In the Head Torch market there are no shortage of options and identifying the best one for you is really a matter of determining what, exactly, you need from the unit. In our experience, the big five deciding features are: Weight, Battery Life, Build Quality (durability), Brightness and Cost. Other factors such as versatility (e.g. can you mount the light on your bike) and activity-specific features (e.g. a flashing rear light for road running or a remote battery pack for keeping them warm or carrying extra weight in a jacket or pack pocket), but it is the five main variables that will help you sort through the majority of the offerings. Unfortunately no single Head Torch does everything perfectly and deciding which one to invest in will always involve an element of compromise.
These are are our first impressions of the Led Lenser H7R
Weight – 4.5/5
The weight of the H7R is a very reasonable 120g/210g (without/with batteries – or depending who you ask). The rear mounted, 3AAA pack is well balanced and provides a great balance between battery life and weight. As suggested below, the addition of a top strap to better balance the weight of the battery pack (particularly while running) would be appreciated.
Battery (Life) – 3.5/5
Estimated battery life is somewhere between 40-65hours, though it’s hard to tell from the official specs (i.e. from Led Lenser or their official distributors) exactly what setting is used to determine this. One site suggests this period is on the lowest power setting, though I doubt the validity of this if it’s referring to 1% on Dimmer. This issue of estimating battery life is antagonised by the Step-less Power Regulator (aka Dimming Function), which is discussed below.
We’re huge fans of rechargeable batteries (for environmental and car/auxiliary-charging reasons among others) but hate that proprietary batteries (i.e. batteries designed specifically for a device) can be difficult to swap in the field, are rarely interchangeable with other devices and are generally expensive. The H7R overcomes these issues by utilising rechargeable AAAs and designing charging capabilities into the battery back. While this means you can use it and plug it in to charge when you get home, it also means you can swap out another set of batteries (whether rechargeable or single-use) while still in the field. Using AAAs means the one spare set of batteries can be used for the Torch or for any other devices (backup lights, GPS etc.). Furthermore, although the charging cable is specific to Led Lenser on one end, it uses a standard USB plug on the other meaning the H7R can be charged with standard plug/external battery pack/car charger/solar charger etc.
Build Quality (Durability) – 3/5
The build quality of the H7R feels, in general, quite good. The battery pack design is simple but effective with a rubber “cover” that attaches to the battery housing without clips or latches that can break off. The power level regulator is also attached to the battery pack and feels strong and reliable. The strap system is traditional and effective. The rigid mounting frame appears well put together and give stability to the unit without being uncomfortable. The bulb housing itself is minimal and sturdy.
There are a couple of reservations however. First up, the thickness and material of the exposed wiring seems to beg caution, particularly where it joins/exits the charging port. Secondly, the way the bulb housing is attached to the mounting frame seems flimsy. Different bulb positions are locked in place using a small cog-like piece of plastic with tiny teeth and minimal tension. I fear that this will wear out and doesn’t appear field-repairable. All that said, there is a 5year warranty on this product, so it’s clearly made with some thought to durability.
Finally, while not strictly necessary, for the H7R to be better suited to running a top strap would go a long way in stopping the battery pack from bouncing around. A piece of shock cord or something similar to the Petzl Nao would do just fine, as can be seen in the image below.
Brightness & Beam – 4.5/5
The H7R excels in this area, pushing around 150-170 lumens at full power while giving the user the ability to dim the power all the way from 1-100(%). This last feature also effectively provides a “safety switch” that helps to avoid those unfortunate accidental battery deaths because the light was accidentally switched on in a pack. The power regulator (Dimming Function) is step-less, allowing you to find the right power setting for whatever you’re doing. While this is an excellent idea it makes estimating battery life difficult, as there are no clear “settings” to give estimates for. It will be interesting to see how easy it is to get a feel for in every day use.
While Brightness is very important, the lens is often overlooked. In this context, the lens determines what happens with the light after it leaves the bulb. On one end of the spectrum you have a focused, high powered but narrow beam, while on the other end you have a diffused broad beam that illuminates a wider field of view at a lower intensity. The former is great for seeing into the distance or brightly lighting a small area while the latter is better for general tasks and not making enemies. Some lights, such as the Black Diamond Icon, achieve versatility by providing multiple bulbs/lens and allowing the user to switch power between them. Others, such as the Ay-Up, can be customised during purchase or by dismantling and swapping out the lens itself. The H7R, however, gives you another step-less slider and allows you to adjust between a narrow, focused beam and a more diffused, wider beam. This is an awesome feature and sets the H7R apart in terms of its versatility. Reading book with a narrow spotlight is just as painful as trying to run and perceive depth with a diffused Bold and the Beautiful beam.
Cost – 3/5
The H7R retails in Australia for $121.95, which, while not cheap, is at least competitive with similar offerings from other manufacturers. The H7R is currently selling for $79.00 at Highly Tuned Athletes
First impressions are very positive and I’m optimistic that the H7R might turn out to be a great all rounder, transitioning easily between trail running and general camp craft/backpacking use. Led Lenser have found a very workable mix of Minimal Weight and Excellent Brightness/Beam/Battery versatility while the Battery Life and Build Quality have potential. The next five weeks of field-testing (Running and Hiking) will no doubt give us a fairly conclusive result!