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Review: Silva Free 1200 XS head torch for running

Written by Fiona

October 29 2023


I am always looking for the next best head torch for running. I have long liked Silva head torches because they offer good light output for size and weight of the head torch. The new Silva Free series includes light units with 1200, 2000 and 3000 lumens. There are different battery sizes that can be used with the Silva Free, including 14.4Wh, 24.1Wh, 36Wh and 72Wh. I have been testing the cheapest set up: the Silva Free 1200 XS.

Silva Free 2000lm with 36Wh battery.

What is Silva Free head torch series?

Silva has created the new series of Free head torches. They are billed as “the world’s first modular head torch”. Users can swap different light units and batteries around to create the perfect set-up for their activity.

So, you can buy one of the Free models, then swap different light units and batteries around depending on your needs.

The light units are linked via a cord-free headband to one of the four battery packs.

There is also a 130cm extension cable if you want to carry the battery in a backpack or pocket, plus handlebar/helmet/GoPro mounts are available.

Each head torch has three brightness levels delivered via “Silva Intelligent Light”, which is described as a combination of long-reach spotlight and close-in flood light.

Silva has developed what it calls Airflow technology. The aim of this is to give more light and less heat. It means that the lamps are designed with an optimised aluminum cooler and with a protective plastic case that provides maximum ventilation and cooling, even when standing still.

The light units and battery packs meet IPX5 standard (water resistant) and withstand heavy rain and water from any direction.

The battery is charged via a USB-C cable. The LED battery indicator shows battery status when charging or when turning on the headlamp.

Prices start from £139.99 for a light unit, head band and battery. The most expensive set up is £324.99. You can buy all light units and battery packs as separates.

Note that this head torch is different from the Silva Trail Runner are head torch.

On test: Silver Free 1200 XS head torch

Features include:

  • 1200 lumen light unit – with choice of three settings, 80, 500 and 1200lm
  • 14.4Wh battery
  • Weight with battery 227g

£139.99

See: Silva Free.

Extra items on test:

  • 36Wh battery
  • 130cm extension cable

I have been running in different locations with the Silva Free 1200 with 14.4Wh battery pack. It’s worth noting, there are lighter head torches but this head torch is impressive in terms of the weight of the battery pack and light output. When I first owned a Silva headtorch about a decade ago, the battery pack was larger and needed to be carried in a pocket or rucksack.

The new Silva Free 1200 can be worn with the battery pack sitting at the back of the head attached to the band. It’s easy to attach the battery pack, or swap it for another size battery, thanks to an easy clip-on system.

I like the battery pack sitting at the rear of the head, while the light unit sits at the front. Other head torch set ups have light unit and battery pack as one but this means the battery capacity and light output is lower.

The head torch, strap and battery pack fits neatly and fairly lightly on the head. I prefer to wear it over a buff because I find the plastic support system for the battery pack is too hard to wear straight on my hair. I prefer a bit of fabric cushioning between the plastic and my head. The balance of battery pack at the rear and light unit works well.

It’s a real bonus having the power cord integrated into the head band, too. The last Silva head torch I owned had a cable that sat on top of the head band and I was forever getting it tangled.

To start with, I was aware of the battery pack on my head because it felt quite heavy. I had to tighten the head band to make sure the battery didn’t jiggle up and down. But once properly adjusted, I forgot the battery pack was there.

1200 lumen output.
500 lumen.

The main advantage of this head torch over all others I have tested recently is that light output. The top setting of 1200 lumen is superb. On the highest setting it is like running in daylight. The beam spread metres ahead and to the sides.

In fact, the light was so bright, anyone running with me switched off their own head torch. I could see quite far into the distance, too.

Even the 500lm setting was more than enough to run with in many situations. The 80lms is best reserved for times when you don’t need to see so far ahead or so clearly, such as when walking around campsite rather than running in the dark.

The burn times are different for each:

  • Max mode: 1200 lm / 1-2hrs burn time / 150 m (492 ft) light distance
  • Med Mode: 500 lm / 2.5 to 5hrs burn time / 100 m (328 ft) light distance
  • Min mode:80 lm / 15hrs burn time / 45 m (148 ft) light distance.
The 1200lm beam lights up the land and water ahead.

As you can see, the 1200lms is bright but it will only give you up to two hours of running time. I have found this to be totally fine for local runs at night. The 500lm will give you up to five hours.

But if you want a brighter light and longer-lasting you could use a bigger battery pack. That’s what makes this modular set-up so good. Of course, the battery pack will be heavier and perhaps a bit uncomfortable to wear on the back of your head. There is an option, therefore, to carry the larger battery pack in a rucksack and link it with the extension cable.

I have greatly enjoyed running with the Silva Free 1200. It’s fantastic to be able to see the ground ahead so well.

I can also use the head torch for other activities, such as for cycling or mountain biking. In this case, I would swap up to a brighter light unit and a longer-lasting battery pack and also use with a handlebar attachment.

It’s great to have such a versatile set up with lots of different options for light units and battery packs and for use with different activities.

Silva head torches are not the cheapest but I have found them to be durable and long lasting in the past. I think the excellent light beam output of even the smallest head torch and battery is worth the money.

Conclusion: Excellent bright light beam, versatility of 3 light units and 4 batteries, rechargeable, battery pack on headband, no cable headband. The price is a but eye watering for a head torch but if you want a fairly lightweight head torch with a superb light beam it’s a good choice. The head torch, head band etc also looks to be high quality and can be used in all weathers.

  • I was sent the product in return for an honest and independent review.

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