As the days grow shorter and darkness sets in earlier, our activities don’t need to discontinue. Instead, we can use the saving grace of a headlamp for our running, biking, and hiking needs. The Trail Speed 4XT headlamp by Silva is a multi-purpose headlamp, mainly designed for bikers and skiers. We performed a full test on it to explore all of the features and see if this is the headlamp to buy for our adventures.
First let’s start with the basics, the feature list. This headlamp has:
- Detachable battery with an extension cord
- Rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery (via Micro USB)
- Multiple headband configurations
- Helmet attachments
- Dual LED lamps with long reach spotlight and floodlight
- Three brightness settings: min, med, max
- Water-resistant to the IPX5 standard, which means it is protected from water jets in any direction
With that feature list, this headlamp is billed as the end-all-be-all headlamp. So let’s dig into these features.
The detachable battery is designed differently than many other headlamps. Since the battery is quite large, designed for long battery life, Silva decided that it is best to not hang the battery near the headlamp like many of the company’s competitors. Instead, the headlamp hangs at the back behind the head. Also, they included an extension cord so the battery can be stowed in a pocket.
This battery storage design is a particularly useful feature in extremely cold temperatures since Li-ion batteries typically do not work well in the extreme cold. Below 32F (0C), Li-ion batteries lose capacity until they warm up.
We tested the headlamp with the coldest temperature readily available during summer, in the freezer at 10F (-12C). After leaving the headlamp in the freezer overnight, it turned on. The battery has a charge indicator button that when pushed, shows how much capacity is left by lighting up the 5 LEDs on the battery.
Configurations and Attachments
The headband on the Trail Speed 4XT headlamp has multiple configurations. These configurations include a typical headband, an attachment for over the head on the headband, bike helmet attachments, and an extension cord for the battery. To me, this setup means we have three big ways to use the headlamp.
You can use the headlamp, 1) on the head like a traditional headlamp, 2) on the helmet, or 3) with the battery in a pocket with the extension cord.
The versatility of these configurations allows for the use of the Silva Trail Speed 4XT headlamp in multiple activities including road running, trail running, biking, hiking, or of course, snowshoeing.
Dual LED Lamps
The Silva Trail Speed 4XT headlamp comes with dual LED lamps, which means that there are two LEDs in the headlamp, each with a different lens in front of the LED. One lens is set as a spotlight and the other is a floodlight. By having both a spotlight and floodlight option available, it makes this headlamp the best of two worlds.
Most headlamps have to make do with one LED, which means the headlamp needs to compromise between a spotlight and a floodlight. By compromising though, LED headlamps don’t provide a well-done spotlight or floodlight option.
The 4XT though, because it has dual LED lamps, does both long-distance sightings and near sightings very well. An example of this test is shown in the photo below. You can see both the floodlight and spotlight option displayed on the wall.
There are three brightness settings for the headlamp. According to Silva, the settings include the minimum setting (80 lumens for 20 hours), medium setting (600 lumens for 7.5 hours), and max setting (1200 lumen for 5 hours).
We tested the battery time and we got 16 hours on min and 9.5 hours on med. We didn’t get a good test of max mode as the headlamp automatically goes to med mode if the headlamp gets too hot. At 70F (21C), max mode shifts to medium mode after about 5 minutes. Our thoughts are if you need the light for more than 8 hours, you should probably buy an extra 3.3 AH battery or a 9.9 AH battery. Charging the batteries, as mentioned above, is simple using a Micro-USB cable.
We tested the Trail Speed 4XT headlamp while biking and running this spring and summer.
While running at night, I tested it in basically the worst configuration. I had the headlamp without the top strap and with the battery hanging on the back of the head. After 30 minutes of jogging, the headlamp stayed firmly on my head without slipping. If I were to do that configuration consistently, I would want to strap the headlamp to my arm as it’s not the most comfortable.
While running, the dual headlamp with the floodlight and the spotlight works really well. I never felt like I had to look down to see where I was going and I could see far ahead with the spotlight. Furthermore, I found that the low setting is way more than sufficient for running. I personally find the med and max settings to be a little obnoxiously bright. However, those individuals who have trouble seeing at night may like the medium and max settings.
While biking, though, that’s where the dual LED lamps on this headlamp really shine (cue pun music). The spotlight is useful to see really long distances and the floodlight shows the path right in front of your bike. Similar to my running experience, I found that the minimum setting is more than enough light. The medium setting could also work if you want a little bit more light. However, the max setting, at least for city riding, is probably too bright, as it would blind cars or riders on the other side of the trail. It is nice though to have the max brightness available if needed.
While riding, I shined the light on a passing train. You can clearly see the wind turbine blade on the train light up even though the blade is about 50 feet away.
So now the question, is this really the headlamp you should buy for your adventures?
The Silva Trail Speed 4XT headlamp is a very bright and useful headlamp. It should be, considering the high price tag. Coming in at £200 or about $200 USD, this is a tough sell when there is some strong competition from around the $30-50 range.
However, there are two big unique features of this lamp that set it apart from the competition. First, the dual LEDs are excellent if you want to see close and far without looking down to check your feet every 5 seconds. Second, the battery can be stored in your pocket. By storing the battery in your pocket, you use your body heat to help keep the battery warm in very cold temperatures. Most headlamps, which have the battery near the headlamp itself, won’t work in extreme cold. So, considering the battery is rather large to power the two bright LEDs, I find it very useful to store it in your pocket.
But, with all the great features, I do have a few other considerations to make. The first consideration is that there is no redlight setting or very low-light settings to preserve your night vision. A red light would be a useful alternative, considering the min setting allows for excellent vision coverage at night. The second consideration is that the headlamp is on the heavy side. With the battery, the headlamp comes in at 257 grams (9 oz), where typical single-lamp headlamps are around 85 grams (3 oz). But, the extra weight relates to the two LED lamps, which are a huge benefit to this headlamp.
So, overall weighing the pros and cons, I recommend this headlamp for those who run, bike or hike regularly at night in the city or on the trail. Based on my tests, the wide scope of light preferences (3 settings, dual LEDs) and versatility of the attachments offset the extra weight and red light.
I’m looking forward to using the Silva Trail Speed 4XT not only on my nightly running and biking adventures but also on my upcoming night snowshoe adventures this winter!
Have you used the Silva Trail Speed 4XT headlamp while running, biking, or hiking at night? What has your experience been with this headlamp? Please let us know in the comments below.
Silva provided the Trail Speed 4XT to the author. As always, the views and opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own.
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