What Is the Red Light for on a Head Torch?

If you are the type of person who likes to go for runs at night or has considered joining a night trail run or maybe even just out camping with family and friends, then the chances are that you need a decent head torch. Sooner or later you’ll be facing the dilemma of which one to choose and decide if you need a head torch with a red light or not.

After all, if you are going for a run at night, visibility is going to be low and you hardly want to run into a tree or a pole as a result. Worse still, without a head torch, you may have a harder time seeing drivers and they may have a harder time seeing you, which could result in tragedy.

So we already know that head torches are essential for runners. But what is the red light for on a head torch and which are the best red light head torches?

Most modern head torches do not just have standard white lights, and they increasingly come with red lights as well. What are these and why are they important?

Best Red Light Headlamp

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What Is the Red Light For?

The red light that you see on your head torch is a night vision light. As the name implies, it is designed to enhance your vision in low visibility. While that is, of course, the function of all lights, the colour and nature of red lights allow them to offer enhanced night vision possibilities, giving you greater clarity in low-vision environments.

Say you are out hunting or camping or just doing some work in the dark, then the red light on your head torch can be a lifesaver. It delivers just enough light to see around you without being blinding.

Runners are just the latest example of people who have been able to take advantage of this technology. Dark rooms, military personnel and underwater explorers all make use of this technology to combat low visibility.

The red light gives you light to navigate by while simultaneously helping your eyes adjust to dark and dim lighting conditions.

Why Red Light Head Torch Matters

It should go without saying that you always want plenty of light to see by while running or camping. However, traditional lighting setups can create glare or not provide enough visibility in the dark. Red lights provide light while helping your eyes see in the dark more naturally.

Below is a list of some other great reasons for having a red light on your head torch.

1. Helps Adjust Your Eyes in the Dark

It is widely known that red lights help preserve night vision, although the real reason for this is often not fully explained. The best way to get your head around it is by understanding how the eye works and the characteristics of the retina.

In the main, our vision depends on two types of photoreceptors – rods, and cones. On a bright day, those who do most of the work are the cones, which mainly accounts to colour vision. On the flip side, when the light dims and it gets darker, the rods take over and provide with a black and white image.

The transition between both states (from light to dark) is called the mesopic state – the precise moment when the cones stop signalling and the rods fully take over.

2. Works Well For Insects & Animals

Similar to humans, the retina in animals and insects also have feature rods and cones – so it is alike but different.

If you are out camping with friends and family, then the wild creatures who should be the primary focus. It is worth noting that any campfires or head torches will attract some nocturnal insects.

Using red lights helps as animals and insects are less sensitive to red lights. The excellent night vision insects and animals have is due to a high concentration of rods cells.

As such, when you use a red light in your head torch, there's a lower chance that it will disturb and attract nocturnal animals.

3. Helps Keep your Fellow Campers On Side

If you are someone who enjoys camping on your own, then this is not something that will worry you much. If you are out camping with your family or friends, using a very bright white head torch will make you a lot of enemies as it can be infuriating.

It is easy to overlook it but it is not possible to have a conversation with someone with a bright while head torch beaming down on them. If you have a red light head torch though, you can speak without blinding anyone and still see everything around you. 

This is a great option to have when you are inside a tent as well. If you already own a head torch and don't have a red light on it, then a red light diffuser is also a cheap easy option to have.

4. Map Reading Made Easy

If you have been out for a long hike and the weather suddenly turns, just as you are about to reach your destination. Or it just so happens that you find yourself running behind schedule and walking in the dark, a head torch with a red light is a must-have.

Sod's law will say when you are making your way back and suddenly start losing light faster than expected.

If you rely on using regular bright white light from your head torch, it will be hard to read your map at night. It will also be harsh on the eyes of anyone else you have with you trying to map read.

It can be even harder if you have your map stored inside a transparent plastic bag for rain protection – the plastic reflecting light will double the amount of light hitting your retina.

5. A Great Emergency Option

When you are out hiking or camping or even hunting, then it is essential to always be prepared for any emergencies that might come up.

There are quite a number of reasons why hiking might be considered dangerous, so being prepared is essential. 

A red light on your head torch is easy to pick out in the distance and if you need to alert anyone for help, it is a great piece of kit to have. In the event of an emergency, you should consider using the flashing mode (if your head torch has one) – it can quickly be picked up by the human eye.

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Head Torch Motion Sensor Red Light Headlamp LED Zoomable Rechargeable...
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When To Use The Red Light on Your Head Torch?

Having read everything above, it should be pretty obvious what the merits of having a red light on your head torch. It does a great job at helping with night vision and all the benefits that come with it.

While it is a great option to have, the question will still persist –  in which situations would you use your red light on your head torch and how frequently should you use it? 

In general, it is sensible to switch to the red light function on your head torch to allow your eyes to adjust quickly to dim light or dark situations.

Inside Your Tent

When inside your tent, switching to the red light mode is a no-brainer. it is better to use the red light function than risk annoying your tent-mates. It will also reduce the chances of you attracting any insects or animals with a bright light.

It is also better to use it when reading a book inside your sleeping bag before going to sleep – your eyes would feel more comfortable and be less dazzled by the white paper.best RED LIGHT headlamp

Going for a Wee

If you're anything like me, then you might need a wee before bedtime to avoid getting up later. When you need to go outside to use the toilets, there is no doubt you should switch to the red mode – there are two main reasons for that.

First, your eyes will adjust quickly to the dark environment and it will reduce the chances of you stumbling over any debris in your path.

Secondly, when outside your tent, you do not need to draw too much attention to yourself. A red light will ensure you are less of a target for animals and insects.

Searching Through Your Bags

When you go through your hiking backpack at night – it would be almost impossible to find anything without using a head torch.

A regular white bright light can be blinding if you switch it straight on after sitting in the dark for a while. As such, using your head torch red light when visibility is poor and there is no other source of light from the sky above will keep your eyes from being jarred and improve the chances of you finding what you're after.