Some people run in the dark because their energy level peaks in the evening or they prefer the quiet of the early morning. Others have little choice -- their daily priorities dictate their workout schedule and sometimes 4:00 AM or 10:00 PM is all that's available to them. Running in the dark can provide an interesting experience, but it also puts a runner at great risk for safety issues. A smart runner always runs against traffic and stays aware of his or her surroundings. Reflective clothing should always be worn. Running headlamps provide an even greater level of safety. Not only do they light the way, they also make the runner highly visible on the road.
For the last two years I have been running with a Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp most mornings at 4:00 AM. This lightweight device provides me a safety benefit without adding distraction to my experience. That's really all you can ask for in a headlamp. The Running Geek, a fairly hardcore runner, will be participating in a round-the-clock marathon at the end of the year. He is testing out running headlamps and below is his review of the Princeton Tec Fuel 4-LED unit. -TER
Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp
Princeton Tec: http://www.princetontec.com/
The new 4-LED Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp is a suitable choice for runners due to its long battery life, bright light and light weight. I purchased this headlamp from Amazon.com for $26.99 for possible use during my 24-hour marathon in December. I was initially concerned that wearing a strap around my head with a weighted light would give me a headache. I am happy to report that this was a non-issue for the hour and a half of my initial test.
The Princeton Tec website says that the light “weighs only 78g with 43 lumens of brightness and 146 hours of burn time.” It also states that the light has "an asymmetrical single arm bracket that makes directing the light effortless and reliable; a large, easy to find push button switch and a virtually bulletproof, easy access battery door that protects the 3AAAs and its electronics.”
My initial expectations were immediately dampened when I tried to load the 3 AAA batteries into the headlamp and was not able to open the battery door without a pry tool. Lo and behold, Princeton Tec thought of everything. There is a tab on the head strap adjuster that is made specifically for the task of accessing the battery door.
The Tec Fuel headlamp is very light. After only a couple of minutes of running it was easy to forget that it was on my head as I ran. Aiming the light was easy and, once set, I had no concerns about it slipping to a new aim point. The On/Off switch is easy to locate by feel and to use, yet it was not prone to accidental activation while in my backpack. The lamp has three intensity settings plus a flashing mode but the differences in the 3 light settings were almost imperceptible. I continuously set the Tec Fuel to its brightest setting for over 48 hours with no degradation in brightness and no issues with heat. I can’t validate the 146 hour claim, but I suspect that it is only true when the lamp is used at its lowest setting.
With all its “easy” attributes (easy battery door, easy on/off switch, easy aim adjustment, and easy to forget on your head) this light should have been called the “Easy” rather than the “Fuel.” That said, I did find some issues that force me to consider other headlamps for my upcoming marathon. Although the light was bright and shined far, it had a somewhat narrow throw. The result was like wearing a set of slightly too small sunglasses that made the world brighter rather than darker. This is a minor complaint and probably a non-issue, but now that I have some experience with lightweight headlamps my curiosity is piqued regarding similar offerings in this product's price category. Plus I am a real gear geek. More to follow...
This Review by The Running Geek, contribution by The Emerging Runner