Getting "In The Flow" of Trail Running

Road running requires conditioning and form. Trail running requires these, too, but it additionally requires skill and coordination in order to negotiate obstructions. In this way it is like skiing or mountain biking: When everything is going flawlessly, it is known as being “in the flow.” In trail running you are “in the flow” when you are taking all the right steps, dodging each obstacle perfectly, and seeing everything you need to see. This is the state with which we as trail runners seek to be in. Here are some techniques that those new to trail running can use to help them get “in the flow.”

Vision

The first technique has to do with your eyes. When you start running on the trails the natural tendency is to look down at your feet for roots and rocks that might trip you. This is especially the case if you already have tripped (everybody trips in trail running). The problem with this is that this gives you little time to react. Things go much more smoothly if you are able to keep your vision 6 to 8 feet ahead of you. This allows you to see and anticipate obstacles and use your peripheral vision to avoid them.

20190724_EMS_Conway-6498_Run_Jacket_Hat_Hydration

Shorter Steps

One of the most common mistakes that runners make is over-striding. On the road, this leads to inefficiency. On the trail it can lead to injury. When you take long strides on the trail you dramatically increase the likelihood that you will trip on an obstruction. In order to avoid this, trail runners need to take much shorter strides. It seems like this should be a simple adjustment—just take your current running stride and shorten it. In practicality this is harder than it seems.

A way to determine the optimum stride length for the trail is to do a good quick jog—in place. When we run in one spot we tend to have a good natural cadence with our legs underneath like they should be. After the minute is up, try to duplicate that cadence while running forward. You should notice that your strides are shorter.

Toes Up

In addition to shorter strides it is important to keep your toes up when you step. I wouldn’t even attempt to get into the debate about which is better—heel striking or mid foot striking—that’s for running gurus. But I will say that in trail running—where there is an endless supply of tangled roots, downed tree branches, and gnarly rocks—it is a good idea to stride with your toes up to prevent them from getting under any of those obstacles and sending you head over heels.

20190724_EMS_Conway-7624_Run_FW_Salomon_Socks

Elbows Out

Another technique that will help you, is to swing your elbows out wide. This movement can help you keep your balance much like a surfer might use to stay on his board. It can be especially helpful on downhill sections and combined with fast feet and shortened strides.

Walking and Power Hiking

When I run on the road I never stop to walk. I am out there to run and anything less seems like a failure. I know it is silly but I also know that I am not the only one who feels that way. One of the great things about trail running is that it knocks that “run at all costs” attitude right out of you. There are sections of trail that are just impossible to run—hills that are too steep, wet rock scrambles that are dangerous, or downhill sections with loose footing.

Even the best trail runners in the world find that in these conditions running is no longer efficient and that is better to hike. When hiking an uphill section that is steep, you want to make sure that you lean forward to keep your weight under your feet. You can even put your hands just above your knees on your quad muscles. This will keep you forward and you can even push on them to get leverage. This is known as power hiking.

EMS-SP-17-RUN-009410-copy

Trekking Poles

When trails are particularly difficult you might consider using trekking poles. These might seem like something that would be used for strictly hiking, but many trail runners—including professionals—have been using them more and more in recent years. Poles help you to generate force by using your arms as well as your legs and can take some pressure off of your knees. They are best used on climbs or descents since running is much more efficient on flat sections. If you decide to use poles for only part of the time you will need to make sure that you have a running vest or pack that allows for stowing collapsed poles for when you are running. You will also want to make sure that the poles you use collapse small enough so that they are easily stored or secured.

There are three main techniques when using poles. Diagonal poling is when you step with one leg, and plant the pole with the OPPOSITE arm. It is the most natural technique since it mimics natural walking or running. This can be very effective because it helps you develop a rhythm. It is best use when things are starting to get difficult but you can still go at a good clip or when going down.

Another technique is called off-set poling. This is when you step with one leg and then plant the pole of the SAME arm. With this technique you only stick the pole on every other stride. This method is great for when uphill portions start to get really difficult.

The last way to use poles is called double poling. This is best used on really steep hills and can be used both up and down. This move is comparable to cross-country skiing where you plant both poles out ahead of you, then pull yourself through. This move can take a little practice to get used to and is best done with one pole coming down ever so slightly before the next.


3 Trail Runs Near Newport, Rhode Island

Trail running is having a moment right now. First-person video of airy ridgelines traversed at precipitous speeds are flooding the social media feeds of the outdoor-inclined. Grueling backcountry ultra races—in the image of the notorious Barkley Marathons—are popping up by the day. Classic backpacking routes, from the Pemi Loop to the Devil’s Path, are getting done in hours, not days. It certainly seems that everywhere you look, the wilds of the Northeast are teeming with ultra-fit, tiny-backpack-clad trail runners, dodging blowdown and hopping over rock and root as they bound headlong into some real type 2 fun.

While it’s not the type of peaceful community with nature that some of us seek, trail running is, at the very least, another great way to get outside. It’s a lot easier to squeeze a hike into a busy schedule if you’re running it and covering more ground faster affords the ambitious—and properly conditioned—outdoor enthusiast the freedom of a remote backcountry experience without the heavy pack.

Trail running is also excellent cardiovascular exercise and incredibly good training for harder, higher mountaineering objectives, where moving quickly over difficult and varied terrain is essential. That said, it is a strenuous activity that shouldn’t be taken lightly—road runners will need to account for the uneven, often difficult footing while hikers will need to acclimate to the additional aerobic strain. So, if you’re new to trail running you’d be wise not to start in the mountains but rather with a more manageable goal.

Seek the coast. More specifically, set a course for Newport, Rhode Island. Though the City by the Sea is better known for its surfing and sea kayaking, a modest selection of trails, gentle elevation changes, and breathtaking ocean views make Newport—and the surrounding area—a top-notch place to give trail running a try.

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

Sachuest Point, Middletown

Sachuest Point, on Aquidneck Island’s southeastern corner, is a true gem. A small peninsula jutting out into the sea, its 242 acres briefly divide the Sakonnet River from Rhode Island Sound, affording sweeping, sustained ocean views. The terrain is flat and easy, alternating between hard dirt and gravel path, all while the trail meanders through shrubland and native grasses before opening up to panoramic views of rocky coastline, beach, and sea.

The area is a federally-managed wildlife refuge replete with an incredibly diverse population of birds and smaller fauna, including the increasingly rare New England Cottontail rabbit. Obviously, this makes staying on marked trails—so as not to disturb these fragile habitats—of critical importance.

Linking up the Flint Point and Ocean View Loops, Sachuest Point’s two named trails, in a figure-eight will net you a 2.7-mile round trip. A cool down lap of one or both loops to enjoy the many, signed shoreline access points or observation areas is highly recommended.

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

Sakonnet Greenway, Portsmouth and Middletown

Open meadows packed with wildflowers, breezy coastal woods, and bucolic farmland, characterize the Sakonnet Greenway, as it weaves its way through the heart of Aquidneck Island, linking the towns of Portsmouth and Middletown in the process. End-to-end, the trail weighs in at 10 miles—the longest continuous trail of its kind on the island—though a few well-spaced parking areas afford opportunity for shorter loops, including the Portsmouth, Middletown South, and Middletown North Loops.

You’re not going to gain a ton of elevation, and the footing is generally good as the trail runs mostly over dirt or cut grass, but step lightly after rain—the trail is also open to horses, and the deeper hoofprints can roll an ankle if you’re not looking.

And while this is not a wilderness experience, the Sakonnet Greenway still has its moments with flora so thick—nurtured by the milder marine climate—you’ll feel its breathing with you. Give the 2.6-mile Middletown South Loop a try, beginning at the parking lot at Newport Vineyards and ending with a glass of something chilled.

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

Cliff Walk, Newport

While it’s not a trail run in the traditional sense—most of it is paved—Newport’s Cliff Walk is hands-down one of the best runs on the island. From the get-go at Memorial Boulevard, just uphill from Easton’s Beach, Cliff Walk delivers spectacular views of the Atlantic and it yields not once over it’s 3.5-mile course to Bailey’s Beach. On one side are the mansions of Newport, soaring monuments to the kind of American wealth that defined the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On the other side, an even stronger force: the Atlantic Ocean and the dramatic cliffs that plunge directly into it.

In either direction, the views are stunning and the sea breeze is enough to make running Cliff Walk a joy even on the hottest of Summer days. Do yourself a favor and go early—this is a must-see destination in Newport and it fills up quickly. If you don’t want to be dodging and weaving your way through the crowds, don’t wait.

Parking and access points are aplenty on Cliff Walk so runs of varying distances are possible. If you’re up for it though, completing the 7 mile out-and-back route is the way to go.


How to Choose a Headlamp

Whether you’re running down the trail, setting up your tent, or peeking under the car hood, headlamps are a convenient and hands-free way to provide light in the dark. A headlamp should be in everyone’s arsenal for venturing outdoors but with so many choices, what’s the difference between them all? There are many variables to consider when choosing a headlamp and brightness isn’t the only important thing to look at. So how do you know you’re choosing the right one?

EMS---BIG-SUR--5053-Camping

Lumens, Explained

Lumens—which are typically advertised front and center on a headlamp’s packaging and are a good place to start if you’re buying a new light—are the units that measure the total quantity of light emitted in all directions at full battery. Generally speaking, the higher the lumens, the brighter the headlamp, though not all brands measure lumens in exactly the same way, or focus that light the same, which can impact lumen count.

For reference, a car headlight is 1,300 lumens. There are headlamps out there that can reach ~1,000 lumens, but you won’t be able to see what’s right in front of you. The sweet spot for most tasks, like finding gear in your pack, setting up a tent, or walking the dog around the neighborhood is around 150-250 lumens. For extended periods of night-hiking or biking, most folks will prefer 200-350 lumens.

At full brightness, a headlamp is using more battery power, but most headlamps are dimmable, allowing you to fine-tune the right amount of light and battery usage for your task, up to that given maximum lumen number.

Also keep in mind that, as batteries drop from their 100 percent charge, their max brightness will also decrease. Pick a headlamp that is 50-100 lumens more than what you want, since it will likely be operating at standard output most of the time.

GO: 0-49 lumens | 50-99 lumens | 100-199 lumens | 199+ lumens

2019-01-EMS-Kemple-Conway-1047_Camp_Cook_Headlamp

Headlamp Battery

The next big aspect of headlamps, which ties directly into its brightness, it how it uses its batteries.

Run Time

When buying a headlamp, most will give you an estimated burn time based on power and battery life—This is the amount of time (in hours) until the lights can no longer produce usable brightness at close proximity. This is a crucial factor to consider. If you’re going backpacking in the summer time, you may only need it to last short spurts while getting ready for bed. If you’re ski touring, will it stay lit during a long pre-dawn approach? Most headlamps will give you burn times for both maximum power, and a lower setting—pay attention to both.

Battery Compatibility

Most headlamps work with two or three AAA lithium or alkaline batteries. Rechargeable nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries also work well with headlamps and perform better in colder conditions, however they can lose power while sitting idle.

Some headlamps are rechargeable as well, which allows you to plug it in after a trip to ensure you’re always starting our with a 100 percent charge. You might also be able to charge them with a solar panel or power bank on longer trips, though they may not take regular batteries if needed,

Pro Tip: On cold winter trips, don’t forget to sleep with your headlamp inside your sleeping bag to preserve the battery life. On a really cold night, the chill can sap the battery by the time you wake up.

EMS---BIG-SUR--1510-Mud_Rain

Lighting Features

A good headlamp doesn’t simply turn on and off—It allows you to customize the brightness, beam type, and even color of the light to best suit your needs in the moment.

Lighting Modes

Rather than just offering an on/off switch, most headlamps have multiple brightness modes for performing different tasks and preserving battery power. Check headlamp specs for varying output modes like low, standard and max, or the ability to progressively dim. Each mode will vary in brightness, distance and burn time.

Strobe mode acts as an emergency blinker that’s also helpful in situations where you want to be seen, like riding a bike at night or on a busy road, or navigating foggy waters. Burst mode is offered in certain headlamps which allows for temporary high-lumen beam.

Beam Pattern and Distance

For general camp use, reading or anything up-close, a flood beam is more useful. It gives off light in a wider pattern, rather than throwing it a long-distance, which is ideal for doing things up close like cooking, reading, or getting things ready around camp.

A spot beam gives a tighter view at a longer distance, enabling the user to see further ahead in the dark, which can be nice for hiking down a trail or spotting something on the other side of a lake. Most headlamps will give you the ability to switch back and forth between these two modes.

Color Modes

Many headlamps offer a red-light mode that is great for preserving night vision and battery life and prevents blinding other people in camp.

More sophisticated headlamps may have multiple color modes, including blue and green LEDs. Blue lights are especially important for reading maps at night, since they are the only color that doesn’t wash out red lines on a map, as well as when traveling on the water as blue is the only light that can cut through fog.

EMS---BIG-SUR--1964-Camping

Headlamp Style and Features

Basic headlamps have a fairly slim design which makes them extremely lightweight and versatile. For backpacking, hiking, climbing, etc., the standard design with a single strap around the head and the entirety of the light up front is lightest and easiest to use. But for those running with headlamps, either a much smaller, extremely lightweight headlamp, or a headlamp that separates the battery pack and puts it on the back of the head might bounce around less while in motion. This style typically includes a strap over the top of the head, too, to keep it from sliding down.

Other things to keep in mind are the width of the straps, the tilt of the headlamp, waterproofing, and the positioning and ease-of-use of switches and buttons.


Kitted Out: Trail Running in the Mud

April showers bring May flowers…but also mud. A whole lot of mud. So much mud, in fact, that the New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation advises and requests that all hikers keep treks below 2,500 feet in elevation to help maintain the structural integrity of the trails that we all love and enjoy. So, the question arises, what do you do in the meantime? One option in the spring is some trail running, and when it comes to spring trail running, the muddier, the better.

Before you set out on a muddy trail run, you need to make sure you’re properly equipped to deal with the conditions you’re likely to encounter. Below is a list of the items to carry with you on any spring trail run:

EMS-Burlington-3075

GPS Watch & Phone: Suunto Spartan Trainer HR

A good GPS watch, like the Suunto Spartan Trainer HR, paired with a smartphone and a Strava account is the perfect way to track your runs and keep a tally of how many miles you’ve covered, elevation change, and any training progress you’ve made. Good waterproofing and battery life, a heart rate monitor, plus a low profile and sleek design give you the ideal trail running watch. Most GPS smartwatches will sync to your phone via an app, and then you can create and connect to a free Strava account to keep track of your miles, personal bests, and progressions!

Lightweight Rain Shell: Marmot PreCip Jacket

If it’s spring and you’re on a trail, chances are you’re going to get muddy. Typically, it’s also cold enough where just a lightweight top will be warm enough, so it’s best to bring along a lightweight rain shell like the Marmot PreCip jacket At only 13 ounces, it’s incredibly lightweight, packable, and breathable, but also gives you just enough coverage on top to prevent getting soaked, keeping your core a little bit warmer so you can add on those extra miles without getting hypothermic.

Running Hat: Outdoor Research Swift Hat

A lot of times during the spring season, it’s not just muddy, it’s also raining! Throw on a hat, because hoods on any jacket are tough to keep up when you’re running. Lightweight and moisture-wicking are two features you definitely need for any trail running cap, and the Outdoor Research Swift hat is the perfect head covering for any day on trail.

EMS---BIG-SUR--4831-Running

Waterproof Trail Runners: Salomon Sense Ride GTX

If you’re on a muddy trail, you’re going to want to keep your feet dry. A wet foot is an unhappy foot when it comes to running, and trail running is no exception! A good waterproof trailer runner, like the Salomon Sense Ride GTX, combined with a water-repellent gaiter, will be able to keep your feet dry and happy while you tackle those trails. With a more cushioned, relaxing ride, the Sense Ride GTX is unique due to its waterproofing: Instead of a traditional waterproof booty inside the shoe, the Sense Ride GTX uses Gore Invisible Fit technology, which incorporates the waterproofing into the outer material, and lets the shoe feel more like traditional mesh on your foot.

Gaiters: Outdoor Research Flex-Trek II

To go along with your waterproof shoes, you’re going to need some protection above the ankle. Mud, sticks, rocks and more can get down inside your shoes, and ruin an otherwise great day out on the trail. Water-repellent, low-height gaiters, like the Outdoor Research Flex-Tex II gaiters are lightweight, have a low profile, and you’ll never even notice you’re wearing them.

Moisture-Wicking Top & Shorts: EMS Techwick Essentials/Essence Crew and Impact Training Short

EMS’ Techwick is the way to go when it comes to lightweight, comfortable moisture-wicking clothing. On top, a great choice is the Techwick Essentials/Essence Crew (men’s/women’s), which comes in a variety of styles and colors. This shirt is soft and comfortable, lightweight, and wicks moisture nearly as fast as you can produce it, which is certainly helpful when you’re heading full steam through wet, muddy trails. When it comes to below the waist,  the EMS Techwick Impact Training Short (men’s/women’s) is a versatile running short that will wick away moisture and keep you running comfortably. These shorts are lightweight, comfortable, and most importantly, breathable, which is a must for any adventure where you’ll be exerting yourself. With 3 pockets, you gain an advantage over most other running shorts, which typically only come with one at best.

Running Socks: Smartwool PhD Run

You’ll want a thinner, lightweight sock that keeps you warm even if it gets wet, and also doesn’t carry odor like normal cotton socks will. Merino wool socks are the way to go and with a variety of sizes, heights, and thicknesses, Smartwool gives you plenty of options. Specifically, the Smartwool PhD Run Lite Elite Pattern Low Cut feature top-tier comfort and moisture management.

Trail Running Vest: CamelBak Circuit Hydration Vest

It doesn’t matter if you’re heading out for 5 miles or 50, you should always make sure you’re prepared with the right gear, but carrying it while you’re running can be a hassle. A good trail running vest will let you carry water, nutrition, and small supplies without sacrificing a smooth, comfortable fit that won’t bounce as you fly along the trails. The CamelBak Circuit Hydration Vest does all of these, comes with a 1.5-liter bladder, and has another 3.5 liters for gear storage (extra socks, snacks, and even stashing another shirt).

Nutrition & Hydration

You want to make sure you’re properly fueling and hydrating, even during a muddy trail run. For proper hydration and electrolytes, Nuun Active Effervescent Electrolyte Supplements are the go-to for endurance activity performance. Coming in a variety of flavors from strawberry lemonade to fruit punch, grape and more (some even have caffeine to give you that extra boost), Nuun tablets just get dropped into your bladder and after a few minutes, you’re good to go! For quick snacks on the go, Clif and Gu make gels that are a little messy and sticky, but easy to consume mid-run. Finally, my personal favorite snack for on the trail are gummies. Clif, Gu, and Honey Stinger all make some really delicious flavors that will help keep you going, and staving off hunger while you tackle the vert and chase those views.

EMS---BIG-SUR--4546-Running


Video: Powering a Home with BioLite

Traveling to the US for a race was a lot harder before her family could charge their phones.


Video: Trail Running in Chamonix

“Chamonix is the epicenter of some of the most extreme outdoor sports in the world, and with that comes…a lot of dudes.”


Newsflash: Belgian Karel Sabbe Smashes Appalachian Trail Speed Record

41 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes.

Thats the new fastest known time (FKT) along the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail after the 28-year-old Belgian dentist and ultrarunner Karel Sabbe topped out on Katahdin to finish the thru-hike on Tuesday.

The new record is the latest in a rapid arms race that the AT has been host to in recent years, with numerous runners upping the ante and besting each other’s times on the Georgia-to-Maine trail. Until Tuesday, the record belonged to Joe McConaughy who set his FKT last year—Sabbe broke McConaughy’s record by more than 4 days. For his hike, however, Sabbe utilized a support team to provide him with food and other aid, lightening his backpack. McConaughy completed his hike unsupported.

“Nobody had averaged more than 50 miles on the Appalachian Trail. More than proud, I feel privileged for having lived these incredible adventures. It was a blast from start to finish!” Sabbe wrote on Instagram.

 

In the year 60 B.C., Julius Caesar wrote: “Of all Gauls, the Belgians are the bravest.” Over 2000 years later there is still some truth in that sentence. We have set a new speed record on the epic Appalachian Trail !! The Fastest Known Time is now 41 days 7 hours 39 minutes, which is over 4 days faster than the previous record, held by an incredibly strong and unsupported @thestring.bean. I want to thank my dear friend @jorenbiebuyck from the bottom of my heart as without his incredible crewing and support I would never have made the PCT as well as the AT speed records. Fun facts: nobody has ever held overall Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail speed records at the same time. Nobody had averaged more than 50 miles on the Appalachian Trail. More than proud, I feel privileged for having lived these incredible adventures. It was a blast from start to finish ! Thanks @skinssportwear for making this possible, without you there would have been no new FKT. Thank you everybody for the support!  #AppalachianTrailSpeedRecordAttempt  #teamSKINS #BestInCompression #HOKAONEONE#TimeToFly #TraKKs #Suunto #Selfpropelled#Ledlenser #kleankanteen #nordisk #trekneat #ultramarathon#speedrecord #AppalachianTrail #ultrarunning #ultratrail #trailrunner #trailrunning

A post shared by Karel Sabbe (@karelsabbe) on

In 2016, Sabbe also broke the speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail (breaking the FKT of none other than Joe McConaughy), a title he still holds, making him the first to hold both records simultaneously, according to him. Not a professional runner, Sabbe burst onto the ultrarunning scene with his PCT record two years ago and spends most of his time as a dentist in Ghent, Belgium.

During his record-setting run, Sabbe’s mornings started shortly after 3 a.m., seeing him push most days for around 53 miles. His final day on the trail, he ran 100 miles for 32 hours up the steep sides of Mount Katahdin to capture the record. Sabbe shared his final steps on Facebook:


What is a Lumen? Shining a Light on Headlamps

Choosing the right headlamp can be daunting. From a wall full of lights that all look similar, covered in numbers that mean next to nothing, how do you pick the right one? To begin, understanding the lumen is the first step toward getting what you need. But, there’s more to know if you want to have the perfect headlamp for your next adventure.

So…what is it?

A lumen is the technical measurement of the amount of light emitted in all directions by a light source. More simply, a lumens rating indicates how bright a headlamp will shine with a fully charged battery. The more lumens a light has, the brighter it is.

Headlamps and other lights run the gamut of brightness. You’ll find anything from the 30-lumen, kid-friendly Black Diamond Wiz to the ultra-powerful, 750-lumen Petzl NAO+. The great thing about these headlamps is, they all have enough lumens for general use. Even those with the lowest lumen count provide enough illumination for an evening stroll around the campsite or a storm-bound day spent in the tent reading.

EMS - BIG SUR -1934-Camping

How many lumens do I need?

But, for other activities, you might need more lumens. So, how many should you get? The answer to that question is activity dependent. For movement-based activities, like night hiking or backpacking, a headlamp with a minimum of 150 to 200 lumens is best. There are exceptions, of course, like hiking the Presidential Range under a supermoon.

For faster-paced activities when you need to see farther ahead so you don’t trip (think nighttime trail-running), a light with more than 250 lumens is ideal. And, for activities like alpine climbing and mountaineering, when you might need a really bright light to briefly scope the next pitch or skirt some sketchy terrain, a lamp with a super-bright option (e.g., more than 350 lumens) will be really useful.

Most major manufacturers list a headlamp’s lumens on its package. It’s worth noting, however, that the majority will only be able to reach that number with fully charged batteries. More so, the higher power at which you operate your headlamp, the more battery power it consumes. Thus, it may make more sense to use a lower brightness to conserve battery life, rather than operate at the full 300 lumens.

Does the ability to adjust brightness interest you? To begin, make sure to check out the lights in Petzl’s Active series, like the Petzl Actik Core. A few Black Diamond models fall into this group, including the Icon and ReVolt.

EMS-Winter-Camp-Kitchen-4122

So, lumen count is the only thing that matters. Right?

All that said, lumen count isn’t the be-all, end-all. It’s also important to consider how the headlamp directs the lumens. Generally referred to as the headlamp’s “beam,” the focusing of the lumens—from pinpoint to diffuse—greatly influences the activities for which the headlamp is ideal.

Types of Beams

A good example of a “general use” model is the 300-lumen Petzl Actik, which lets you toggle between wide and regular beams. Toggling makes the Actik ideal for use around the campsite, where the regular beam is perfect for precision tasks like cooking. The wide beam, meanwhile, is key for navigating around a site without blinding your fellow campers.

Alternately, a headlamp like the 300-lumen Black Diamond Spot has a more focused beam. Thus, it’s ideal for people doing precision work in the dark. Threading rappel anchors after being benighted, checking a climbing partner’s knot before an alpine start, and searching your pack for a midnight snack are all occasions where you benefit from a focused beam.

Some headlamps, such as the Black Diamond Sprinter—built for runners—are engineered to excel at one specific task. The Sprinter uses neither a wide, diffused light nor a concentrated proximity light. Rather, it produces a strong oval beam that is bright enough to illuminate potential hazards on the road or the trail, and shines far enough ahead so that you can anticipate upcoming terrain.

Reactive Lighting

A clear sign of just how far headlamps have advanced in recent years is Petzl’s reactive light technology. These advanced headlamps, like the Petzl Reactik, use a sensor to analyze the amount of ambient light in your environment, and adjust the brightness accordingly. This feature is particularly useful: It ensures you’re receiving just the right amount of light, it uses the headlamp’s battery as efficiently as possible, and it reduces any fiddling with buttons or dials. You can even control the Reactik’s settings via an app to prioritize everything from battery power to brightness.

Courtesy: Black Diamond
Courtesy: Black Diamond

Out Like a Light

The best thing about buying a headlamp at EMS is that there are no bad choices. Almost every model found on our shelves will provide enough lumens for whatever task you ask of it. And, for those looking for a headlamp to perform in a specific instance, manufacturers are rising to the occasion to fill those niches.


Video: Meet the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon

Kathrine Switzer’s Boston Marathon back in 1967 required dodging angry race officials as much as it required running 26.2 miles.