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Alpkit Viper v Alpkit Gamma Headtorches

Alpkit Viper v Alpkit Gamma Headtorches

Alpkit’s original Gamma headtorch has become a bit of a iconic gear pick for runners on a budget, but how does it compare for pure running use to the new Alpkit Viper – see our first look – with it’s powerful main LED and all-in-one light head design? Fell Running Guide Dave Taylor, put them to the test on the trails of his local Peak District. Here’s what he found.

What’s the best headtorch for trail running?

Well if you want to light up the whole hillside with hundreds of lumens you could shell out the best part of £150 on a Petzl Nao or the 550 lumen Silva Runner.  Even with these “serious” torches you’re not guaranteed that the batteries will last the overnight section of a 24 hour event, especially in winter.

But what if mega brightness isn’t the be all and end all and you want an affordable headtorch that will do for a few hours night running on easy trails?

Gamma Radiation

Last year I used an Alpkit Gamma (88 lumens) and loaned it to clients for guided night runs on non technical trails.  I also used it as my back up torch when doing more serious overnight running (I even wore it as a waist torch to supplement my headtorch whilst doing the Paddy Buckley Round) and found it perfect for my winter coaching sessions.

The Gamma has an overhead strap and rear compartment taking 3 AAA batteries and weighs in at only 118g (including batteries).  As well as the main Cree light it has single white, red and green LEDs which are useful when map reading or when lower brightness is all that is needed (such as when coaching as I can use the single LED without blinding the runners!)

More Bite?

Now Alpkit have launched a new torch, the Viper.  Again powered by 3 AAAs but housed in the main unit rather than in a separate compartment the Viper does away with the overhead strap and weighs in at a slightly lighter 97g (including batteries)  It is also slightly brighter with a 100 lumen main beam and two lower powered LEDs giving a wide beam option.

Both torches have a tilt mechanism on the main body which move with a sturdy “click” (unlike some more expensive torches) whilst one press of the single button allows you to cycle through different brightness levels and flashing modes. (the Gamma has a second button at the rear for the rear red light with a choice of steady or flashing).

More Balanced

On the run the Gamma was slightly more balanced due to the batteries being at the rear rather than in the head unit.  It was interesting that the Gamma gave a cooler, blueish light compared to the warmer orange of the Viper.  The extra lumens of the Viper gave a slightly greater range of beam.

Battery life for both torches on full power is around 4 hours (constant use) before gradually dimming – not enough for a full night on the hill but fine for a couple of hours. (I prefer to use rechargeable batteries so that I can go out fully charged every run).

‘Perfectly Adequate’

Whilst neither torch is bright enough for fast, technical night running they are perfectly adequate for straightforward trails and footpaths and make a great, affordable back up torch.  At only £15 and £12.50 respectively (including 3x AAA Duracell batteries!) the Gamma and the Viper offer fantastic value for money.

So if you’re thinking of spending a lot of money on a headtorch you might want to ask yourself if you need reactive lighting, 250+ lumens, USB rechargeable batteries etc. etc. Unless you’re running very technical trails this winter….

… you could buy an Alpkit headtorch and spend the rest of the money on a decent waterproof jacket!

The Author

David Taylor is a qualified outdoors instructor and UK Athletics Coach and an experienced off-road runner who has won medals in British and English fell-running championships. He runs the Peak District-based Fell Running Guide training service offering coaching, guided runs, training courses and more. You can find his website at www.fellrunningguide.co.uk.

Dave will also be at this year’s Buxton Adventure Festival running a Fell and Trail Running Workshop to coincide with the running talks on Sunday Oct 12th. More details at www.buxtonadventurefestival.co.uk/speakers-films/wild-running/trail-fell-running-workshop.

The new Viper tips the scales at 97 grammes compared…

… to the 118g of the original Manta. But because of the separate battery box, the Manta actually feels more balanced on the head.

Both torches use three AAA cells, the Viper’s is easer to access though and it’s worth bearing in mind that the Gamma does suffer from occasional broken battery compartment lids, though they’re easy to replace.

The Gamma battery box also has a handy rear-facing red LED for safety on roads.

Additional coloured LEDs on Manta are handy for map-reading use

When it’s dark, it’s dark and you can’t see nothing…

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