What's the best head torch to buy
A head torch is an essential bit of kit for many outdoor activities but it can be a difficult task deciding on the right one for you. Whether you are running, hiking, trail running, exploring in the dark, or camping, this guide will give you a better idea of what works best in different situations.
Head torches are not just great for helping you see where you are going, it allows you to see what is around you and potentially avoid accidents. It is also allows the people around you to see you, especially in the case of vehicles if you are on the road.
Weight, durability, waterproofness, brightness, ease of use, budget, comfort and stability are important factors to consider when deciding on the best head torch to choose.
The quality of the head torch should take precedence in your decision making as reviews show what works best for each situation. The head torch reviews on this site will tell you a lot about the various market offerings and the overall practical use, helping you make a wise purchase that will stand the test of time.
Best budget head torch - How much should you spend?
The great thing about the head torch market is that there no matter how much you’re willing to spend, there will be a head torch to suit you needs.
If you only plan on going for a short night-time walk with your pet along a country lane, then a cheap, practical and straightforward model will suit your needs.
If you are after a head torch for a mechanic or a head torch for an electrician allowing you see clearly when in a dark workspace, an expensive but practical head torch is an ideal choice.
A head torch for trail running or hiking requires a constant reliable light source, which is waterproof, lightweight and comes with high-quality rechargeable batteries.
What is the led best head torch? Things to looks for
Comfort and the ease with which the head torch sits are also important. Low specification head torches have been known to come loose when running or leaning forward. Having a head torch that doesn’t dig into your scalp will be a great if you have it on for extended periods.
If you are an electrician or mechanic then it is worth checking if your head torch has a top strap and if the top strap sits comfortably on a hard hat.
Many head torches list a total burn time (the amount of useful light you’ll get from a full battery), but it can be a bit of a minefield comparing them properly because the number of factors affecting battery life is exhausting.
Despite this, using a head torch that come with an extended burn time can sometimes be the right thing to do. Especially, if you do not have rechargeable batteries close to hand or expect to be away from home for a while.
It is worth noting however that cold temperatures can significantly run down full batteries – batteries do not perform as well at low temperatures. Tis is because lowering temperatures cause chemical reactions to proceed more slowly, so using a battery at a low temperature means less current is produced than if used at a higher temperature. As the batteries run down they quickly reach the point where they cannot deliver enough current to keep up with the demand. If the battery is warmed up again it will operate normally.
Waterproof Head Torches
Waterproof Head Torch for Sailing - IPX4 or IP64
This is the minimum rating you should consider when buying a headlamp. It can deal with water contact from any angle and is durable enough to withstand UK weather.
These products are protected from water spray (rain) from any direction.
Waterproof Head Torch for Kayaking - IPX6
This refers to head torches that can withstand a direct blast of water. These head lamps can be used for activities like kayaking or sailing as they will not be submerged in water but risk heavier than normal water contact.
These products are protected from high pressure water jets from any direction.
Waterproof Head Torch for Swimming - IPX8
As waterproof head torches go, these are the best available. They are built withstand full water submersion and are typically used for swimming and limited diving activities
These headlamps are protected from immersion between 15 centimetres and 1 meter in depth.
Many buyers can easily confuse a water resistant headlamp for a waterproof one.
Most head torches are water resistant, which means they’ll are okay under light rain showers as long as they are not submerged in water. Some of the top end products are fully waterproof.
Head torches generally have an IP (Ingress Protection) rating to indicate weatherproofing. It is worth noting that a completely waterproof head torch is usually bulkier than a water resistant one.
Head Torch Batteries
Head torches either come with batteries built into the central light or with a separate battery pack. Most head torches have adjustable features which allow you move the beam up and down if required.
Loads of head torches on the market today use regular alkaline batteries. The main advantage of this is that it has a high energy deposit, a longer shelf life and is disposable. The downsides however are the heavy, bulky size and the leakage risk (which can corrode other internal circuits)
Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries are a handy as they saves both money and the environment. They are also known for having low self-discharge and remain in a stable state when not in use. As many head torches come with rechargeable options via a USB cable, it is easy to recharge via a portable device. Very handy, when out for on a hike or camping trip. Most lithium-ion batteries also have an in-built electronic controller which regulates power and discharge flows eliminating the risk of overheating or exploding.
Lithium polymer (often abbreviated Li-po) is very lightweight, holding relatively good battery life and has improved safety features. The lithium polymer battery can come in credit card thin designs, as it is made with a gel-like electrolyte.
Lithium-polymer batteries are renowned for being lightweight, robust and flexible, especially when it comes to the size and shape of their build. This also means they are more costly to manufacture. They also do not they have the same energy density (amount of power that can be stored) nor shelf life as a lithium-ion battery.
Key Head Torch Features - What should you consider?
- Battery life
What is the brightest head torch? How much do you need?
The brightness of a head torch is measured in lumens. In simple terms, lumen indicates how bright the bulb in a head torch is.
Lumen is defined as “a unit luminous flux in the international system units, that is equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candela intensity radiating equally in all directions”.
A head torch with brighter light means more lumens. This value can vary in lumens from between 50 and 2000 lm.
To further put into context, a standard 150 watts light bulb disperses 2600 lumens, reducing the power required from the bulb to illuminate a space. A 70 watt LED light fixture equals to 7000 lumens – adequate lighting for cycling in the country side or running a night trail.
Head torch brightness is measured in lumens, and this can stretch from as low as 50 to a blinding 1000 lumens and beyond.
Your designated activity will determine how bright you need your head torch to be. Do you just need to be safely seen? Or do you need to illuminate the path ahead when out and about?
Head torches usually have in-built single or multiple LED lights, a krypton or halogen bulb, or a hybrid of two types.
The following guide shows the typical use and lumens required;
- 10 lumens for arms length use (cooking/reading a book).
- 60 lumens for walking and running in areas you’re used to (in your garden/street).
- 150 lumens for trail running on a path with not many obstacles
- 300 lumens for navigation where a map is required and fishing
- 450 lumens for navigation in winter conditions where the sun sets early.
- 500 lumens and above for mechanics, electricians and hiking in the winter. Ideally, any time you’re active in an environment where your safety might be compromised, the brighter the better
As shown above, there is a direct relationship between lumens, brightness, weight and battery life. As such while owning the brightest head torch available is great, sometime you just need one that suits your needs and requirements.
The more illumination required for your task or activity, the more lumens you should look for in a head torch. However, this also means less battery lifespan between charges or more frequent alkaline battery replacement.
Battery lifespan – and by extension – battery size also influence how long your head torch stays bright for and how lightweight your head torch will be.
Our definitive guide to the brightest had torches available explain the best options available today and show aspects of bright head torches you wouldn’t typically know about.
Beam patterns also differ between head torch brands and models. Many manufacturers consider the various target users prior to designing the bean patterns.
Head torches for runners or keen cyclists usually need a long narrow beam that will light up their path well in advance. There is less need to show areas in their peripheral vision, just what is in front of them. This also applies to people needing the best head torch for close work.
Photographers, mechanics and electricians find owning a wide beam head torch more essential. It illuminates all areas around them, pretty much eliminating the chance of sustaining an injury. Wide beam head torches are also ideal for outdoor camping or groups of people out hiking.
What is the best rechargeable head torch?
Head torch manufacturers often indicate the battery life of their product on the outer packaging. This information is often misleading as it shows the battery lifespan from fully charged to completely empty.
What usually happens though is – as the capacity of the head torch battery reduces, the advertised lumens drops.
To put it simply, the brighter the head torch – the shorter the battery life.
Choosing a head torch with rechargeable batteries helps solve this problem and is a good choice where possible. The cells in a good rechargeable head torch with lithium-ion batteries, are much more efficient at pumping out power than standard alkaline batteries, especially at low temperatures. These cells have the highest energy density compared to other types of batteries available. They are typically used in cordless tools, laptops and camcorders.
Our reviews of the best rechargeable head torch, show the weight, predicted lifespan and available lumens of each product.
For mechanics or electricians who regularly use their head torch, it is smarter and more practical to buy a rechargeable head torch and have a spare rechargeable battery to hand.
A new feature making its way onto the head torch scene and available in top end brands is reactive lighting. It is said to help to improve battery life by detecting incoming light and adjusting the accordingly, saving battery power in the long run. Many headlamps also come with built-in overheat protection which reduces the output slightly when the temperature reaches 65°C, once the torch begins to cool the output gradually increases back again.
What is the best lightweight head torch?
The rule of thumb is that the brighter the headlight, the heavier it usually is. This, as explained above, is mainly due to the battery. Higher lumens and an extended battery lifespan often lead to increased weight.
Before deciding on the head torch for you, it’s imperative you crosscheck the weight of the product you have decided on. Our comparison chart lists the various head torch weights in an easy to read format.
Any headlamp over the 220g to 250g thresholds is likely to become awkward as you continue moving around. Irrespective of where you purchase your headlamp from, it is necessary you try it on to make sure it fits and causes you no discomfort.
You should be able to use it for the activity you have planned without having to worry about it falling off or becoming too heavy.
“If you use a head torch for hours at work, then protect your back and neck muscles by choosing one that is as lightweight as possible. Consider the weight distribution of where the batteries sit and the headbands holding it in place. Try out, where possible.”
To get round the battery longevity and weight issues, some headlamp manufacturers offer an extension lead allowing you hideaway a battery pack into a rucksack or backpack. This is handy if you are doing a safety inspection and need your hands free or if you are out in the cold and want to keep the battery warm to get the most output from it.