Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Head torch - Silva Trailrunner Plus

I've been using this headtorch for about a year now, for winter evening training runs, night nav sessions, races and night rescue scenarios. There are a number of really good headtorches out there on the market, by Hope, Petzl, LED lenser, Fenix etc, but I chose this one. Why, and has it been a good buy?

I originally bought it because I am a bit of a sucker for new bits of kit that I haven't seen reviewed by other people, or even used by other people. (However, the Petzl Nao is firmly on my list of things that I'd love to get my hands on).
After using it on last years High Peak Marathon
The Silva light unit is very small and lightweight, especially if you get the one with the waist mounted battery unit. This one takes 4AA batteries, the normal Trailrunner takes only 2AA batteries and has a correspondingly lower amount of battery life. (I've never used one of these, so can't actually tell you what its like with the batteries on the headband).

A lot of people will go on and on about lumens, length of light, and all that kind of stuff. Which is nice, and lovely, and indeed, objective. However, you can get all of that off the back of the packet, or somewhere else off the internet.
(oh go on then, since you ask - 80 lumen, 45m and 48hours).
Not stellar figures if you go by other headtorches on the market, but when running, I'm not totally convinced that its all about wearing the equivalent of a Nightsun on your head. With the Silva, it was the lighting pattern and the general comfort that I was really enamored with.
3 LEDs
The first thing you notice is that it has 3 LEDs in the lighting unit, with the smaller 2 of 3 pointing at different angles to the main one. Interesting. I was originally of the thought that these were for lower light levels like on the old petzls. A main one for running and smaller ones for looking at maps etc. Yet when you battery it up and switch it on, all 3 come on at the same time. The 3 lighting levels don't actually correspond to how many lights come on, just how much light is being pumped out of all 3 LEDs simultaneously. Why would it do that? what possible benefit would it have to working like this with all 3 permanently on?

Intelligent lighting
The packaging alludes to this with its "Silva Intelligent Light" beam pattern. Instead of just focusing on one specific area in front of you, there is a big beam that goes out on ahead, and other smaller beams around  the area, but aimed more down toward where your feet are going to be. All at the same time, so as you are running, it gives of this rather nice all encompassing light which gives distance, and also peripheral vision as you pound along the path/heath/moor/bog.

For generic running I tend to keep the beam on mid-power, so that I have something to really ramp it up to when hurtling down hill. Its nice for my eyes to get used to a certain level of light as I run, and then when things speed up, I hit the bright setting to give me more of a fighting chance to get down the hill without tripping over something. The low setting gets used when I'm map reading, or going really slow, and don't actually need to see all that much around me.
If anything, the only annoying thing is that the low setting is just a little bit too low, and I wish there was an intermediate setting between low and middle. A minor point, but worth mentioning.

Back of the torch unit
As mentioned I used this torch for night exercises, and I have to admit that when you have to take your rucksack on and off, and the battery pack is in the top pocket of the rucksack, its a bit annoying to get things on and off. Equally, if the battery pack is in a coat pocket, if you then take the coat off, where does the battery go? Slightly annoying, but equally, it wasn't made specifically for that, and a smaller headtorch with an enclosed battery would probably do the trick.

Where this torch excels is on a day to day basis. In the evening, going up onto the moors, battery in bumbag, doesn't feel like anything is on my head, and just blasting about on a training run. I've never actually used the belt that it comes with to wear the battery pack around the waist - its always just shoved in a bumbag. There is a small band of silicone (or some such thing) around the inside of the headband so that it doesn't slip, which is a nice touch, and the actual light unit itself is also adjustable up and down. (As you would expect). It's waterproofed to IPX6, so I can wear it in the Peak district without being worried about anything damage occurring to it because of water ingress.

Winter solstice run last year. Lots of torches. 
I have to say though, I did break it recently. It could have been because I stuffed it into a rucksack too violently, I could have stored it wrong, I could have had it crushed up in a bumbag and a connection came loose. I have no idea. It started to work kind of intermittently - I got the impression that the battery life just wasn't up to scratch. I took it out for a couple of runs, and then bang. Nothing. Not even some light, just nothing. This happened a couple of times, and then eventually after rebattery-ing  it twice, with new batteries, nothing, I decided to send it back to Silva.

By this time I've had it for about 18 months, and used it very thoroughly over the winter. Silva have a 2 year warranty on technical failure, and replaced it within a week, I now have a new one sitting on my desk. Thankyou Silva, excellent service.

So, as a round up...
Wearing it with the snazzy downward behind ear cable director 
Brilliant for running, amazingly lightweight on the head, maybe not bright enough for biking, lightweight, excellent beam pattern, like the separate battery pack, except when using it for walking/with a rucksack and it has to be taken off.

Apologies for not having many pictures of me wearing it, its kind of difficult when you're out and about in the dark. I'm trying to work out how to get a picture of the beam spread, and when I get a decent picture, I'll put it up.

AHA! I have one now. Here it is. Retrieving the Glossopdale Goodie Box before being replenished and relocated. Yes. That is a miniature Bells. Very nice it was too.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting stuff. I recently got a LED Lenser H7R which is very good. Agree with you about the Petzl Nao, not sure I can justify the price tag though!