Need to light your way on an early-morning run or logging miles after dark?
Runner Lucie Hanes put two Petzl headlamps to the test.
Here's what she learned...
The days are getting shorter, but the to-do lists stay just as long…which means that many runners end up heading out for their miles outside of the sun’s regular schedule.
If you run in the early-morning hours before sunrise or lace up for night runs, there's at least six challenges with running in the dark to consider:
Even if you run in a well-trafficked area, you can’t count on streetlights to illuminate your whole route.
And if you’re on trail or anywhere outside of the city limits, you’re completely on your own.
The right headlamp can mean the difference between:
With a good headlamp, you’ll be able to see what’s ahead and prepare for it instead of getting caught off-guard when your mind’s still shaking off the sleep.
But the best headlamp is the one you actually use.
On my first overnight race, a 24 hour relay in Moab, my headlamp bounced and fell out of place.
Not once or twice. But over and over as the night wore on.
I ended up taking it off completely and trying to keep pace with the one other runner on the same lap schedule as me.
That's not an ideal way to run in the dark. I kept thinking:
What if there was no one else around at 2AM in the desert?
From that moment on, I knew I needed a headlamp that's more subtle and more reliable so that I could feel safe out there on my own.
Petzl is best known as a manufacturer of technical equipment for climbers and at-height laborers.
But they’re also the leader in lighting technology for outdoor athletes.
Two of their most popular and affordable headlamps cover all these bases in different ways.
Depending on where, why, and how you run, you’ll find your match in either:
And the best part? You’ll barely know it’s there either way.
I put these two Petzl headlamps to the test. Here's what I learned:
On the outside, the Swift RL looks like your basic camping headlamp:
There’s a reason most headlamps look like this: It’s a simple design that ticks the boxes.
But the Swift hides a good number of bells and whistles inside its basic exterior.
For one, the headband actually stays in place.
Comfort aside, though, the real beauty of the Swift RL shines through when you actually turn it on.
Good headlamps offer a variety of brightness settings to match whatever environment you’re running through.
Great headlamps, though, take that a step further.
Swift RL: RL = Reactive Lighting
Rather than having to click through all those different settings every time you step in or out of the moonlight, the Swift RL takes care of it for you.
Set it and forget it
The Swift RL truly packs a punch. It reaches up to 900 lumens at peak brightness, which is more than enough to illuminate the darkest trails and secluded roads.
Charging the battery
When the time comes, plug it straight into the wall with a micro-USB cord for about six hours until all five give you the green light.
Note: As nice as the rechargeable nature of the Swift is, one downside is that you don’t have the option to swap out normal batteries instead.
But with a little planning, it should last just fine through the longest early morning training runs and overnight ultras. You can also carry an extra Accu Swift battery to swap out as needed.
If you’re looking for something even less in-your-face (literally), then the Iko Core will fit the bill.
This 79 gram ultralight, ultrathin headlamp looks more like something from a science experiment than a piece of running gear.
It seems neither comfortable nor practical at first glance. But you won’t regret giving the Iko Core and its goofy exterior a chance.
Missing from the Iko Core is the traditional stretchy headband.
In its place, Petzl’s opted for a crown-like construction made from rubberized plastic.
Note: It takes a few tries to get the fit right. I even discovered that I had it on upside down for the first handful of test runs. But after some trial and error, I don’t have to touch the bungee at all; I just slide it on and it falls right into place.
The band isn’t the only part that Petzl’s trimmed down.
The trade-off for such a minimalist design is a noticeably lower output.
On the bright side (forgive me, I had to slip that pun in somewhere), it’s easier to power up the Iko Core than the Swift RL.
If I had to choose one for every adventure through the dark, I’d go with the Swift RL.
But when it comes to overnight ultramarathons, the Iko Core wins.
To make your own best choice, start with your goals and move backward.
Either way, you’ve got a way to stay safe and run your best through the dark with these two Petzl headlamps.