Friday, 5 December 2014

Gear Review: Ultimate Performance "Performance Head Torch"

I've not been racing much lately, as I try to focus on getting my act together for my next attempt at 100 miles.  I thought about writing a nice little post on how I get my friends to drag me out on long training runs, but then the folks at Run Stuff asked me to review some of their products, and frankly that sounded like a much more interesting thing to do, write, and probably read!

When Lou handed me the Performance Head Torch, by Ultimate Performance, I thought, "it doesn't look like much, but at least it's light."  I also thought it would be great for those runs when you're out on the roads / paths in the winter, where street lighting is mixed or variable but footing is mostly certain.  So, that's where I took it to have a play. [disclosure: I got to try the light out for free. All views on the product are my own.]

Simple:  LED, Lens, Clip, Strap.


When I took the torch out of its container, it took me a few seconds to figure out how to turn it on.  There are no buttons anywhere.  The on/off is a function of the assembly, much like many an old hand torch - loosen the lens to turn off, tighten to turn on.  You have to be careful not to loosen too much, or you'll pop the front off (this, by the way, is how you change the batteries).

The torch is very lightweight, coming in at 25g (excluding the CR2016 batteries).  It has a single high-intensity LED which sits behind a magnifying lens.  The light is fixed onto a hinge, allowing it to click into position through a range of 90 degrees to suit your needs.  I found that swiveling down towards the pavement when I was running towards people was a simple way to avoid dazzling them as I ran past.  There are plenty of notches, so you have a lot of flexibility in how you angle the beam.  And, since the hinge is on a clip, you can easily clip the light onto your peaked cap if you want - not easy to do with most head torches.

The clip makes it easy to put the lamp on your cap, and there's plenty of  beam angle flexibility.


The first test of a small head torch is to overpower street lighting - there's no point in having something that isn't brighter than the ambient conditions.  Evesham is blessed with some lumpy pavements under weak street lighting, so I headed along routes I can run without extra light, but only if I slow down and take extra care.  The beam was sufficiently bright and large enough to make running at a comfortable pace (~8min/mi) very easy.  There's no lumen figure given by Ultimate Performance, so it's difficult to compare directly with other torches.

Next, I headed for unlit footpaths (still tarmac), and found the beam to be quite sufficient.  So, for country roads and other dark, slightly uneven surfaces, the brightness was fine.  Digging in my backpack in the dark was also an easy task - and I wasn't being blinded by looking at reflective surfaces like I can be with my high-powered torch.  I was able to use the light to see my Garmin, rather than use the backlight, thus saving the power for timing and GPS.


The single LED is powered by 2 CR2016 batteries (included).  It's rated to have 16 hours continuous burn time.  Because these are standard disposable lithium batteries, I would expect the light to dim somewhat in the final half of the battery life, but that's still plenty of time to cover those dark sections of your winter road runs.  You'll probably need 2-3 sets of batteries to get you through the winter if you're staying in town, possibly a bit more if you're out on the country roads at night.


This is where the Performance Head Torch really wins. It's light, there's a small pad on the back of the clip so it rests comfortably on the forehead, and the strap is small and unobtrusive.  Compared to my LED Lenser H7R, which has an external battery pack, this was a joy to wear.  It fits easily over a hat, and with the cap clip, can also attach to a chest strap or waistband, if you want a lower beam (very handy in foggy conditions!).


So, given all of that, would I actually be willing to buy the Performance Head Torch?  Yes: it would make a great addition to my kit cupboard.  For running around town in the dark months, this torch is completely sufficient.  I'd also be quite happy to take it on camping trips for those short, dark walks to the never-nearby facilities.  For my long night runs on the trails, the light isn't enough for a primary light, but it would be fine for those races that require a 2nd torch in your kit bag (most useful for finding and fitting new batteries for your primary torch).  It's a nice little all-rounder that will get you from A to B without a lot of fuss.