Gear Review: It’s all in…or on your head!
The last month seems like a whirlwind of races and high mileage weeks! This is clear from the topics of my most recent posts. For the new few months, my schedule calls for my peak mileage weeks, some very long training runs, and then the uncomfortable taper leading up to December 28th and Across the Years. Now that I’m back into a routine of sorts, I can return to sharing some new information and thoughts that have been collecting in my mind. Over the past few months, I’ve added a variety of running-gear items to my training arsenal, and they have proven quite useful in various ways. Two such items find their home on my head, and have proven useful in a variety of circumstances.
The first, and perhaps most significant running-related acquisition was that of a new headlamp. My running distances and durations have continued to increase, which inevitably means running in the dark. Additionally, I have aspirations of running a number of longer trail races that require quality lighting in order to navigate the technical terrain. Thus, I was rather focused on finding a quality headlamp I could rely on. After a great deal of research, and the utilization of several gift cards I was hold onto, I purchased the Petzl Nao headlamp. This torch is billed as the first “smart headlamp” and it truly lives up to its billing. The “reactive lighting” technology built into the torch adjust brightness according to where it is being focused. Thus, when I am looking straight ahead, it projects into the distance, and when I am looking down at my hands, the becomes dimmer to give me the light I need. The result is increased battery life, which is much appreciated.
The battery itself is actually rechargeable via USB, which is quite handy. When I opened the Nao after receiving it in the mail, I was skeptical of the size and weight of the battery itself. At first glance, it looks to be quite heavy and uncomfortable. However, the elastic band, coupled with the flexible upper portion which stretches over the top of your head, makes for a rather snug and secure fit. It can be a bit tricky to get the Nao fitted correctly to your head, but once you do, it isn’t going anywhere. The headlamp has stayed secure through a bevy of terrains, and I have not noticed any distinguishable movement that would cause irritation or rubbing. I did begin to notice the compression of the Nao after about 6 hours of continuous wear. However, I was able to take it off for a bit and return it to my head later. Although there was some minor discomfort, I don’t consider it significant enough to warrant a negative assessment. The cord that runs from the battery to the lamp may seem a bit cumbersome as well, but I didn’t notice any significant movement. There is an optional belt clip for the battery as well if you’d rather wear it around your waist to distribute the weight differently or keep the lithium-ion battery warm during the winter months.
The adjustment knob on the side allows you to shift between varying levels of reactive lighting and consistent lighting depending on your surrounding. The lamp portion itself is adjustable so you can position it more towards the ground for better night vision. The only downside to the reactive lighting technology emerged when I was behind another running with reflective clothing. The sensor in the Nao picks up on the reflection from the light hitting the garment, and dims as a result. In essence, the reflective patches on the vest of the runner in front of me was fooling the lamp into thinking I was closer than I was, and thus didn’t need as much light. In reality, this scenario is going to be pretty rare for most runners. Additionally, simply switching to constant lighting would have solved this problem. I just didn’t think about it in the middle of a race in the dark through a city I wasn’t familiar with and a route I didn’t quite know!
On top of everything else, the Petzl Nao also interacts with the Petzl OS, which allows you to set up customized lighting profiles for the headlamp and save them to the lamp itself. This can increase battery life, or accommodate various unique circumstances that you might anticipate while using the Nao. In reality, the OS might be a bit over the top for a headlamp, but it is a unique feature that some may enjoy for a bit of added control. Overall, I have been very pleased with the performance of the Nao and am looking forward to it being my go-to headlamp for longer nighttime runs and hikes in the future. The price tag may be a bit steep for some, but it is certainly worth the investment!
I now move on to a much more simple piece of head-mounted running gear after discussing a rather technical and complicated item. I must first be very clear that I’m fairly certain I sweat more than most people. It seems to emerge from my body like an invading Cylon battle fleet descending on an unsuspecting Earth. I wear a hat, visor, or winter cap consistently while running in order to mitigate some of this moisture. My sunglasses help as well. However, especially in the summer months, I still find myself stopping to wipe the sweat from my eyes and mitigate the burning that eventually ensues. As a result of these circumstances, I was excited to give the Halo headband a try. The product seemed simple enough, with a unique sweatband built into the headband itself to direct sweat away from the eyes. I was skeptical of its effectiveness but willing to give it a try. I’m quite happy that I did! This headband just plain works. I’ve worn it under a beanie and under a running hat, and it has performed admirable. It fits very snugly to my head, and is fitted enough that I can fit my other hats over it without issue. I purchased this headband late in the season, as the temperatures were beginning to cool off. Despite this, I am confident that it will be my go-to piece of headgear for the blazing summer months, as well as a trusted accessory during the impending winter months.
My only critique, like the Nao, was that it seemed a bit overly snug after several hours of wear. Perhaps I just have a big head?! Either way, I would certainly suggest you give both of these products a look!