Our first impressions of what's claimed to be the world's brightest headtorch. At 70 quid, we reckon you're entitled to perfection, but do you get it?
Silva L1 Headlamp - First
Weight: 237 grammes (including 4xAA
Luxeon LED with four light modes, up to 200 hours battery
life, twin battery boxes mounted on anti-slip headband,
remote battery box supplied, 'completely weatherproof,
tiltable head, comes with mesh carryng bag.
Impressive light performance.
Uncomfortable and we don't like those clips.
The new Silva L1 is the company's top-of-the-range
headtorch and intended as a do it all light sabre that'll provide
everything from a long-range beam for route-finding and climbing use
through to a shorter, dimmer, but wider beam for general cooking,
reading and so on.
At full whack with new batteries, the L1 is claimed
to deliver a whopping 63-metre beam from it's single 3-watt Luxeon
LED. That's massively further than earlier conventional LED torches.
and a good 13 metres further than the Petzl Tikka XP in boost mode
and almost 20 metres further than it in normal use.
The key to the Silva's performance is that Luxeon bulb. Luxeon
LEDs are capable of producing up to 60 times more light than a
conventional, low-powered LEDs. Produced by a company called
Lumileds Lighting, the Luxeon bulbs are revolutionisng LED technology
with the prospect of producing, say, LED car lighting with low
electrical consumption and extended battery life.
If you're technically minded, check out www.lumileds.com
but really, you just need to know that they're very bright and
capable of offering the sort of performance that was previously the
preserve of battery munching halogen bulbs.
Elsewhere the L1 looks vaguely radical, but is in fact quite
conventional. You get three light outputs and a flashing strobe mode,
a single elasticated headband with grippy siliconised inner ribs for
grip on climbing helmets and, gratifyingly, the torch comes with a
remote battery box for cold weather use which takes four larger C
(LR14) cells which give 300 per-cent more discharge time.
First, we're massively impressed with the lighting
performance of the L1. On full power it gives a really bright, white,
penetrating beam that's better than any other outdoors head torch
that we've used. With fresh batteries you can see a long way. As
power drops off, the penetration will diminish though, as with most
LEDs. Silva's figures say that after 30 minutes of use, the distnce
will fall from 63 metres to 37 metres and after 10 hours, down to 13
In other words, while even at full power the batteries will last a
claimed 140 hours, after ten hours, the beam will be down to just 13
metres, so use your top level power setting sparingly. The medium
setting gives an initial beam of 41 metres, still very useable, and
the lower power consumption means that 30 minutes later, range is
still 39 metres - so still very useful.
you drop down the settings, the beam gets wider and less bright, so
the lowest setting is handy for camping use and so on with
significantly better power consumption. The battery life scenario is
the same with other LEDs, so Silva seems par for the course here. The
single button control is easy to use as well.
Unfortunately the designers appear to have spent less time on
comfort than on the lighting technology side of things. We found the
L1 seriously uncomfortable worn on a bare head - the single
headstrap, there's no extra over the top strap, is too tight, even on
its longest adjustment and the twin battery boxes have no padding so
the hard plastic is pulled tight against the head.
It works better with a climbing helmet, where the sticky ribbing
on the inside of the headband grips nicely. Unfortunately the slotted
fittings which make the battery boxes easy to remove from the
headlamp tended to detach while we were manouevring the band under
helmet clips on both a Petzl Roc Ecrin and Black Diamond Half Dome
helmet, which was irritating and unnecessary.
One plus point was that it was easy to rig up the remote battery
box, which is a big plus for extreme cold weather conditions.
Okay, first, the lighting technology Silva's using here is very
impressive and the L1 seems to live up to its 'world's brightest LED
headtorch' claims - if you need a long, piercing beam from a
headlamp, this is the fella.
Less impressive is the discomfort we experienced from the
overtight headband and poorly designed battery boxes. We were also
less than impressed that one of the connectors that link the two
pulled out compromising the weather proofing of the unit. . We think
the whole headband / battery arrangement needs tweaking perhaps with
a single battery box and an additional overhead strap along with some
Great lighting performance then if you need it, but we'd try
carefully before buying unless you're intending to use it either with
the remote battery case at all times or with a climbing helmet or
hat. You may think we're being a bit sniffy, but if you're spending
£70 on a headtorch, we think you're entitled to expect near
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