A much wider range of head torches are available these days and overall, they’re becoming brighter, lighter and smaller. Gone are the days of chunky halogen lenses, heavy battery packs and trailing wires. Now you can choose your head torch to suit any type of outdoor night time activity.
I’ve been testing out one of the lightest and smallest: the Lifesystems Intensity 24 micro head torch. It packs up really small into the soft carry case, measuring 33 mm x 36 mm x 28 mm and weighing just 30g. It’s small enough to fit in a jacket or rucsac pocket and is made from tough ABS plastic which should withstand knocks and bumps. It’s also water resistant.
The main LED produces 24 lumens, more than enough to read a map and find your way around camp. There are three modes using the main lamp: full brightness, around 75% brightness and flashing. There are also twin red LEDs that are great for map reading, and useful for preserving your night vision. These offer two further modes: either continuous or flashing SOS. The single large button on the top of the headtorch controls all modes and is sufficiently large to use while wearing gloves.
As head torches go, the Intensity 24 is a baby. It’s an entry-level product that’s low power (but conseqently one of the lightest and smallest available) and competes with similar torches producing up to 100 lumens. The next category up includes head torches of around 100 to 200 lumens. These have a slightly wider range of functions including the ability to switch between wide area and spotlighting, and longer battery life (including some with rechargeable batteries). The most expensive group of head torches are much brighter still and have a higher variety of modes.
Given the Intensity 24 produces one of the lowest light outputs available I found it limiting. While it’s great for navigation, moving around camp and reading (particularly using the red LEDs) it really doesn’t have the power to light the path ahead effectively. As a back-up it would suffice (the manfacturers claim a 15 metre beam distance) but for confidence in night-time walking I would personally prefer a brighter torch with 100 lumens or more.
A neat aspect of the design is that in contrast to most head torches which have a thick elastic headband, the Intensity 24 uses lightweight elastic straps to form the headband. A toggle at the back provides adjustment. While this provides weight and size advantages, unfortunately it compromises on comfort. I found it uncomfortable to wear for anything other than a short period. Wearing it over a hat would mitigate this but of course there are some situations where you might not need to or want to wear a hat.
The Intensity 24 comes with two CR2032 (small circular) batteries which fit into the rear of the plastic casing. Compared with the usual AA or AAA batteries the CR2032s allow the torch to be so light and small, but the main disadvantage is that battery life is only between three to six hours. In practice, this means you would probably need to carry spare batteries if you’re using the head torch on a frequent basis. I certainly wouldn’t want to rely on this as my only source of light in a potential emergency or if I was benighted.
If you’re looking for a small head torch for occasional use then the Lifesystems Intensity 24 Micro head torch offers great value for money and is currently available from the Lifesystems website for £14.99.
Ease of use 8
Features and design 7
Build quality 8
Value for money 8
Ultra lightweight and small. Robust and comes with its own carry case. Good as a campsite, navigation or back-up torch. Large single button is easy to use. Adequate range of modes. Water resistant. Good value for money.
Not bright enough to give maximum confidence for walking or trailrunning on rough terrain. Low battery life. Uncomfortable to wear for long periods unless worn on top of a hat or hood.
A good head torch for occasional use, for use around camp or as an emergency back-up, where low size/weight and ease of use are important.