Searching for the best head torch for sailing, Fox Morgan gathered together a hot selection of some of the most popular head lamps on the market and reveals which one really is the best.

What makes the best head torch for sailing? Is it the red light facility? How about the ability to dim the white light? Or do you want an ultra bright light for picking out mooring buoys in the dark? Does it really need to be waterproof?

I spend my life wearing a range of head torches for different purposes. They get put through some really harsh conditions sometimes too.

There’s a diverse range for all budgets and practical uses. From £20 to £120.

I get hands on with each our head torches and put them through comparative tests: style of illumination, their longevity and waterproofing, ease of use and eco credentials.

My top choices at a glance

Best head torch for red light power – Exposure lights Raw Pro – Buy USE Raw Pro from Tweeks

Best head torch for sailing Forclaz HL900Buy Forclaz HL900 from Decathlon

Best head torch for spot light –  Ledlenser MH5 – Buy Ledlenser MH5 from Go Outdoors

Best head torch for boat maintenance – Petzl Aria 2R headtorch – Buy Petzl 2R 


Ledlenser MH5

Best head torch for spot light

Specifications
Weight: 94 g (including batteries
Batteries Required: 1 x 14500 lithium-ion rechargeable battery (included) / 1 x AA NiMH or 1 x AA alkaline battery
Charging Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Water resistant to IP54 standards (IP54 Protected from limited dust ingress. Protected from water spray from any direction)
Warranty: 5 years standard or 7 years with product registration (torch), 2 years (battery)

Reasons to Buy
easy magnetic attached charger, detachable lamp with belt clip, bright spot beam

Reasons to Avoid
The beam focus ring is fiddly, not many brightness options (dim light isn’t very dim)

400 Lumen head torch

On full beam focused, the Led Lenser was able to easily illuminate a small target at 25m and far beyond it.

The front of the headtorch has a rotating ring which mechanically moves the lens forward or back away from or closer to the LED. This effectively changes the focus of the light from a flood light with a broader spread of overall light, to a much more focused, narrower light beam. What this does is it can help those 400 lumens light up a target much further away than other 400 Lumen head torches that I’ve tested. Obviously it comes with the compromise of a narrower beam, but in practice, this makes the torch a more viable option for sweeping the area ahead of you as you enter a trot of moorings in the dark and will illuminate buoys far enough away to either avoid them or line up to catch it.
I find myself going back to this head torch most of the time, especially when I have been working for long spells in a dark place, I just put it on charge while I sleep or while I am in the office in the day and pick it up fully charged again for night time. I have found it one of the more comfortable lamp backs for prolonged use.

Light Modes:

Mode One (white): 20 lumens (flood) – 35 hours
Mode Two (white): 20 lumens  (spot) – 35 hours
Mode Three (white): 400 lumens (flood)  – 4 hours
Mode Four (white): 400 lumens (spot) 180 meters – 4 hours
Mode Five (red): low level for night vision

Results of testing:

Battery life and recharging time 4/5
Full beam illumination 5/5
Low level light for reading 2/5
Red light 3/5
Water proofing 3/5
Eco (recyclable packaging and ability to replace head strap) 5/5
Weight and comfort 4/5

Read review of Ledlenser MH5 here

Buy Ledlenser MH5 from Go Outdoors


Petzl Aria 2R headtorch

Best head torch for boat maintenance

Specifications
Functions: white light low, mid, high
battery level indicator
Power source: Petzl Hybrid Concept, includes: Petzl core cell (can also use 3 x AAA batteries not supplied)
Luminosity: 450lumens
Range (max.): 100 m
Waterproofing: IP67
Weight: 106 g

Reasons to Buy
easy usb recharge with core battery cell, great for working in confined dark spaces, long battery life, waterproof

Reasons to Avoid
no red light

The Aria 2R headtorch looks quite chunky from the outset. But with the yellow housing I’m guessing this wasn’t designed to be subtle.

There’s very few frills to the Aria 2R, it simply lights the way. Click once for low power which is enough to just illuminate a modest area such as a low level cabin light in the dark. Useful if you are wanting to avoid dazzling those around you trying to sleep if you’re getting up to use the heads.
Then there’s the second lighting level which is 100 lumens. I found this to be the best balance for battery life and sufficient amount of light to see well enough in a confined space.

With a third press of the power button we get the brightest setting at 450 lumens. This was too bright for a confined workspace but ideal for illuminating a sail at night, though beware you’ll lose your night vision if you do this. I used the highest power setting when antifouling my boat with black antifoul in the dark. It really helped me pick out where I had and hadn’t covered and meant I could keep working after sunset.

Whilst usually I steer clear of headtorches that lack a red light function, I have found myself going back to this one time and time again. The battery life is impressive and when it’s getting ready for charging it gives a single flash on and off warning to let you know which is handy.

I used this head torch almost exclusively while I worked for a week in a tight confined cupboard doing a dirty cutting, grinding and epoxying job for a new rudder tube. The battery life lasted the whole day, meaning I could just plug the core in to charge at the end of the day, ready to go again within a couple of hours.

Two less great points to be aware of: after an hour of wearing it, I got a bit of a ache in my forehead from where it was pressing. I had to adjust the torch regularly to avoid this becoming more painful. There was a tendency for the head strap to feel a bit snug.
The second niggle is that I often picked it up, put it on then realised it was upside down. The power button isn’t as tactile as some other head torches so knowing which was is up requires a visual check rather than just by feel.

It handled everything I threw at it. Clouds of fibreglass dust, a wet bilge, rain, accidentally dropping it on the floor, accidentally getting epoxy on it and scraping that off when it set. It’s been through the wringer and I still keep reaching for it. So much so that I’ve repacked it in my kit bag ready for a race to France. Whilst I might not use it on night watch, as I prefer a red light for that, the Aria 2R being as chunky as it is, works really nicely as a portable cabin light too. If I put a coloured sock over it, I can get a lovely ambient light that doesn’t disturb anyone else around me.

Light Modes:

Mode one: White – 7 lumens, 100 hours
Mode two: White – 100 lumens, 7 hours (reserve 2 hours)
Mode three White – 450 lumens, 2 hours

Results of testing:

Battery life and recharging time 5/5
Full beam illumination 5/5
Low level light for reading 2/5
Red light NA
Water proofing 5/5
Eco (recyclable packaging and ability to replace head strap) 4/5
Weight and comfort 4.5/5

Buy it now


Petzl e+LITE Headlamp

Specifications
Brightness: 40 lumens (ANSI/PLATO FL 1)
Weight: 26 g
Beam pattern: Flood
Energy: 2 lithium CR2032 batteries (included)
Watertightness: IPX7 (waterproof in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes)

Reasons to Buy
Super lightweight, really easy to stow, really easy to navigate light settings, great waterproofing, perfect for grab bags and emergency kit bags

Reasons to avoid
This might not powerful enough be a day to day head torch, requires batteries that are not as easy to find in the shops

40 Lumens head torch 

The Petzl e+LITE headtorch comes with a little capsule to store it in. I’ve had this one for over 10 years and it’s still a great little emergency lamp. It’s an ideal bit of kit to keep in your grab bag in case of emergency or your kit bag for when a larger head torch isn’t to hand or you really need a super lightweight minimalist handsfree torch

Light Modes

Mode One (White): 20 lumens – 13 metres – 9.5 hours
Mode Two (White): 40 lumens – 15 metres – 3.5 hours
Mode Three (White strobe): 15 lumens – visible at 100 metres – 95 hours
Mode Four (Red strobe): 2 lumens – visible at 100 metres – 70 hours
Mode Five (Red constant): 2 lumens – visible at 100 metres – 15 hours

Results of testing:

Battery life and recharging time 4/5
Full beam illumination 1/5
Low level light for reading 5/5
Red light 4/5
Water proofing 5/5
Eco (recyclable packaging and ability to replace head strap) 5/5
Weight and comfort 5/5

Buy it now from AlpineTrek


Petzl Aria 2 RGB headtorch

Specifications
Functions: red light, green light, blink light, blue light, white light
battery level indicator
Power source: Petzl Hybrid Concept, comes with 3 AAA batteries, but also compatible with Petzl Core power cell
Luminosity: 350 lumens
Range (max.): 100 m
Burn time (max. Lumen): 100 h
Protection against water: IP67
Weight: 106 g

Reasons to Buy
great choice of colours for working in the dark. The choice of Red, Blue or Green. Long battery life, easy to replace strap

Reasons to Avoid
The toggle through light options can be confusing

The Aria 2 RGB headtorch looks quite chunky and looks almost identical to the Aria 2R, just with an all black colour scheme. It does come in an alternative pale green colour too.

The difference with this one though is that it has multiple options for night time illuminations. The red, green and blue give you an option for better vision for not only sailing, but fishing and hunting. It’s easy to toggle through the colour options. I sometimes found it a bit too easy to toggle through the red, green and blue as I often found myself accidentally switching from red to another colour and then had to keep toggling to go back around the cycle of options.

The white light is in three levels or light just like the Petzl Aria 2R, low level for moving around a cabin at night or ambient light, mid level which is a good working light or max power which will illuminate the longest distance, up to about 100m.

The niggles with the Aria 2 RGB are the same as the Aria 2R. I got a bit of an ache in my forehead from where it was pressing. I had to adjust the torch regularly to avoid this becoming more painful. There was a tendency for the head strap to feel a bit snug if I adjusted it to avoid it slipping and it would slip out of position if I backed off the strap a bit to avoid getting a pressure point on my forehead. This wouldn’t be a problem if I was wearing it over a hat. I was also wearing this for up to 7 hours at a time. For a few minutes on deck or even a 2 hours night watch it’s absolutely fine.
The other niggle is that I often picked it up, put it on then realised it was upside down. The power button isn’t as tactile as some other head torches so knowing which was is up requires a visual check rather than just by feel.

Light Modes:

Mode one: White – 7 lumens, 100 hours
Mode two: White – 100 lumens, 7 hours (reserve 2 hours)
Mode three White – 450 lumens, 2 hour
Mode four Red/Green/Blue – 4 lumens, 50 hours
Mode five Red/Green/Blue strobe – visible to 700m for 300 hours

Results of testing:

Battery life and recharging time 5/5
Full beam illumination 5/5
Low level light for reading 2/5
Red light 4/5
Water proofing 5/5
Eco (recyclable packaging and ability to replace head strap) 4/5
Weight and comfort 4.5/5

Buy it now


Exposure Lights Raw Pro Head Torch

Best head torch for red light power

Specifications
4 x XQE LEDs
Battery 700 mAh Li-Ion
Charging Time 3 Hours
Runtime 1 – 25 Hours
Aluminium casing
Weight 76g
2 year warranty
Lifetime LED guarantee
IP rating IPX8 (IPX8 – Protects when immersed in water over 3 feet)

Reasons to Buy
Red light optimised, USB rechargeable, robust and very waterproof

Reasons to Avoid
Not very powerful white beam, fiddly recharging, easy to lose when unclipped

Light Modes:

Mode one: Red – 2 lumens, 25 hours
Mode two: Red – 15 lumens, 6 hours
Mode three Red – 50 lumens, 1 hour
Mode four White – 15 lumens, 10 hours
Mode five White – 50 lumens, 3 hours
Mode Six White – 200 lumens, 1 hour
Mode seven -White strobe 200 lumens, 5 hours

Results of testing:

Battery life and recharging time 2/5
Full beam illumination 2/5
Low level light for reading 5/5
Red light 5/5
Water proofing 5/5
Eco (recyclable packaging and ability to replace head strap) 5/5
Weight and comfort 4/5

Read the review of Raw Pro Head torch here

Buy USE Raw Pro from Tweeks


 

RECHARGEABLE HEAD TORCH – 400 LUMEN – HL900 USB V2

Best head torch for sailing

Specifications

Weight: 102g
Batteries Required: 3x AAA if not using the rechargeable power cell supplied.
3 hours charge time
waterproofing IPX7 (IPX7 – Protects in water up to 3 feet (1 meter)

Reasons to Buy
waterproof, good range of beams and power, rechargeable and has ability to use 3 x AAA batteries, excellent value for money

Reasons to Avoid
none

The Forclaz HL900 is great value for money offering features usually only found in more expensive models, especially the level waterproofing on this means it is fully submersible.

Hit the plus button and you get red, followed by low white, then a brighter white, then full beam at 200 lumens and finally 400 lumens “call the aliens from space” power level.

The full beam white was very bright with a relatively focused beam which lit up a small target at 25m on the pontoon easily. It can be switched off at any point by holding down the minus button. If you want the white strobe function, then simply hold the plus button down until it activates.

If you need to lock the head torch to avoid it being accidentally switched on then hold both plus and minus buttons together and it will flash red briefly to acknowledge it’s locked.

Light Modes:
Mode One : Red light, 3 lumen , 24hours
Mode Two : White, 30 lumen, 20 hours
Mode Three : White, 80 lumen, 8 hours
Mode Four : White, 200 lumen, 3 hours
Mode Five : white, 400 lumen, 10 minutes
Mode Six : white strobe, 400 lumen, 28 hours

Results of testing:
Battery life and recharging time 5/5
Full beam illumination 5/5
Low level light for reading 4/5
Red light 4/5
Water proofing 5/5
Eco (recyclable packaging and ability to replace head strap) 5/5
Weight and comfort 4/5

Read the Forclaz HL900 review here

Buy Forclaz HL900 from Decathlon

Buy it now from Decathlon UK


Nebo Einstein 1500 Flex Rechargeable Head Torch

Specifications
750 Lumen head torch (with 1500 turbo)
Water resistant IPX4 (Protects from splashing water, no matter the direction)
Powered by 1x Li-ion 18650 2200mAh 3.7v or 2xCR123A batteries
weight 165g

Reasons to Buy
Powerful boost light, slim profile, rechargeable

Reasons to Avoid
non-user replaceable head strap, fiddly recharging, easy to be blinded by bright white light accidentally between modes

The style of LED strip in this head torch has a less focused beam and more of an all over flood light which means this is great for lighting up your near proximity very brightly but you can’t really see very far with it.

Toggling through the light modes is also a little fraught with night blindness danger as it is very easy to accidentally put this thing on full white beam when switching modes.

It is primary white first. Starting with the brightest light (750 lumens), then gradually dimming with each press until you reach red and then off. Press again and you start with the 750 white and gradually decreasing light.

You can access red directly with a slightly longer single press from off. But beware, if you try to turn the torch off by pressing it again it goes to white. If you hold down the button while on red it goes to boost white 1500 lumen mode! Invariably I end up dazzled by this torch and several times while writing this test and review I’ve had to work through purple spots in my eyes as I’ve accidentally blinded myself with it multiple times.

Light Modes

Mode one: Turbo (1500 lumens): 30 seconds / 64 meters
Mode two: High (750 lumens): 2 hours / 35 meters
Mode three: Medium (250 lumens): 6 hours / 25 meters
Mode four: Low (10 lumens): 18 hours / 8 meters
Mode five: Red COB (5 lumens): 12 hours / 1 meters
*Runtime is reduced by about 20% when using 2 x CR123A batteries

Results of testing:
Battery life and recharging time 4/5
Full beam illumination 4/5
Low level light for reading 2/5
Red light 3/5
Water proofing 3/5
Eco (recyclable packaging and ability to replace head strap) 1/5
Weight and comfort 2/5

Read the review of Nebo Einstein Flex 1500 head torch

Buy Nebo Einstien 1500 Flex from Cotswold Outdoors


Forclaz HL500 USB

Specifications

200 Lumen head torch
Weight 89g
waterproofing IPX 5 (IPX5 – Protects from water jets at any direction)
USB rechargeable built in battery

Reasons to Buy
Good level of waterproofing, easy USB charging, great value for money

Reasons to Avoid
may lack sophistication of more powerful head torches

This budget friendly Forclaz HL500 is remarkably robust and simple to use.
It has an easy to navigate light cycle using a plus and minus  button. Starting with red first, followed by low level white and then a brighter white and then one more level up to 200 lumens. Press minus button to scroll back down through the brightness back to red and then off, or hold the minus button down to switch off at any point.

Pressing and holding the plus button at any time will activate the white strobe light.

Holding down both plus and minus buttons will lock the torch to avoid it accidentally being switched on in a kit bag which is a really handy feature to have and especially more so at this price.

Charging is equally very easy, though it uses a micro USB not USB C cable. It comes with the required cable though so you don’t have go scrabbling around for an older micro USB cable for it.

Light Modes:
Mode One : Red light, 4 lumen , 40 hours
Mode Two : White, 20 lumen, 30 hours
Mode Three : White, 80 lumen, 8 hours
Mode Four : White, 200 lumen, 3 hours
Mode Five : white strobe, 200 lumen, 20 hours

Results of testing:
Battery life and recharging time 5/5
Full beam illumination 4/5
Low level light for reading 4/5
Red light 3/5
Water proofing 4/5
Eco (recyclable packaging and ability to replace head strap) 5/5
Weight and comfort 4/5

Read the review of Forclaz HL500 head torch here

Buy Forclaz HL500 from Decathlon


How we test our headtorches

Not all headtorches offer the same functions or are intended for the same type of user, so we test our headtorches with a specific use of being on and around water or doing boat maintenance.
This means that we aren’t looking for one magical perfect headtorch, but an array of headtorches that work for us in different ways.

Overall we want comfort, but we also test the torches out on the water and on a pontoon, trying to pick out an object at a measured distance away. We also test them for how easy they are to operate with cold, wet or gloved hands.

We want a headtorch that is easy to recharge or swap batteries and one that has some amount of waterproofing and knockproofing.

Oh and the head strap, how easy is it to replace that when it’s worn out? Salt water does terrible things to elastic straps.