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Headtorches - Footnotes
Ideal for early starts and late finishes, head torches can be put to a myriad of uses on a daily basis. Not just the reserve of super-keen outdoor enthusiasts, a headtorch is great when you need a light source and both hands free at the same time. Choose the one that is most suitable to your needs and always carry spare bulbs and batteries.
What should you look for when buying a Headtorch?
Fit and Comfort
Put the headtorch on without a hat, and consider the level of comfort. Does the battery pack dig into your head, are the straps comfy and can they be adjusted to fit your head shape?
In order to point the light beam at the path or mountainside just ahead of you, the headtorch must have a tilting head. But if it ends up not staying at a chosen angle then it won't be much use on the hill. Ratchets are often used to control the tilt, while easy-to-adjust hinge bolts that allow tightening on the hill are also acceptable.
Nod your head and shake it from side to side while wearing the headtorch. Does it stay in place? An overhead strap adds extra stability, but not all torches have this feature.
Check to see what batteries are required and how easy they are to fit, remembering that you may well be changing them in the dark with cold, wet or gloved hands. Some battery cases are tricky to open, while others do not give a clear indication of which way round the batteries need to be fitted. Most headtorches come with standard alkaline batteries but rechargables are the best choice for frequent users as they are cheaper in the long run and more environmentally friendly.
LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are now used in most quality headtorches. They don't blow so they don't need replacing, and they offer daylight-balanced light with about 20 times longer burn time than standard bulbs. As LEDs are not as bright as other bulbs, more than one is required for adequate illumination. Some headtorches are also fitted with high-powered 1 watt or even 5 watt LEDs for extra brightness.
LEDs and other bulbs tend to dim over time as the batteries run down. Black Diamond describe it's headtoches' burn time in terms of usable light. Petzl states how long the light will be able to provide 0.25 lux of illumination at 2m. Others are less specific. But when comparing similar models, burn times are less if a torch uses fewer or smaller batteries, for example 3 x AAA rather than 3 x AA.
How easy is it to operate the headtorch? And can you do it with gloves on? Torches that switch between bulbs by rotating the front head or by using a rotating switch are generally the easiest method, while small press buttons tend to be the most difficult to use when wearing gloves.