Ultra Marathon and Night

As an ultra-marathoner you will probably have developed your own technique for the ultra marathon and night time, however, following is some information from other ultra-marathoners which you may find helpful. Ideas, tips, experience and product referrals that may help you run through the night.
We cannot make any specific recommendations as everyone is different and what works for one runner may not work for another, but we’re sure you’ll find some fresh ideas and experience that will be of benefit.
If you are doing anything at night we think the 2C Solar Cap will be your best friend. The latest solar technology for around US$45 and they ship worldwide. Read more at www.2clight.com To learn about an amino acid sports drink that boosts energy by metabolising your body fat, to help you go the ultra marathon distance, watch the videos in the laft-had menu bar.

Running at Night
Night Vision
Waist Mounted Lights

Running at Night

Although it’s no guarantee of safety, wearing reflective gear is the top priority. Dozens of options — vests, flashlights, blinking shoes, reflective strips, arm bands, etc. — are available at most running apparel stores and through mail-order catalogues. When running at night, light yourself up like a Christmas tree.
Wearing reflective gear on your arms and legs, rather than on your trunk, is also important since drivers are more likely to see the reflective or glowing light when it’s in motion.
The two key things about running at night are to see and to be seen. You need to know where you’re going, what you’ll find there, and whether drivers can see you coming. Night running not only presents potential vision problems for drivers, runners’ vision is poorer at night, too. Potholes, branches, wire fences and slippery leaves are all difficult to see, particularly as dusk becomes nighttime.
Run against traffic. It’s easier to avoid traffic if you can see it.
Don’t wear dark colors at night. White running attire is the easiest to see at night, but orange and yellow are also appropriate. Black, brown, dark blue or green is not recommended.
Run behind vehicles at intersections. Even if a car or truck has stopped at a stop sign, there’s no guarantee the driver has seen you.
Don’t wear headphones. Wearing headphones diminishes a runner’s ability to hear a car horn, a voice or a potential attacker.
Wear a billed cap and clear glasses. The bill of a cap will hit an unseen tree branch or another obstacle before the obstacle hits your head. Clear glasses will protect your eyes from bugs and other unseen obstacles.
Vary your routes. A potential attacker can watch for runners’ patterns and loom in a particularly dark or isolated area.
Run with a partner. There’s strength in numbers.
Try to make eye contact and acknowledge a driver. The interaction, however brief, could save your life.
Runners with inner-ear problems or other equilibrium conditions should avoid training at night when maintaining proper balance can be more difficult.
Tips for Trail Running at Night:
Slow down. This will probably occur to some degree naturally but be aware that it’s easier to react to root, rocks, mud holes and more when you’re running a little slower.
Carry a spare flashlight and extra batteries. A bad fall could easily break a headlamp and without backup, you’d really be in the dark.
Don’t run alone.
Don’t get separated on unfamiliar trails. Stop every so often to regroup to make sure that everyone is present and accounted for.
Let someone know where you’re going ahead of time.
Have fun. Like the natural tendency to slow down, this will likely just happen on its own.
Back to Top

For all the latest gadgetry to be visible at night I suggest a trip to your local bike shop. Don’t just rely on flashing lights etc to make you stand out. Just last week I saw a woman on a bike in THE loudest fluro orange vest with all the reflectors etc. I actually thought, hmmm, overkill, until a car turned in front of her from a side street about 200 metres up the road.

• Wear a headlamp and a flashing red light
• Wear bright clothing
• Run on well lit streets (usually main roads)
• If you run on quieter streets, run on the road and not the footpath so that you can see cars pulling out of driveways etc
• When you see a car approaching, slow down and assume that they haven’t seen you
• Be defensive – expect that every driveway and road will have a car pulling out

Apart from a headlamp, I sometimes use a tail light too. Coleman make little red light that is designed to be clipped onto your tent of a night so you don’t lose it when you get up to take a walk. It is nowhere near as bright as a bike light but is much lighter and easily clips (clothes peg type clip) to your clothes or water carrier. You can pick em up in the camping section of Big W or similar for just a few dollars.

I try and wear bright tops and reflective hats, but my biggest tip is to run on the road, into oncoming traffic. Might sound strange, but that way you will see them and can stay out of their way, instead of relying on motorists to see you. Also, if I see cars coming out of driveways too quickly and its right in front of me, sometimes I will “pretend” that I ran into their car. Just give a panel a bit of a loud slap and it soon scares the s#*t out of the driver and ensures they look next time….!!

I’ve got a plethora of white t-shirts for night running and always wear a cap that has reflective tape around the brim. My other addition is a flashing red light that normally clips under my bike seat. The clip on it is great for shorts.

I always have a headlamp on. On major road crossings (despite being pedestrian crossings) I flick on a red flashing LED. I also wear reflective fluoro waist strap (home made) and have strips of this sewn onto my bumbag. I try to dress my whippets in fluoro collars. Overkill? Rather that than roadkill! I’m not giving the buggers any excuse for not seeing me. Some people tell me I just make a better target to hit.

Reflective clothing is not enough. As the name indicates they glow in reflected light, therefore if you are not in the light beam you’re invisible to the driver if he comes, for example, from the side street. Only a red blinking light, or better lights, will get peoples’ attention from far away. Sometimes when I run with friends in the dark we look light like a group of moving Christmas trees. And that’s how we like it.

Another instance is for us country runners who run on meandering roads with inside and outside bends rather than just a straight grid road system. I will always cross the road to get myself on the outside bend (even if it means going ‘with’ the flow of traffic) to ensure I don’t come across the hoon trying to shave 1.207 seconds off his best time for work-home by cutting the inside corner.

I have found that wearing reflective clothing at night is not enough. Even though most modern running shoes do have reflective strips on them, I have purchased a packet of mini snap glow sticks from the dollar shop. (About $5 for a pack of 15) I tie one to the back of my cap and one to my left shoe, usually threaded through my lace. These things glow like nothing else especially if there are no street lights around. Could become costly though if you do a lot of night running.

I found the following article which is oriented specifically at endurance mountain bicycling, but the tips do bear relevance to ultra running at night. Good advice on pre-flighting your gear and adequate preparation.
“BIKE LIGHTS FOR 24-HOUR RACES” With today’s sophisticated high power lighting systems, riders can go almost as fast at night as they can in the daytime. But for many endurance racers particularly those on a mortal’s budget these “high end” systems are neither necessary nor desirable.
Although most 24 hour race rules require only a single beam light, serious night riders know it’s best to have two independent lighting systems. A helmet light allows you to look into corners, switchbacks and drop-offs, while the more familiar beam from a bar mounted light provides the shadows that are critical for depth perception. It’s also really helpful to have a hands-free light source when making repairs. And if one of the lights or batteries dies or gets damaged in a crash, the other will most likely make it through the race.
Obviously, your first choice would be to race with both a dual beam bar-mounted system and a helmet-mounted light. Second choice would be a single on your bars plus a single on your helmet. Third choice would be a dual beam on your bars.
If you have to choose between a single on your bars and a single on your head, be aware that helmet lights don’t create any shadows. (Use a flashlight to confirm this phenomenon for yourself.) This creates a flat perspective that can confuse your depth perception as well as cause you to hit things you never saw. Also, because the light is above your eyes, its beam exaggerates dust, fog and rain. These limitations can get old really fast, particularly when you’re dead tired.
“More Watts” is not always the better way to go. Although high power systems are killer bright, they tend to use up the battery quickly especially with large doses of high beam. 6, 10 and 15 watt lights or combinations of these have successfully illuminated many a successful night racer. Yeah, your light may look a little wimpy when a pro blows by with the latest “Godzilla Mega Seven.” But you’ll get over it, particularly when you remember that you paid for your own lights! Your number one priority is run time. Power is a luxury.
Planning battery run-time requirements is an exercise in research and mathematics. Teams who do the math conservatively are the ones who do well. Teams who don’t frequently end up with riders cursing the darkness in the middle of a lap. First, find out the average time for a lap. Then plan for the unexpected like the Canaan mudfest of 1995, or how long it would take you to walk half the course with a broken bike. A good rule of thumb is to start with enough battery power for a “normal” lap, then double it.
Make sure that your lights are in good condition, even if you’re an experienced night rider. Check the wires for loose or corroded plugs and cracks in the insulation. Do a runtime test to be sure your battery is okay. Carry a spare bulb along with a small flashlight so you can see to change a blown one. And remember, even new lights can have problems. Here are some more tips. No matter what you think or what you’ve been told, follow the manufacturers battery charging instructions exactly.
Try to pre-run the course at night, particularly if you’re using a solo helmet light.
Be totally self sufficient and don’t plan on recharging during the race. (Even if recharging facilities are available, you may not have enough time to recharge.) An extra battery for yourself or your team is good insurance. Go to the race fully charged on all levels!
Finally and most importantly: Don’t buy a light on Tuesday for the race on Saturday. Bad, bad idea! Even with great lights, new night riders can be downright dangerous to themselves and to others. Teams who do well have usually put in lots of hours of night riding for months before the race and they know what to expect from their lights. So practice, practice, and then practice some more. And be prepared for extremes in both pleasure and pain.
Back to Top

Ultra Marathon and Night Time Reflective

I try to be visible to others and hope that reflective clothing does the trick. Sometimes I throw on a reflective velcro wrist or ankle band as well. When I do get out at night I have played around with clipping my bike light on to shorts, back of cap etc. I always make an effort to wear my white running tops and a white cap which I will wear regardless of whether it’s day, dusk or night. I just try and ensure I have light coloured clothing on. When crossing roads, driveways etc I always expect the unexpected. I am very aware of what’s ahead and what’s under my feet to ensure I don’t trip up.

Here’s an inexpensive suggestion to improve safety if you sometimes run in low- light conditions: If your favorite running clothes don’t already have reflective features, you can apply your own reflective tape, and make yourself significantly more visible.
Many fabric stores carry iron-on or stitch-on versions. I have seen it in widths ranging from one-half inch to two inches, in both grey (reflects bright silver) and red-orange (reflects bright orange). The tape can likely be found somewhere near the laces and ribbons. The price is in the range of two to five dollars a yard, depending on width.
The iron-on version is easier to apply to an existing garment. Be careful not to use too much heat or you might damage the garment fabric. (Test in a hidden place.) The tape could be applied as a simple stripe or rectangle, or you could resurrect your kindergarten cutting skills and create designs like flower petals or geometric patterns. If the garment is patterned the pieces of tape could shaped and placed to blend into the existing pattern.
In a vehicle’s headlights even small bits of reflective tape are visible for hundreds of feet further than most clothing would be. This can only be A Good Thing. It also makes you more visible without affecting your own night vision, the way carrying a light might.
I have no $$$ interest here. I just like to sew, and I’ve read one too many articles about someone being hit by a car at night because the driver “just didn’t see him.”

A couple of years ago, a neighbor gave me a reflector belt. She saw me running on a dark street one night, got worried and gave it to me. She said her husband wore it on a ship when he was in the navy. It’s just a nylon belt covered with reflectors. I looked for the same thing in stores but have not been able to find any so far. I also wear a little, round blinker I bought in a hardware store for around $3 or so. It works very well. With a reflector, blinker and a bright flash light, I think any driver can see me but I still had a few close calls. Maybe I’ve become an easy target to for the drivers to take aim. Be careful out there.

You can also get reflective tape in the automotive section of stores like WalMart and Menard’s. I’ve done that and put it on my bike, as well as on running shorts. They sell it to put on the rear bumpers of trucks and trailers. I also got the sewing type stuff in 1/2 in grey and had it sewed on some of my running apparel. Recently someone in our running club gave my a Bud Light giveaway which is a bottle cap with electronics inside of it that when you fasten it to your clothing, there is a small blinking red light in the center of the bottle cap. Use it for some early mornings when running with friends and they said they could see it for quite a distance as we got spread out on the course. Also got a bunch of free stuff in a bike race and one of the things was a Vistalight. I have taken that on long runs when dark and snowing. The series of blinking red lights on it really carries and it isn’t very heavy – easy to figure out how to hook it to a water bottle belt, etc.

The best I’ve found is the SOLAS standard tape which is available through REI. Comes in three foot sections of three inch tape. It is adhesive backed (designed primarily for boats I believe) but con be sewn in place on fabrics. The adhesive is nifty because it holds it in place while you hand sew it on heavy items like packs etc.

I’ve purchased sticky-back reflective tape from the bike section of the local Alpine Shop, and applied it to one of my polar fleece jackets. It’s lasted through several washings with no deterioration in reflectiveness or in it’s adherence to the fabric. Don’t know the name brand, but I like it better than having to sew it on. My fluorescent light is part of a combo regular-beam + fluorescent wide-beam oblong light. It’s not as awkward to carry as I imagined, and being able to switch back and forth between regular and fluorescent lighting is nice. Can’t tell if the battery use is any different than a normal solid-beam light. However, I’ve found that the fluorescent light doesn’t “throw” very far… it’s not useful if I’m moving at any decent sort of speed. Some depth perception is lost with fluorescent also. For fast walking, slow running, or late-in-the-race combo of both, fluorescent is very easy on the eyes.

In a post I read, a small blinking bottle cap was mentioned, which sounds nice and small. Here’s a wonderful little product I have (I don’t work for Specialized): the Specialized Hot Dot. It sells in cycling departments and the like for $10 and it is a tiny, 2 LED blinker/reflector about 1.5″ in diameter. It comes with a clip for attaching to clothing, and a strap that fits around my arm. Haven’t changed the battery yet.

Andrea wrote:
“Here’s a wonderful little product I have (I don’t work for Specialized): the Specialized Hot Dot. It sells in cycling departments and the like for $10 and it is a tiny, 2 LED blinker/reflector about 1.5″ in diameter.”
The Galyons chain of sporting goods stores (I was in the one in Tysons’ Corner Virginia) sells a similar product for $2.00. It’s called the safety flasher (“night visibility up to 1/2 mile”). It’s about 1.5″ and has a clip but no strap. It works quite well. They also sell various Jogalite reflective velcro bands. I got two reflective arm bands: one for me and one for my dog.

In my opinion there is no contest on this one. Get a vest made of ILLUMINITE material. INSPORT makes a good one and NASHBAR bicycles, a mail order outfit also has one a bit cheaper. This is a material with millions of tiny reflective dishes woven into the material – looks like a normal nylon vest during the day, but lights up a pure white at night when hit by any light source and this means the entire garment. Long sleeve jackets and pants are also available. It is fairly pricey but worth it, traffic slows down, some drivers have stopped to ask wherer I got it, and the local police even spotlighted me a couple times trying to figure it out!!

I wear reflective yellow safety tape around my ankles. You can buy them for around $16 from overpriced cycle shops or for $6/m from a safety shop. Back to Top

Ultra Marathon and Night Time Headlamps

I’ve been on the lookout for a good headlamp with an elastic headband for running trails at night and have come across the Petzl Tikka Plus. Basic details are:
• 4 LED lamps (previous model had 3) • 3 lighting levels. • Tilting lamp body. • Max distance 17 metres. • Water resistant. • Light duration up to 150 hours. • Weighs only 78g (including batteries). • Retails in Australia for around A$89 (a little cheaper on the net).

I have the Zipka and the Black Diamond Moonlight. The Zipka is the same as the Tikka but has a retractable headband. I loved the Moonlight but it started to flicker on me so I bought the Zipka. The Zipka is cool and with the retractable headband you can put it on your bike or your wrist. Plus since it has 3 light settings I use it at home to read in bed or when fixing my computer. I ended up fixing my Moonlight with a soldering job and the last Trailwalker I used the Moonlight on my head and had the Zipka on my wrist, which worked a treat.

Energizer have now put out a headlamp with two white and one red LED which I’ve picked up in the local Coles supermarket for $29.95. I’ve not tried night running with the white LEDs yet- probably about as bright as a Mini Maglight. The red LED is supposed to retain your night vision- it’s not as bright as the white lights but I’ve tested it while reading in bed and it definitely doesn’t wash out one’s night vision like a white light does.

>> Being the tightwad that I am, I bought one of the Energiser headlamps from Coles. If anyone else is thinking of getting one of these for night trail running, don’t bother. The light is bright enough but the beam from the 2 led lamps is too focused. It’ll be useful for road running at night but now much else. Oh well, looks like I have to fork out for the MYO5.

Currently I have 5 headlamps in the house – how embarrasing is that? I have 2 Petzl Zooms, a Black Diamond Ion, a BD Zenix, and a BD Vectra IQ. The Vectra IQ is the best by far, but not enough grunt for middle-of-the-night rogaining. The Zenix is fine and lighter for trail running in the dark. The Ion is purely for rock climbing and avoiding any epics (like getting caught out in the dark). Why would I go to all the trouble of designing, sourcing, building my own headlamp – I guess it’s because I think I can do better than what’s out there. 5 watt headlamps aren’t really available.

Silva L1 Headlamp – I bought this headlamp because I just cannot get the light out of my old headlamp. I had seen a few reviews on this model on the web, so I thought I would give one a try. My mates and I went tramping over the weekend and my L1 out performed all the others. One of my mates has a Petzel 3W which has the same power, but you have to hold down the button for a “short burst” of light, my one you can leave on full power all the time. If you do use the high power mode a lot, it does pay to keep a spare set of batteries because it does drain them quite quickly. Having said this though the medium mode gives a huge amount of light anyway, so you only need to use the full power mode for a few minutes at a time.

Another one to consider is the Princeton Tec Aurora. They run for around $60-$70. Full Power: 5h00m dimming over the Following 50h. Med Power: 12h00m dimming over the following 110h. Low Power: 20h00m dimming over the following 160h. Flashing: about 2 minutes because your mates will take it off you and throw the batteries away.

I don’t know much about the tikka plus but the original tikka had a piss weak light. I use a black diamond now and it’s fine, although some people think even that has a weak light. I suspect that’s LEDs in general as the light is more diffuse. I find I run the bush a lot more often now with a headlight whereas previously if it was dark I didn’t bother running in the bush, but now i just don’t care. Anyway you run quicker when you are scared!!

Q. I was wondering if you can wear a cap with all/any of these gadgets as I find that for me a cap is a must as it soaks up all the sweat and stops it dripping in my eyes, which can really annoy me. Any comments would be appreciated.
A. I think a peaked cap and a headlamp don’t mix. Gets in the way. Ever thought about using a headband if the sweat is such a problem? Or maybe a little bit of bodyglide or vas on the eyebrows?
A. I have worn a beanie with my black diamond to good effect (in winter), probably wouldn’t work well in summer. I have worn a cap backwards with a light. That’s ok, but then i don’t suffer from too much sweat dripping.
A. There’s usually no problem wearing a cap and a headlamp – depends on the type of cap and headlamp of course, but generally you’ll find a way. The Black Diamond and Petzl headlamps seem to fit pretty well these days.
A. I’m a die-hard cap wearer, day and night, sun or rain. Keeps the car headlights and the rain out of your eyes. I wear a headlight with my cap all the time (dodge the doggie dropping). I run on footpaths, roads, bike paths and trails. Some headlamps are more compatible with caps than others. Look-out for low set LEDs that will shine on the brim and cast a shadow immediately in front of you. My favourite with the cap facing forward is an Ultrabright LED from Jaycar. Nice high lens and easy to reach the button to change settings. My petzl myo 5 when on LEDs casts a shadow but I’m used to it now. No trouble when flicking to halogen which sits higher on the face. Get some weird looks but what else is new?

I’m not sure if the Tikka plus is adequate for running at night. With only a 15m max distance I’m uncertain if it would be bright enough for me over rough trails. I’m road testing the Petzl MYO XP on VERY DARK trails just before the full moon made an appearance. One word…. excellent. 4 distance settings – 20m – 35m – 45m – 65m (boost for 20sec). Used the 45m setting most of the time, no worries. Could have even used the optimum setting of 35m distance. One thing I did notice was that the Boost button which shows 65m distance didn’t really seem to make that much difference compared with the 45m max setting, so unlikely that I’ll use it. The head strap also worked a treat. Back to Top

Finally got to trail test my Kathmandu 5 LED last night. I’m not sure on the specs the makers claim for max distance but it pushes out a navigable beam (when running) to about 8m (guesstimate). Light is cast further but not much use. The trail I was running on is a bit skinny and indistinct at times but as I know it very well I was OK. Having said that, if I was running something more unfamiliar more grunt would definitely be required. So to wrap up for A$40.00 (Kathmandu often have it on 50% sale) if you are running on familiar trails or wider fire trails it’s a light weight, low price, adequate alternative.

Tip for those who run at night with a light: be weary of the fact that an LED light casts such a bright light you can’t see any shadows or undulation in/on the road or footpath. Why do I say this you wonder?…… I won’t be running for a week or two thanks to a sprained ankle, yep I could see where I was going but not the variations in the footpath! Anyhow, that’s my experience with it. It won’t stop me running with a light, I’ll just be more careful next time! BTW I use the Tikka plus.

I did some night trail running this week, which reinforced my luv of the halogen. LED gives good ‘peripheral’ vision when you’re looking straight ahead, but its much easier to miss markers that are slightly off trail – you can pick these up with the halogen by looking around a bit. I find you don’t get the same view looking around with the LED. BTW I had forgotten how scary it was at night.

I run with the smaller “Petzel” head light. It takes a bit of fussing and fiddling to get it to where it’s comfortable and doesn’t bounce, but if you can get that far, I think it’s the way to go. I’ve also run plenty of night runs holding a small cheap flashlight that has a push-on button. Holding a light in your hand is probably easier, but holding anything in your hands for a long time has it’s obvious disadvantages. You might be surprised at how little you need a flashlight at all. Running by the ambient light whenever possible is certainly the best solution.

Also, a comment on lighting. I’ve found a headlamp that works very well for me – it’s an Eveready “Sport Gear” headband light. Uses 4 AA batteries and has a krypton bulb – really throws a lot of light, and is completely waterproof (yes I dunked it to see if it was sealed tight). Costs about $13, with batteries. My only negative comment is that it is a bit heavy due to the 4 batteries. A light using 2 AA batteries might work about as well, but I haven’t been able to find one in a headlamp. I normally use the headlamp along with a regular flashlight using 2 AA batteries to cut down on the shadows. Ok, one other negative comment is that I need to carry two types of replacement bulbs….one for 2 AA batteries and one for 4 AAs. Hasn’t been a problem, though. Also tried out a Streamlight “TopSpot 2”, but ended up taking it back. It’s a flashlight that turns into a headlamp. Uses 4 AAs and throws a lot of light, but the bulb is a bear to replace and it’s not weather-proof. It is, however, very comfortable since the batteries are “spread out” – hard to explain, but very obvious when you see one. As you can imagine, my neighbors think I’m crazy when they see me heading for the trails after dark. I’m sure the thought of running at night on rocky trails would horrify most “normal” folks. You might say, though, that I’m in training for my first ultra. I just don’t know when or where it will be. After several years of racing distances up to the marathon, I decided to try a few long training runs. Found out quickly that I’m better suited to a long, sustained effort than a high-intensity road race. Besides, why not spend the whole day doing my favorite activity… running? Only problem is that we’ve been trying to start a family and medical experts frown on any type of activity that may harm sperm counts (no, I’m not one to mince words). Anyway, I’ve been doing my daily runs of 3 to 7 miles (no more long runs), on the trails whenever possible, and anxiously awaiting the time when I don’t have to worry about how a 50 miler will affect the family planning situation. Guess I’ve rambled on long enough, but if anybody out there has gone through a similar predicament, I’d love to hear how it worked out.

I have an opinion about almost every piece of gear, and head lamps are no exception. Disclaimer: I have no direct financial interest in any of these products, although I do work part time in a shop that sells some of the units listed below. I have used a model of Princeton Tech. with the batteries in front, and I find that it is hard to keep in place when running ….it slides down my forehead. The Petzl Micro stays in place better, in my opinion, , but the useful battery life is short with only two AA cells. I fitted the rotating reflector part of the unit with a small piece of string and a cordlock to keep it from rotating downward too far when subjected to the shocks of running. The Petzl Zoom is a dandy unit, and works very well. With the halogen bulb, you get an excellent beam but shorter battery life. The 4.5 v. battery gives longer life than AA cells in an adapter, but the 4.5 v. is expensive. If you are using the light in cold weather, consider the Petzl Mega Belt. The batteries can be kept in the case in a warmer place than on your head. In rugged trails such as Hardrock and parts of Wasatch I have used a headlamp in combination with a lightweight hand-held light such as the Pelican Versabrite or others which have halogen or zenon bulbs. The headlamp can be set to shine where one looks, and the hand lamp can be flashed to illuminate a broader area. The combination works very well. I met a bicyclist recently who was using a headlight which was a veritable floodlight. I thought a silent motorcycle was approaching! I believe he said it was made by Protech (Anyone out there know if this is close?) Consider the expense of running events all over the country…it makes no sense to have the lighting system be the weak link in the chain. For races always carry a spare light even if you are only using one. Interchangeable batteries and bulbs are a definite plus.

To each his or her own, but here’s what works for me. On bright nights and a fairly easy trail, I don’t use a light. For darker nights, I like a headlamp, the brighter the better, in combination with a hand-held to help see rocks, roots, etc. (I’m blind as a bat at night). My choice of headlamp is a Roosa Easter Seal light. Takes 4-D cells in a belt pack. Obviously, this is heavier than some other head lamps due to the number and size of batteries, but when I clip it to my fanny pack belt I hardly know it’s there. Costs about $20, is very tough and well made. Found mine at a local camping/outdoor store, but you can see a photo on the web (search on roosa & easter seal). Looked into a Petzl Mega Belt (3-C cells) but it cost about 3x what I paid for the Roosa. Also tried a 4-AA lamp with batteries up in the headband, but I’m not comfortable with that much weight on my head. My choice of hand held light is a 2-C cell bicycle light. Haven’t used this one a lot yet, but it’s bright and seems to be pretty tough. Illuminates a broad area and was $7 at the local discount store. Only problem here is that I’d like to use the same batteries as the headlamp. I may try a 2-D cell flashlight and see how I feel about the extra weight. Back to Top

I switched from hand helds to a Petzl years ago, after getting tired of trying to crawl through blow down, in the dark, with one hand tied up… and have never looked back. But, two words of warning (from experience):
1. Depending on your support logistics, consider keeping a small penlight in your pack along with your spare batteries/bulbs. (It’s awfully hard to change the battery out on the trail by yourself in the dark)
2. (Male runners only) If you stop to urinate in a semi-populated area at night, be sure either to turn the head lamp off, or not to look at what you’re doing.

In his report on the AT 100, Josh echoed a complaint made several times previously when he wrote:
“My fancy headlamp shined a straight beam of light to my direct front. The fog held the rest of the light hostage.”
Just because it’s called a headlamp doesn’t mean you are forced to wear it on your head. To me, finding ways to best use the minimum amount of equipment I want be carrying is just as much a part of training as putting in the miles. I’ve found for example that if you clip the lugs of the back (battery pack) part of a Petzl Zoom into the holes at the front, you end up with a reasonably solid if slightly unwieldy hand torch. (Personally I also carry a 2*AA hand lamp as well, particularly if I suspect I’m going to be out all night).
By The Way, could you change the bulb on whatever torch you use if it blew and you’re totally in the dark? If you’re uncertain, practice doing it and/or carry a 1*AAA cell torch (Mini-maglite or equivalent) on a lanyard round your neck (along with whistle?) as a security blanket.

Believe it or not, I own and have used extensively every model of light that Petzl makes ( all 9 or 10 of them…I’d have to check my light drawer….my friends don’t call me Mr. Gearhead without reason). Currently I favor the new Petzl Duo Belt for running because I prefer a really light mount on my head (weak neck muscles, I guess). Both models of the Duo feature both a high beam and a low beam (that is, halogen and standard bulb) and I use the halogen most of the time unless there is a good moon, I am running on snow, or trail is very obvious and the obstacles such as roots and rocks few. I used it recently at the Superior 100 and found that I needed the “high beam” most of the time. The rated battery life (with 4 C cells) is 7.5 hours, and I changed batteries once during the night. The second set of batteries got me thru the long rainy night with ease. If I had used the standard bulb, I could have survived the entire night with no battery change. The earlier model of the Duo, the model with the battery pack in the head unit, is excellent too. In some ways I like it better because it uses a special Petzl rechargeable battery, or an adapter which can take any 4 AA batteries including rechargeables. The newer Duo Belt model takes only the 4 C cells. I have also had good luck with the Petzl Arctic for sub freezing and sub zero running ( because the battery pack fits in a pouch hung from the neck which can be placed under one’s warm clothing). In running 100 milers we can do nothing about some factors such as weather but everything about others including how well prepared we are for the unexpected like a dead light. At Superior, for instance, my light at the start died within minutes. No matter, because I ALWAYS have a spare light, not merely spare batteries. One should always carry a second light whenever a light is required, because even the best units can fail. I like the Petzl Saxo as a second light. It uses four AA batteries and works in the hand or as a headlight. Petzl makes a special light which they advertise specifically for running, but I hate it for races because of the complicated harness which fits all around the torso. Try getting into it in a race, such as I did at the Rushmore 100, and you’ll see the frustration. I don’t like the Zoom for running, although it is good for climbing, because of the weight in the headband of the battery. Many people like tiny little lights, but I like floodlights. The night running is tough enough without a brightly lit trail. By the way, I’m not on the payroll of Petzl, I just have too much gear and lots of opinions about it.

We did our training run in Brooksville, FL last night and got an opportunity to try out various lights. I had just purchased a Petzel 3 LED headband light and was anxious to try it out. Well I’m sorry to say that it will not be 100 % suitable for me. The light is white in color, but not real intense. I had to supplement with a small hand held flashlight the entire way to spot the tricky rocks and roots. The LED light gives you the feeling of running under a full moon, which we all know is not good enough on trails. It works fine on the roads and when you are walking. The big plus for this light is its size (uses 3 AAA batteries) and burns for 11 hours. Four hours into our run, my incandescent lights had depleted the batteries and I was glad to have the Petzel LED. You need some light to change batteries (on your other flashlights) when it is pitch black. I will definitely be wearing this unit as a back up in my next 100.

I find it hard not to rant and rave about my Petzel Tikka. It’s great. I got it for the same reason as you. I kept tripping over broken concrete in the dark. After a few faceplants, I decided to try something different. They now have a Tikka-Plus with one more LED and a multimode capability (3 power levels + blinking). The work really well on fresh batteries, but slowly degrade as the batteries fizzle out. Remember to change the batteries. My wife keeps swiping mine to use as a reading lamp at night. I’ll have to get her a Tikka or Zipka of her own. The other thing that amazed me was that the blue light cast by the Petzl really reflects off of cat’s eyes. I found cats in trees, cats on porches, cats under cars. I never knew that I was constantly surrounded by cats.

Ditto on the Tikka. I really like mine. It’s very light, so you almost don’t notice it on your head (except for the light!). It’s also plenty bright. Two sort of weird effects: When it’s cold, it really lights up the water vapor when you exhale. And although the beam from the light is pretty broad, there is sort of a demarcation between where it’s shining and where it’s not. As you move your head around, this line sort of moves, so it feels a little like you’re wearing glasses (with glasses, you get a demarcation between in focus and blurry). Both effects would happen with any headlamp I assume. The Tikka is mounted on sort of a large elastic band. Apparently Petzl makes another model that has a very skinny band that retracts into a clam shell. I’ve seen posts where people claim that model is also comfortable, but can also be worn on the wrist. That might be a useful feature, although the nice thing about wearing it on your head is that it’s stable. Back to Top

I do my workouts very early in the morning, and I got a Petzl Tikka-Plus for the winter. It is also pretty dark where I go, but I generally prefer it that way. However, I’ve been out with the Petzl several times, and I like it a lot. It is very light, and it stays put securely and comfortably. I’ve kept it on the lowest light setting, and that keeps the road in front of me lit well enough. In addition to having 3 settings, the angle of the lamp is adjustable, so you can light up the road right in front of you, or further out. I like the fact that it uses regular (AA?) batteries, and that the battery life seems to be longer on this lamp than on several others I looked at before I made my purchase. I haven’t used mine as much as Dan apparently has, so I can’t comment directly on battery life or low-battery power. I bought this (brand new) on E-bay and saved a couple of bucks. I’ll be interested to see how well in does when there is snow and ice around, but so far, I am quite pleased with it.

I recently got a PrincetonTec Scout. It’s inexpensive, very light, and has three brightness levels as well as two flashing modes (for when you just want to be seen). It comes with a wide elastic band, but you can also take it off the band and clip it to something. When I need to see where I’m going, I clip it to the bill of my cap and point it down at an angle. I’ve only used it a few times, but I’m really happy with it.
P.S. I got this headlamp after falling on a dark evening run in late september. I severely sprained my ankle, was in a cast for three and a half weeks, have been in rehab since then, and have just started running again. Don’t let this happen to you. You can get a quality lamp for under $20 (try Campmor.com) and save yourself from some grief.

I also have a Tikka Plus. I usually use it on it’s lowest lamp setting, and find that to be enough to light up the road for about 10-12 feet in front of me. I chose this brand based on longer battery life, since that seemed to be the one outstanding feature in comparison to other brands, and I don’t want to spend time worrying about needing to change batteries. So far, I’m very pleased with my choice.

I have the Tikka and love it. Like the safety feature the blink setting provides. I think the flashing light catches drivers’ eyes better than a steady beam does. When running on a busy road I set it on blink. Otherwise, I set it on high. Love how the falling snow reflects like shooting stars 20-30′ ahead. Have run probably 500 miles with it on this winter, feel much safer. Only fell once since I got it, that was in the dark but I was going downhill too fast, no snow on the road and the road was in great shape, my fault for going too fast.

I have a Tikka Plus, but unfortunately, it is not really bright enough for me. So I bought a Black Diamond Zenix, which has a normal LED setting (about the same as the Tikka Plus), and a really bright setting that works great for close up and distance. I used it at Trailwalker last weekend, and it was perfect. The batteries last 15 hours on the high setting, and around 100 hours on the normal setting, so you can get an idea of how much brighter the high setting is.

Another reason I decided on the MYO XP. The tikka+ has a max distance of 17 metres. The MYO XP ranges from 20-45 metres with a boost of 65m for 20seconds.I think the tikka+ would be a good one for fishing, changing the car tyre, maybe reading, camping as it’s so light (78 grams including batteries). But for running dark trails I think a little more grunt is required. Back to Top

Ultra Marathon and Night Time Night Vision

In 1991 I completed Western States 100 with a pacer I met for the first time at Forest Hill aid station. It turned out that he’d been a Comanding Officer in Vietnam. As night came on he told me to leave the torch off for as long as possible to make the most of our night vision. We left the lights off for at least an hour and a half longer than I would have. As volunteers came the other way in the dark he’d holler out to (read: command) them to shut down their lights and not ruin our night vision! I’d trained a lot in the dark but was surprised at how long after sunset I could run without lights, without tripping. Does anyone have any ideas about improving ones night vision?

Being in the army, I have somewhat extensive experience in night operations. From my experience, you just have to become accustomed to the dark and get used to the terrain you will be traversing. One quick flash of light though, can ruin your night vision for about 10 minutes until you get re-accustomed. This was very true after using night vision goggles. Your eyes get used to the illumination in the goggle and your vision is totally screwed up for about 10 minutes. From my own personal experience, I don’t know of any way to actually improve this process though.

Full adaptation to night vision takes 20 minutes. I use a smaller (and dimmer) light than most people on the trail at night. Your eyes will adjust to most of the difference in brightness. The advantage is that I have less weight in my hand, and I can easily carry a spare light (both are 2 AA battery size).
In the Navy they use red lights indoors on board ship so as not to disrupt your night adaptation when you step outside (like to go on watch). You could try putting on sunglasses when you come to a brightly lit aid station.

I have found that it helps to wear a cap with a bill that shields your eyes from moon and star light. This will allow your pupils to open wider and collect more light.
Also once you have night vision, if you’re trying to see a particular object at night try not looking directly at it. If I remember correctly, this allows you to utilize cone cells that collect more light than the rod cells in the center of your eye.

Ultra Marathon and Night Time Flashlights

Two tips: 1. Make sure your flashlight is waterproof. Enough said. 2. I use two flashlights since the 100 milers I have run start at 4AM. I take a Mini MagLite with two AA batteries for the morning and keep it in my belt pack for the day. I have run out of light before reaching the stop with my regular light in the evening and this makes a good backup. I have a belt pack that I put the light in so it doesn’t add anything. At night I use an Eveready Sport Gear light with two D cell batteries. I have never had a problem with this lasting through the night. Both flashlights have halogen lamps in them. The Sport Gear light has a flat bottom that can be used to set the light down so it doesn’t roll away and a tilted head so the light naturally is aimed down when running. I have noticed the problem of tunnel vision and periodically have to aim the light in a different direction just to get my peripheral vision back. For this reason, I wouldn’t want to use a headlamp. A final note: don’t change a halogen lamp with your fingers (or wipe it off afterwards). The oil from your fingers will make a hot spot and it will burn out quickly. Wonderful advice, but this may be impossible unless you are at an aid station (use the 2nd flashlight to get you there).

As the generally recognized owner of The World’s Greatest Flashlight Collection ™, allow me to offer up my $.02. First, AA Maglites and others of this size make a nice compact back up. I will not use them as my primary because they don’t have the endurance to make it through the night. The exception to this is for those few hours at the start of a race when I’ll use a cheap AA light. It only needs to last for a couple hours and I don’t feel bad about leaving it at an aid station and never seeing it again. I figure that leaving it behind for the volunteers is this simpleton’s way of thanking them. These are also good for those *early* morning road run when all you need is a light so the cars will be sure to see you (hmmmmm, this may on the other hand be a *bad* thing, your choice). I’ve got a three-C MagLight that I like a lot: good endurance, adjustable beam, and durable as anything. Drawbacks? Weight. As you get into the larger size Mags, they start to get pretty heavy. They do make great clubs if you run with a tough crowd. Head lamps. Love them, the only way to go as far as I’m concerned. I use the big Petzl that has some sort of Unobtainium bulb and a 4.5 volt duracell battery. This thing gives great light, adjustable beam, and lasts a *long time*. The nice thing is that it frees up your hands to wolf down those Spam sandwiches etc as you trot down the trail. I used it for TWO 100’s in a row without having to change the battery. It comes with a cartridge allowing you to use AA batteries; a convenient back-up. Advice-buy a spare battery when you buy the headlamp, they’re hard to find. REI or Campmor. Also, don’t get the small Petzl headlamp, it’s a toy. Likewise, the little do-dah you can buy to strap a maglite to your head is good only for reading the maps on your way to the race. Leave it in the car, your crew will have more use for it than you. Dilemma, I just picked up a new sport light that uses 4 D cells, is waterproof, compact, and lightweight. It has a krypton bulb and a useful-width, very bright beam. I used it for three hours the other night without any apparent diminished strength. In other words, it’s a great lamp! Only about $8.00 from my local hardware store. Wins the value award. Whatever you choose, the most important thing you can do is test it out, ether on training runs, or as I usually do when I first bring them home, just turn it on and see how long it lasts. That way you won’t be surprised during a race; you will be amazed at the limited endurance of some otherwise good flashlights. As always, carry a spare bulb and batteries; know how to change them in the field. And make sure your crew carries additional back-ups and spares.

I have been searching for the ideal flashlight (or torch, for my fellow countrymen) for ultra running at night ever since I’ve been trying 100’s (since 1983). This year I think I finally found my ideal combo. I found them at www.brightguy.com. You can go to this web site and put in your flashlight requirements (Manufacturer, candlepower, type of battery, etc) and it searches through a database to find the ones which satisfy them. There are more flashlights here than I knew existed. Using this website I found two; I like to have a main light and also a lightweight backup light in case something goes wrong with the main one. The two I used at AC this year were: Main light: Underwater Kinetics UKSL4, a 4 C cell light which throws a very bright beam (think freight train), and lasted four hours on fresh batteries (the specs say 4-5 hrs). Weight 10 oz. – I found its flat shape easy to carry and I could always see the next ribbon while using it. As an additional bonus, this light is waterproof. Backup light: Princeton Tec Tec40, a 4 AA cell light. The beam isn’t quite as bright as the above, but it is still bright, very small, it fits easily in your fanny pack and lasts about 3-4 hours (I didn’t run it all the way down). Weight 5.1 oz. If you’re fanatic about weight, I think that two of these would make a pretty good combination. Prices: UKSL4: $27.95, Tec40: $14.50. Back to Top

I prefer a hand held flashlight for trail running. The reason is that if the flashlight is mounted on the head near the eyes, obstructions don’t cast shadows visible to the wearer. When the light is down near the waist, obstructions really show up well. My experience is limited to the Glacial Trail 100K with a 5AM start and I only had to carry the light for 2 hours.

For some reason, since I was little, I’ve always liked flashlights. Every time I go to a hardware store, I have to check out the flashlight section. While I was making my weekly visit to Home Depot last week, I discovered a new flashlight. It’s called HubbelLite 3003-C and made by Hubbell Inc. The reason I bought it is because it said, “400% brighter” on the package. I thought I’d try it out. I don’t know about 400% but let me tell you IT IS BRIGHT. It only takes 3 C-Cells but it seems brighter than my 4 D-Cell Maglite. The weight is nothing compared to my 3 D-Cell Maglite I always carry for my night time running. The light bulb is a pre-focused xenon lamp, whatever that is. Unlike the ordinary flashlights, as the light travels, it does not spread out. It stays very focused. It’s also supposed to be water tight to 2,000 feet. (They don’t call it water proof.) Just to see exactly how bright it is, I put it through my own scientifically designed tests. The first one is the “blind test”. I just hold the light in front of my eyes and see how bright it is. This is so bright I could not even look at it. I didn’t even get a chance to be blinded by it. The second test is the “motion detector test”. One of the houses I run by has a security light that’s attached to a motion detector on the outside wall of the garage . It is probably about 40 to 50 feet from the road. If the flashlight is bright enough, I can shine it on the motion detector and turn the security light on. It passed the test without any problems. The third test is performed only when I want to get even with a car driver. When I run at night, a lot of drivers turn their high beams on right in my face. One way to keep them from doing that is to shine the flashlight right in their face. Most of them get the message. I knew the flashlight was working great when one driver yelled at me. There are two drawbacks. One is the price. I paid a little under $20, which is pretty expensive for a flashlight. The instruction sheet that comes with it (yes, it comes with instructions) says the batteries should last about 5 to 6 hours. I think it’s about half to the third of a Maglite. But other than that, I’m very pleased with it. Now, I can see where I’m going. Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with Hubbell in any way. I’m just a happy customer.

I have found that the simple bicycle lights designed to be strapped on to the handle bars works well as a hand held light. I have often used a small one that uses 2 C batteries and fits easily into my hand, the strap I place around 1 finger and this allows me to have full control over the direction of the light with my hand and I can run with the hand open or closed. The batteries themselves are good for up to about four hours but the change is very quick and simple so it is easy to have spares if more are needed.

I recently used the Voyager Light by Frome at the Mile High 24 hr run in Denver last weekend. It is a book light so it has a handy clip to go over the waist belt of my water bottle. The high intensity fluorescent light give a nice big area suitable for two people to run by and the four AA batteries last for 10 hours. It was still going strong when the sun came up. My hands were free and there was no bouncing “spot” light to follow.

I use UK (Underwater Kinetics) Q-40 lights in ultras. They have a 2.1 watt Xenon Halogen bulb that burns BRIGHT for 3 1/2 hours using Duracell batteries. They are small, light and will make most of the lights around you look dim in comparison. I carry two with me and just switch to the other when one runs out (if it’s taking me more than 3 1/2 hrs between aid stations). Also, I dug both lights out in preparation for a race this weekend and found that they were only intermittently working. I went to a dive shop to get someone to troubleshoot the problem and after calling UK, the guy at the dive shop pulled two new lights off the rack and traded me for the old ones (which were @ 4 yrs old). The new lights are better and now are rated at 5-6 hrs with the same batteries.

I prefer a hand held light to a headlamp because it is easier to see shadows and depth when the light source is at a different angle than your eyes. I have both a 2AA maglite with a small incandescent bulb and a 4 white LED light with 3 AA batteries that I got at www.longlight.com. The maglite is a little brighter but the batteries are only good for 4 hours. The LED light was advertised as having a 400 hour (17 day) continuous battery life. So far I have used it at Hardrock, Nolan’s 14, Ancient Oaks and Barkley (about 60 nighttime hours total) on the original batteries. The light had the annoying tendency to flicker out sometimes at Barkley, but I just now filed down the battery tips and metal contacts, and the problem seems to be fixed. I always carry 2 flashlights in case one goes out. It is a good idea to carry lights where you can interchange the batteries. I once had a maglite bulb go out at Superior Trail, but I had a spare light and was able to reuse the batteries from the bad light. At Nolan’s 14, we carried FRS radios that took 3 AA batteries that were good for 18 hours (requiring 2 battery changes at remote aid stations hiked in by volunteers). It was good to know I could exchange batteries between the light and radio if I needed to. Also, LED bulbs don’t burn out. At Hardrock in 1999 before I got the LED light I carried 2 maglites and 8 extra AA batteries, since I wanted to see if I could finish without crew or drop bags (I did). I carried extra batteries because they do not put out as much power in cold weather and have to be changed more often. (It is often below freezing at night, even in July). Last year I used the LED light, and carried a maglite as a spare. A lot of people have criticized LED lights as being too dim, but I would rather have a dimmer light than the extra weight of a lot of C or D batteries. Your eyes will adjust. The LED light is more diffuse, giving you a wider field of view than a regular spot-type light. The maglite can be focused to give you a narrow or wide beam, which can be helpful for finding reflective markers on the Hardrock course, although it turns out I didn’t need to use it for that purpose. In 1998 I got lost on Putnam Ridge on the second night when I couldn’t find the markers under clear skies and a full moon, and I missed the 48 hour cutoff by 3 hours. Last year there was fog and rain in the same area that limited visibility to less than the distance between markers, but I managed to stay on course by training on it and by assuming that it went straight when I couldn’t see a marker. So a bright light isn’t always going to help you.

New Light from Radio Shack – Dedicated Trail Runners and 100 milers especially….even casual “night runners…” I have just been testing a NEW flashlight unit from Radio Shack and it holds IMMENSE PROMISE for trail running IMHO, of course. This neat new design is a neon tube affair with a U-shaped tube housed in a FLAT case measuring ONLY 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches by less than .70 inches DEEP. It is driven by 2 AA size batteries and has a clip built into the backside for attaching on shorts, belts, etc. It gives a broad and even light and seems to be ideal for TRAIL RUNNING and for working in dark places, e.g. attics, where you need your hands free and still need some “broadly directed” light. The unit weighs only a few ounces and costs….$11.99 or so, batteries not included, of course.

>>My wonderful husband purchased one of these lights for me, since I have been doing some night “walking”. I tried the light out on New Year’s Eve on our annual trek up and down Lookout Mountain. The light appeared to be great! But was disappointed when it burned out in an hour. The batteries were new – Radio Shack batteries. Will try again with another brand of batteries. Has anyone else tried this light and had better results?

>>I also bought one of these lights and tried it twice. Both times the batteries died after about 45 minutes. Both times the batteries were new batteries, fresh out of the package. The only mitigating point is that it was cold, about 10F both times. I was going to try one more time with warmer weather and see if there was any improvement. But I don’t have much hope.
Back to Top

Want lights that knock the socks of any other type, including fluorescent? How about double or triple the light output for the same amount of wattage? The secret is LED’s, those little thingies that bike riders use at night. They are incredibly efficient because there is no heat; all the power goes into lighting. Alternative energy folks who live “off the power grid” have done a lot with them, because they conserve battery power.

Somebody (Ultrarunner magazine?) asked me if I knew of an LED flashlight. I was using a friend’s laptop, so I lost the email after reading it. Here is an article on that topic. It’s a gizmo which replaces the head on your Maglight with an LED head. Note that the lighting power of this LED flashlight could be increased by a factor of 17, so as you approach the same power consumption as your current flashlight, the light output becomes astronomical. I don’t know how much it would cost to build such a device.
Here is the article, somewhat snipped to reduce length. Note that it’s 5 years old, which means that the technology has probably evolved even further.
“When it comes to making light from electricity, no device made by man is more efficient than the Light Emitting Diode or LED. The LED is a semiconductor device and does not use the super hot incandescent filament employed in regular flashlight bulbs. While flashlight bulbs have lifetimes in the order of hours, LEDs will burn bright for ten continuous years or more. LEDs make light of a single pure color, in this case either red or yellow. Delta Light LED Performance The red Delta Light measured an average power consumption of 97 milliWatts and an average current consumption of 35 milliAmperes during our testing. The yellow Delta Light measured an average power consumption of 74 milliWatts and an average current consumption of 27 milliAmperes during our testing. This data was gathered by operating the lamps over the entire voltage range of the batteries (2 to 3 VDC). LED power consumption is between 13 and 17 times less than the power consumption of the stock incandescent bulb. This means that the batteries in the flashlight last 13 to 17 times longer before replacement or recharging. These LED replacements are not nearly as bright as the incandescents which they replace. Please don’t put them in your flashlight and expect it to illuminate distant objects. While I can’t see objects twenty feet away, I had no trouble with seeing within a six foot radius. The red LED in particular provides enough light to walk around at night. Since the red LED produces very pure red light, it does not spoil our night vision. The red LED is the best flashlight we have ever used inside a vehicle. It brightly illuminates the vehicle’s interior without ruining the driver’s night vision. We hoped to have real battery lifetime data for this article. We started testing these LED flashlight bulbs over 3 months ago. Barry Brown put a red LED bulb into a flashlight with two freshly recharged AA nicads (500 mA.-hrs at 1.2 VDC per cell). After 96 days of regular, normal use, the nicads still have better than 60% of their power left. Barry used to go through a pair of AA nicads in about a week. We figure that it now takes him about six months to discharge the same cells. Cost for the various LED flashlight lamps runs from $8 to $9 each in lots of 10.
The Future
Consider that one of these LED lamp replacements pays for itself in twelve hours of operation (based on battery and bulb life). Consider that you will never have to change the flashlight bulb again (in normal service the LED lamp will live longer than any of us). Consider the billions of disposable batteries that will last about 15 times longer before becoming a waste disposal and environmental problem. Consider not being in the dark, in the snow, on that midnight dash to the outhouse? ”

This light is something you HAVE to get if you’re going to be on trails at night. It’s the size of a quarter, puts out more light than a mag-light, comes in different colors, and lasts at least twelve hours. There’s no reason not to have one, at least as a back-up. It’s saved my skin repeatedly. Anyway, here’s the link. I don’t have any financial interest in them, but it’s a product that i can see saving lives. http://www.nielsenlabs.com/

>>I second this recommendation, at least for a back up light. I used a yellow Photon II as my light source for a 5 month thru hike of the Pacific Crest TRail. I used it virtually every night and never changed the battery (the yellow bulb gives a battery life of 125 hours!!!!!). The orange bulb is equally efficient but the reddish light flattens things out, there doesn’t seem to be as much depth perception. The white and blue bulbs produce a battery life of about 25 hours, but seem to produce a little brighter beam. I have only run with mine on fairly even surfaces or on trails I already know pretty well. The only time I had a problem with the yellow Photon II on the trail, was with other people who had strong head lamps, and kept trying to help me by flashing their lamps back at me (It saturated my eyes and made seeing with the weaker PhotonII lamp more difficult). I have poor night vision, and for rough and/or unknown terrain and faster running, would probably use a somewhat brighter light.

>>Just trail-tested my new Photon light last night. It’s fantastic! Gives an astonishingly bright, soft, even glow, which supplements my Princeton Tec flashlight’s uneven beam perfectly, so that depth perception on steep rocky trails is unsurpassed. The Nielsen’s key ring fits almost unnoticed on my finger, ready for use by either the pressure switch or tiny stay-on switch. If you love nocturnal trail running you gotta try this!

>> I agree with your assessment of the Photon light. I carry both a white and a blue. The white for true depth and spot, the blue for flood. These lights are awesome at showing your presence to others at great distance, I tested them on dark country roads by placing them on a mailbox and then running away from them. Unbelievable results. You definitely can run just with these lights. They are so small and maneuverable that you can attach them to your glasses, hat visor, finger, safety vest, or clothing. Awesome lights. And I had a great email experience with technical support also.

>> I have a blue Nielsen light, which I tried for the first time a couple weeks ago on a long run that started before dawn. I didn’t think it provided sufficient trail detail. However, the time was probably just after the start of morning nautical twilight. Has anyone else noticed that when there is a little light? Are they better in total darkness?

>> I used the Photon at Kettle Moraine last year. I had my wife sew little pieces of velcro on to each side of the waist on my shorts, I then velcroed one on each side. As dark descended on us, I turned them on, along with my handheld flashlight. First off, it was great from a crewing perspective, as my wife knew approx. when I would be coming into each aid-station, and when she saw three lights coming her way, she would walk towards me, and give me my supplements, thus, allowing me to walk through the aid-station. (Yep, no time). Secondly, While in the deep of the woods, on a moonless night, I thought i would see just how well they worked on there own. I was impressed. No, it wasn’t as bright as a flashlight, but, it would certainly get me through, if my handheld went out on me. That’s what was nice about having it velcroed, as I could take it off, and shine it where ever I wanted to. So Personally, any run that I do, where I anticipate some night running, I’ll have two of these babies velcroed to my waist. Well, for what it was worth.

>> I’m a fan of the Photon II as well. I tend to carry two of them because I am not yet sure about the battery life, and because they are so darned light that two is absolutely no problem. When I posted on this subject about eight months ago I had thought these were ‘one shot’ lights, but was corrected–the battery can be replaced. I used them at the Marathon des Sables after which I gave them to some Moroccan kids. The European runners were gaga over them and I could have sold fifty easily before the race. The Photon II isn’t as bright as some lights out there and the beam doesn’t extend as far or as brightly as many larger head lamps. What this means is that it may not be the light for when extensive route finding is needed. Shining the beam a hundred yards up a trail to look for the next marker is not it’s best use. It is probably not the best caving or mountaineering light. But for guiding one’s steps it is pretty good. If you need to ‘turn night into day,’ this may not be the one for you or I advise testing it out first. I don’t tend to go with bright lights anyway, and turn them off if I can get by without. Last year I did a few night runs with the blue and red models. I’d heard that these shades were less harmful to one’s night vision. That seemed to be the case. I had a lot more perception outside the pool of light as well. While I wouldn’t want to be searching out trail markers hundreds of feet away with it, I was very satisfied with the pool of light cast for desert running with an huge amount of rock to avoid and it wasn’t bad for forest trail use back here in Vermont.. This isn’t for everyone, but if you are the kind of runner who often keeps their lights OFF, wants to trim some weight, and doesn’t care to mess with complicated lights– well, to me, remembering to get AA versus C batteries at the store is complicated, — the Photon II may be of use. I ran with it for hours at a time, crossed washouts and (mostly) avoided camel-thorn thickets with it. It does not turn nighttime into day. But in a run or other endeavor where one absolutely must trim weight, these are the way to go, IMO. I’d also suggest that it would be nifty for early start hundreds like Vermont, where if you need a light at the start at all, it’s for the first hour.. I love the lurid ‘film noir’ ‘Alien spacecraft landing light’ pool cast by the blue one. I’m sure I lost three minutes at the last aid station on the 4th day, night stage, showing it to the volunteers– who’d been watching this strange blue glow bouncing toward them over the plateau for the previous hour. So, for what it’s worth…. Right now, I can’t think of a better light for just plain running or fast-packing. Very light, trustworthy, long lasting ( easier to carry a spare then to pack extra batteries for most other units). One thing I haven’t thoroughly tested is how it reacts to real cold and wet.

>> I’ve used the same blue light Photon in (3) 100 milers so far (Angles Crest, Rocky Racoon and Vermont) and have had no problems what so ever. While it doesn’t throw a beam down the trail it does a nice job illuminating approx 6-8 feet. I’ve put it through the wash (wash/dry) and it still works. I always carry two lights but have never had to take out my spare when using the photon. It’s size makes it easy to stow away in the small inside pocket of running shorts or clip it onto my water belt or one of the zippers on my Camelbak HAWG… for easy access.

>> You can also get little adjustable velcro wrist straps for these puppies. It would be easy to use 2 Photon lights, one on a strap and one worn like a ring using the provided eying — has anyone tried this? Or even 3… pushes the ridiculous, but they’re so small and light, and I SO MUCH don’t like to crash on steep slopes, it’s worth considering.
Back to Top

Earlier this summer I’d reported on finding a fluorescent book light (Phorm is the label, found in a store called Restoration Hardware) that I’d planned to test at Leadville, Wasatch and AC. I paced at LV and AC, but during all three, both runner and pacer carried the light. And when I say carry, I mean that our hands were free, the light clipped to the front of either pack or shorts. The beam spread widely in front, totally unlike the standard flashlight beam, illuminated well to the sides and well in front; and didn’t produce any form of tunnel vision. Perhaps one of its best features is that one set of 4 AA’s will last approximately 10 hours. (We used six different ones, and only one’s battery pack lasted about five hours — I think it’s a problem with THAT particular light, as the other five worked as advertised.) All factors equal, I’m convinced we moved faster, more smoothly, and less distracted by tunnel light, than other folks we met on the trail. And pretty much everyone we passed commented covetously on our lights compared to their own. The light weighs probably no more than a few ounces, batteries, of course, contributing the most weight. The beam can be positioned over a 180 degree field, since it WAS designed as book light. The cost is about $25, but well worth the price compared to its cousins that eat up batteries. The Label also says that the bulb itself will last about 10,000 hours, but I don’t plan on running that long into the night to test that claim. So, if you feel compelled to stick with the traditional “tube” light systems, maybe we’ll be able to share some comparative thoughts when we meet in the dark sometime (of course, that presumes you’re not blitzing well ahead and can find the finish before the 2nd sunrise). If interested, call your local Information for a Restoration Hardware store near you, or any other store which carries the Phorm Book Light. It’s a jewel / godsend. Don’t run into the night without it!!

I cannot resist. When people start talking about flashlights, I have to jump in. I love flashlights and have tried a lot of them. A few months ago I bought a light called the Lightwave 2000. What’s very unique about this unit is that it uses four LEDs instead of a light bulb. The LEDs are exposed and not covered with a lens, and are guaranteed to last 11 years. They throw a while instead of yellow light. The unit uses three AA batteries and is very light. Unlike most flashlights, the light is not focused. It looks more like a glow and somewhat resembles the light from a fluorescent tube. One thing I’ve found annoying with most flashlights is that oftentimes, there is a very bright spot in the center with a dark ring around it. The light from LW2000 is more even. On the other hand, if you are expecting it to be as bright as a halogen or xenon bulb, you will be disappointed. Although I found it to be bright enough to see where I’m going, it does not do a very good job if you try to spot something or focus on a distant object. The most amazing thing about this light is how long the batteries last. I’ve used mine for well over 50 hours and am still using the original set of batteries that came with it. I have not noticed any dimming so far. I think this light is perfect for a long nighttime run since you do not need to worry about carrying spare batteries or bulbs. Standard disclaimer: No financial interest. Just a happy user.

>>I am considering buying the Lightwave 2000 and I missed some of the discussion some weeks ago regarding this matter. I know there was some discussion concerning the use of white or green light. I would like to solicit response on this issue and relevant background as to why one color would be better over the other.

>> I think the white LED’s last longer than the green. I’ve been told the green light gives better illumination. I use the white LED’s and I’m happy with it. The light doesn’t penetrate the darkness as well as a regular bulb but it illumines the space around you and there’s no dead spot. It’s like running at night with a bit of sunlight in your hand. I wouldn’t use any other light. If you buy a LED light you should run with it for a long time on trails to see if there is a tendency for the circuit board to lose its contact with the battery. The light will go out and you’ll have to re-screw the lens or shake the light to re-establish the connection. That would happen periodically with my light and I think I’ve corrected it by placing a washer between the lens and the circuit board where the LED’s are attached.

>> I’ve had the Lightwave 2000 about two months. Most of my runs with it have been in the 1 -2 hour range so any conclusions I have are somewhat limited. The 2000 puts out more light than my 4-bulb LED but less than my Bison. It’s also the heaviest of the three, mainly because it uses three “C” cells. Construction seems to be fairly durable, the stoutest of the three. It is fairly comfortable to carry once you get used to it. The Bison has a smooth surface and it’s easy to adjust your carry. The 2000 has a rougher surface and limits carry options to some extent. I’ve only had it out in a couple rain storms and I could see OK but not as well as with the Bison. Bottom line — I prefer the Bison for shorter runs or conditions I need a focused beam (like fog or heavy rain), but would use the 2000 for 100s or other long races where I didn’t have a lot of support or want to carry extra batteries.

>> Trek Seven LED Flashlight – Anybody used this one? 7 LED lights in a hand-held, about the size of a normal flashlight. It has three C batteries, which seems like it might be rather heavy… also, it has the option of green light (reportedly 30% brighter, but less color retention) or white light (less bright than green, more diffuse, and better color retention)

>> I got that same light about three months ago. I like it a lot. The light seems much more pleasant, you dont feel like you are running into a tunnel. I guess the term for it is that it is diffuse. The big advantage I think is that the batteries last many times longer than with other lights. I have twice left my led in my car overnight and found out the next morning that it was on all night and it still works perfectly. In other words I have gotten about 30-40 hours from one set of bulbs! The claims made by the manufacturer are good. I also learned that baterries expand in the cold so with lights that are switched on and off by screwing the lens closer to the baterries, that when left in your car in sub freezing weather, they expand to the point of making contact and lighting the led lamps. Just a little lesson I learned. I also remember the thread about green versus white (on this list) . So I told my wife I would like to try a green one. She got me one for a present and I do not like the green as well as the white. Just my experience and my opinion. I have a friend doing the rocky racoon and will get another opinion on this light when she gets back.
>> I’ve got both the Lightwave 2000 (blue) and Trek Seven (white). The Trek Seven is much brighter, but much heavier. The Lightwave 2000 isn’t that bright (at least the blue light isn’t as bright as a Minimag), but the light weight and long burn time make it a good choice for a backup light. At Rocky Racoon I used the Trek Seven for several hours but ended up switching to a non-LED light just for the convenience (lighter, smaller, easier to grip, brighter.) For my money, the best light around is the Mini-Q 40, a scuba diving light with traditional filament bulb and 4 AA batteries. Just a wee bit heavier than a Minimag or Lightwave 2000, but WAYYYYYY BRIGHTER. The bulb won’t last forever, like the LED lights, but you can get through the night with one battery change. (Rather than change batteries, I bought 4 Mini-Q 40s–am I a fanatic or what?) Whichever flashlight you decide on, never have JUST ONE with you. Take a tip from your Uncle Lar: always carry a backup.
Back to Top

It is an overstatement of the facts to iterate “LED bulbs don’t burn out”. It is true that they are much more reliable and have a longer “burn life” than incandecent bulbs, but they are not perfect and can fail for a variety of reasons. All the more reason to carry a backup light, as you suggest.

>> LED bulbs last 11 years if you leave the light on 24 hours every day, and if one does burn out there are 3 more. The chances of a burnt out bulb ever being a problem are a lot less than tripping and dropping your light on the narrow Bear Creek trail at Hardrock and having it tumble straight down into the canyon. You’ll be able to tell how far down it is by counting 1000 feet per second (the speed of sound) from the time you see the light go out until you hear the faint “crack” as it hits the rocks below, unseen in total darkness. Now aren’t you glad you brought a spare light?

Ultra Marathon and Night Time Waist Mounted Lights

The “Belly Lights”, as you’ve called them, were first put together by Ephrain Romesberg of San Jose, California and modified a bit by Jay Jones of Club Lead. The light is a hand held Coleman light with a 5″ florescent bulb and using four AA batteries.
The light is actually attached to the buckle of your waist belt by:
• Taking a pill bottle (1 5/8″ OD) and cutting the bottom of the bottle off, leaving about 3/4″ of the top portion of the bottle and bottle top in place.
• Gluing the bottle (cut edge) to the buckle of your waist belt. I used hot glue from a “Glue Gun”.
• Carefully gluing the cap of the bottle to the back of the Coleman light. The key word here is CAREFULLY — If you’re not careful, the “Belly Light will be illuminating the bottom of your chin. The darker the night the better the system works. I’ve used it at Leadville and wont use another system.

At Vermont this Summer, I used a Hubble clip on that I attached to the elastic waist band of my running shorts. This worked great! and lit up the whole trail. It has a swivel head on it so that when I walked up the hills, I’d aim it high so that it wouldn’t light up the trail too much and I could enjoy the evening, but when I began running again, I’d swivel the head down onto the trail to see the roots, rocks and dips in the road/trail. This light has a halogen bulb that seems to create a smaller circle of bright light (large enough to see your footing), surrounded by a much dimmer, but larger circle of light that allows you to see a bit around you as well. The manufacturer claims that it will last 5-6 hours of steady use, but I noticed a bit of dimming after a few hours…but it still had enough light to see. Now maybe with those new “ultra” alkalines, there wouldn’t be as much noticeable dimming. I also carried a hand held during the final 10 miles for the trail section near the end, where I used both lights. The Hubble is about the size of a pager/beeper and costs about $20., I believe. I got it at Home Depot. It is very light, for a light, I never even noticed it on my shorts. The best part of this light was when walking along the road during the night, all alone on the trail, I would just hold my hand over the light so I could look up at the stars easily. Oh yeah, it’s about $15. at The Home Depot.

John wrote:
“Has anyone seen, or used, some sort of waist mounted lighting system? If yes, would you please tell me about it? Home made? Bought at WalMart? Usual where, when, how, why, weight, endorsement contract availability, etc.”
I first learned about this type of lighting system from Marge Hickman, 100-miler extraordinaire, and modified it to use a simple light I found at Home Depot and a couple belts I had already. Including batteries and Velcro, each waist light cost me only about $10. I made two, so I can start off with one and have another in a drop bag about halfway through the night. They’ve served me well under various weather and trail conditions at several 100-milers (Leadville, The Bear, Vermont, and Arkansas).
The fluorescent lights I use are made by AmerTac and are called “Mini Flourescent lights.” They are in a white plastic case about 6 inches long and 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter. They are designed for use in a closet, attic, garage, IV, etc. where there may be no electricity (although they can be used with a iV AC/DC adaptor). This brand uses 4 “AA” batteries. I use alkaline ones that last 4-6 hours, depending on how cold it is. The lights retail for about $7 at Home Depot. I’m sure there are other suitable brands.
Assembly: I adhered Velcro the length of the back of the case and stitched more on a lightweight webbed belt I already had. Running makes the Velcro come loose, so I use sturdy rubber bands at either end of the case to make sure it stays on the belt (I don’t think just rubber bands would work). As another lister mentioned, I also had to put a strip of electrical tape over the part of the case that faces up, to avoid being “blinded by the light.” Just strap it on and go! Very simple, and I hardly know it’s there. It works fine around the waist with either a fanny pack or a water vest.
I always use brand new alkaline batteries for a race, and carry four new spares. AA’s are very small and light. Switching batteries isn’t too difficult, but when I’ve got “fumble fingers” at 3AM it’s easier for me to change the whole light than it is to change batteries. That’s why I keep a second waist light w/ belt in a drop bag to switch out about halfway through the night. Although I have a couple spare fluorescent tubes, I personally would not want to carry one of them with me OR change the tube on the trail; it’s not anywhere near as easy as changing a bulb in the head lamp or hand-held flashlights I’ve used.
Advantages of a fluorescent waist light: inexpensive; very lightweight; hands-free; minimal light bounce; a broad, diffuse light that picks up any type of trail markers I’ve encountered so far; and no “tunnel vision” like I got when I used a Petzl headlamp. (And no, I don’t think the fluorescent system attracts bugs!)
Disadvantages: hard to change the tubes; may have to come off during potty breaks; gives your position away to the competition (something *I* never have to worry about any more!); and it can blind on-coming runners, as on an out-and-back course, or in an aid station. (I try to shield the light if someone is running toward me, and I turn it off in aid stations.) “Tailgaters” seem to like it, though, especially if their own lights have gone out! If you’re like Lee, who wants a more intimate experience with the trail, this isn’t the light for you.
Because my night vision is terrible, I need more light than most runners probably do. The fluorescent waist light alone is fine for me on fairly smooth trails/roads or if there’s adequate ambient light from the moon, but on really rocky/rooty trails I need a more focused, bright supplemental light source aimed right in front of me on the ground. For that, I like my little hand-held Energizer double-barrel lights with a bright halogen xenon bulb. I’ve gotten several at Walmart for about $9 each. The only disadvantage for me with the double barrel light is that it uses “AAA” batteries, so I have to carry TWO kinds of spares and remember which size goes in which light. Sounds simple now, but again, at 3AM my brain is as “fumbly” as my fingers! I also have extras of these flashlights and put one or two in my night drop bags so I can just switch lights faster than it would take me to change batteries when they die.
My back-up light (in case one or both of the above fail me for any reason) is a tiny Photon LED light the size of a quarter. Like Jim, I keep one in my pack at all times. It’s also handy alone at the beginning of a race if you need a light for an hour or two before daylight and you don’t want to bother with a bigger light. I could use it all night if I was just walking.
This system of lights has served me well for three years; it’s the LEAST of my problems in 100-milers!
Back to Top

One small but bright light which can be positioned at the waist is the Pelican Versabrite and the even brighter Versabrite II. Either light uses two AA batteries and attaches to one’s waist.

Ultra Marathon and Night Time Batteries

Where to find lithium batteries? I found them at the camera store, since their target market is for flash attachments and camera people are willing to pay more money for a faster recycle time on their flashes. Payless Drugs has them for a dollar cheaper ($4.99 for two) also in the camera section rather than the big battery display. What about battery life? Someone suggested that the battery life is best if the light is used intermittently rather than a continuous burn. So, rather than find out on the run, I burned up $12 worth of these little hummers in a home test over the weekend. The lithium batteries burned for almost 8 hours (7:57) in my miniQ40. Unlike with alkaline batteries that just seem to suddenly go dead, the lithium powered light gradually dims. As previously reported, the light is exceptionally bright, more so than with the alkaline batteries, but it seems to start to degrade after 3-4 hours, although still very servicable up into the late five hour and early six hour stage it slowly burns down to just a dull glow at the almost eight hour point. The weight difference is also significant. 4 alkaline batteries weigh 3.4oz. 4 lithium batteries weigh only 1.9oz, This makes a miniQ40 with lithium batteries weigh in at just 4.0 oz. It really feels like a feather. It is just a guess, but I think if you alternated between two lights, running each one an hour at a time, you would get even better results. My personal conclusion is that they are worth the extra $$$. Payless has them for $4.99 for two. Anyone know of any discount houses that carry them?

I did my own test on AA batteries a couple years back. My test light was a 2-AA yellow Eveready sport light. Don’t remember the exact results, but… Name brand (Duracell/Eveready) and much cheaper drug store brands (Walgreens, CVS here on the east coast) were basically equivalent in burn time. The store brands were as cheap as 25c each on sale, however I did notice some of them have gone bad before their expiration date (I did not keep them under optimal storage conditions, which is a dry, cool, room temp environment). My guess is that the name brands are made with better quality, but that if you get them fresh (still about 4 years to expiration), then they are equivalent. Lithium did only somewhat better than the alkaline, at most 50%. I think useful burn time was about 3 hours for alkaline, about 4 hours for Lithium. Lithium is much lighter, but I did not think the expense justified their increased performance and weight savings.

I’d heard of lithiums over a year ago but I’d never read anything about them on the lists, or been able to locate them in stores. I came across some AA size Energizer lithiums about a month ago in the photo section of K – mart and bought some. They claim to have 3 times the life of regular batteries. So far they’ve lasted alot longer than the normal Energizers and Duracels which I use to power my AA size flashlights, and the beam is still very bright. Although most people have never thought of AA size batteries as being heavy, the lithiums are alot lighter, hardly noticable in my flashlight. They are more costly, about 5 – 6 $ for 2, but from my experience so far, they’re well worth it.

At my first Arkansas (’97) I borrowed an otherwise nondescript 2 x D cell light from someone at the Powerline aid station right at dusk. As I came to find out, this custom rig (2 lithiums and a krypton bulb) blazed through the night like nobody’s business. Most highly recommended.

Since I have about 3 dozen flashlights sitting next to my 4 dozen running packs, i will let you know what FINALLY worked and works very well concerning flashlights. I use a 2 cell size D handheld (Ray-O-Vac) with lithium batteries. It is the VERY brightest light that you can get and it lasts for 14 to 18 hours with continuous use. The only real drawback is that it is expensive and the batteries are rather hard to find but REI has them and they are $18.00 bucks APIECE. You also have to change bulbs because it just fries the standard ones. Basically you have to get a 6 volt lantern bulb because the batteries are 3 volts each and you create a 6 volt system. The other drawback is that everyone else follows you. Bottom line is that i swear by lithium batteries and they last WAY past the energizer bunny.

At WS97 I dropped at 56mi and used my three mini-maglites for a very long time thereafter with lithium batteries, they do last much longer. However, and this is a biggie… I was very dissatisfied with the life of those funny little stick-in “bulbs” that the Maglites use. They didn’t seem to last very long at all, and I didn’t trust myself not to drop them in the dark and lose ’em. But I don’t trust Ray-O-Vacs, Evereadys, et al., either. Sorry, but I’ve seen too many consumer flashlights flake out under the mildest conditions.

I used a standard two AA Maglite last year at Leadville and used Lithium batteries. Big mistake. Although the light was quite bright, the bulb burned out soon after I turned it on, and had I had to replace the bulb from the one in the cap. Fine. Next aid station, I pickup a fresh flashlight (with fresh batteries and two fresh bulbs). Both of the THOSE bulbs burned out as well, one in the middle of climbing Sugarloaf (joy), the other just as I pulled into Mayqueen. I think the batteries may be TOO powerful for the standard Maglite bulb. Needless to say, I’ll probably go back to the standard Duracell or whatever.

The intensity of the lithiums is a possible con of the batteries but it depends on the type of flashlight used. I can easily imagine that the lithiums might be to much for the small bulb of a mini maglight, but I use Sams Choice AA flashlights from Wal Mart, and the bulbs in those are a good bit bigger than the bulbs in mini mags, and can easily handle the lithiums energy. As for the flashlights themselves, the Sams Choice flashlights are very light, rubbery and very durable. I’ve used them through many nights through lots of races last season, and throughout the winter while training for Barkley. I have yet to have a bulb in any of these flshlights lights quit. I usually carry a mini mag with me on a course that is more remote because I like to go out armed with back ups and also because with a small velcro head strap I can strap on a mini mag for hands free negoticiating of technical terrain.

The reason that bulbs burn out quickly with lithium batteries is that the batteries are 3 volts, but ordinary batteries are 1.5 volts. That means with 2 batteries that you are putting 6 volts into a bulb designed for 3 volts. Of course it will burn bright! You need to use a bulb designed for the voltage you are putting into it if you expect it to last more than a few minutes.

I’ve seen lithium batteries rated at 3 volts, and also at the more familiar 1.5 volts. The 3’s that I saw were of D size, the 1.5’s were of AA size. Both use lithium but they differ as to the other chemicals present. Clearly, if you use the 3 then you need to either reduce the number of batteries in-series (often not practical) or swap bulb for one rated twice the voltage (if you can even find one physically compatible). I just studied the 1.5 AA’s via www.energizer.com (lots of cute pink bunnies) and see some reasons why bulbs might burn out a little sooner even tho the overall battery voltage seems compatible with alkaline AA’s. The lithium has about 0.2 extra volts of “potential” before it is switched on, thus there is a little extra spike during the split second of filament warmup. Some camera manufacturers disavow these batteries regarding the electronics in their expensive products. Then once the initial spike settles down, lithium and alkaline have very nearly the same voltage for some initial minutes of usage. For the level of power drain typical of flashlights, at about 10 minutes the alkaline has faded by about 0.1 volt. Thus, the alkaline actually runs the light slightly dimmed, and slightly easier on the bulb, for most of its useful life (one to a few hours). The lithium does not suffer that 0.1 volt fade until much later, thus the lithium works the bulb at the full stress of a true 1.5 volts, for more time than the alkaline. In summary, the lithium is a bit harder on the bulb at the instant of startup, and after about ten minutes it fails to get easier on the bulb.

Here’s what works for me with the Lithium batteries. I’ll use the 2 AA size Mini Mag lite and a hand-held Ultimate Directions bottle together. With a hand under the bottle strap, take the Mini Mag with Lithiums and wedge it in between hand and bottle. I put the light between the index and middle finger. Especailly when the bottle is full, the mass of the bottle dampens the motion of the hand, making for a more steady light on the trail, compared to holding the lamp by itself. The only drawback is that you have to remember that when you raise the bottle to drink, the light won’t be pointing at the ground any more. This may not be comfortable for those with small hands.

“Anybody have any experience with the rechargeable battery pack for a petzel? I was wondering if it was more economical than just buying new batteries. How long does it hold the charge etc…?”
>> They last about 1/2 as long as new alkalines. They also spontaneously discharge over a couple of months. If you use the light a lot, they are worth the cost, because you save a lot of Batteries. You also save throwing the batteries into the landfills. But, if you only occasionally use it, or you’re going to use it after long storage periods, or you’re going to use it in cold weather, then stick with fresh alkalines.