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Silva Trail Runner Free headlamp review: the best head torch for night runners

Silva Trail Runner Free is a super smart, brilliantly bright light, made with Swiss precision to fulfill all the needs of nightrunner

Silva Trail Runner Free
(Image: © Silva)

Our Verdict

Silva’s brand new headlamp is designed specifically for night runners, and we’re going to put this straight out there and say, this is the best headtorch we’ve ever run with – not the best we’ve ever used for camping and hiking per se, but the very best for running. The features are exceptionally well thought through and brilliantly delivered, from the integrated wiring and the lightweight feel of the unit, to the ‘Intelligent Light’ system, which very much lives up to its name.

For

  • Intelligent double-beam light system
  • Brilliantly integrated wiring
  • Excellent weight distribution
  • Comfortable headband

Against

  • No colour nightvision modes
  • Extension cord could be slightly longer to reach more pockets

First impressions

Everything about the Silva Trail Runner Free head lamp has been designed with night runners in mind. It’s lightweight and extremely well balanced, with the battery pack on the back and a tiny but powerful lamp unit on the front. Comfort levels have been prioritized in the broad head harness, which features a silicone strip to keep it in firmly in place, and extra textile padding where required to prevent rubbing or hotspots. Power cables between the battery pack and the lamp run neatly and invisibly through the headband (an upgrade on the Silva Trail Runner 4), and the rear housing features a backward-facing safety light (which can be constant or set to pulse), to alert vehicles to your presence on dark lanes.

There are three models within the range: the standard Trail Runner Free, the Trail Runner Free H and the Trail Runner Free Ultra. The difference lies in the battery pack, with the first only taking AAA batteries, the H working with a 1.15Ah Hybrid Battery, and the Ultra coming with a longlife 4Ah Hybrid Battery, which has a remaining-charge indicator. (The H and the Ultra can also be powered with 3 AAA batteries, so you can carry spares). It also comes with a 0.5-metre extension cord, so if you don’t want to carry the battery pack on the back of your head, you can tuck it in a breast pocket (which will have the added benefit of keeping batteries warm so they’ll last slightly longer) or a backpack/running vest/hydration pack.

All three models have the same 400-lumen output, and as well as being easy to swivel up and down, they all feature the Silva Intelligent Light system, which utilizes a double beam comprised of a long-reach spotlight to illuminate what awaits on the trail up ahead, and a wide-angle floodlight so you can see what’s going on immediately around your feet.

Specifications

RRP: Trail Runner Free $80 (US)/ £77 (UK); Trail Runner Free H $110 (US)/ £109 (UK); Trail Runner Free Ultra $130 (US)/ £127 (UK)
Weight (with batteries): Free: 117g /4oz; Free H 108g/3.8oz; Free Ultra: 140g/4.9oz
Max Light Output: 400 lumens
Maximum run time: Free: 70 hours; Free H: 70 hours (batteries) / 12 hours (recharge pack); Free Ultra: 70 hours (batteries) / 24 hours (recharge pack)
Max Beam Distance: 80 metres
Water Resistance: IPX5
Compatibility: trail running and more trail running. Also skiing, hiking, climbing

In the field

We have been running along some of the more technical sections of the South West Coast Path, through the woodlands of East Devon and out on Exmoor and Dartmoor with the Silva Trail Runner Free H (the middle model of this triplet family) guiding the way.

The headlamp is so light and comfortable you truly almost forget you’re wearing it, until you stare into something reflective and get a blinding blast of the 400-lumen light beaming right back at you. The integrated cabling that runs from the power pack to the lamp is big improvement on Silva’s previous headlamps – it makes the unit so much neater and keeps wires well out the way of snagging branches when you’re running through trees.

The Silva Intelligent Light system, which simultaneously lights up the ground at your feet and also the trail much further ahead, is superb. Out on the trails this translates into less head movement (you don’t need to look up or down to see what’s happening, you can just run like you do during daylight hours) and more confidence, which means lower levels of fatigue, less trips and slips, and better performance. There are three brightness settings (max, medium, minimum), plus a flashing mode, and an innovative short-burst rapid-flash indicator lets you know when you’re on full beam. Unlike some other headlamps, the medium and minimum settings are still bright enough to be useful. The on-off button (also used to toggle between modes), is large and easy to operate, even if you’re wearing gloves.

Our only real criticism of this headlamp is that it lacks the colour option found on many other models (typically red), that allows you to quickly check maps or locate something without shattering your night vision, or waking everyone else up if you’re in a tent. However, this is a function used more by hikers and campers, and this headlamp is very specifically designed for trail runners, so in the most part it would be a superfluous addition (except, perhaps, for ultra runners).