The adventure sailing skippers at Rubicon 3 have no difficulty picking the best of these head torches on test, but would the price put you off?
In the dead of night and as the wind gets up, there’s always work to be done on deck. Far out to sea the darkness can be like a blanket enveloping the boat.
It’s hard to see the end of your arm, yet you have to make sure that you grab the right lines, open the right clutches and get the boat, sails and equipment set up just right. Put simply, that means you need a good head torch – and the best quickly become a prized possession.
It’s not complicated, but it is hard to find. Look for one that’s waterproof, has a powerful red light and that the red light comes on first.
To our mind, it should then have as few other features as possible. Just ask yourself, do you really need that multicoloured coloured strobe option?
What are lumens?
While we are used to measuring bulbs in watts, this is just a measure of energy usage. It doesn’t directly relate to brightness. With the advent of LED lights, energy usage no longer bears much relation to brightness. Lumens, however, is a measure of brightness and thus much more useful for comparison.
How many lumens do I need?
On a sailing boat, our view is you can’t have enough lumens. When something needs doing, the more light the better. 1 lumen gives just enough light to read a chart up close. 100 lumens is the minimum we want for deck work and anything over 200 lumens lights a whole area of the boat up.
The minimum rating you should even consider is IPX4, which means it can deal with splashes of water from any angle. IPX6 is much better, as it means the torch can withstand a blast of water, but IPX8 is the best of all as it can withstand full submersion in water.
Coleman CXS+ 300 rechargable head torch
This is a technically advanced head torch with a powerful 300 lumen white beam that lasts for 2.5 hours. It recharges via mini-USB and allows you to switch modes completely hands-free: a simple swipe of the hand in front of it will get you from white to red and on to any number of other settings. It can also be set to adjust its beam strength automatically and decrease power when the object being illuminated is nearby.
The 300 is IPX4 rated, which means it is only splash-proof, however it is ruggedly built. For us it was just too clever. We couldn’t remember how to get from one setting to the other and often seemed to end up with a flashing white light when what we wanted was a continuous red.
- Pros: Feature-rich and will be perfect for many environments
- Cons: Only splash proof and a little too advanced for our needs
Fenix HL60 R
This is a really rugged and properly waterproof (IPX8) head torch. It has a massively powerful 950 lumens neutral white light that runs for 48 minutes, and lower power settings that give up to 100 hours run time. It can then be recharged via mini USB cable.
The Fenix is built from durable high-grade aluminium and feels indestructible. However, its red beam is just 1 lumen in strength and this is not strong enough for what’s needed on a yacht, where one needs to see sails and lines often at some distance. It mars what would otherwise be a very good head torch and is probably better suited to land sports.
- Pros: Rugged, very waterproof, powerful white beam, USB charging.
- Cons: Red beam too weak, body is rather large.
Exposure Raw pro edition
What a head torch for sailors! It’s rare to be able to rave about a piece of kit but occasionally we do and this is one of those times. This is fully waterproof (IPX8), made of aircraft grade aluminium and utilises a bicolour LED – all of which keeps it small and very light (only 45g).
The RAW has various power settings that give up to 25 hours continuous light and a maximum output of 200 lumens lasting an hour. This torch really comes into its own as a bicolour LED. All those lumens can be converted into a massively powerful red light, which can easily light up the top of our mast on our 60ft expedition yachts.
It charges via mini-USB lead so it is always ready to go and on lower power settings can run up to 25 hours continuously. This really is the perfect head torch for sailors.
- Pros: Small, properly waterproof, brilliant red light
- Cons: Expensive (but worth it)