We’ll be bringing you a full review of the Silva Trail Elite headtorch as part of a giant headtorch review, but we thought you might like some first impressions of one of the brightest and most versatile headtorches we’ve come across.
We’ve seen the basics of the Trail Speed Elite before in the form of the Silva Runner, but the new top-of-the-range version is both brighter with a claimed output of 660 lumens – Silva says that’s enough to give a 90-metre beam – but also more versatile.
The actual lighthead of the torch is a tiny, aluminium housing holding two LEDs. It weighs just 41 grammes with a short lead and includes a neat quick release clip, which is part of what makes it so versatile. There’s a big easy to use single button which cycles through three modes as well as on and off.
The dual-LED configuration is important too – they’re stacked on on top of the other and they use provide what Silva calls ‘intelligent lighting’ with one being a piercing spot pattern and the other a much wider flood-type beam.
The idea is that you get the best of both worlds: particularly when running, a wide, even pool of light makes it far easier to keep balanaced on your feet and fills in those peripheral corners, while the spot helps you pick out more distant objects. It’s a huge plus.
And that 660 lumens should be enough for most off-road running too. For perspective, Petzl’s impressively bright Nao only manages 335 lumens, though that torch also has other tricks up its sleeves. Burn time on full-whack is 2.5 hours going up to 10 hours if you stick to the lowest of the three settings. That should be enough for most trail runners and, with judicious use, able to cope with walking too.
Where the Trail Speed Elite is really clever is that you can use it in a number of different configurations. First, you can mount the light unit on the 29g elasticated headband then strap on the 120g rechargeable battery with its integral Velcro wrap-around strap to give a conventional headtorch with a total weight of 191g.
Next, you can mount the light on the headband, but use the extension lead supplied (44g) to carry the battery remotely in a pocket, bum-bag or pack-lid pocket. It takes most of the weight off your head, which is ideal for runners, but also means in cold weather you can keep the battery warmer and more efficient, but storing it close to your body heat.
Where the Silva scores bonus points is that it’s also helmet and bike compatible. There’s a sticky-backed mount that’ll stick to a bike helmet for head mounting – or simply use the slots to add straps or zip-ties – and allows you to use the light on your head with the battery mounted remotely in a pack or pocket. Ideal for off-road use where you want to beam to follow your direction of gaze.
The finally, there’s a rubber handlebar mount that’s super quick to use and enables you to use the Trail Speed Elite as a standard handlebar light with the battery mounted on the stem or top-tube. Brilliant for commuting and bright enough for on or off-road riding.
Impressions So Far
Overall we’re super impressed so far. It’s very bright, feels solidly made for such a light bit of kit, with great wiring connectors and neat quick release fixtures and fittings and it’s easy to use, even with gloves on. On top of that, the modular mounting approach promises to make it a brilliant bit of kit for anyone who both walks, runs and rides a bike – adventure racers we’re looking at you too.
We’re also big fans of Silva’s ‘intelligent light’ flood and spot mix, which we’ve found to work really well in the past, and the light is regulated, so output remains constant even as the battery is used rather than dropping off over time. And of course, a rechargeable battery makes sense for regular use.
The only downside is the expense – the suggested price is £210, but you can find it online for considerably less than that. Against that, it can be used both on foot and on the bike and you’re investing not just in the hardware, but in being able to get out regularly and safely on winter evenings, which is arguably priceless.
More information at www.silva.se.