Dec 19 2012

Shining lights

Winter training is a gloomy prospect at the best of times. If you live, as I do, in a region that’s a good distance from the equator, then not only does winter bring the cold, but the daylight hours evaporate to nothing leaving precious little time for training.

Getting up and out the house by 5am for work and arriving back on your doorstep well after 5pm leaves no daylight hours to train. So what do you do?

  > Live in a town?

Then it’s a double-edged sword. Yes, you get all the streetlights you want and you can probably mope around a course as effectively as you would during the day. But in the insipidly man-made yellowy-orange glow of fluorescent street lights and the oncoming traffic that dazzle you on full-beam thinking “is that really someone out running in the dark” there appears to me to be little to make a night-time street-running appealling.

 > Or in the country?

Then like me, with a complete dearth of streetlights (that’s a good thing) you’re housebound unless you have some pretty decent personal lighting, even for running on the road. But if you run offroad, down country tracks, bridleways, trails or across open country without so much as a footprint to follow, then you need some pretty serious headlighting.

Silva Trail Runner Plus

I don’t have much experience in headtorches, having made do with EverReady £5 torches for years… so I thought I’d take the plunge with some more serious headgear as I have between 40-80 miles a week for the next 6 months. So I did a review of all the torches out there and plumped for hte Silva Trail Runner Plus.

 The Silva Trail Runner Plus Headtorch

I paid about £44, and was pretty impressed the first time I fired it up in the dark. A wide spread of light out ahead and well-positioned lighting down at your feet. The controls couldn’t be simpler, the green button on the side of the light itself cycles between ON bright > ON medium > ON low. To turn the lamp off, you simply hold the button down for about three seconds.

A nice feature is that when you turn it off, it glows.

  • Green – batteries OK
  • Orange – batteries on last legs
  • Red – come in number 1, your time is up!

Of course what the picture doesn’t show is the cable leading down from the headband to the battery pack on its own belt. The first time I tried to put it on, I made a right mess of it trying to drop the whole battery pack down my back inside my coat. I must have been having a dim-day, because with a few practices about what to put on, and in what order, I got it down to a perfect tee.

  • Thermal on first, then
  • Head torch and battery pack (cable down back), then
  • Running top, then
  • Windcheater/Jacket and/or high-vis vest

The head light has benefit in all conditions. On the road where the course is predictable, the economy mode with the lowest power consumption is more than enough to light your way and keep you on the road, and now bowled over in the hedge (as I was once with the Everready ten-to-a-penny head torch model). When you get out into the sticks and offroad, the full power of the high-lumen light comes into force and it’s like running with a streetlight on your head (without the orangy glow). At no point when I run in the country, down unlit tracks, do I feel uncertain about my next step.

The one slight issue I have is that the range of brightest LED is a touch less than the 45m promised. As a consequence, I would hesitate going on new routes that I hadn’t trailblazed previously.


My wife, who has also been known to run at night, runs generally on the road with an Ultimate Performance head torch.


It’s very compact and the lightest head torch we’ve ever had, but the light is only just good enough to see the immediate road ahead and not much at all in the distance. Flexibility  and ease of use it gets good marks with no battery belt, and the batteries themselves which are the 2 x CR2016 seem to last long enough. I did find that you can extend the time between battery replacements by using 1 x CR2025 + 1 x CR2016. It works for us, probably against manufacturers advice.

On a slightly more up-market note, I was particularly impressed with the review of the Petzl NAO from trail and ultra running web site. This possibly takes night-time running to a whole new level. Not that we have many canyons in deepest Oxfordshire, but I would feel good knowing that if I did stumble across one, I would at least be able to see all of it… apparently.

The battery life from such a powerful torch seems too good to be true with a claim of over 12h not only possible, but likely! The expense of the unit and the necessity for a high operational spend (on batteries) means that I would hesitate before purchasing such a top-quality unit.

But I’d love to try it one day ;).




1 comment

  1. Matt

    Running in the dark can be a challenge, but with the right gear it can be loads of fun.
    For road running especially, wearing a torch is not only beneficial to SEE, but maybe more importantly to BE SEEN. With all the street lamps and such we often think we don’t need illumination since we can see just fine (and our footing is more predictable), but I for one would rather get the attention of a driver before I’m glued to their bonnet!
    For trails, I’ll often extinguish my torch and run by the moonlight for a bit – it can be very surreal…but then I will usually have to pop it back on so as not to trip and end up face down!
    One note on the Petzl, it has a rechargeable battery pack (via USB) which take the total operational costs down a bit – purchase price is definitely still on the higher end!

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