with room to store pack, shoes and an area to cook in if required. It is free-standing, can be pitched inner or outer only. Split between 2-people, it is 800g each.

Current favourite solo tent is the Nemo Hornet 1P (review HERE) which has loads of space and comfort and all coming in at 731g.

NEMO Hornet 1P

If I was solo fastpacking and wanted the lightest and smallest possible, I would change the tent to a Nordisk Lofoten 1 LW (here) which is arguably the lightest and smallest packing tent in the world (still with comfort and stability) weighing just 490g and is the size of a bottle of water, 11cm x 22cm. It’s a two-layer tent which still provides an area for gear storage, with a height of just 70cm, sitting space is compromised. However, if fast, light are priorities, this takes some beating. Also, you can use the 2-man inner inside the same fly-sheet, with obviously less storage option.

Do you need a 12-week and/ or 24-week Multi-Day Training Plan perfect for a multi-day adventure or a race like Marathon des Sables? They are designed to provide you with a structured weekly plan culminating in a target event.

View a sample week HERE from the 12-week planPurchase HERE. (£14.50 pw)

View a sample week HERE from the 24-week planPurchase HERE. (£12 pw)

Wearing:

I don’t add the clothes I am wearing to my overall fastpack weight, but it is worth looking at options and variables. I was surprised when comparing run shorts how weights varied. For example, I had shorts with an inner (like cycling shorts,) they weighed 157g, considerably heavier than my RAB Skyline.

RAB Skyline shorts – 96g 

RAB Skyline Tee – 84g

Smartwool socks – 45g

Hat – 45g

Glasses – 30g 

Buff – 36g 

Scott Supertrac RC2 shoes – 290g

Pack:

inov-8 25ltr fastpack 619g – This is actually a prototype pack, specifically made for athletes on the inov-8 team. It’s a really great pack, one of the best I have used. It has a vest like fit, waist belt, comfortable strapping and loads of extra mesh pockets that make it a joy to use. I have recently encouraged inov-8 to bring this to production. 

Pack Contents:

Rab Phantom Pull-on 90g – One of the lightest and smallest waterproof shells I have used.

RAB Phantom

Patagonia Micro Puff Vest (synthetic with ripstop Pertex Quantum) 162g – Synthetic filling but weight and small packing just like down. The perfect compromise. This warms the body and core and saves weight over a jacket. Obviously, you need to asses conditions, a jacket may be better. If so, I use a RAB Kaon which weighs 260g.

Patagonia Micro Puff Vest

RAB Hat 34g 

RAB Gloves 60g

Icebreaker 175 leggings 140g – Merino providing warmth on the trail (if required) and warmth when stopping for the day and sleeping.

Icebreaker 175 top 150g

RAB Mythic Ultra 360 sleeping bag 606g – State of the art sleeping bag with groundbreaking technology. Two versions are available, and this is the warmer one. The Mythic Ultra 180 provides a saving of 200g (weight 400g) and is perfect for warmer weather fastpack and/ or warm sleepers.

RAB Mythic Ultra 360 sleeping bag

 MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit 280g – Small, compact, lightweight and the gas canister can be stored inside. Perfect minimalist solution.

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit

 MSR Trailshot 140g – A small and lightweight water filter system that guarantees water that one can drink and cook with.

MSR Trailshot

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter bottle (0.6L) 59g – This is a 600ml soft-flask with water filter inside. It allows for minimal weight and the ability to get water anywhere on the trail and drink on the go.

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter bottle

MSR Mugmate Coffee/ Tea Filter 30g – An ingenious small coffee/ tea filter that provides a lightweight solution for the coffee addict. Just pop it into a cup!

MSR Mugmate

Gas canister 113g 

Bivvy bag 151g – Great back up for added warmth should something unplanned happen.

Bivvy bag

Headtorch 46g – The Petzl e+LITE is one of the smallest and lightest around. Perfect when camping to provide light for reading and cooking. However, if you need light to run/ walk this is not the best option.

Petzl e+LITE

Garmin InReach mini 114g – I take this on all adventures. Ideal back-up and safety with an emergency button.

Garmin InReach mini

Mattress 300g* – Klymit V Ultralite SL (here) is full length, small pack size and very comfortable. *Photo is not the Klymit.

 Pillow 50g – You can always use a dry bag with clothes inside as an alternative?

First Aid 101g – Simple system by Lifesystems in a waterproof bag.

Dry Bag 68g – I use a 30ltr and use it is a liner for the pack. I find it easier to push everything in one place.

Sea to Summit spoon 12g – Sea to Summit with a long handle designed so that you can eat out of dehydrated food packs.

GoalZero Flip10 charger 75g – Good enough for one, maybe two phone charges.

Food: 

Firepot dehydrated meal 158g (per meal) – Dehydrated medals are a go-to solution for a meal when on the trail. Firepot have good calories, great taste and a good selection available.

Coffee 130g – Essential.

Snacks 300g – Bars/ nuts/ wine gums etc and importantly, *Kvikk Lunsj.

Water 600g – This is the weight of water in the 600ml soft-flask.

Camera: (obviously optional)

Sony A9 with 35mm f2.8 pancake lens 800g – I am a photographer, so, this is my serious luxury item and it comes with a weight penalty.

GoPro Max 231g

SUMMARY

Travelling light is great fun. It allows you to move faster with less strain. However, it is essential you travel light for the conditions. Too light and you may well get in trouble. So be careful and attentive. Light does not mean you will be uncomfortable, but you must accept a compromise comes from being minimal.

DOWNLOAD KIT LIST HERE

Of interest:

In Scandinavia, Kvikk Lunsj is an ‘essential’ for the trail. The chocolate consists of four rectangular wafers covered in milk chocolate, with thinner layers of chocolate between the wafers in order to break the chocolate into pieces easier. The chocolate has been advertised as a “hiking chocolate”, and it is often associated with skiing trips in Norwegian culture. Freia began printing the well-known Fjellvettreglene (Norwegian: the mountain code) on the inside of the packaging.

 There is much relevance to the points below and a great reminder for all.

1. Plan your trip and inform others about the route you have selected. Plan your trip based on the groups abilities, and always include alternative options. Obtain current information about the area and the weather conditions. Listen to the advice of seasoned mountaineers where possible. Ensure you have sufficient knowledge and practical skills to complete this trip. Respect the natural environment. Plan ahead and do not leave any litter behind you. Arrange meeting points during the trip that dont require mobile coverage or accurate timing. Is your planning sufficient to guarantee an enjoyable trip no matter what?

2. Adapt the planned routes according to ability and conditions. Assess the conditions continuously and adjust your plans accordingly. Respect the weather! Travelling with others is safer and means you will have someone to share your experiences with. If youre travelling alone, exercise caution. Do not embark on a long trip without sufficient experience. You must be able to take care of yourself as well as the others in your group. Be considerate of other hikers. Make sure you have read The Right of Access and its requirements. Make sure your group maintains an open and direct line of communication at all times. Can you complete the trip under these conditions and with this group?

3. Pay attention to the weather and the avalanche warnings. Always check the weather forecast and avalanche warnings to see what impact they have on the area. Follow the advice and choose a gentler terrain when conditions are too demanding. Check the conditions on yr.no, storm.no and varsom.no. Monitor the development of the weather and avalanche conditions along the way. Bear in mind that plans may need to be adjusted.

4. Be prepared for bad weather and frost, even on short trips. Dress appropriately for the weather, and the terrain. Remember that the weather changes quickly in the mountains. Bring extra clothing, and the equipment your route and terrain requires. Extra food and drink can help save lives, if the trip takes longer than planned or you have to wait for help. Is your group equipped to deal with a sudden change in weather?

5. Bring the necessary equipment so you can help yourself and others. In the winter, you need a windsack/bivvy sack, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and a shovel so that you can spend the night outdoors if you have to. A windsack can save lives. Bring a high-visibility vest or a headlight, that will make it easier to find you if necessary. Bring a first aid kit so you can help yourself and others. Always use a transmitter/receiver and have an avalanche probe and a shovel if you are traveling in avalanche prone terrain. Pack smart! Packing lists for different tours can be found at ut.no. Mobile phones can be a useful tool but remember that they do not work in all situations and areas. If an accident occurs, alert the police at 112, go for help or try to notify someone with other means. Are you able to take care of yourself and help others?

6. Choose safe routes. Recognize avalanche terrain and unsafe ice. Take an active decision to avoid terrain that is prone to avalanches and plan your route well. Be aware that avalanches can start in drops higher than five meters and steeper than 30 degrees. Even if you walk in flat terrain, you can trigger an avalanche on the mountainside above you. An avalanche dropout zone can be three times the height of the drop. Avoid terrain traps, such as narrow gorges. Consider what will happen if there is an avalanche. Be aware that a cornice can break off when you walk on a mountain ridge. Be aware of ice conditions when you walk on regulated lakes and rivers. Can an avalanche happen where I plan to go? What will the consequence be?

7. Use a map and a compass. Always know where you are. A map and compass are an essential basic equipment that always work. Pay attention to the map even when hiking on a marked trail. Knowing where you are on the map, makes for a better hiking experience. GPS and other electronic aids are helpful, but make sure you have extra batteries. Do you know where you are?

8. Dont be ashamed to turn around. Evaluate your route continuously and if conditions are becoming difficult, choose your best alternative long before you or group members become exhausted. Have the circumstances changed? Should you turn around? Is anyone in your group have problems completing the route? Should the group turn around? Enjoy the hike for its own sake and remember that there will be other opportunities if it is too challenging today.

9. Conserve your energy and seek shelter if necessary. Adjust your hiking speed to the weakest member of the group, and make sure that everyone can keep up. Remember to eat and drink frequently. When you exert yourself, your body needs more fluids than you may feel you need. Dont wait until you are exhausted before you seek shelter. Strong winds will tire you out quickly. Use your windsack or dig a snow cave before its too late. Are you able to get back to your base? Do you know where the nearest shelter is?

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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