Monday, November 26, 2007

Night Running and Headlamps

Since there just isn't as much daylight after work these days, I have had to carry some light with me if I run after work. I haven't done any serious night running yet, but plan to as I intend to run distances long enough to require it.

I have had a couple different headlamps, and currently have one by Black Diamond. I found out the "dark" way a month or so ago that it just wasn't going to cut it for night running. Night hiking, slow and steady, it works fine. Camping and all that requires, it works fine. But it was apparent that first time running in the dark that I needed something brighter.

Reading a discussion somewhere online about night running and headlamps, I first heard of the Brunton L3 Headlamp. This thing has a 3 watt LED bulb, 3 brightness settings, and throws a beam out about 200 feet! One description of it went something like this: "While running a race at night, people ahead of me turned off their lights as mine was bright enough to light up the way for them."

HFS! That sounds like exactly what I need, and I have to have this thing. So, I got it. And it rocks.

I have done a couple evening runs where I need a light for the last half-hour to 45 minutes. And no doubt this thing can throw out some light. I went out hiking with a friend recently, where we hiked for an hour or so in the dark, and he turned off his headlamp as mine easily lit up the trail for both of us - on the medium setting!

It is powered in two separate ways: either by 4 AA batteries held in two compartments attached to the headband; or by 4 C batteries that are held in a compartment with a long cord, that can be attached to a belt or stashed in some kind of pack. Both options are a little on the heavy side, but in my opinion the light factor out"weighs" the weight factor.

Here are the problems I can see with it so far: I get tunnel vision without some other light source, the lamp portion should be detachable from the headband, and I wish there was a top strap along with the standard around-the-head strap.

Getting tunnel vision is a problem with head lamps, and it seems to me it's magnified when traveling at higher speeds. So this is not a problem with the Brunton as much as it is with headlamps in general. I think I may try to wear it around my waist, somehow. I have read a few accounts of how this type of configuration can help a lot with not only reducing tunnel vision, but seeing much more "depth" to the trail so things you can trip easily over are much more recognizable. I'm not entirely sure of how I am going to do it, I am still considering that. This does, though, bring me to my next issue: the lamp portion should be detachable from the headband.

Unfortunately, Brunton did not consider the possibility of someone wanting to remove the whole lamp portion and use it in a different way from what they had intended, so they did not allow for its' removal. This is unfortunate for me, as it will necessitate either cutting the headband, or dealing with the headband in whatever configuration I come up with. If they had designed the lamp portion in a similar fashion to the AA battery compartments, it would stay on the headband just fine and allow for removal.

I can't understand why there is no top strap on the L3. With the weight of the two AA compartments that are attached to the headband a top strap would assist in keeping it in a stable position on the head. Even with the C battery compartment attachment, the top strap would be hardly noticeable. I think this may be something I could try to add, if I don't end up cutting the headband to convert it to a waist lamp.

Overall, I love the Brunton L3. My friend was quite impressed with it, and that is something as he is a gearhead too, and we have been hanging out since we were kids so truly impressing one another is a rare thing. The problems I have with it are minor, in comparison to the light this thing provides for night running on trails. Check it out.


Addy said...

glad you're so happy with your new headlamp :) Mine (Pezl Tikka I think) is nice, but sometimes I wish for it to be a bit brighter. Currently, my only night running is on west cliff (not sure where else to run on roads yet) so I don't really need anything too powerful :)

andyb said...

Hi Addy - My night running has been up in the Pogonip area, on the Spring Trail and back down to the railroad tracks along the San Lorenzo River. Not very technical. I will probably start doing some track runs in January, and maybe some road runs too. :-( It's just too hard for me to get up early and run before work.

Peter Lubbers said...

Hi Andy,
I just got the Brunton L3 and was blown away by the light it kicks out. I agree with your assessment of the problems (no top strap is crazy for a lamp of this weight!)
I've been running with waistlamps (converted headlamps) for a while now (sometimes even a waist + headlamp) and that works better for me, so I am thinking of converting the Brunton to a waist lamp as well.
Take care,