Best Head Torches For Running Reviewed

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Best Head Torches For Running 2024 | Lightweight Headlamps For Winter Runs, Night-Time Sprints And More

Lightweight head torches for fast-paced runs on roads and trails, rated and reviewed by the Outdoors Magic team

A quality head torch for running can be a transformative item of equipment when it comes to year-long exercise, allowing you to safely keep up with your fitness even when the clocks go forward and the winter gloom arrives.

Once upon a time if you had a head torch for running, the chances are it was the Petzl Zoom; there wasn’t really much alternative. Things have moved on and nowadays the choice isn’t so simple: there’s Intelligent Lighting, Reactive Lighting, Regulated Output, USB Rechargeable and Programmable torches to consider.

With prices ranging from less than £20 up to ten times that, it can be difficult to make the right choice and get value for money. And of course there’s the L word – Lumens. It’s tempting to go down the “mine’s brighter than yours” road but is brighter really better?

For some runners a torch giving three hours battery life is perfectly adequate whereas those doing 24 hour “rounds” like the Bob Graham or UTMB need something that will stay lit for longer. Bear in mind that with battery life the manufacturers’ claims might not be what you actually get – the middle of a misty moor in winter is not the place to find out that the claimed burn time is over optimistic!

After more running gear? We’ve conducted similar tests, looking at the best running shorts, best running socks and best running jackets. If you’d like to discover some new brands you haven’t heard of, we’ve also got a complete guide to the best new and boutique running brands.

Our Pick of the Best Head Torches for Running

Here are the options that tick all of the right boxes for us when it comes to running at night – safely and with confidence.

  • Best Overall Head Torch for Running: Silva Free 1200 S
  • Lightest Head Torch for Running: Petzl Bindi
  • Best Value Running Head Torch: Ledlenser Neo5R
  • Best Head Torch for Ultra Running: Petzl Ico Core
  • Best Head Torch for Battery Life: Black Diamond Storm 500R


The Expert

I’ve been reviewing gear for outdoor magazines for over ten years now and have served on juries for the ISPO Awards, Scandinavian Outdoor Awards, and OIA Awards. I’m a keen runner that tends to do stuff that takes me into the dark; things like mountain marathons, fastpacking adventures and ultras. Fun fact: I once took part in a race that pitted runners against riders on horseback. 

Who We Tested Them

All of these head torches were tested out on the trail on trips of varying lengths. Some, like the Petzl Bindi, were taken on multi-week fastpacking expeditions, while others simply joined us on night time run sessions. Each one was used in total darkness, on and off trail, and in a range of conditions including mist and rain. 

When selecting and assessing these we looked at things like brightness, battery life, stability, functionality and performance in varying conditions. Value for money was also factored in.

Best Overall Head Torch for Running

Silva Free 1200 S

OM editor Will using the Silva Free 1200s in the Cairngorms

Price: £140
Weight: 113g
Max brightness: 1200 lumens
Best for: Trail and road running
Key attributes: Modular system with clever add ons, very bright bulb, rear red light

This head torch really impressed us during our tests. It’s part of the extensive ‘Free’ lineup of headlamps by Silva, offering a multitude of customisable features for outdoor enthusiasts. This headlamp series boasts various add-ons such as additional batteries, adaptable light intensity bulbs, GoPro mounts, and cords enabling you to connect the light source to a pocket-stored battery.

The headband itself is exceptional, providing remarkable stability even during intense downhill runs. Its design conceals all wiring within it, eliminating any dangling elements prone to snagging or causing distractions. We’d say it’s the most comfortable and stable head torch in this round up. 

Its powerful 1200 lumen beam offers three distinct light settings, accompanied by Silva’s Intelligent Light technology. This innovative feature combines a long-reaching spotlight with a close flood-light, minimising tunnel vision and creating a natural peripheral light.

This head torch doesn’t just offer a red light in the front; it also includes a rear-facing red light for added safety during night-time runs or when leading a group. That’s an excellent feature for runners, particularly those who sometimes have to venture onto roads. The light can be adjusted to be off, flashing, or continuously on. 

Full Specifications

1200 lumen bulb / light distance of 150m / max, med, minimum settings / USB-C Li-ion battery / spotlight and flood light mix / IPX5.

Selected for our Outdoor 100 23/24. Read our full Silva Free 1200 S review.



Best Value Running Head Torch

Ledlenser Neo5r

Price: £55
Weight: 104g
Max brightness: 600 lumens
Best for: Casual runners
Key attributes: Rear red light, good value, comes with chest strap

While some of the head torches in this round up are made as all-rounders designed for any type of outdoor activity, this one from LedLenser is designed specifically for running. 

From what we’ve seen having tested this out on runs on our local trails, this head torch presents very good value for money. With only 300 lumens on its standard bulb, it might not be the brightest, but it’s certainly bright enough for most types of running. We liked the fact that the bulb can be angled to suit the gradient or conditions you’re running and, handily, if you’re not so keen on having something on your head, this is designed so that it can also be worn around the waist. Road runners should really like that this has a rear red light to it too. 

It’s powered by a lithium ion battery with the port taking USB-C cables. On its lowest setting (20 lumens), you’ll get 35 hours of burn time out of this and there’s 4 hours burn time on the standard setting. That’s OK but not great battery life, which is probably why this comes at a fairly low price compared to other similar models on the market. 

Full Specifications

600 lumens max bulb for short burst power,  300 lumens on standard power, 100 lumens mid and 20 lumens lowest / battery life ranges from 35 hours (lowest setting) to 4 hours (standard setting) / lithium ion battery charged via USB-C / 100 metres max distance / reflective headband with rear red light. 



Best Head Torch for Ultra Running

Petzl Iko Core

Our tester CJ demonstrating the Petzl Iko Core’s innovative headband

Price: £86
Weight: 79g
Max brightness: 500 lumens
Best for: Fastpackers and ultra runners, but suitable for casual runners too
Key attributes: Lightweight and packable, dual battery

This is a highly innovative head torch that we’ve enjoyed using over the last few years here at Outdoors Magic. As you can see, the design is somewhat different to standard head torches, with the onus placed on providing the wearer with something so light that they almost forget it’s there. In our tests, we found this to be very stable, easy to adjust while on the fly and it’s bright enough to provide confidence on any terrain. The battery life on the lowest setting – which is still bright enough to run with – lasts up to 100 hours. On the brightest setting you’ll get 2 and a half hours, which is still pretty decent. 

What we really liked about this is that it comes with a USB rechargeable battery but will also run off AAAs too. That makes this really handy for fastpackers who aren’t sure what kind of resources they might have ahead of them on multi-day missions. 

Full Specifications

500 lumens max brightness / three bulb settings / lithium ion battery with AAA capability / IPX4 water resistance / max 100m distance / max 100 hour burn time / 3.5 hour charging time. 

Selected for our Outdoor 100 – Read our full Petzl Iko Core review.



Best Lightweight Running Head Torch

Petzl Bindi

Price: £50
Weight: 35g
Max brightness: 200 lumens
Best for: Fast and light runners, trail runs up to 2 hours
Key attributes:
Extremely light and compact, good value, though operation is slightly fiddly.

This is a phenomenally light and compact head torch that will be barely noticeable in your backpack or even your jacket pocket. It also packs a surprisingly bright punch at 200 lumens on its maximum setting.

There are five settings altogether – low, medium, high, a red light and a flashing strobe – all of which are cycled between by just the one button. If you’re running it constantly on its top setting it’ll last 2 hours which is still pretty good considering the 200-lumen brightness. It’s not absolutely waterproof but it does have an IPX 4 rating, meaning it can face up to splashes or rain from any direction.

As such, this ticks all the right boxes: it’s light, compact, bright (for its size), the battery life is very good from our experience (one of our crew ran 500 miles with this over three weeks and he only had to charge it once) and its price isn’t too bad either. The bungee might not look secure or comfortable, but you’d be surprised. In fact, when you haven’t got it switched on, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it. The only downside is that the button can be slightly hard to press with cold fingers or when you’re wearing gloves.

Full Specifications

Max output 200 lumens / Reflective headband / Rechargeable via micro USB port, with charge indicator / 3 lighting modes: proximity, movement and distance / Red lighting night vision mode and lock function / IPX4 rated (weather-resistant).

Read our full Petzl Bindi review



Best Running Head Torch for Battery Life

Black Diamond Storm 500R

Price: £70
Weight: 100g
Max brightness: 500 lumens
Best for: All-round use
Key attributes: Good battery life, built-in battery charge indicator 

This is a neat little rechargeable head torch that, in our tests, was found to offer reliable performance. It’s a great all-rounder for anyone who wants a bright head torch that’s lightweight, durable and suitable for anything from road and trail running to hiking and climbing. At 100g it’s not the lightest head torch out there but that’s not to say it’s heavy either. Anyone running with this in their pocket isn’t really going to notice it. 

The bulb is a decent 500 lumens at its brightest and there are different levels to filter through, along with three night vision bulbs in red, green and blue. There’s also a strobe option for when an emergency signal might be required. 

We liked the fact this has battery charge indicator lights – many torches don’t have this – and it’s nice that the simple headband is made from Repreve, a fabric that originates from ocean plastics.

Full Specifications

Internal rechargeable battery (2400mAh, micro USB) / 350/19/7 hours battery life / 6/250/500 lumens / flood and spot, red green and blue modes, strobe, control lock / IPX7 waterproof.



Silva Terra Scout H

Price: £65
Weight: 76g
Max brightness: 350 lumens
Best for: Backpacking, wild camping
Key attributes: Recycled plastic materials, hemp headband, rechargeable battery

With the new Terra range, Silva has introduced three new headtorches, the Scout X, Scout XT and range-topping Scout H. All use recycled plastic materials and a hemp headband to give a carbon footprint reduction of 90% compared to the previous models.

The three different models have maximum outputs of 300 lumens for the Scout X and 350 lumens for the Scout XT and Scout H. All use Silva’s Hybrid Technology, which means they can be powered either by standard AAA batteries or by Silva’s rechargeable 1.25Ah lithium-ion cell. The Scout H comes with one of these Hybrid batteries as standard, hence its slightly higher price point.

The Scout H is lightweight and comfortable overall, thanks to a soft, wide strap and an extremely slim, compact design. However, it’s still pretty powerful, with dual white LEDs that provide combined spot and flood lighting plus a secondary red LED for night vision use. The max output of the Scout H is a creditable 350 lumens, and Silva’s Intelligent Light technology delivers a good balance of beam spread and penetration. Operations are simple and straightforward via one big button on top of the headlamp, but you also get a battery level indicator and that hybrid battery technology. Unlike most others, the rechargeable battery pack has a USB-C port rather than the older micro-USB tech too, enabling faster charging.

Full Specifications

Recycled plastic materials / hemp headband / 350 lumen output / AAA battery and rechargeable 1.25Ah lithium-ion cell compatible /  spot and flood lighting / red LED light / battery level indicator / one button / USB-C port.

Selected for our Green Gear Guide 2023 – Read our full Silva Terra Scout H review.



BioLite HeadLamp 330

Price: £60
Weight: 69g
Max brightness: 330 lumens
Best for: Long trail runs
Key attributes:
Bright and lightweight, with a sleek design and efficient output. No rear red light for road running though.

BioLite’s Headlamp 330 runs off USB power and looks to move consumers away from an over-reliance on disposable batteries. This is by no means a new idea, but the unique thing with this is that BioLite have achieved all this in an impressively small and lightweight package.

Better still, the HeadLamp 330 also packs a punch when it comes to brightness, offering the wearer, you guessed it – 330 lumens. That’s 330 lumens at a weight of 69g, with an average burn time of 40 hours on the low setting and 3 hours 30 minutes on high – and all at the price of £60.

Comparing the HeadLamp 330 to its competitors is interesting. The Petzl Bindi for instance, while being around 20g lighter, only has a burn time of 2 hours. Then there’s the Black Diamond Iota which weighs the same as BioLite’s 330, but only offers 150 lumens.

Bringing all of this efficient, lightweight power together in such a sleek design is impressive. A small button on the top of the head torch is the sole function to switch light settings and although some may find it tricky to locate or compress with gloves on, it keeps up with the minimal design of the head torch.

The settings include a white spot, flood and strobe, along with a red spot setting for use in close proximity with others or for maintaining your night vision. At the bottom of the battery unit, which sits at the back of your head, is a micro USB port, covered by a water repellent seal. There’s also an indicator light that illuminates once the head torch is switched on.

Full Specifications

Max output 330 lumens / Red night vision mode / Adjustable front panel / 40 hour burn time on LO, 3.5 Hours on HIGH / Rechargeable via Micro-USB.

Selected for the 2019/20 Outdoor 100. Read our full review of the BioLite HeadLamp 330 here.



Petzl Swift RL

Price: £97
Weight: 100g
Max brightness: 900 lumens
Best for: Trail running, mountaineering and skiing
Key attributes:
Reactive lighting, impressive 900-lumen max output, relatively lightweight given its power.

The Swift RL’s ‘Reactive Lighting’ technology results in a longer burn time (or battery life), and requires less manual adjustment. The light sensor automatically adjusts brightness and beam pattern depending on the current level of light in the environment. This optimises battery usage and keeps the head torch going for longer. But if you’d prefer something a bit more traditional, you can switch to a ‘Standard Lighting’ mode.

The Swift RL is a fine example of an ultra-bright head torch coming in a lightweight, extremely convenient, body. An impressive 900 lumens from a 100g item will definitely appeal to fast and light trail runners. With an ergonomic adjustable headband, with two-part Petzl patent construction, this has a really comfortable fit and will stay fixed on your head even when you’re moving over rough and broken terrain. Speaking of the headband, it’s reflective for heightened night-time visibility.

Full Specifications

Max output 900 lumens / Reactive or constant light modes / Proximity vision, movement and distance vision / Reflective headband / Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery via micro USB port, with battery charge indicator / Lock function / Rated IPX4 (weather-resistant).

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2020/21. Read our full review of the Petzl Swift RL Headlamp here.



Nitecore HC65

Price: £76.95
Weight: 122g
Max brightness: 1000 lumens
Best for: Hikers, campers and runners who will trade a little extra weight for high power and super-tough build quality.
Key attributes:
Rugged, waterproof to IPX8, extremely bright and highly functional, but a fraction heavy.

Nitecore’s HC65 is primarily aimed at hikers and campers. Weighing in at 122g with the battery, it might be slightly on the heavy side for gram-counting backpackers and fast-moving trail runners, but it’s still worth considering for those who want a fully waterproof and extremely rugged headlamp with a superb light output.

With its housing made from an aero-grade aluminium alloy that has a military grade hard-anodised finish, this thing is basically as tough as head torches come. It’s also rated at IPX8 in terms of waterproofness which means it’s submersible to 2 metres.

The button for turning it on and off and cycling through functions is located on one of its sides and the side is unscrewed when you want to add or remove its battery. The included headband has a typical around-the-head strap and then one over-the-top one. That top strap can be removed, however you wouldn’t have a particularly reliable hold, even despite the amount of adjustment potential you get.

Handily, the housing can be tilted up or down to allow for 180 degree pivoting and it will hold in its position securely without shifting as well.

Full Specifications

Max output 1000 lumens / Uses 18650 Rechargeable Li-ion battery or 2 x CR123 cells / 5 brightness levels, ranging from 1 to 1000 lumens, plus a strobe, SOS and location beacon / Auxiliary red and white light / Built-in micro USB charging circuit / Max burn time of 800 hrs on ultralow (1 lumen) setting  / Max beam distance 110 metres / Waterproof to IPX8 and resistant to impacts up to 1.5 metres.

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2020/21. Read our full Nitecore HC65 headlamp review



How to Choose a Head Torch for Running

For off road running at night you need a torch that satisfies a number of criteria. First of all, consider the brightness – is it sufficient for the terrain? Then there’s battery Life – will it last the run before the batteries need changing? Ease of operation is important too – how easy is it to turn on / off, adjust and change batteries especially when wearing gloves? Finally you want to consider the comfort levels and how it might feel when it’s on your head for several hours.

Some useful details to consider and look out for when choosing a head torch for running.

Brightness: Understanding Lumens

When selecting a head torch, understanding its brightness, measured in lumens, is key. From the Petzl Bindi’s 200 lumens to the Silva Free 1200s’s  1,200, these head toches offer varying intensities, often with adjustable settings. For instance, the Nitrecore HC65 ranges from 1 to 100 lumens across multiple settings.

Opting for lumens involves balancing power usage with necessity. Higher settings drain batteries faster, so prudent usage is advised. Typically, 100 to 300 lumens should suffice for pavement running with some streetlight cover. To run in complete darkness on challenging terrain, aim for 300 lumens and above.

OM editor Will during one of our head torch tests

However, lumens don’t solely define a headlamp’s performance. While they indicate visible light output, they don’t always correlate with trail or campsite illumination. Consider factors like beam distance, type, and brand reputation for a comprehensive assessment beyond lumens’ measure.

Batteries and Burn Time

Batteries these days tend to come in two options: lithium ion rechargeable and disposable AA or AAA. Sometimes you find head torches that offer both.

Rechargeable batteries tend to have slightly higher efficiency. The main benefit they bring, however, is in regards to the environment, because by using rechargeable batteries over disposable ones you’re essentially saving hundreds of batteries from landfill.

On the flip side, head torches that are charged via disposable batteries are great for those heading off the beaten track, away from a power source. You just need to bring the right amount of spares to sustain your trip.

From our point of view, the best head torches for running are those that run off both rechargeable and alkaline batteries, because this gives you both options. The Silva Terra Scout and the Petzl Iko Core are good examples of head torches that offer both power options.

Straps and Comfort

The most stable head torch straps are the ones that have an over-the-top strap but these can make for quite heavy models – the 122g Nitecore HC65 being a good example there.

Conversely, head torches like the Petzl Bindi might be superlight but they’re not generally the ones to turn too if you want something very comfortable and secure. That’s why, head torches with adjustable straps, like the Silva Terra Scout and the Black Diamond Storm 500R tend to offer a happy medium.

One of our head torch tests within an abandoned railway tunnel

Head torches with battery packs or red lights at the back of the headband tend to be very balanced and stable, though they can often have fiddly wires that can get tangled with other bits of kit. Some brands have solved this by embedding the wires within the head bands – the Silva Free 1200s is a perfect example there.

Water Resistance

IPX ratings, often seen on outdoor gear, denote the degree of water resistance a device possesses. These ratings, such as IPX4 or IPX7, are a standardised measure of protection against water ingress. The “IP” stands for “Ingress Protection,” followed by a numeral indicating the level of safeguarding. For instance, an IPX4 rating signifies resistance against splashes from any direction, suitable for light rain or sweat during workouts. As the numbers increase, so does the device’s resilience against water – IPX7, for example, indicates the capability to withstand immersion in water up to 1 meter depth for 30 minutes.

We generally find that IPX4 is adequate for running. We’ve used head torches rated to IPX4 in some very wet and wild conditions and they’ve held up just fine.

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