How to Choose the Right Headlight

headlight-article

At some stage during your endurance career you’ll need to purchase a new headlight, whether that’s your first, or you’re replacing an old friend you’ll want one that’s right for you. When looking for headlights there are a number of factors that may influence your purchase, for some it’s brightness; for others it’s battery life or size and weight.With so many brands out there, we compared five of the top sellers – Petzl, Led Lenser, AY-UP, Black Diamond and Princeton Tec against the following criteria in an attempt to clear the muddy waters of headlight shopping.

  • Price Range
  • Burn Time
  • Weight
  • Battery Type
  • Lighting Mode
  • Average Brightness

When buying a new headlight, it’s easy to get confused about the different terms that are used to describe light output: measured in either Lumens or Lux. The difference comes where Lumens are the total quantity of light coming from the LED and Lux is the amount of light projected onto on a surface.

Headlight LensNow you could say that the more Lumens the brighter the light, but if a light has a good quality lens (pictured right) the light will be projected further and look cleaner.

We wanted to compare the output of usable light, trying to replicate as much as possible, the light required by riders during a night event to give you some insight into how different lights, batteries and lenses perform.

In our tests we measured in Lux with the lights on high and used easy to purchase Eveready Gold AA & AAA batteries where possible. If the light came with a rechargeable battery, we used this instead. The Led Lenser XEO, Petzl Ultra Rush, AY-UP and Princeton Tec Remix all used their own rechargeable battery.

Some misconceptions of headlights come when manufactures link Beam Distance and Battery life together even though the beam distance is often overstated and degrades with battery life.

time-distanceThis diagram shows 50 Hours and 70 metres, and you could easily think that this means your light will last for 50 hours at a distance of 70 m. Generally, however once a headlight is turned on the beam distance starts to decrease as the battery charge is used.

Lighting modes also play a big part in how your headlight performs. The headlights we tested used either Constant or Standard lighting or could do both. These modes effect how the battery charge will be used by the light. With constant lighting, the headlight will try to hold a specific light level until the battery is depleted. On the contrary with standard lighting, the brightness will decrease as the battery charge is used.

For example, the Petzl MYO can run in the Constant lighting mode and hold 110 lumens for 5 hours. In the standard lighting mode, the Petzl MYO specifications suggest a Maximum of 280 lumens for 50 hours. Now in theory this seems great but in the standard mode once you turn the light on there is a steady decline in lumens with respect to the battery so by Petzl’s own graph we can see that at 5 hours your light may be emitting 110 lumens but at 50 hours your light may only be emitting between 1-5 lumens which is NOT useable light.

We tested the headlights by placing them separately in a closed sealed box and using a high dynamic digital light sensor connected to a computer to track the headlights output every minute until the headlight reached unusable light which we decided that light below 5000 Lux (in our system) was no longer useable for a horse rider at night and the test was stopped.

Here is what we found:

Headlight comparison graph

Here is the brightness measured against time. The scale is up to 17 hours with the hours between 3.5-6 and 8-17 hidden to compress the width of the graph. Click here for a full view (opens in new page).


Petzl ULTRA RUSH

Petzl Ultra Rush rrp $595

  • 1hr 45m Usable Burn Time
  • 370 grams
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Constant Lighting
  • Average Brightness: 45,648 Lux
  • Brightest Average

Led Lenser XEO 19R

Led Lenser XEO rrp $550

  • 8hr 30m Usable Burn Time
  • 472 grams
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Constant Lighting
  • Average Brightness: 21,556 Lux
  • Independently Focusing Lenses

Gloworm X2

Gloworm X2 rrp $335

  • 9hr 30m Usable Burn Time
  • 314 grams
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Constant Lighting
  • Average Brightness: 21,166 Lux
  • Dual lens with spot/flood

AyUp Headlight

Ay-Up rrp $310

  • 3hr 6m Usable Burn Time
  • 193 grams
  • Li-Po rechargeable battery
  • Standard Lighting
  • Average Brightness: 33,821 Lux

Led Lenser H14.2

Led Lenser H14.2 rrp $160

  • 16hr 48m Usable Burn Time
  • 340 grams
  • 4 x AA
  • Constant Lighting
  • Average Brightness: 12,868 Lux
  • Focusing Lens
  • Longest Burn Time

Petzl MYO

Petzl MYO rrp $150

  • 2hr 36m Usable Burn Time
  • 175 grams
  • 3 x AA
  • Standard Lighting (with constant option)
  • Average Brightness: 10,061 Lux

Led Lenser H7.2

Led Lenser H7.2 rrp $120

  • 7hr 42m Usable Burn Time
  • 165 grams
  • 4 x AAA
  • Constant Lighting
  • Average Brightness: 11,822 Lux
  • Focusing Lens

Korr Lighting Headlight

KORR Lighting rrp $49

  • 1hr 18m Usable Burn Time
  • 340 grams
  • 4 x AA
  • Standard Lighting
  • Average Brightness: 16,910 Lux
  • Focusing Lens