How to choose a head torch

By Alpkit

The Alpkit team's guide to choosing your head torch

The days are gettingshorter, and as we explore into the evenings our head torches are beginning to come out.

We like to stay out after dark, so LED head torches have always been an important part of our heritage and our lighting range has been developed with feedback from leading runners, climbers, mountaineers, hikers, paddlers and SAR teams. But when it comes down to choosing which one you'll need, it's not always about packing your brightest head torch. We've focused our range aroundreliability and functionality: stuff that does what you want it to, when you want it to…

Whether you’re running, hiking, camping or climbing, give our buyer's guide a read to help you decide what will work for you...

Buyers guide: which head torch should I buy?

When you come into our stores and ask about head torches, we’ll ask you a few questions:

‘What will you be using it for?’

‘What features are important to you/for what you’re doing?

‘What’s your budget?’

Need a hand answering those questions? Bear in mind the following considerations...

How bright?

Head torch brightness is measured in lumens: handywhen you want to compare a load of different head torches, but somewhat meaningless when you’re trying to get a real-world idea of bright your head torch needs to be. As a rule of thumb, we’d recommenda minimum brightness of…

  • 10 lumensforclose-up stuff (pitching tents/cooking/reading).

  • 60 lumensfor walking when you’ve not got too much navigating to do.

  • 150 lumensfortrail running when you haven’t got muchnavto do (remember: the more remote you are, the darker it will be and the brighter the head torch you’ll need).

  • 300 lumensfor navigation (remember, you need to see the trail as well as the map).

  • 400 lumensfor navigation in winter conditionswhen there’s snow on the ground and fewer features for you to navigate by.

  • 500 lumensfor winter mountaineering: when it comes to mountaineering and alpinism, the more powerful, the better (within reason).Ideally,you’d want 500 lumens for finding your route in the morning (if you’rean early birdlike Rowan – if you’re more like Buyer Dave, you’ll want those 500 lumens for finding your descent route)

Gamma - 180 lumens

Viper - 240 lumens

Prism - 250 lumens

Manta - 300 lumens - wide beam

Muon - 450 lumens

Qark - 580 lumens - wide beam

Traditional batteriesorrechargeable?

Rechargeable batteries are becomingincreasingly common in head torches. USB charging is standardwhich means you can recharge thempretty much anywhere (cars, cafes, solar panel, battery pack,Lampray). This is ace for your evening run or overnight camp and better value in the long run, however it does mean that you can’t always use your head torch whilst it’s being recharged and you need access to a power source to recharged them. As a result, rechargeable head torches aren’t always the best option for mountaineering, where the reassurance of carrying spare batteries is always welcome.

Often, mountaineers and alpinists will opt for the traditional AAA battery-powered head torches as they can easily carry or pick up spares.

That said, there is now a middle-ground: many head torches (like ourQark)can use rechargeable battery packs andAAA batteries interchangeably with no drop in performance – that way youget the benefits of both systems


It’s wet, it’s dark, it’s foggy, and you’re cold. A broken head torch can only make this situation worse.

Head torches generally have an IP (Ingress Protection) rating to indicate weatherproofing, we’d recommend a minimum of IPX4or IP64(can cope with splashing from any angle)for year-round useto make your headtorch durable enough for UK weather.

If you’re likely to submergeyour head torch at any point, we’d opt for IPX7 (submersible) as a minimum, like our Prism waterproof head torch.

Back over to Rowan for a quick note on IP and IPX ratings

IP and IPX ratings. What do they mean?

You’ll often hear these ratings being used for outdoor electronics as an easy comparison tool. Whilst useful to match two torches together, unless you know what it means it can befairly fruitless.Sowe’ll try to give an understanding for you.

Firstlylet’s break down the code;
IP = Ingress Protection. This is simply the standard or class for the code.

First digit = Solids Protection. This is the measure of how ‘dust proof’ the device is. The scale runs from 0 to 6.

Second digit = Liquids Protection. Effectively this shows how waterproof the device is. 0 has no protection, 8 (the highest) allows continuous immersion beyond 1m without issue.

But what about IPX?

Simply put, the device has not been measured against dustproofing and so the ‘solids’ digit is replaced with an X. However, it’s not the end of the world as it’s reasonable to suggest that if the device has a ‘liquids’ rating of 4 or greaterthenthe device should be sufficiently dustproof.

Sowhat do our new torches get?

Muon: IP64 - Protected from total dust ingress. Protected from water spray (rain) from any direction.

Viper: IPX6 - Protected from total dust ingress. Protected from high pressure water jets from any direction.

Gamma: IPX4 - protected from limited dust ingress. Protected from water spray (rain) from any direction

Qark: IPX6 - Protected from total dust ingress. Protected from high pressure water jets from any direction.

Prism: IPX7 - Protected from total dust ingress. Protected from immersion between 15 centimetres and 1 meter in depth.

Manta: IP64- Protected from total dust ingress. Protected from water spray (rain) from any direction.


The more technology advances, the more technology we stick on things.

The primary purpose of your head torch is to light things up, so you want to make sure you’re happy with how that part works before you think about all the special extras. Operation can range from hands-free (where you wave your hand in front of your torch) to the tried-and-tested button operation.

We prefer button-operated head torches for most scenarios, the less buttons the better, as there’s less to go wrong. Remember, not all head torch buttons are made equal: we recommend checking that you can use the buttons with a gloved hand, quickly boost power when looking ahead, and easily switch to a dimmer setting when you’re looking at your map.

Battery pack - front or rear?

There are pros and cons either way. The argument for a rear batteries on your head torch stands at:

  • You get a more balanced, secure and less ‘bouncy’ fit which you’ll appreciate when using your head torch for running.

  • Your battery unit can be bigger, often giving you more battery power.

However, these head torches tend to be heavier than single unit head torches, and may not sit right with your climbing helmet. Single unit head torches are often lighter and more compact.


The lighter your head torch, the better. Remember you’ll be carrying it around on your head!


Now for the fun part...

Additional LEDs

Many head torches haveadditional, smaller LEDs to let you vary the beam. Some also have coloured LEDs that give you the best lightfor different situations. For example:

  • Red light helps you to maintain your night vision and taking photos

  • Green light is ideal for map reading

  • White light preserves battery life

Soif you want to dosomenight navigationortake some photosin the dark, it would be worth investing in a head torch with coloured LEDs.

Focus beam adjustor

A focus beam adjustor allows you to change the beam pattern of your head torch. For close-up tasks, a wide ‘flood’ beam gives you a good spread of light so youdon’t dazzle yoursel. When you scan ahead for a landmark, you can use the adjustor to focus all the power of your head torch into one spot. This is especially useful for navigation when when you’re trail running, hiking, or finding your route (or descent).

Light sensor mode

Light reactive sensors react to your environment and adjust the brightness of your torch accordingly.Sowhen you’re looking at your map it will becomedimmer, then when you look ahead the torch becomes brighter. This saves you from constantly clicking through the settings and keeps your head torch running at maximum efficiency, conserving the battery life.


There’s nothing worse than having to crane your neck for your whole run to shine light where you need it. A tilting head unit is something we see as essential for a head torch, fortunately all our head torches have tilting head units (the Prism even has a 180˚tilt).

Head torch guru Rowan talks redesigning our head torch range. Read more...

Alpkit Head Torches


Removable overhead straps for a morebalanced, stable andcomfortable- ideal for when you’re wearing your head torch for running and dynamic activities.

Specialist features

A range designed for specific activities. Think the best head torch for the job, not just any old head torch.

Durable Design

Centred around being usable and durable: functional designs with minimal scope for things to go wrongso you’re not left in the lurch in the field.

Energy source

Rechargeable, battery, or both: more choice in how youpo