Silverpoint Proguide headtorch

Andy and I have come to an understanding. He likes outdoors clothing and hats and shoes and stuff, and I like gizmos which light up and make noise.

He’s the yin to my yang.
The bear to my woods.
The Kylie to my Jas…

On test this time is the Silverpoint Proguide headtorch which promises up to 150 lumens of light powered by three AAA batteries. Rather than a standard single elasticated Björn Borg headband, as seen on ‘normal’ one and two-bulb headtorches, this is also supported by another strap across the top of the head.
The torch features a battery pack at the back of the head and at the front a single-LED adjustable aluminium light unit is operated with a single rubberised push button.

The first thing you notice with this strapped to your bonce (it’s quickly forgotten about) is that the light unit isn’t more-or-less flush with the head but sticks out like a sore thumb. Literally. The unit is about as long and wide as your average thumb and feels like a bit of a proboscis. If you’re already used to this then bully for you, but if not it takes about half an hour or so to get used to the idea and stop feeling like a leper among your sniggering pals.

But there’s one sure-fire way to wipe the smirk off your gurning friends’ faces – switch it on.

Now 150 lumens might sound like Greek to you but think of it like this: One burning birthday candle one foot away from you puts out one single, solitary lumen of light. So if you light 150 candles and somehow combine the output in to one point and stand a foot away, you get 150 lumens and a trip to A&E. Your common or garden cheapy headtorch is likely to put out around, say, 30 lumens but this is a veritable spotlight in comparison.

Arriving at our campsite at 10.30pm in the pitch black, freezing cold and swirling mist doesn’t sound like much of a laugh but the Proguide changed all of that.

While Mrs Muz struggled to put up the tent with only the help of the car headlights (she’d forgotten her headtorch) I became Luke Skywalker’s younger, slightly backward, and much better-looking brother.

As she faffed around swearing and stamping her feet I was slaying Ewoks left, right and centre with my powerful white beam, fighting for justice and freedom and stuff. I was winning too until I was reminded that the airbed needed pumping up, at which point the Proguide became a humble headtorch once again.

Its beam is focused rather than spread out, giving bright light exactly where you want it with a very useful glow around it.

Pressing the button again gives a much less antisocial 70 lumens, again focussed in a beam. One more press gives an epilepsy-inducing strobe at full brightness which is perfect, I’ll bet, for bringing down light aircraft at sub 2,000 feet.

In general use around the campsite I found this kit excellent.

The light is so bright that it’s useful for any situation at very decent distances. I don’t do feet and inches very well but it lit up the toilet block from where we were, and that was a good three minute drunken stagger away. A very impressive range (Mrs Muz says it was five minutes away but she was much drunker than me).

On the downside the full-belt 150-lumen power, although excellent, is likely to result in a broken nose if you shine it in anyone’s eyes. As they fight and flail their way out of the spotlight they’ll be quickly calculating how far they can get it up your behind before it stops working. The irony, though, is that the Proguide is also water resistant.

My point is that there’s no diffuser built in to this headtorch, and it could really benefit from one. Even on the lower setting the unit is still very bright if shone in someone’s face and although this could provide hours of hilarity for the wearer it’ll do you no social favours in the long run.

There’s also the high-power burn time of four hours and low power burn time of eight. That’s not bad considering what this torch puts out in terms of light, but it’s not brilliant either.

If I were night-trekking or, er, on a lengthy caving expedition I’d need at least two sets of batteries by the time I got back to the car. It’s still good enough for the average camping trip though.

If you want specifics, here they are:

  • 3w Cree LED (what?)
  • Aircraft aluminium housing
  • Tilt up/down
  • 130g including batteries
  • 50mm x 27mm
  • Two black eyes
  • Three broken ribs
  • One flaming tent

Oh and Silverpoint, if you’re listening, you’re missing a trick.
My Proguide has nothing to identify it as being a Silverpoint piece of kit other than a small-font silver logo on the torch unit above the lens. The largest, and most eye-catching parts of the torch are the three elasticated straps and there’s nothing on there other than ‘LED headlight’ which everyone knows already.
What’s that all about, then? What if someone in my group wanted to know who made it but I was far too drunk to ask, so they left none-the-wiser? Hmmm? I want a cut of your profits for that, my friends.
Ten per cent seems fair…

SUMMARY: An excellent, cheap headtorch with intense power. So bright it could almost double as a weapon.

IMPORTANT: Read the update below!

UPDATE – March 23, 2011

So I’ve been using this headtorch for, what, five months now at most?

It has been used reasonably regularly although not for extended periods of time. The batteries have been changed maybe seven or eight times if you count snaffling them to replace the dead ones in the telly remote.

At first I noticed the torch wouldn’t come on sometimes when the button was pressed. I quickly realised that if you twiddled the batteries in their holder or removed one and put it back then it would function as normal.

Then I noticed the springy thingies which keep the battieries in position had compressed through no fault or excessive usage of my own, and were now so loose that the batteries just dropped out without fuss. I had to use a fingernail to gently tease the springs out a mm or two just to make a reasonable connection.

The last straw came a couple of days ago. The torch had failed to come on and no amount of battery changing or spring fiddling could sort it out. So I left it in the kitchen, unsure what to do with it. I came back to it an hour later and the batteries were so hot that I could barely touch them. I took them out and left everything to cool off then popped in three new battieries to see what would happen. The torch didn’t come on but 10 minutes later the battieries were beginning to heat up rapidly again.

So it’s now ready for the bin.

I freely admit that if you were going to be strict about it, then fiddling inside the battery compartment could be thought of as tampering with the unit but… you know. It is but it isn’t, right?

Notwithstanding that, the point is I quite like my house without having to look through swirling smoke to gaze upon its smouldering remains.

Tags and search info for this review: This is a headtorch review. tests and reviews headtorches, torches, flashlights, lanterns, outdoor gear and camping equipment.

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    NOTE: Cree is a manufacturer of LED 'bulbs', who have a good reputation for producing long-lasting, very bright and very white-light LEDs.

  • Muz

    What a team.

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  • Fern

    Were you using lithium batteries when you had the overheating episode?

    Its just that I’ve just read this comment beneath the sales blurb for Alpkit’s Cree LED headlamp…

    ‘Gamma has not been designed to work with lithium batteries. Lithium batteries have a high output during discharge which means they can cause the torch to overheat and possibly damage electronics and LEDs. We recommend using a good quality alkaline battery such as Energizer or Duracell. Cheap batteries are more likely to leak and leave a gooey mess on the contacts.’