Silva Free 1200 XS headlamp review: a customizable modular design and a pleasing natural glow

The Silva Free 1200 XS is part of a new modular headlamp range with clip-in, swappable lights and batteries

Silva Free 1200 XS headlamp
(Image: © Claire Maxted)

Advnture Verdict

A sleek, neat, versatile headlamp with different lighting and battery options on the same head strap or extension cable, and an unrivalled golden sunlight feel for better night vision.


  • +

    Light on head if battery in pack

  • +

    Big, easy-to-use on/off button

  • +

    Good battery life

  • +

    Rechargeable battery via USB-C

  • +

    Intelligent light – optimized light distribution flood and spotlight combo for a golden, sunlight effect

  • +

    Flash warning when 10% battery left

  • +

    Battery charge indication green LEDs

  • +

    Button for red light (on/flash) on rear of headband

  • +

    Modular construction – clip different lamps, cables and batteries to strap


  • -

    Hidden costs - you’ll probably need to buy either a top band or extension cable at extra cost

  • -

    Water resistant rather than waterproof (IPX5)

  • -

    Headband adjustment a little complicated

  • -

    Top band extra cost (£16)

  • -

    Battery extension cables 40cm or 130cm (£20 each)

  • -

    Handlebar, Helmet or GoPro mount kits (£35 each)

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

Meet the reviewer

Claire Maxted
Claire Maxted

Claire is one of our leading trail running experts. The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine now runs her own YouTube channel and loves nothing more than hitting the trails. She’s tested countless trail running shoes in her time and knows a good pair when she sees one.

Silva Free 1200 XS headlamp: first impressions

This modular headlamp design of the Silva Free 1200 XS  is a very interesting new concept for Silva. Both the lamp and the battery can be unclipped from the headband, so that you can mount them instead on a helmet or on your bike frame. The headband is also compatible with other bigger batteries and brighter lights in the Silva Free range; just clip in the combination you want; there are three lights and four batteries that can be bought individually.

There’s also the option use a 40cm or 130cm extension cable for the battery, if you don’t want the battery weighing down the headband. The extension cable is a slim, flat ribbon of material that links into the rear of the headband so there’s no external plastic cable going directly  to the lamp. 

It’s a sleek design and everything clicks into place simply and easily.


• List price: $150 (USA) / £140 (UK)
• Weight (lamp & headband): 114g / 4oz
• Weight (cable & battery): 134g / 4.7oz
• Total weight: 248g / 8.7oz
• Max / med / min light output: 1200 / 500 / 80 lumens
• Max / med / min run time: 1-2hr / 2.5-5hr /15hr
• Max / med / min beam distance: 150m (492ft) / 100m (328ft) / 45m (148ft)
• Charge time: 3hrs
• Water resistance: IPX5 (Water resistant)

The huge on/off button is unmissable even with thick hiking gloves on, but what stands out over all the other headlamps we’re testing this winter is the Intelligent Light. 

It’s more golden (like sunlight) than bright white which allows you to see more color and more clearly; and it combines a flood and spotlight to give you excellent light in the center of the trail which then feathers out either side. There’s no sharp cut-off line of light/dark around your peripheral vision that can bob up and down vexingly and make you feel sick after hour upon hour of ultra running

The 1,200 lumen setting is great for navigating and/or technical terrain; 500 lumens is plenty for regular trail running; and 80 lumens is good for roads, very easy trails or emergency use. The runtimes are comparable with similarly specced top-end headlamps and the easily accessible on/off button for the red and red flashing LED at the rear of the headband is a super nice touch.

Silva Free 1200 XS headlamp: on the trails

Silva Free 1200 XS headlamp on switch

The Silva Free 1200 XS headlamp’s power switch is handily massive (Image credit: Claire Maxted)

We took the Silva Free 1200 XS for a spin on a night run with two other headlamps, the Moonlight BAD 800 and Petzl Swift RL 1100 and this is where we really noticed and appreciated the Silva's Intelligent Lighting and sleek design. 

On changing to the Moonlight BAD 800 we really noticed the sharp cut-off between light and dark bobbing around in our peripheral vision compared to the more feathered edges of the Silva Free 1200 XS. The Moonlight extension cable also isn’t as neat around the head and the 1m length was cumbersome with a running pack (though a useful length for carrying in a jacket pocket). 

Silva Free 1200 XS headlamp

The Silva Free 1200 XS headlamp projects a yellowy, more natural sunlight-like beam, as opposed to the harsh blue-white of most headlamps (Image credit: Claire Maxted)

Although the Petzl Swift RL boasts a 1,100 lumen max, this is only possible in Reactive Lighting mode, so you don’t quite know when you’re going to get it (in standard mode max is 700 lumens). Also the light it kicked out was a harsher blue/white, which wasn’t as easy to see with (especially in the reflecting rain) as the soft, golden sunlight of the Silva. 

We’re now seriously thinking of using the Silva 1200 with a larger battery for the ARC of Attrition 50-miler this January which will have a good 6-7 hours of darkness over tricky terrain with navigation while tired. 

Downsides – the headband is a bit more complicated to adjust on-the-fly with a triple loop system going on and the 40cm cable seems slightly too short to dangle down into certain running packs – 50cm-60cm would be a better option, with the 130cm useful for popping into a jacket pocket.

Silva Free 1200 XS headlamp

You can either clip the battery to the head band or use an extension cable (Image credit: Claire Maxted)
Claire Maxted

The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films about trail- and ultra-running advice, inspiration, races and gear reviews. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, Claire's first book, The Ultimate Trail Running Handbook (5k to 50k), is out now. Her second, The Ultimate Ultra Running Handbook (50k to 100 miles), is out Autumn 2024. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.