Winter is now here, and with it, comes shortened hours of daylight. This almost guarantees that most people will end up doing at least some of their snowshoeing or snowshoe running after dark. With that in mind, a headlamp becomes a vital piece of winter training equipment.
Ten years ago, when I first got the idea to try running with a headlamp, all I could find was a big honking halogen beam that bounced around on my head and ate through batteries in no time. I grudgingly made due, but was looking forward to the day when I would find something that would be a little smaller and work a lot better.
Well, as you can see with many of the other products reviewed on Snowshoemag.com, times have changed and gear just keeps getting better and better. Headlamps are no exception.
I’ve had the opportunity to use a number of Petzl headlamps over the past several seasons, and would like to share my thoughts on a few models to help give you an idea what may be best for your own personal needs.
TIKKA PLUS – It has four small LED bulbs which make for surprisingly good lighting in a very compact unit. The approximate maximum distance that the Tikka Plus will shine is up to 17 meters, but weighs in at a very light 78g (including 2 AAA batteries), so won’t give you a sore neck while running. The Tikka Plus offers three lighting levels (maximum, optimum, economy), which you can adjust to help conserve battery life. There is also a flashing light option as well. The Tikka Plus is operated with the push of a single button, so is very easy to use, even while wearing mitts or gloves. The Tikka Plus is probably the best headlamp for the price on the market and is very suitable for easy running/snowshoeing on a trail that isn’t super technical.
TIKKA XP –This headlamp has only one LED bulb, but it offers twice the maximum distance (35 meters) compared to the Tikka Plus. It also has three brightness settings, plus a flashing option. There is also a diffuser lense which provides more peripheral vision and is a really nice option in the winter.
One other interesting feature with the Tikka XP is the ‘boost’ option. While pressing down and holding the boost button, you get an extra temporary boost of almost 50% more light for a maximum of 20 seconds. This is a really nice feature to have if you want to briefly get a better view. One minor thing I’d like to see changed would be if you didn’t have to hold the button down for the entire 20 seconds to keep the boost activated. It would be great if the boost automatically went back to the regular mode after 20 seconds with just one touch of the button.
The Tikka XP is also very light, at a mere 95g (including three AAA batteries). One other very handy feature is that the Tikka XP has a battery warning indicator to tell you when your batteries are 70% and 90% discharged.
This is my favourite headlamp of all time and would have to say it’s the absolute best all-round headlamp out there for snowshoeing or snowshoe running, even on reasonably technical trails.
MYO XP – The MYO XP has all the great features of the Tikka XP, but even greater lighting. It is a little heavier though at 175g (including three AA batteries), due to the separate battery pack located on the back of the headband. While the added weight of the battery pack is noticeable, it was still very comfortable to wear. An overhead strap is also included if you want a little more stability and less bounce. The maximum distance visible is an impressive 45 meters, with the temporary boost option extending that to a maximum of 65 meters for 20 seconds. This is the headlamp you want to go to when you are out on very technical terrain and want to be sure you have the very best visibility possible after dark. I have even used the MYO XP while dogsledding on challenging trails and was confident of my ability to judge any potential dangers while traveling at fast speeds.
E+LITE – This emergency headlamp is the one headlamp that should get the most amount of mileage in your kit, and not necessarily because of the features, but because it is so small and compact that there is absolutely no reason that you should not take it everywhere you go in case of emergency. The E+LITE weights an ultra-light 27g. (including two lithium CR 2032 batteries), and is just slightly larger than the size of a quarter. It has three white LED’s and one red LED (to help preserve night vision). The white LED’s have two strength settings (maximum and economy), plus an emergency strobe signal, while the red LED has one strength and an emergency strobe. Even though it is small, the E+LITE is still mighty, as it shines up to 19 meters.
The thin elastic headband is adjustable and very comfortable to wear on your head. It also features a clip-on option so you can attach it to the brim of your hat or clothing if you prefer. The E+LITE also comes with a handy protective carrying case.
Reliability is what really came to mind when reviewing the E+LITE though. It is designed to function in extreme temperatures from -30C to +60C, can be stored with batteries for up to ten years and still be operational, is waterproof down to one meter, and provides up to 45 hours of continuous lighting. With all these features in this lightweight, durable, reliable and comfortable headlamp, there is absolutely no reason to ever be caught in the dark!