Headlamp vs Waist Light: Which Is Best For Night Running?

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Running is great exercise, but if you can only run in the evenings… safety is important.

Whether you run for leisure or competitive purposes, it’s important to stay safe and have the best equipment to allow you to do so.

While running during sunny conditions might sound ideal, athletes occasionally have to run at night, in poor weather conditions, or in dimly lit areas. Actually, some of us prefer this! And that’s okay because there are plenty of options for safety gear.

Running at night has its benefits, but you must be well lit, so you can see where you’re going and others can see you. In this article, we compare a headlamp vs waist light for night running.

What Are the Benefits of Night Running?

Headlamps vs waist lights

If you run during ideal daylight conditions, this may surprise you, but there are several benefits to running at night or on trails, including:

  • Cooler temperatures: Naturally, without the UV rays and direct sunlight, it’s cooler at night, which is great if you’re known to overheat. Running in cooler temperatures is overall more comfortable and favored by athletes, particularly if you are shooting for a personal best.
  • Solitude: The streets and trails are less busy at night in most communities and cities. Unless you’re in a nightlife district, you can rest assured that you have significantly fewer obstacles in your way.
  • Improved sleep: While this might not apply to all athletes, many who tend to feel exhausted after a big run find comfort in exercising after dark. You can say the same for those who experience endorphin rushes (and crashes) from running. These athletes take comfort in knowing they can head to bed soon after completing their run.

Assuming you take the necessary safety precautions, such as wearing reflective clothing and using a headlamp or waist light, night running can be a great way to get in a workout while avoiding the heat of the day. If you enjoy running with others but don’t always have the time during daylight hours, nighttime runs can provide some much-needed alone time.

Often, people run at night because they work during the day, have families and errands, and are left with no choice! This is especially true if/when the sun sets early on in the evening.

What Are the Risks of Night Running?

Of course, as beneficial as night running can be, there are also some risks associated with it, which is why it’s so important to take the necessary safety precautions on a night run, such as wearing a reflective vest and a headlamp or waist light. These risks include:

  • Being hit by a car: this is very much a possibility at any time, but especially at night if you are not well-lit and visible.
  • Running into objects or people: concussions, accidents, and injuries can occur if you cannot see where you are going.
  • Hypothermia: Hypothermia can happen at any time of day if you are running in winter temperatures; however, people who run at night in cold areas are subject to sub-zero temperatures and may push themselves to get through their chill, which could lead to hypothermia. This condition can be dangerous.

The likelihood of these events occurring is significantly less if you are visible to others and if you can see ahead of you! That is why investing in a headlamp or waist light to see where you’re going is worth it.

Why Is It Important to Have a Light When Running?

As outlined above, there are risks to running in the dark.

To put it simply, having a running light is important because you can see where you’re going! This is especially important if you’re a trail runner as there might be obstacles in your way that you can’t see in the dark. Even neighborhoods with street lights sometimes produce dim lighting that isn’t ideal.

A running light will also allow others to see you, which is important for safety. If you’re running on the road, drivers will be able to see you coming from a distance and avoid hitting you. With that said, you may be wondering which option is best for you.

Headlamp vs Waist Light

Headlamp vs Waist Light: Which Is better?

There are pros and cons to both headlamps and waist lights. Let’s start with headlamps!

Headlamp Pros

1. Headlamps provide more light than waist lights. You wear them higher on your body, and they direct the light in front of you, not down at your feet.

2. A running headlamp is less likely to get in the way while you’re running. Because it’s attached to your head, it won’t swing around or bounce up and down as a waist light might.

3. The best running headlamps are easier to use than waist lights. You don’t have to fiddle with them while you’re running, as they’ll stay securely in place on your head. All you have to do is turn them on and off as needed.

Headlamp Cons

1. Headlamps can be more expensive than waist lights.

2. Headlamps can be bulky and uncomfortable to wear.

3. Headlamps can cause neck pain if worn for extended periods.

Now let’s look at the pros and cons of waist lights.

Waist Light Pros

1. Waist lights are less expensive than headlamps.

2. Waist lights are smaller and more lightweight than headlamps, making them more comfortable to wear for extended periods.

3. Waist lights provide the light that is directed down at your feet, which can help spot obstacles on the ground that you might not see with a headlamp.

Waist Light Cons

1. Waist lights provide less light than headlamps. You wear them lower on your body, and they direct the light down at your feet rather than in front of you.

2. Waist lights can swing around or bounce up and down while you’re running, which can be annoying and distracting.

3. Waist lights can be more difficult to use than headlamps. You have to fiddle with them while you’re running to make sure they stay in place, which can be a hassle.

So, which is better – a headlamp or a waist light?

Ultimately, it depends on your personal choice. Many professional runners tend to prefer headlamps, as they provide more light and are less likely to get in the way.

However, waist lights have their advantages, such as being less expensive and providing light that is directed down at your feet; waist lights are especially favorable if you have neck issues or generally dislike any additional bulk added to your head and cervical area.

What to Consider When Deciding Between a Headlamp and a Waist Light

Some things to consider if you’re unsure which item is best for you include:

  • Your budget: Headlamps are generally more expensive, but any of the products–headlamps or waist lights– are available at different price points. Set a range for your budget to decide what might be best.
  • Your preferences: Regardless of which option you’re leaning toward, consider your comfort level and where you’ll be running. For example, you may require an ultra-bright light. And, you may be petite in stature and unable to hold up a certain amount of weight, etc.
  • Your athletic needs: What are your runs like? For example, a long-distance runner might prefer a waist light. It frees up their hands, whereas someone who only plans on running in the evenings might prefer a headlamp because it’s more affordable.

What Are Some of the Most Popular Brands of Headlamps?

Black Diamond

(Headlamps and Waist lights)

Black Diamond is a popular brand that offers a wide range of different headlamps and waist lights to choose from. Their headlamps are known for being high quality and durable, and while some models are quite expensive, others are affordable and great for beginners. Their waist lights are also available at several different price points and are, in general, well-reviewed!

Popular items from Black Diamond include:

Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp

Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp

The Storm 400 is a budget-friendly headlamp with a powerful, bright LED light powered by long-lasting AAA batteries. The key features of this headlamp are that it’s lightweight (only 3.5 ounces), easily adjustable, and waterproof. It is one of the most highly rated headlamps on Amazon!

Petzl 

(Headlamps and Waist lights)

Petzl is another reputable brand that offers a variety of headlamps and durable waist lights. Both products are known for being lightweight and comfortable to wear, and they offer both budget-friendly and premium options.

Popular items from Petzl include:

Petzl TACTIKKA Headlamp

Petzl TACTIKKA Headlamp

Another popular option is the Petzl TACTIKKA headlamp, which is highly reviewed as well. This Petzl headlamp is also lightweight (2.8 ounces), but it’s slightly more expensive than the Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp. It produces bright (450 lumens) light output and has a run time of up to 160 hours. It also comes with an emergency whistle.

LED Lenser

(Headlamps)

LED Lenser is a good brand that offers a wide range of different headlamps to choose from. Their headlamps are known for being bright and powerful, and, like Petzl, they have options to suit all price points.

LED Lenser Mh5 Headlamp

LED Lenser Mh5 Headlamp

While this lightweight headlamp is advertised as better for lighter athletic activity, such as a hike or camping excursion, for nighttime safety, this could work well on a run! LED Lenser manufactures their products to be durable and powerful.

This model provides 4 hours of light (at max lumens, 400) and up to 35 hours of non-stop light when used on a dimmer setting (20 lumens). It also includes a Lithium-Ion battery.

BSEEN

(Waist lights)

BSEEN’s LED waist lights are known for being lightweight and comfortable to wear, and they offer a variety of different color options to choose from. These are great for joggers, runners, walkers, and anyone who wants to be safer while enjoying outdoor time after dusk.

BSEEN LED Waist Light

BSEEN LED Waist Light

With USB-charging capabilities and fun colors, this lightweight running belt (waist light) is a perfect option for runners searching for a no-frills way to ensure they’re seen clearly while out after dark. These belts are adjustable (and have a release buckle) to allow for a proper, comfortable fit.

Our Verdict on Headlamps or Waist Lights

Ultimately, the best light for night running is the one that works best for you.

Consider your budget, preferences, and needs before making a decision. And always test out your light in advance to make sure it’s bright enough and comfortable to wear while you’re running.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are pros and cons to both types of athletic equipment: headlamps can be bulky and require AAA batteries, whereas waist lights have a rechargeable battery pack. However, some runners may feel irritated if waist belts rise and chafe while they move.

This is resolved easily in most cases, but those who are sensitive may be better off with a bright and secure headlamp.

Overall, headlamps illuminate the road ahead of you and make you visible to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Waist lights, on the other hand, make you visible to others but don’t do as great of a job as lighting the path ahead for you, meaning you run the risk of bumping into others or injuring yourself.

The product we recommend purchasing, above all else, is the Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp, as it’s superbly designed, easy to use, and the best bang for your buck. You’ll be safe and running happily with this product.

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