Winter’s here, and it’s time to get LITT! (for all you Suit’s fans out there)
In the Pacific Northwest, during this time of year (December), it’s dark, wet, gray, cold, and overall not a very motivating season to get out for a run. Having the proper lighting and gear may help if you’re struggling to get out the door when it’s 4 PM and it’s already pitch black outside. I’ve spent the past month using two headlamps from Ledlenser (NEO1R and NEO9R), and below are my thoughts.
If you’re new to headlamps or night running, there are essentially two reasons to illuminate yourself: First, it’s so that drivers, cyclists, and or other runners and pedestrians can see you. As a driver, cyclist, and pedestrian, I greatly appreciate when other people use either reflective gear/vest or headlamp while crossing the road or the trail. It’s both a courtesy and prevents many accidents.
The other reason to illuminate yourself is to see where you’re going. If you mostly run in the city, it should be pretty well-lit by lamp posts, but occasionally, those pesky roots pop up on the sidewalk and catch you by surprise; a sprained ankle is waiting to happen. Here in Portland, Oregon, we have Forest Park, a large network of trails where the city lights can’t penetrate through the trees and can be disorientating if you don’t have the proper lighting. That’s where headlamps become essential.
Overall, I was very impressed by both headlamps’ performance and features. Each headlamp is designed for different use cases.
NEO1R: Weighing in at less than two packets of GU, the NEO1R is an ultralight, low-profile headlamp and, in my humble opinion, meant for city running or emergency use cases. With three settings (low beam, high beam, and red light) and one button to access all three settings, it doesn’t get much more user-friendly than this.
In terms of fit, I would say it’s accommodating to most, if not all, head sizes, even with hats and beanies. The strap is easily adjustable. The two bands of reflective stitching are a nice touch. It’s truly something where you set it and forget it. Oftentimes, I don’t even notice it’s on my head, which is the design intent.
Above is the lumen (brightness to battery life chart). Like driving, I’d default to the low beam (20 lumens) around the city and then use the “hi beam” sparingly to increase my battery life. I’ve yet to have the need to charge it so far, but I’d imagine it’s relatively standard time-wise.
The main gripe I have, which is not exclusive to this model, is the fact that Ledlenser uses its own proprietary charging connector instead of a USB-C cable. This is common with other headlamp brands I’ve encountered over the years. As someone with many electronic devices, from laptops, phones, earbuds, etc, the last thing I want, especially when traveling, is to realize that I don’t have the right charging cable. It’s one more thing you must remember, and I wish USB would be universal. *Soapbox off*
It’s no-nonsense, easy to use, relatively weather-proof, and at times too light that you don’t even know you’re packing; it’s a great little ball of sunshine.
If the NEO1R doesn’t have quite enough juice that you’re looking for or you’re doing your first 100 miler, consider upgrading to the NEO9R, which is significantly more powerful and versatile and can reach up to 1200 lumens on its highest settings. It also has a separate flood and spotlight that can be adjusted to suit different situations and distances. I can easily switch between the modes with a single button.
The main thing I noticed upon receiving this headlamp was the weight. It feels substantial at 7 oz, with a separate battery pack nested in the back. With that, the battery pack comes with 60-120 hours of usage depending on the setting, which is a lot and perhaps unnecessary if you have drop bags, aid stations, and battery banks to help supplement your lighting. As a backpacker or ultra/trail runner, which is what this publication is catered towards, that’s where you have to consider whether the brightness and battery life are worth the weight. I also did some searching on Ledlenser’s website, and although the battery is detachable, they don’t seem to sell them as an accessory, which is unfortunate. It would be nice if the brand sold stand-alone battery packs compatible with this headlamp; you wouldn’t need a charging cable or power bank.
The NEO9R also comes with an optional center strap to increase stability over your head, better distributing the weight of the headlamp. The battery bank does have a rear red light, which is a nice feature.
Overall, NEO9R is a solid device. It is easy to use and, in my opinion, suitable for very specific situations. Or if you want one headlamp that you don’t have to worry about charging or not being bright enough, whether it is for backpacking or walking around the neighborhood, this may be a good option. For me personally, it’s a bit overkill. At $120.00, I would rather buy one NEO5R, their middle-of-the-road headlamp, for $70.00, which is half the weight, as a primary headlamp for longer 5+ hr adventures and a NEO1R as a backup. I can’t really see myself using the 1200 lumens enough to get the full use out of this device. Especially for ultra and trail running, where the goal is to move quickly and lightly, my head and neck fatigue will inevitably be too significant to where every gram and ounce will count. What do you think? If you had a NEO9R, where and how would you use it?
Cheers for now.