Friday, October 29, 2010

Night Lights You Can Live By

It isn't often that I run at night. In fact I'm rarely out of the house before the sun comes up. I am not a morning person so even thinking about getting up, getting dressed, and going for a run before the sun even makes an appearance on the horizon is a rarity indeed.

Which is why I had so much fun on a recent run in the pre-dawn light of a full moon. Although the moon was mostly hidden by clouds, I could see it occasionally. And even though i was decked out in just about every piece of gear that had the bright Saucony VIZiPRO color on it, I still needed some lights to feel safe. And while this isn't a solid review of each light I carried along for my run, it will at least give you a taste of what to look for when you go shopping.

Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp

- Elastic Headband- The headband is adjustable, but what I enjoyed most was that it fit my head with room to spare. Which means you can wear it over a stocking hat if you need to. It's also easily washable and the adjustment piece is used to open the battery compartment.

- On/Off Switch - Sometimes a little hard to use, but it's easy to remember where it is when you always put it facing up. There's four settings; Bright, Medium, Dim, and Flashing. I don't recommend Flashing unless it's bright enough for you to see. Otherwise it's like running with a strobe light (yes, it's that bright).

- Clip - I have no idea what they're called, but it's the little clips or retainers used to attach the lamp to the headband. I learned you can also attach the lamp to essentially any strap of similar size. So you can wear one on your head and put another on the chest strap of your hydration pack.

- Waterproof - I've used this lamp in heavy downpours with no issues. The batteries are safe and secure inside the lamp and don't come out easily.

- Batteries - Needs three AAA batteries. Haven't replaced them yet so I'm not sure how long they last.

- Brightness - You can compare Lumens if you want, but in layman's terms, it's bright. Damn bright. Bright enough to see during your run or bike without any issues. In fact, I had to turn mine down during my last run because my eyes had adjusted.

As I said before, this fits my head. And I have a big head. As in big enough that most cases of One Size Fits All translates to Snug Fit for me. But the headband is easy to adjust and it fits my big head. And there's enough stretch and room to adjust that I can even wear it over a hat or headband so anyone with a smaller head should have plenty of room. I was able to put it around my chest but it wasn't comfortable so I took it off and attached it to my hydration pack.

The headband is washable, but I'd put it in a laundry bag of some sort so it doesn't get lost. I'd use cold water, gentle cycle, and make sure you take the lamp off. There have been reports of the lamps surviving a ride in the wash, but I wouldn't risk it.

I love this lamp. When you first wear it, it feels a bit heavy, but I have yet to find it uncomfortable. I think my longest stretch wearing it is around two hours and I didn't have any issues. I would like to find an easy way to attach it to my bike helmet or my bike, but that's the only downfall I've been able to find. My wife even uses it to clean out the dog's ears so she doesn't have to hold a flashlight, so anyone can find a use for it. Bottom line, buy this lamp. It's cheap, it's bright, and it works great.

Nathan L.E.D. Safety Strobe

- On/Off Switch - This light has a million settings (actually just seven, but it's still a lot); Steady On, All Flash Fast, All Flash Slow, Single Flash Slow Down, Single Flash Slow Up, Single Flash Fast Down, and Single Flash Slow Down Then Up. The switch is easy to use but sometimes too easy since it'll turn on or change settings with a light bump in your gym bag.

- Clip - The clip is nice but not really strong enough to attach to something that stays in motion or subject to a small nudge or bump. In other words, make sure it goes someplace very secure or you'll lose it.

- Waterproof - While there is a rubber o-ring around the two halves of the unit, the unit opens too easily. Just dropping it or bumping it hard enough will cause the cover to come off. Which means the batteries and lights are exposed to water.

- Batteries - Needs two AAA batteries. Mine have lasted a few months of on and off use, so I don't have a specific time frame to give. But be prepared to have the batteries fall out or come loose. Just tapping the unit on any hard surface will unseat the batteries which means you have to pry it open to re-seat them. Not fun.

- Brightness - It's not really meant to be used to run by, but more to keep people from driving over you. It's semi-bright and in one of the flashing modes should be bright enough to make cars pay attention to you.


Don't drop it. That's the best advice I have because if you do drop it, the cover comes off and your batteries go flying.

Save your money and buy something else. This was my first attempt at buying and using some sort of light to keep me safe while I ran and I'll readily admit this was the biggest failure. I had hoped for s sturdy product from Nathan (like their other products I use) but instead found a junky light. I do like that there are several settings to choose from but they don't outweigh the negatives.

Saucony USB_LED Light

- USB - Probably one of the best features is the ability to recharge the light with your computer. After about 20 minutes charging, the light will last about an hour. It may be hard to connect to some USB ports, but shouldn't be an issue on the majority of computers.

- On/Off Switch - Easy to see and use but hard to accidentally bump, which is good. It has two modes, Steady and Flash.

- Clip - A simple spring-loaded clip that has a little bite to it. The small teeth did a good job gripping. Designed to fit into the Saucony gloves, they can also grip hats, shirts, wristbands, and more.

- Waterproof - I'm not sure how waterproof this should be, but I've used it in downpours before and had no issues. But I would recommend letting it dry completely before recharging it.

- Batteries - There are none. Which makes it great because you just pop it into your computer to recharge. But the downside of this is it will only keep that charge for about an hour (actually a little closer to 80 minutes, but by then it's pretty dim). Keeping it on Flash will help, but only so much.

- Brightness - Even with one lamp, this is pretty bright. Not quite bright enough to run by in most cases, but good enough to make cars notice you. And anything up close can be seen fairly easily.


I would treat this as if it were a water resistant flash drive. It has the USB connection so it needs some care to keep that part functional, but it's small enough to be a hardy little light when in use.

For the price and capability of this light, I'd buy several. It's small, cheap, and easily rechargeable. And it's versatile enough to be clipped to just about anything you'd wear while you're out running. It isn't terribly bright so you won't be able to navigate with it, but it's bright enough you can see your feet and cars will see you on the road.

I took a video of all three products during my last night run. Clearly my camera doesn't like the dark, but it should give you an idea of how bright each light is compared to the other. Distance from the camera was about 30 feet. This sequence in the video shows you the Saucony USB LED Light on Steady then Flash. Next is the Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp on High, Medium, Dim, then Flashing. And finally the Nathan L.E.D. Safety Strobe which I cycle through a couple of settings as I approach the camera. And no, the video doesn't do justice to how bright these lights really are.

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