We introduce Petzl's clever new head torch to a serial night-time fell-running addict.
OM regulars will know that we've got an advanced sample of Petzl's new for 2012 Nao head torch to play with - it's a highly ingenious, very bright light with one massive stand-out feature: it can be set to automatically adjust the light output using a sensor, so the claim is you get as much light as you need, but with optimised battery life too.
It just happens that our friend Rich Seipp is a long-time Peak District fell-runner with a passion for running in the dark and currently in training for a second crack at the epic Bob Graham Round of the Lake District's 3,000ers. On paper it seemed like a match made in heaven, so we threw the Nao - carefully - at Rich to see what he made of it. Over to him...
Testing The Nao - Rich Seipp
I run at least once a week in the dark on the fells, and a powerful head torch is a must. The Nao with its reactive lighting on paper at least looks to be just the thing and I had the opportunity to use it for two night runs.
Plug And Go?
To charge the battery you unclip it from the rear of the head harness and plug it into a USB socket on your computer. There is a battery fuel gauge which tells you when it is charged. Straightforward enough.
The nylon cord head harness gave a good fit on my head. Initially I also fitted the optional band that goes over the top of ones head, but I soon removed it as due to its narrowness, I found it cutting into my balding bonce like a cheese wire. The whole thing weighs 187 grammes and, without the top-strap, is comfortable to wear.
The large square on/off knob was easy to operate even with my pile mitts on. There are four modes to choose from, high and low “Reactive” that is variable power depending on what the torch is pointed at, and a high and low constant setting. I mainly used the high “Reactive” setting, though on fast downhills I opted for the high constant setting. When not in use there is a locked off setting so that the torch isn't accidentally turned on whilst in your bumbag or rucksack etc.
The first part of both my runs heads out along lit roads. The torch in “Reactive” mode initiates a fairly low beam. That is until a car with headlights approaches. Then it dips the beam, then as the car passes it turns itself up to max power before settling back down again. A bit annoying if there is lots of traffic, think disco lighting.
Once off road though, the light comes into its own. The beam has a good spread, yet with a centre weight, without sharp edges. Running up hill on rough paths and on the flat, the torch was just bright enough. I could have done with maybe a little more light for illuminating the path just ahead. Looking way ahead into the darkness, the light brightened enabling spotting runners in the distance.
One amusing quirk was on a cold night, my exhaled breath would reflect of the light's sensor confusing it into thinking it was brighter than it really was resulting in it dropping the power. I presume on a misty night it would do likewise.
On fast steep descents I put the torch on to full power - 315 lumens being more than plenty to illuminate running downhill as fast as I'd run the same stretch in daylight.
Over the two runs without a re-charge between, the battery lasted just under 4 hours used mainly in high reactive mode with 20 minutes of that on full static light mode.
A comfortable, secure head torch - the unusual head harness works well apart from the optional top strap, which isn't really needed anyway. It gives a good wide beam. but as tested I didn't feel that the torch was quite bright enough in high reactive mode, though this may be remedied when the Petzl OS programming software is released for this model. [We're still not sure what options on the torch will be programmable. Ed]
The downside of the reactive lighting mode is that mist and car headlights can confuse the light's sensor, and in these circumstances it would probably be better to use one of the fixed light level modes for.
The Nao's not actually out until July, so we've got plenty of time to give it a bit of a hammering. Adding to Rich's observations, we'd say that so far, we've found the ergonomics of the torch excellent. It's comfortable, very stable and the chunky twist switch is really easy to use even with gloves.
It will be programmable with Petzl's OS software, though we don't yet know which aspects of the light's performance will be variables. Charging is straightforward and there's an extension USB socket cable supplied. Battery life on the 'Reactive' setting is variable and depends on use. Rich's burn time of around four hours seems reasonable and, for a comparison, we're going to check it out on full static juice soon.
And finally, though he's not said so himself, as an experienced fell-runner on his local trails, our man Rich moves pretty fast when descending, so even though the reactive setting isn't quite bright enough for him on the downs, it may prove to be sufficient for more cautious runners. We'll check that out personally...
So all in all, pretty promising we'd say.
Petzl Nao - Brief Spec
• weight - 187g
• max output reactive - 355 lumens
• max output static - 315 lumens
• burn time - 4h40 approx (reactive) 1h20 (static)
• Li-Ion battery charged via USB socket (lead supplied)
• 3-yr guarantee for lamp, 1yr for battery
• optional Nao belt kit with extension cable
• available in the UK in July 2012, SRP: £135
More info at www.petzl.com