How to choose the right headlamp for running

Photo: Sylvain Cavatz

Autumn is a great season for running. The temperature is comfortable, and the paths are dressed in beautiful autumn colors. But with autumn also comes darkness. The days will be shorter and soon many of my runs will be done in silent darkness. I really enjoy it. There is something special with running in the woods when it is dark and the only thing that lights up the path in front of you is the moon, the stars and the light that comes from your headlamp. The world is in a way diminished. I run in my own little light bubble without having any thoughts about what is outside that bubble.

Headlamps provide safety, both because I can see the path in front of me, but also because others can see me.

Different runs, different needs

Photo: Ian Corless

In Winter, without a headlamp, I would not be able to run out on the trails in Norway. Therefore, it is perhaps no wonder that I have an impressive collection of different headlamps. It’s a bit like running shoes- you choose shoes according to the weather, where you will run and what mood you are in. If you’re going out and running a loop mainly on road, you don’t choose the most aggressive terrain shoes you have…

That’s how it is with a headlamp too. I have a headlamp for every need. From torches that only meet the requirement for mandatory headlamp on ultra-run, to headlamps with 2000 lumens that provides floodlight. In this blog post, I write about headlamps for training runs during the winter season. What headlamps I recommend when running long ultra-races I will write about later.

How to choose the right headlamp?

When choosing a headlamp, it pays to think about what it shall be used for. Are you going to run mainly in the city where it is mostly well lit? Or are you going out on dark forest paths in the middle of winter? The requirement for the headlamp will be different in the two senarios.


Photo: Ian Corless

When buying a headlamp, you will be able to read how many lumens the torch provides. Lumen is the number you look at to know how much light comes from the torch. Simply explained is that the higher the number of Lumen is, the more powerful the torch.

Dispersion of light

Photo: Sylvain Cavatz

But good light is not just about high values of Lumen. If you try two different headlamps that both have 500 Lumens you might experience a big difference. The spread of the light and the angle at which the light is emitted from the lamp is as important. When you run you need to be able to look far ahead to orient yourself about where you are running, while the area right in front of you must be well lit so that you see roots, stones and other obstacles on the trail.


Photo: Sylvain Cavatz

Battery life is important if you plan long trips in the dark. The more powerful the headlamp, the more power it uses and the larger the battery pack will need to be. Therefore, it is also not always advisable to choose the most powerful torch you find. For winter running, I recommend headlamps with a rechargeable battery, rarely you get enough power from a torch with regular battery. Besides, it would be expensive and very little environment friendly to change the battery after each run. Many torches have an extension cable that facilitates carrying the battery in a running vest or in a pocket. The advantage of this is that it is more comfortable to run with less weight on the head and that the battery lasts longer if it is kept warm. If you are planning really long night sessions and are afraid that the lamp will run out, you can buy an extra battery pack that you can have in your running vest.


Photo: Ian Corless

A good headtorch will be as light as possible, be adjustable and comfortable at all times. Think about how you will use the torch, in winter, you may well wear a hat or Buff which adds more protection. Also make sure the torch is movable up and down and adjustable for all conditions.


A headlamp is an investment and quality is usually pricey. However, the more you pay does not always mean you get the best… Look at reputable brands such as Silva, Black Diamond. Petzl, Moonlight and LED Lenser.

All photos copyright and all rights reserved.

Published by abelonelyng

Abelone from Oslo, Norway. I am a trail and ultra-runner who loves to adventure in the mountains. I am an ambassador for inov-8, Arla and Firepot foods. I am a blogger, writer and regular contributor for Runners World Norway.

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