A versatile flashlight/torch for night-time runners.
Anyone who goes running after dark, or even in the twilight, knows how vital it is to be visible. It doesn’t take many near misses to prompt even the thriftiest pavement pounder to invest in a reflective jacket or fluorescent hat. But while such accessories might be enough for urban running with the street lights shining, once you venture off-road on to paths, parks, fields and hills, or away from built-up areas and on to country roads, you need much more.
The Zephyr Fire 100 Runners’ Flashlight, which is essentially a torch tailored for runners, has some instantly appealing features. Most importantly, it’s bright. Â Its 113 lumens are visible from a good distance, and the beam picks out bumps and obstacles well before they become a hazard. It has two levels of brightness, as well as a flashing mode, and a flashing red light at the back end. You can switch between the three front light modes by pressing the on-off button with your forefinger, while the flashing red light continues to do its thing whenever the torch is switched on.
By pressing a separate button, next to the on-off one, you can sound an emergency alarm. This is a piercing high-pitched beep which would probably be effective in making an attacker think again, and could also conceivably attract help if you were lying injured after a fall.
The rubberised handle has ridges to fit your fingers and there is an adjustable, stretchy nylon/polyester strap, with Velcro fastening, which fits over your hand and make the Zephyr Fire 100 almost impossible to drop, even if you relax your grip. The casing is designed to be weather-resistant.
The beam, which Nathan says extends for more than 67 metres, is angled to shine downwards at an angle of 24 degrees when the torch is held horizontally. This makes sense, since the main thing you need to see is the ground ahead of you. However, it does bring me to the one disadvantage of this product â€“ a disadvantage it has in common with any hand-held light source. When you run, clearly your hands move about a lot, and so the light beam coming from the hand moves about as well. We all have different running styles, but in my case, holding the light in my left hand, with every step the beam sweeps distractingly across the ground from a low, left position to a high, rightish one. It does not make for a relaxing run, and compares unfavourably with the head torch that I normally use, also produced by Nathan.
Very usefully, the flashlight can be recharged via your computer, using a short USB connection supplied. It takes six hours to charge when fully depleted, and when fully charged will work for more than five hours on the bright setting, more than seven hours on the dimmer setting and more than 15 hours on the flashing, or strobe, setting.
The advantage of a hand-held light source is that you can easily switch between modes. The plus points of a head-mounted source are that it casts a fairly steady beam in front of you and leaves your hands free to open gates, fiddle with your iPod and gesticulate animatedly to your running partner as you go. Take your pick â€“ but do use something. It could keep you alive this winter.