With an impressive array of different light modes and a great focusing bezel that can switch between flood lighting or a pinpoint beam, the Ledlenser MH8 is a versatile headlamp for hikers, mountaineers and campers.
RGB light modes
A little bulky
Not the lightest
Water-resistant, but not waterproof
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The Ledlenser MH8 is a sturdy-looking headlamp with a chunky build and a robust three-point strap. It immediately feels comfortable when you slip it over your head, and it is easy to adjust for a secure fit. It isn’t the lightest head torch, and all the weight is at the front, but it doesn’t feel particularly unbalanced. It has a single main white light LED and a secondary, colored LED positioned slightly off to the side, with a large, rubberised button on top that controls all operations.
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You access the battery compartment by unsnapping the main lamp unit from its plastic bracket; a plastic pull-tab cover protects the batteries. It can take either two standard AA batteries or the Ledlenser rechargeable battery pack, which is supplied with the headlamp. Once fitted, the latter does not need to be removed to be recharged – instead, a USB cable snaps easily on to the magnetic terminals located on the underside of the lamp unit. This is a great feature for minimum fuss in the field, with no fiddly micro-USB port to get bunged up with dirt or damaged by moisture.
• RRP: $110 (US) / £80 (UK)
• Weight with batteries: 139g / 4.9oz
• Max light output: 600 lumens
• Average run time: High: 7 hours / Low: 60 hours
• Max beam distance: 200m
• Water resistance: IP54 (splashproof, but don’t submerge)
• Compatibility: Mountaineering, hiking, backpacking, snow sports
In the field
The single-button operation controls multiple light modes and cycling through them all takes a little getting used to – particularly since switching between RGB and white light modes requires you to press and hold for three seconds. Similarly, to lock the head torch (to prevent, for example, accidentally switching it on when it is kept in the lid of your rucksack) you need to press and hold for five seconds.
Once you’ve mastered how it all works, however, you have plenty of illumination at your fingertips. This includes a 600-lumen boost mode that throws an extremely bright beam up to a claimed 200m for 30 seconds, plus high, medium and low power modes, as well as a strobe setting. Unusually there are also green and blue ambient light modes in addition to a red night-vision mode. These could be used for tracking wildlife or signalling, though they also make your tent look cool at night. Our favourite feature, however, is the MH8’s focusing bezel, which enables you to instantly switch from an all-round flood beam to a pinpoint spotlight. Impressively, the flood beam also offers a perfect circle of white light, with virtually no edge drop-off. That makes this a headlamp that really stands out from its rivals.
The lamp also features a regulated output, meaning you can set the light to a constant level, rather than the headlamp gradually dimming as the battery runs down. There is also an energy saving mode to give you maximum burn time on all power settings. Our only real niggle was that despite all the different light modes, you can’t dim the beam, as you can with many other lamps, even entry-level models. Basically, with the Ledlenser MH8 you can have high, medium or low light, but nothing in between. Similarly, unlike other headlamps that remember your last light setting, the MH8 always defaults back to the start of the cycling light functions. Still, the profusion of different settings makes up for that slight shortcoming, as do the impressive flood beam and searchlight options. Its sheer power as well as the practical recharging system are both superior to the equivalent offerings from many other rival brands.
We tested the Ledlenser MH8 in Snowdonia’s hills and mountains, which included a few hours spent underground, exploring the old slate caverns and mine shafts of the Moelwynion range. It performed admirably and is a head torch we’d be happy to take on all sorts of adventures. It is only rated IP54, which makes it splash-proof, but not submersible, so for full-on caving or canyoning we’d look elsewhere. And though it is very secure, it still isn’t the lightest or most compact unit. It also lacks any rear red light, so it probably isn’t the best option for trail or road running. However, for technical hiking, hillwalking, wild camping, backpacking and mountaineering, as well as general outdoor use, this is one of the best headlamps we’ve tested.
An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.