The Best Running Head Torches for 2020
Advice on Running Accessories,Autumn & Winter Running Advice
The Best Running Head Torches for 2020

With more and more people running, and more and more people running in the dark on quiet roads, trails and hills, a running head torch has become an essential piece of equipment for many runners.

Here we give simple information on our favourite running head torches to help you decide which one is best for you, whether you just want to run around your local park early in the morning or tackle a mountainous ultra marathon.

Petzl Actik Core / Petzl Iko Core / Petzl Bindi / Petzl Swift RL / Petzl Tikkina / Petzl Actik Ledlenser NEO4Ledlenser NEO6RLedlenser NEO10R
How to Choose a Head TorchHead Torch Jargon-Buster

Petzl Actik Core

This updated Actik Core is one of the Hybrid head torches from Petzl. With 450 lumens this head torch is a great buy if you run on darker trails/ill lit areas. 

It comes with a USB rechargeable battery, which you can remove and replace with 3 x AAA batteries. It features multi-beam and red lighting. On Max power (450 lumens – 90 metres) you get 2-hour battery life and much longer if using the slightly dimmer standard setting. The reflective headband features an emergency whistle. Comes with a 5-year guarantee.

  • Lumens: 450
  • Max burn time: 2-4 hours hours depending on settings
  • Approx distance: Up to 90 metres
  • Weight: 75 grams

Petzl Actik Core Headtorch
Red £58.00

Petzl Iko Core

This latest and innovative addition from Petzl has some fantastic features. With up to 500 lumens it will be bright on the darkest of country roads or trails.

The ultra thin AirFit headband is flexible and can be folded up for ease of carrying in its own pack – stored in a race pack or a waist belt. You can turn it into a lantern using the storage pouch included. The weight is balanced with the battery pack at the back and the light at the front making it extremely comfortable to wear and easy to adjust. You can also wear it round your neck.

Using Petzl's Hybrid technology you can either use the rechargeable battery included or 3 x AAA batteries. Multiple LEDs provide a variable beam pattern.

  • Lumens: Up to 500
  • Max burn time: 8-15 hours hours depending on settings
  • Approx distance: Up to 100 metres
  • Weight: 79 grams

Petzl Iko Core
Black £76.00

Petzl Bindi

The Bindi is an extremely lightweight but powerful head torch. Ideal for training in low lit areas in towns/cities where there is a bit of background light.

It also has its use as a lightweight backup or emergency torch to take on those longer hill and trail runs or hikes where you could be out longer than expected! It is rechargeable via a USB cable.

The thin elastic headband can be adjusted and also means the torch can be worn round the neck. It has 3 lighting modes and red lighting to preserve night vision. Perfect for tucking away in a pocket when out for a run.

  • Lumens: 200
  • Max burn time: 2-3 hours hours depending on settings
  • Approx distance: Up to 40 metres
  • Weight: 35 grams

Petzl Bindi Headtorch
Black £48.50

Petzl Bindi Headtorch
Orange £48.50

Petzl Bindi Headtorch
Green £48.50

Petzl Swift RL

The Swift is a relatively new addition to the Petzl range. It's designed as an ultra powerful torch delivering up to 900 lumens, yet much lighter than its sister torch the Nao.

Perfect for winter nighttime running on the trail or country roads. If you're looking for maximum visibility to give you confidence running in the dark, this is a great option.

With its single button operation you can easily switch from the reactive lighting mode to constant mode easily. Reactive lighting means you can put the head torch in the reactive mode and the sensors in the head torch will adjust the brightness automatically for your environment.

  • Lumens: Up to 900
  • Max burn time: 2-15 hours hours depending on settings
  • Approx distance: Up to 100 metres
  • Weight: 100 grams

Petzl Swift RL Headtorch
Black £97.00

Petzl Swift RL Headtorch
Blue £97.00

Petzl Swift RL Headtorch
Orange £97.00

Petzl Tikkina

For a simple, easy to use, no frills head torch, look no further than the Tikkina. It’s a quality torch at a budget price.

Great for night time or early morning urban running in parks, cycle paths or tow paths where there is some background light. It is a Hybrid torch and so can be used with traditional AAA batteries or with a Petzl CORE, USB rechargeable unit.

The Tikkina is also fine to use on country roads you know well as a safety aid to being seen by other road users. Handy to have one around at home or in the car, as an emergency light in case of power cuts, little emergencies etc.

  • Lumens: 100-150
  • Max burn time: up to 60 hrs
  • Approx distance: 40 m – 55m
  • Weight: 92 grams

Petzl Tikkina Headtorch
Black £19.50

Petzl Tikkina Headtorch
White/Green £19.50

Petzl Tikkina Headtorch
Blue £19.50

Petzl Actik

The Actik is still fine as an urban running head torch but we are getting into the realm of night time trail use too.

For the extra money, it has up to twice the brightness and visible distance of the Tikkina. This torch has two beam patterns, short and focused to see the path or trail just in front of you or long and wide to light up a longer distance ahead.

There is also a red bulb setting to help diffuse light and a safety emergency red flash option. The headband has reflective trim and a safety whistle built in.

Like the Tikkina it is a hybrid so can be used with AAA batteries or with a CORE, USB rechargeable unit.

  • Lumens: max 300
  • Max burn time: 60 hrs
  • Approx distance: 90 metres
  • Weight: 92 grams

Petzl Actik Headtorch
Black £39.00

Petzl Actik Headtorch
Blue £39.00

Petzl Actik Headtorch
Green £39.00

Ledlenser NEO6R

Similar in all qualities to the NEO4, but rechargeable with a USB cable. Also comes with a chest strap to hold the torch at chest level, reducing mutual glare in group situations.

  • Lumens: 120 - 750
  • Max burn time: 8 - 15 hours depending on settings
  • Approx distance: Up to 40 metres
  • Weight: 95 grams

Ledlenser NEO6R Headtorch
Blue £45.00

Ledlenser NEO6R Headtorch
Black £45.00

Ledlenser NEO6R Headtorch
Green £45.00

Ledlensor NEO4

The Ledlensor NEO4 is a lightweight, well-priced entry-level torch. With a maximum 250 lumens it is fine for urban running and also for trails that are not too technical in nature. 

Like the Petzl Tikkina, it has a simple push button to switch between the two main available settings. Unlike the Tikkina it has a lightweight, rear mounted unit to take 3 AAA batteries. The NEO4 also has a small flashing red light at the rear set on the outside of the battery pack.

  • Lumens: 150-240 depending on settings
  • Max burn time: up to 40 hours depending on settings
  • Approx distance: up to 30metres  (3 Variable settings)
  • Weight: 100 grams inc batteries

Ledlenser NEO4 Headtorch
Green £25.00

Ledlenser NEO4 Headtorch
Black £25.00

Ledlenser NEO4 Headtorch
Blue £25.00

Ledlenser NEO10R

Ledlensors’s top performer, for serious nighttime, off-road running. The torch gives up to 600 lumens of light and up to 150 metres beam length at maximum settings. Swivel mounted housing to adjust angle of the beam.

  • Lumens: Max 600
  • Max burn time: Up to 100 hours depending on settings
  • Approx distance: Up to 150 metres depending on settings
  • Weight: 179 grams

Ledlenser NEO10R Headtorch
Grey £90.00

Ledlenser NEO10R Headtorch
Black £90.00

Petzl Nao+

The Nao is like a mini street light on your head! With a wacking maximum setting of 750 lumens and up to 140 metres vision, this light is designed for serious off road running on technical terrain.

It also has a fairly long battery life making it perfect for longer expeditions or events. The pay-off for all this extra power is a little extra weight with a separate battery pack mounted on the rear of the headband. However at 185 grams it is far from heavy. It offers reactive or constant lighting. The MyPetzl light app is available to download on compatible smart phones/tablets. This then enables you to create and customize profiles for different activities.

  • Lumens: 120 - 750
  • Max burn time: 8 - 15 hours depending on settings
  • Approx distance: 65 - 140 metres
  • Weight: 185 grams

Petzl Nao+ Headtorch
White/Black £164.50

Petzl Running Head Torches

HOW TO CHOOSE A HEAD TORCH

An increasing number of runners are using head torches as they discover the joy of running at night. Experienced fell and trail runners have always known the benefits of using a lightweight running head torch, either because an event they were doing involved some running in the dark, or as a safety item to have in their bum bag or backpack, in case they were out for longer than expected on a particular outing.

A head torch gives a hands-free option, with the light source coming from just above your line of vision to clearly illumine the terrain ahead. Now recreational road runners are discovering the benefits of head torches, both in being able to see well on a poorly lit or unlit route, and be able to be seen by other road users.

How to go about choosing the right torch with all the key features is a little bewildering for first-time users, so here are 8 key tips to guide you through head torch jargon and help you decide.


1. Battery Life

All torches give an average "Battery life". Remember this is just an average. Most torches have more than one setting and will use battery quicker if the brightest setting is used all the time. This will obviously depend where and how often you run in the dark.

Battery life can be saved by intelligent use of the settings, e.g. switching to a dimmer beam if your eyes have adjusted to a certain light level, and remembering to switch your light off on an early morning run as it gets light. (Also remembering to switch off when you get home in the dark!).

Some torches have an indicator light to let you know when your battery is running low. The entry level and Active lamps like the Petzl Tikkina and the Tikka+ and the PETZL Actik have replaceable batteries. A separate USB chargeable unit can be purchased as an extra to use instead of batteries.

The latest Performance torches such as the REACTIK and the REACTIK+, which use reactive lighting, use rechargeable units (see tip 8 below).


2. Bulbs

LED bulbs (light emitting diodes) are probably the most practical bulbs in the majority of head torches. Some use a single LED, some use multiple LEDs. 2-3 LEDs can make for a wider beam, but a single focussed beam can sometimes be brighter.

Halogen and tungsten bulbs are also used, and although these can be brighter, they need replacing with time and like house bulbs, can break if the torch is dropped! LEDs on average last up to 5,000 hours, (that's a lot of running miles!) but they do also shine dimmer as the battery life fades.


3. Strength

Light strength is measured in lumens. Simply put, a lumen is a measure of the total "amount" of visible light in a defined beam or angle. The higher the lumens the brighter the light. All head torches should display the approximate lumens.

Basic head torches for most normal conditions have a range of 30 and 100 lumens. It depends where you are running, and in some cases how well and how quickly you adapt to night time conditions when running.

The more technical torches like the Reactik range or the Nao have up to 300 lumens power.


4. Beam

The beam range of a head torch is the useful distance you can see on various settings. How long a beam range you need will also depend on where you are running.

If you are running in an urban setting, just needing some extra light to see or be seen, you will need less beam than if you are running around your local park early on a winter's morning, or undertaking a fairly technical training run, preparing for an upcoming trail race with night time sections.


5. Ease of Use

Make sure you can operate the buttons and modes easily. Not surprisingly, the autumn and winter months are when torches are used most, so make sure you can use the key button with a glove too!


6. Weight

With so many modern lightweight materials, weight is not really an issue. The lightest all-inclusive torches come in at around 30g, up to the more technical models with separate battery packs that weigh in at just under 200g. Where and how long you will be running in the dark will in some ways determine the torch and the weight.


7. Comfort

All head torches come with an elastic strap that is adjustable, so make sure you can adjust the tension (with or without a hat on) so that it is comfortable as well as secure.


8. Reactive Lighting

To quote what Petzl, the leading French manufacturer who have pioneered this technology, say on this. “Beyond Power... Intelligence! The ultra-powerful headlamps from the performance line adapt their lighting automatically and instantly to the ambient light. Ideal for dynamic, high-commitment activities: trail running, technical mountaineering, ski touring... Reactive Lighting.”

Basically Petzl have developed a sensor in the torch that adapts the beam pattern and brightness of the headlamp instantly and automatically to your current surroundings. This means that under street lights the beam and intensity of the lamp is lower but away from urban lighting or even moving from open ground into a wooded area, the beam and intensity automatically brightens.

Most reactive lighting torch batteries are rechargeable with a USB cable. The settings can be tweaked beforehand on a PC if necessary to optimize the battery life dependant on the run you are planning. They have become the “go to” torches for most runners who compete in outdoor night time events, or who train regularly in the dark on trails in the winter.

The latest Reactik + has a Bluetooth facility. You can download the MY PETZL app to your mobile phone and customize your settings. It allows you to check battery life and change the torches settings from your phone via Bluetooth Smart.


9. Top Tip for Running at Night

OK, for those of you counting this is the 9th tip! When you begin your run, or when you are about to put on your head torch as it gets dark, just close your eyes for 30-60 seconds. This helps allow the eyes to adjust to the change in light levels.

Safety Note

Until you have become accomplished and built up some experience of running at night, stick to routes you are familiar with or run with others who are familiar with any terrain you will be running on. While it is good to explore, NEVER compromise your safety.


This is a fun and informative video from PETZL, possibly the leading head torch manufacturer, on running at night:

Head Torch Jargon-Buster

Lumens is a measure of the brightness of a torch. The higher the lumens, the brighter the torch
Burn time is the approximate battery life of a torch.
Approx distance is the distance ahead of you the torch will light up, which can be variable on some torches depending on the settings.

Further Tech Notes

All Petzl head torches are waterproof, so totally reliable in any outdoor arena. All tech specs approximate. Much depends on the settings used and in some cases outdoor temperature. In colder temperatures, battery life is shortened, so do consider a safety time factor or carry a back-up battery in case of a longer-than-expected winter run or a higher altitude route in the mountains.

Shop Running High-Vis »

All images: Petzl

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