In Ask the Trail Sisters, Gear

 

I’m running a 100 miler this summer and am looking for a good headlamp suggestion. What works best for you?

Hands down the Petzl NAO is unbelievable. The battery is reliable and long lasting (one fully charged battery lasted me for 1.5 nights of running at UTMB). The strong reactive lighting gives you confidence to move well on the trails in total darkness and doesn’t give you that “tunnel vision” sensation. It’s a heavy headlamp but the head straps make it feel balanced and stable. To me, this headlamp is worth the weight and price tag. 

So, I had a trusty headlamp I loved since my first foray into 100s in 2009. As the newer technologies came out, I refused to believe I needed 5x as many lumens, and only eventually upgraded because I lost it.  Oh what a blessing that was!  I went all in and bought myself a Petzl NAO, and it was worth every penny.  I can’t believe how much better I can run at night being able to see so much more of the trail.  I’d also recommend getting a backup battery, since they are rechargeable.  Regardless of what lamp you choose, you’ll want to switch to fresh batteries after 4 or 5 hours. You’d be surprised at how big of a difference it makes! Between the lamp and a backup battery, this is a pricey setup, but I consider it to be one of my most important pieces of gear and one I use weekly on early morning runs.  If you are never running in super dark places and races, perhaps choosing something cheaper and lighter might be a better fit, but for a truly versatile lamp that will light up even the darkest of canyons – the Petzl NAO is the standard.  (Additional tip: if you’re using the NAO or any other high lumen light, be considerate when you come up on other runners and angle it down. It will overpower them if they have a weaker lamp and create really terrible shadows and they will hate you.)

I’ve never run a 100 but I do run with headlamps. Just make sure you can try one on in the store and jog around a bit to make sure you like how it fits!

Petzl REACTIK + hands down. I’ve worn practically every headlamp you can name and this is the best combination of lumens (brightness) and lightweight fit. The NAO is brighter, but it’s bulkier. The go-to for short runs, 100-mile races, and traveling. I bring mine literally everywhere. While on a recent trip to Ethiopia, a hotel bathroom didn’t have any working lights and my REACTIK + lit the whole room. Let there be light! If you want to buy one headlamp for the rest of your life and be done with it, get the REACTIK +!

Feature Photo: Nick Kelley

My go to headlamp for many years has been the Petzl NAO. I absolutely love that it is rechargeable and I don’t have to worry or think about batteries. I can plug it into any USB outlet and immediately start charging it for the next adventure. 

It also has ‘Reactive Lighting Technology’ meaning it will dim or brighten based on the environment, this is an incredible feature as it helps with charge-life and isn’t using power to over-light the trail. Plus, you don’t have to worry or even think about it, the light reacts on it’s own. You can over-ride this feature though with a twist of the knob and keep lighting on high setting if desired. And, the high setting is impressive. Not only have I used this headlamp out on long trail runs, I’ve also used it when the sun has set on ice climbs and I can illuminate the entire frozen waterfall when everyone else’s headlamps just aren’t cutting it. Lots of ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ ensue. 
 
I would recommend having at least two headlamps for a 100 mile endeavor. Not that you need two on you at all times but your crew can have the other headlamp charged and ready for a switch off during the night and begin to charge your first headlamp without having to worry about losing a charge or a dimming light. Better to change it out before it becomes an issue. 
 
The NAO looks a bit intimidating with the cord and straps but fits comfortably. For longer endeavors I’ll wear a beanie hat in the winter under my headlamp and a buff in the summer just for a softer more snug fit than just wearing it against my skin. Just makes for added comfort for long miles. 
 
Whether a 100 mile attempt or just the headlamp you keep in your pack for a setting sun, I’d definitely recommend the Petzl NAO. 

I think the biggest considerations are comfort, brightness, and duration.  I use the Nathan Halo Fire (disclaimer, I’m sponsored by Nathan) and the reasons I chose that particular headlamp is that it has a slightly more cushioned band that keeps it from cutting into my head over time. It can go up to 288 lumens, has a decent burn time, and I like that is rechargeable so I don’t need to throw away batteries. I also have a Neutron, which is small and allows me to carry as a back up. If you have a running store or outdoor near you I would suggest going to try on different models and comparing the brightness and battery life. Good luck at your 100!

I run with a Black Diamond Storm headlamp and love it! It is super bright and has so many different settings for every lighting situation. Plus, its waterproof! So no worrying about running in downpours anymore! It is a bit on the heavy side, but nothing that I find annoying or really notice, just worth noting.

I would highly recommend the UltrAspire Lumen 600 2.0 Waist Light. This thing is BRIGHT! It’s like the sun beaming at your waist and it’s awesome because you’ll be able to see both the trail and everything around it a lot easier. Heck, I’ve even had runners around me thankful for the extra lumens. If you’re just looking for headlamps, specifically, then I’d suggest trying out the Petzl Actik Core or the Petzl Reactik Headlamp. Definitely go check out the selection at your local running or outdoor store so you can try ’em out!

I just got the Ledlenser MH10 a few months ago.  This thing is not messing around.  I’m in the pacific NW, and winters are dark.  75% of my runs are in the dark, and this was a game-changer for me. At 600 lumens, it provides excellent depth discrimination and reactive lighting.  It has 3 levels of brightness and an adjustable beam for focus.  Rechargeable battery is a must for me.  The Li-Ion battery in the MH10 is guaranteed for 10 hours of continuous use, which should get you through the night of a 100-miler.  The only drawback is that it often feels like I’m chasing the spotlight, and that has caused me to break out in song and dance on more than one occasion.

I love all Petzl headlamps! Black Diamond has some good ones too, but Petzl is my fav. Think about what features you want (rechargeable, LED, multiple brightness, etc.) and check out their websites for the right one for you. 

My lamp is one of my most important pieces of gear. I’ve been using the same Petzl NAO for the past five years.  It may seem a bit pricey up front, but this thing is unbelievably reliable, weatherproof and may just last forever. It has reactive lighting technology that allows the brightness to fade or increase based on light. People that run with me call it the “disco light” because of its effectiveness. One fully charged battery will last me close to 8 hours on the lower strength, which comes in handy during summertime hundreds. During a fall hundred, I’ll pop and extra charged battery in my drop bag just in case I need it. The current new NAOs are connected to an app that allows you to customize light strength etc. Good luck at your race!

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