Head torch for the jungle
Buying the right head torch for the jungle is an absolute first priority since there will be no artificial light in the jungle and when the sun is gone only pitch dark is left under the canopy. Easy things like toilet visits or finding your way back to the hammock (Especially after a drink or two) can be almost impossible and not advisable at all.
It is a jungle out there!
Head torches comes in so many varieties and colors that all individual preferences should be able to be covered, but the functionality, battery lifetime, performance and durability can be very much different. First rule is that if they ever are sold under anything else but lumens don’t buy unless you have tested it and find it to be sufficient. It seems like cheap replicates always wants to refer to candle power or something else. The result is often some power monsters that runs out of battery or simply break when being exposed to humidity in the jungle.
Go For reliability! Secondly efficiency
Go online and check reliable and independent sources for test and reviews, then go down to a store and test it. It can be hard to check the actual strength, but other things like the physical feel and toughness of the product is a good indicator on whether or not it will last in a jungle environment. If there is any exposed wiring, especially on the ones with a battery sitting separately from the source of light, you have to be careful and make sure no water can get in . A good indicator is the thickness and robustness of the wiring and around the joints. If too thin the wiring will simply burn when being used too long and with weak joints the wiring is likely to be damaged or pulled a part if stuck in a tree or similar.
Choose carefully, you will not be able to buy another one out there.
Small head torches of about 40 lumens can be sufficient for living and moving around in the camp, but as soon as you want to do movement in the night or especially spotting night life, fishing and hunting 70 lumens or more is a necessity. Today you can get some ranging up to several hundred lumens but unless you are ready to carry 2 kg of batteries 170-210 lumens is ideal for more advanced purposes. These should always be with a single source of light and this comes of a very important reason. When trying to locate animals at night the number one thing that reveals animals is the eyes shining back at you. If you have several sources of light sitting in your forehead at just minimal different angles this will disturb the visibility of the eye and make it less likely for you to spot the animals. It is said that in some cases these one sourced powerful lights can paralyze the animals making it easier to come close to them. Especially nocturnal animals are created to absorb all the light possible in the dark jungle night. This makes it possible to get quite close to normally shy animals. Many of the modern head torches come with a white shining LED that gives you a bright and effective white light. This might be brilliant and very power sufficient, but if possible to get a yellow light it is better since it is easier to distinguish colors in the yellow light and therefor you can see patterns of animals that might otherwise be naturally camouflaged. Last mentioned is an advantage but not a necessity when looking for wildlife.
Use your batteries economically
Many of the newer powerful head torches come with the opportunity of using it in different modes which makes it more power sufficient and versatile. If you yourself can adjust these programs, make sure the power efficiency mode is the primary program and will be used every time you switch it on. You will be amazed on how much battery this can save you. It as well saves you from constantly blinding your fellow participants and guides as well. The modern LED lights can be so powerful that you potentially can damage the eye when shined directly upon.
Many newer models are created for running or bicycling and while this both promotes better quality and battery life, some are made with its own system that adjust the length of the light through a censor like Petzel NAO, we initially thought these would go ballistic in the many layers of vegetation, but on a recent tour a guest was testing it and it did the job as head torch for the jungle.
Always go for head torches that use AA or AAA batteries. You can get these in all countries and try to avoid those with rechargeable batteries since the battery seems to run flat fast and after a couple of charges be so poor it becomes insufficient. Always bring more batteries than you expect to use and if you can foresee running out of batteries then start to ration them to make them last. Do not forget to take out batteries when not in use, especially cheap batteries from china are known to start leaking battery acid and can quickly destroy a perfectly good head torch. Remember to always bring back batteries from tours. These small things are as toxic as it can be to the environment and eco system.
What we know works
If we are to give advice on the specific models we have tested the following LED lenser as head torch for the jungle:
- LED Lenser® SEO 7R Rechargeable LED Head Torch 220 lumens
- LED Lenser® H14.2 LED Head Torch 350 lumens
- LED Lenser H14 210 lumens (Out of production, can still be bought on Ebay, Amazon etc.)
Now there are enough different brands that can do the job, but the LED has done a great job for us. We have never broken any of them. The H14 models are the best and actually the best we have seen in action in Guyana so far. Especially the battery life on the H14.2 is excellent. They are highly adjustable which means that you can use them as a regular torch for camp area and as soon as you go out to do night spotting you just boost up the power.
The LED Lenser® SEO 7R has a good light as well – the major difference between this head torch and the H14 models is that the H14 models have the light out in front of your eyes, while the light source on the SEO 7R is directly on your forehead above your eyes. That combined with the light-colored plastic makes it shine downwards in your eyes and therefore disturb your eyes when trying to focus on for example an animal while night spotting. So when buying a head torch, especially for the jungle, this is another thing to have in mind.
The cheap alternative
If you are going with an established tour operator or guide who brings powerful head torches for night spotting you might be able to save some money. Look for a head torch like Petzel TIKKA. We used some of the older models and this class of head torches is if bought from a quality producer often very durable and their battery life beats everybody on the market. One of ours is 5 years old and still going strong. The only thing wrong with it is the elastic is more or less giving up, but the actual torch is as good as ever.