Silva isn’t the most well-known headlamp brand in the United States, but the Sweden-based company has spent a few decades developing equipment for outdoor exploration. While they’re best known for their compasses and navigational equipment, they’ve also recently developed a robust line of handheld and head-mounted lighting systems. We tested their Trail Speed 4XT lamp last spring, which is more of an expedition-size piece in comparison to the Trail Runner Free H, which is designed for faster and lighter movement.
There are several features on the Trail Runner Free H that make it an attractive choice. Some of these are standard including brightness levels (from 50 to 400 lumens), flash mode and red rear safety light. The headlamp can accept either a rechargeable battery pack (included) or alkaline batteries, and can be stored in a jacket or pack via extension cord (included) which is easily moved on/off the headband. The adjustable band can accommodate almost any head size, as the lamp fit all of our testers (plus their kids) just fine. The lamp felt comfortable during our testing, as the band holds tension well, and the primary function button in front is easy to use, even with gloves on.
The namesake “Free Technology” comes from the fact that the headlamp is cordless except for one very short cord coming off of the battery pack, with the wiring integrated within the adjustable headband. Like other external battery pack lamps, this setup provides a nice front/back weight distribution, and also creates improved functionality. For instance, when putting on and taking off the lamp, there’s no potential for cords to get in the way. This also made storing and removing the lamp from a hydration vest much easier. The section of headband strap that houses the wiring is elastic, which makes size adjustment on-the-go quite easy. Normally adjusting an external pack lamp requires tinkering with a strap as well as wire clips, but with no clips to adjust, proper fit when dealing with a hat or buff is a cinch.
One quibble we have is that the “intelligent” lighting system is a bit of a misnomer, as it doesn’t adjust its brightness in response to ambient conditions similar to other lighting systems. Instead, Silva uses a dual-beam design that combines a spot and flood beam together. A larger focused beam is angled more horizontally to provide increased lumens farther down the trail, giving you ample time to react when moving at a quick downhill pace. The second beam is more diffused and angled closer to the runner, with a softer light for closer objects. The net effect of the two beams is that you can see really well both close up and far away without a harsh contrast, and without having to make any manual adjustments on the go. This setup isn’t unique in the headlamp category, but the Free H executes it fairly smoothly.
Using standard batteries instead of the rechargeable pack comes with a marginal weight increase, but a significant improvement in battery life (see infographic below). We barely noticed the increase in weight when using alkaline batteries, and we found the life span to be comparable with both types of batteries. Light intensity does noticeably fall off near the end of the battery cycle when using the rechargeable setup, so we recommend this for shorter training runs and switching to alkaline batteries for longer outings.
The red rear safety light is a nice addition, especially with some of our testing coming in urban conditions. Settings include both solid and flashing, and the light is operated separately via a switch on the battery pack. One cool alternate use for this rear light is to combine it with the extension cord on the battery pack and unclip it from the headband for reading topo maps at night, using the red LED to preserve your night vision.
The Silva Trail Runner Free H Headlamp is now available at https://silva-usa.com.
The Silva Trail Runner Free H is a versatile and capable running-specific headlamp with a powerful, dual beam and a separate battery compartment that uses rechargeable or alkaline batteries. Its cordless design is practical and comfortable, and configuration of the battery compartment offers a variety of setup options for long outings.
- Weight: 55g w/o batteries
- 108g w/ hybrid battery
- 119g w/ alkaline batteries
- Silva Intelligent Light combination
- Four brightness settings: 50, 200, and 400 lumens and flash mode
- Integrated red rear safety light with independent control
- Beam distance:
- low = 20m (66 ft)
- med = 50m (164 ft)
- high = 80m (262 ft)
- Free Technology power cord integrated into the headband
- Batteries: included 1.15mAh USB rechargeable or 3x AAA batteries
- Battery life:
- Hybrid battery: 90 min – 12h, depending on brightness and temperature
- AAA batteries: 10h – 70h, depending on brightness and temperature
- Tangle-Free extension cord for battery included