Silva L1 Headtorch - First Look

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?


Posted: 4 August 2005
by Jon

Silva L1 Headlamp - First Look

Price: £69.95

Weight: 237 grammes (including 4xAA batteries)

Features: 3-watt 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 Concept 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.
Features 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.


In Action 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 metres.

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.

As 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.


Verdict


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 padding.

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 perfection.


Silva web site


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