We look at some of the latest and best headtorches for your 2017 winter season
It’s been 2 years since we last looked at headlamps (or headtorches as we call them in the UK). Since then there have been some great updates from manufacturers as well as some newer entries into the market.
In our 2014 guide we looked closely at what you might be looking for in a headlamp for winter climbing use. These remain the same (winter doesn’t change – it still stays dark!):
- Variable light settings – these should be easy to operate and should have a boost (full power ) for picking navigation attack points or showing the route, low settings for lighting the path or reading and a red light setting for reading the map (the white light reflects back off the map to reduce the effectiveness of you night vision).
- Easy to operate buttons – these should be super easy to locate and use and especially so with gloves on. We used a standard pair of leather gloves for the tests and a pair of thicker ice climbing gauntlets just to be awkward.
- Easy to use battery compartment – it should be easy to change the batteries in the field or even on a route.
- Good beam dispersal – you need a system that will pick out far objects with a focussed beam and then disperse light for a wider beam when walking down rock paths.
- Easy to adjust headstrap – this should be easy to adjust with gloves on and not be a faff. The headstrap should also work with a climbing helmet and not flop about.
- There are also other considerations – water resistant, dustproof and easy to maintain so an IPX rating is desirable
So here’s our recommendations for what you might find useful in 2017.
Black Diamond Iota
BD say: A light that easily fits in the palm of your hand, the Black Diamond Iota is the daily driver for quick-hit morning trail runs, post-work ridge scrambles and urban adventuring.
This is the first headlamp we’ve featured that is only rechargeable. The Iota is the latest design from Black Diamond and is a great headlamp that we would recommend for hutting, camping and as an emergency headlamp o keep in your cragging pack. There is a great, large button which controls the lighting intensity by continually holding it down. The tap technology means that you can easily access full power by tapping the right hand side of the casing.
The light is diffused by the fixed lens cover and there is no red lighting, but then it’s usefulness is in fast and light and not loads of features as it weighs a super light 54g (although the stated weight is 65g).
It has an IPX 4 rating which means it’s good enough to wear for short periods of mingy weather so easy enough you get you off the route when the weather turns gnarly or a trail run on a winters evening after work.
The Iota takes about a couple of hours to fully charge via the micro USB charging socket and that gives you about 6 hours of full beam — 150 lumens.
The Black Diamond Iota is a great low cost and lightweight headlamp that will give you plenty of light for an emergency crag evacuation and to get back to the car, a night run; it is brilliant for hitting or camping and you won’t notice it in your pack. Just be careful that you makes sure it’s fully charge before you take it out. This is easily the type of headlamp that stays permanently in my pack.
Edelrid say: The Cometalite is the go-to headlamp for all demanding outdoor activities, from mountaineering to trail running.
Edelrid continue to surprise with their awesome range of product and their headlamp range is excellent. We’ve decided to feature the two that would be most useful to climbers. The Cometalite is a fully featured headlamp that works from 3 AAA batteries so no matter where you are in the world you should be able to find power for it. There is a power indicator light to let you know when the batteries need replacing.
The Edelrid Cometalite is the type of headlamp that you would find useful for having in your hiking or cragging pack at all times through the Autumn and Winter. I would also take it out on winter day trips as it is easy good enough to use for walking over extended periods of time. It’s light enough and weighed in at 92g with 3 standard Alkaline batteries so there is scope to lighten it with lithium batteries if you want.
It has three power settings which are nice and simple to use: press 1-full beam for picking out the way ahead, press 2 for the main beam and general hiking and press 3 for reading and general basecamp stuff. A quick double press engages a red beam for map reading or not blinding you mates when you look at them and another press for red strobe. So nice and simple.
It has a nice, clear and uninterrupted 165 Lumen beam of full power and will last 6hrs. The tilt ratchet is nice and strong and the Cometalite has an IPX5 rating so should be fine for those rainy trail runs.
The only issue we had with the Cometalite is that the headband tended to loosen itself, especially when running and I had to keep stopping to retighten it. A frustrating issue with what is an otherwise good headlamp.
Princeton Tec Sync
Princeton Tec say: Sync Headlamp won the 2015 Backpacker Magazine Editors’ Choice Award!
The Princeton Tec Sync is a neat looking headtorch that works with 3 x AAA batteries (supplied). It is a great value, inexpensive headtorch that is still packed with enough features to get you up and down your route with minimal fuss. It is part of the Family series of headlamps. We chose it because it looked light (84g with the supplied 3 x AAA batteries) and powerful without being too faffy, we don’t like faff. Winter climbing is suffering enough with unnecessary faff!
The head unit woks from a single arm bracket that has a good, solid ratchet. It is very easy to use with gloves and the power settings are accessible using the large, rotating dial at the side. Rotating the dial gives you a red beam, focussed narrow beams, a focussed wide beam and Max power with both LEDs on which was 150 Lumens and more than enough to light up the way ahead.
With good, basic settings the Princeton Tec Sync offers a burn time of 97 hours on maximum beam and a 144 hours on spot. The super bright red beam (which is the brightest of all the red settings on test) will give you 150 hours and is surprisingly bright enough to light up the ground ahead. It’s weather proof with its IPX4 rating.
One of the things I really like about the Princeton Tec Sync is how easy it is to remove the headband to wash it. Such a neat and simple idea that is missing from so many headlamps.So the Princeton Tec Sync is a great value headtorch that is suitable for hiking, running and basecamp duties. You could use it for your winter climbing day but it may not quite powerful enough for route finding in the most extreme conditions.
The Sync comes in 3 funky colours plus Black and the SRP is £ 29.95
Available from Whitby and Co.
Black Diamond Spot
BD say: Powerful, precise, fully-featured and waterproof, the redesigned 200-lumen Spot offers our convenient PowerTap Technology for on-the-fly brightness adjustments in all weather.
Another new offering from Black Diamond, the Spot is the next level up from the Iota. Working off 3 x AAA batteries you can be sure of buying power most places on the planet as well as the capacity to lighten the weight by using Lithium ones. It weighed in at 92g (stated weight is 90g) including the standard Alkaline batteries which were included. If saving cash or environmental concerns are important to you can also use rechargeable batteries (which is what I use for everyday – I then substitute them for Lithium for winter).
The Black Diamond Spot is very rugged and has a full standard IPX8 rating so waterproof to just over a metre for 30 mins so should be fine if you are unlucky enough to find yourself in a sudden downpour.
The clear main beam is excellent giving a good 200 Lumen beam that easily lights the way ahead for about 10 metres or so and more if the weather is clear. The beam can be adjusted the same as the Iota by keeping your finger on the large, glove friendly button. So you can have a main beam for approaching the route and a power saving dimmer light for reading in the tent when your tent bound by that squally storm.
Tap the right hand side of the BD Spot and the Power Tap tech gives you a boost of light, double tap the top button and this gives you just that small amount of light. Double press the top button and the red light deploys, this is also dimmable and can be boosted by tapping the right hand side. The single elasticated headband was easy to adjust and stayed in place when adjusted.
All very confusing to start with but be persistent and the Black Diamond Spot is a top quality compact headtorch that you will find very useful.
SRP £ 40:00
Edelrid say: Particularly powerful and robust headlamp with a battery compartment at the back of the head and three brightness levels.
The Edelrid Asteri is a fully feature hardcore Alpine headtorch. This is the type of headtorch you would consider if you know you are going to be starting in the dark and finishing in the dark. So typically for December and January winter days out in Scotland, where you may well be climbing the first easy pitches in the dark at 5:00am and then hiking off the summit to find Number 4 Gully and back to the car for 5:00pm!
The Edelrid Asteri works off 3 x AA batteries, which come supplied. With that comes the added weight which on the CGR scales came to 197g with standard Duracell batteries. You can lighten the weight by using Lithium batteries and you can also use Hybrid rechargeable which are often slightly lighter than Alkaline batteries.
The advantages of the heavier battery pack are you get a brighter, more powerful 250 Lumen beam and a longer output (13hrs on full beam), so the batteries should last for most of the season with normal use.
The battery pack is rear mounted but interestingly the Asteri can be clipped onto a helmet without the headband by using the Asteri helmet clip (not supplied). So if you are a regular winter alpine climber you can dispense with the strap completely.
There are 4 main beam settings on the Asteri, press 1 – full beam, press 2 – medium, press 3 – low level and press 4 – strobe. There is also a red beam activated by a quick double press, press again and it becomes a strobe. There is also a sliding diffuser screen to give you a wider beam if you want one. The head has a nice, sturdy ratchet action for angling beam direction.
You have to scroll through the whole range of options to turn it off, which can be a bit of a pain, but the button is easy to locate and glove friendly. Also there is a great rear, red light which is turned on by a button on the battery pack. This is very useful if you are leading the way as people behind you can easily spot you to follow.
So, the Edelrid Asteri is a good for all your Alpine and Winter adventures – the battery pack gives you plenty of confidence you are not going to run out of juice and the main beam is easy powerful enough to light the route ahead. We also liked that it was a single headband with no over the top band.
SRP: £ 45:00
Petzl say: With 300 lumens of power, the REACTIK + headlamp offers outdoor enthusiasts a compact, intelligent, programmable, rechargeable solution.
We featured a couple of Petzl headtorches in our last guide. Back then I thought the Petzl Nao was a little too much for general climbing and there were several, niggly faults.
The Petzl Reactik+ replaces and improves upon the popular Tikka RXP which I found a great headtorch. The Reactik+ sits in the Petzl Performance range of headlamps and wins Editor’s Choice for many reasons. It is light at 112g (with the ACCU rechargeable pack) and only 111g with the optional AAA pack. It is powerful with 300 Lumens on maximum power – easily enough to light up most extreme situations and the Reactive Lighting technology really does work and is a godsend when switching from seeing the way ahead to checking the map.
The Petzl Reactik+ is a fully featured headtorch that you can use for just about any outdoor activity-from trail running to winter climbing. The IPX4 rating, although won’t protect the headlamp from a torrential downpour will protect it from spin drift as well as most showers and light rain.
There are a myriad of settings that the two buttons give you on this headlamp, the top button toggles between giving general lighting in two modes and switching the unit on and off. Once switched on the side button will then toggle between full power and other modes to light the way. But why bother when you can pair the headtorch up to your smartphone via the MyPetzl Light app!
Gimmick I hear you cry – maybe it is but I have found it very useful to be able to programme the Reactik+ with my activity (which is set via several profiles on the app) then forget all about it. No need to toggle between power settings as the headtorch is set up and will perform accordingly. You can even customise the headtorch if you want using the app. It was relatively easy to pair the headtorch with my iPhone SE and the Bluetooth is activated by holding down the side button until a blue light flashes then just follow the instructions on the app. All very modern. The app display also gives readout on the current setting as well as how much time is available the various modes.
The Reactik+ is powered by the ACCU 1800 mAh rechargeable battery, which is supplied. Spares can be bought and there is also an easy fitting pack that houses 3 x AAA batteries for when you visiting areas with power. The Petzl Nao got slated in the 2014 guide for being next to impossible to place standard batteries in the field. It’s good that Petzl have addressed this problem with the Reactik+ with a battery pack that works just like the rechargeable pack that comes with it. You do, howevewr, lose the Bluetooth functionality when using this and it is also an optional extra. The ACCU pack comes with a standard micro USB lead which means it can be charged in the car, in the hut or with a portable battery pack and solar panel array. So you shouldn’t be running out of charge. I have been using it with the ACCU fully charged and with the AAA backup with lithium batteries in my emergency pack.
The Petzl Reactik+ well deserves the Editor’s Choice spot. It is supremely versatile and uses the best of modern technology to offer a lightweight and powerful headlamp. The price tag is high but it probably the only headtorch you will need for the vast majority of outdoor activities you will do. This definitely deserves Editors Choice for the 2017 guide even with the eye watering price tag!
SRP £ 85:00 and the AAA battery convertor pack is a more amenable £8:00
Available from our partner Facewest
LED Lenser XEO19R
LED Lenser say: Simply our brightest ever head lamp, capable of delivering an awe-inspiring 2000 lumens up to 300 meters, this stunning bit of kit is so much more than a mere head lamp.
A true beast of a headtorch with a massive 2000 Lumens of available power the LED Lenser has the ability to turn night into day. I wish I could have bought one of these for my Mountain Leader Assessment!
Two independently focusable Xtreme LEDs capable of putting out 2000 lumens. Each lamp unit is independently controllable from a reasonably intuitive multi-switch which gives a very positive ‘click’ which is so essential when wearing gloves. Not only can you control the output of each lamp unit they are also independently focusable as well – you can set one to ‘flood’ and the other to ‘spot’ or anything in between with a simple side lever.
The head unit also makes use of LED Lenser’s ‘Optisense’ technology whereby sensors in the unit detect the amount of reflected light dimming the lamps when reflected light increases (for instance when looking at a map or reading a guidebook). The head unit can also be inclined downward with a nicely positive ratchet action.
The head unit on our review unit attaches to a fairly standard elastic cradle for wearing on your head or helmet but LED Lenser supply a plethora of mounts for bikes, stick-ons for helmets, tripods etc. The elastic cradle will also mount the battery pack if desired. The battery pack is pretty serious affair housing 4 x NCR18650 rechargeables (these are not removable BTW) and it is fairly obvious that run time and brightness have been prioritised in the design.
If needed the battery pack can act as a back up USB power source as it has a USB out port which is novel. All elements are waterproof to IPX 6 level and the cable connectors all lock in place so there is no danger of being plunged into darkness because a cable worked loose or got snagged. This really is a headlamp built for durability and high performance.
The LED Lenser XEO is probably too heavy and featured as a true winter climbing headtorch my goodness if lighting up the way is paramount then this is the headtorch for you! Richie has published a full review here.
SRP: £ 229.00