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Lumens for NightTime Hiking?
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John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Lumens for NightTime Hiking? on 01/08/2009 11:55:22 MST Print View

I'm going to carry more than my usual Photon Freedom Micro since I'm going to do some hikes into the evening/night this year and will probably use a Fenix. What's your favorite, or necessary, lumen requirement for decent illumination while hiking at night? From what I've seen it can vary considerably from hiker to hiker and most go for between 25 to 45.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Lumens for NightTime Hiking? on 01/08/2009 13:26:58 MST Print View

Hi John,

I don't think this question as framed is answerable. Lumens, being total light output, doesn't account for beam width, pattern or intensity. Candlepower or lux don't account for beam width. And no measurement accounts for either your night vision or for the path conditions (e.g., well-defined trail versus brush-choked arroyo).

Does your Micro, during its fleeting period of full-power, provide adequate brightness and beam width and pattern? If so, you only need to find a flashlight/headlamp that matches its capabilities for an extended period. If not, you'll want to find a light that also improves on the characteristics that its lacking.

Numbers, as provided by manufacturers, are only useful for comparing lights within their product lines. They can't be used to compare among makers and are at best a starting point. Run times are especially suspect.

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: Lumens for NightTime Hiking? on 01/08/2009 13:46:33 MST Print View

My favorite: I like to night backpack with my fenix L1D CE, clipped to my hat bill, set at medium (40 lumens); 7 hours with 1 lithium AA. It’s hard to beat that efficiency.

It’s great for rocky terrain. And if I do want to spotlight something ahead, that turbo mode is pretty bright.

I like how it doesn’t dim while the battery dies. With 3-AAA lights, they immediately start dimming.


Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Lumens for NightTime Hiking? on 01/08/2009 14:06:56 MST Print View

I either hike w/out light or "go big," it seems. You might consider the Petzl Tikka XP--40 lumens, 60 hours of burn time at max output, 95 grams w/batteries.

Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
fenix L1D on 01/08/2009 20:35:18 MST Print View

I also have the L1D (and the L2D body). I don't hike at night very much, but when I have the low is too low (but would work ok), and medium is about right. The high/turbo is so bright that it is almost distracting in the woods, too much reflections and shadows, etc. I use turbo in the yard to spot skunks at a distance before the dog can smell it.

I was struck by the quote about the petzl headlamp producing "40 lumens" for 60 hours, since that seemed incredible. My understanding is that lumens can be measured differently, so need to be taken with a grain of salt. But looking at the petzl and comparing the measured output to the L1D at flashlights review, that suggests that the Petzl on high is comparable to the fenix on low, and on turbo the fenix might produce 5-10x more light.

The fenix is regulated, so it will produce the same amount of light for the full five hours (on medium), while the headlight drops rapidly and may not be producing much light in the tailend of those 60 hours.

The headlamp might make more sense for night hiking (I have one). I just don't like them on my head.

Johann Burkard
(johannb) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Lumens for NightTime Hiking? on 01/09/2009 03:34:38 MST Print View

What's your favorite, or necessary, lumen requirement for decent illumination while hiking at night? From what I've seen it can vary considerably from hiker to hiker and most go for between 25 to 45.

I was jogging over a trail with my Zebralight H50-Q5. It's flood light with around 66 lmn.

It worked but I would have liked a little bit more.

So I'm saying maybe 50 for walking comfortably and more for jogging.

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Decided on Fenix on 01/09/2009 14:19:01 MST Print View

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I had picked out a Fenix LD10 Q5 and wondered whether the consensus would be that the 47 lumens in normal mode would be enough. Six hours at that level using one AA battery sounds great to me. I decided on the textured reflector so that the ringed effect wouldn't be as noticible. The ability to switch to 9, 47, 94, or even 120 lumens if needed is a great feature. Ordered it today.

Johann Burkard
(johannb) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Decided on Fenix on 01/09/2009 14:21:45 MST Print View

Can't go wrong with Fenix, I have a L0D, a P1D and a L2D.

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: Decided on Fenix on 01/09/2009 14:25:58 MST Print View

"Fenix LD10 Q5 "
I got my son one of those (I should have bought 2). It has a nicer beam than my L1D. I also got the white diffuser and it ended up making a great lantern.

Just don't use alkaline in these lights; waste of battery money. A rechargeable lasts ~4x longer than an alkaline. Lithium is great for backpacking.

I also use it (L1D) biking about 1500 miles/year. During the day I put it in blink mode and cars complain they can see me 1 mile away.


Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Decided on Fenix on 01/09/2009 14:27:13 MST Print View


Once you have had a chance to use your Fenix in the field at night, could you please post back here on how it worked for you?

I have been researching Fenix lights too for night hiking use, but was torn between a AAA or AA Fenix.

My Tikka Plus uses AAA batteries, so I am not sure if I wanted to carry AA's vs. using one of my AAA from my Tikka, in case it failed in the field.

It seems that the AA Fenix has a lot more run time vs. AAA.

Anyway, thanks for put up this thread.


Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
Re: Re: Lumens for NightTime Hiking? on 01/10/2009 05:33:09 MST Print View

Since you seem to have both the ZL and Fenix - could you comment on the pro's cons?
I have a more traditional Petzl Myo XP which is powerful and a classic for night walking and all that but isnt very small/light gear.
Looking at the dry specs - the MYOXP is 175g inc batt while the ZL and Fenix range around the 60~80 for the smaller ones. On the other hand the MYO does 80hrs@85LMn while thsy do much less time per charge.
HOw do you feel they perform? what do you do on longer hikes when you need more batt power over time?


Johann Burkard
(johannb) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Re: Re: Lumens for NightTime Hiking? on 01/10/2009 06:13:39 MST Print View


the ZL is nice because of the flood light, it feels and looks very natural to me. I've used the ZL I would say three times now and the Fenix lights twice, I think.

As far as the runtime is concerned, I always carry 2 backup batteries but haven't had to change them yet.

You probably know this already, but don't use Alkalines because they don't work in the cold :-) I found that out myself but luckily had some NiMh with me.

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Lumens for night hiking on 01/10/2009 09:49:07 MST Print View

I use a Princeton Tec EOS, but I'm about to switch to my friend's system: A Fenix P2D (or PD20) and Zebra H30. He uses the Zebra on his belt at medium for the floodlight, and the Fenix on a Jackstrap for it's spot beam and range. Plus, both use CR123 batteries, same as my Steripen Adventurer, so it simplifies carrying spares for all my gadgets.

tkkn c
(tkknc) - MLife

Locale: Desert Rat in the Southwest
Lumens for night hiking on 01/10/2009 10:02:14 MST Print View

The more Lumens the faster you will be able to go at night.
You can get by with less (or even none), but you will just go slower. I have settled on around 60 lumens for night hiking in areas I am familar with. When I was canoeing in the everglades I had 120 lumens and it did not seem bright enough. I wished for 240 plus.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Lumens for night hiking on 01/10/2009 10:03:01 MST Print View

Good timing on this thread. I'm looking at the Fenix LD10Q5 as well John!
Can anyone explain the merits of the different reflectors, as i don't know which one to choose?

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Re: Re : Lumens for night hiking on 01/10/2009 10:26:40 MST Print View

Mike... I read that the textured reflector decreases the center spot illumination by 18%, but at the same time increases and also blends the flood capability. I figured for hiking that the flood effect would be as, or more, important so went with the textured.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
lumens for night hiking on 01/10/2009 10:29:19 MST Print View

I'm a big fan of the Petzl Tikka XP. I've tried a variety of other headlamps, and the Tikka doesn't have huge amount of lumens, but what it does have is a spot mode that puts out a very high intensity, though a bit narrow, beam that is bright enough for me to hike on midwestern trails that might might be covered in leaves through fall and winter. I have not tried the Fenix lights.

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Lumens for night hiking... pj's reply on 01/11/2009 06:06:59 MST Print View

Before making my initial post I wrote to "pj", who I always considered to be the expert on lighting and several other aspects of gear on BPL. Here is his reply, and I hope you find it as informative as I have.

"25 lumen, 40 lumen, 'nn' lumen - what's the right amount of light?

no fixed answer.

based upon several criteria:

1) your own personal physiological and psychological abilities, meaning age, diet, natural unaffected ability to see in low light, prescription meds, & habits (e.g. smoking), health - all of which can affect low light vision; plus how much (or little) light do i feel comfortable using w/o getting the feeling that i might miss a "blaze" or turn in a trail, or feel that the darkness is closing in on me ("lions and tigers and bears, oh my!").

2) am i moving somewhat quickly (let's say, 4-5 mph) and i want to feel confident that i can pick out low contrast, faded "blazes" on tree trunks and rocks at least 30 feet away in a sufficient amount of time to make any adjustments in your direction of travel (at 4mph you're moving ~6 feet per second, so you only have 5 seconds to pick out the "blaze" if you have a somewhat arbitrary 30' viewing distance).

3) how much burntime do i want. do i want to change batteries in the middle of a night hike? if so, make sure that you have a Photon Freedom Microlight for use to facilitate the changing of the battery. or if you're not "solo" hiking, then your mate's light will suffice for this purpose. i like at least 8h of burntime on one "refueling", so to speak. i could live with 3.5-4.0 hours on a single (or pair/three/four - if the light takes more than one cell/battery). AA/AAA/CR123A, however, which would necessitate one battery change during 8h of continuous night hiking.

4) what is the beam pattern of the headlamp or flashlight like? is it very floody (e.g. an array 5mm LEDs, like the PrincetonTec Corona headlamp & the two new models/generations PT Eos HL )? is it a tight spot (e.g. the original PT Eos HL)? is it a mix w/a decent spillbeam in addition to a fairly bright spot (Fenix flashlights, and most other flashlights for instance). more floody lights generall require a higher lumen output since the brightness of the light is is spread over a larger area. a light w/too tight a spot and little relatively bright spillbeam means that you might miss something or that you will need to "chicken walk" w/your head bobbing about placing the tight, bright spot on individual trees and rocks to make sure that you don't miss a "blaze", for instance.

my little Fenix P1D-CE and P1D-Q5 lights are the bare minimum i can get away with on their minimum setting (12 & 16 lumen respectively - though my claimed 12 lumen P1D-CE is a "hot" performer and brighter than some other "Q5" versions that i've owned, and have since given away, with the exception of my current Q5 which is very bright).

a Fenix L0D-Q4 still available (checkout,,, or - i've made many purchase from each of these over a period of 2-5 years; no problems with any of them; all top notch and honorable - i've spoken via telcon w/all of the owners of these businesses - nice fellas, all), or the current model LD01 will work fine on its medium setting, but your burntime will be at most 3.5 hours.

additionally, while we're on the subject, i no longer use coin cell powered microlights (even e+LITE or Scout). they ALL after just 15min of continued use on HIGH drop to just 25% of their starting light output (see BPL's Rick Drehrer's tests and runtime plots). they'd be fine for in camp task lighting or reading, however, but not for nighttime hiking, IMO. here are two MUCH BETTER choices for a low power, long burning light:

a) the older Fenix E0 or its current replacement, the Fenix E01. expect >10 hours of burntime and closer to 16-20 hours on a single AAA cell. however, neither will probably acceptable for night hiking. dead flat regulated o.p. (output) for most of that time, then "moon mode" low light o.p. for a few hours which is at least as bright as a coin cell powered light after its been on for 2-4 hours, depending upon the particular coin cell powered light.

b) the 9V "transistor" battery powered Pak-Lite (available fr/ or has both high & low modes (except for the "basic" model), and comes in various models (i own 'bout 9 or 10 of them - all different models except for two of their brightest 2 WHITE LED models) and burn so long that i haven't timed them yet, easily 20+ hours on HIGH is my qualitative reckoning (they claim ~60hours). however, not sure that you could hike on HIGH with this one either - i haven't tried.

both the E01 and the 9V Pak-Lite can EASILY be used, however, for walking/strolling down a simple foot path in pitch black. even my old, age degraded low light vision has no problem. if you're a young'un you'll have no trouble, but since they both use 5mm LEDs, you won't see 30' with them. 15' yes, but NOT for the entire burntime as the battery runs down.

lastly, please keep in mind that most flashlights rate their burntime down to 50% of the initial starting brightness. however, the three major HL Mfrs (PT, BD, & Petzl) all now use the same spec & measure both distance/throw and burntime down to an unrealistic 0.25 lux. this value is fine for a small task light, but is worthless for hiking a trail at night. you can only very dimly see your feet with 0.25 lux (~6 feet dimly). they claim that this is the amount of light produced by a full moon on a clear, cloudLESS night. hence, the very long burntimes claimed by some HL Mfr's are only good if you are going to use the light for in camp task lighting or reading in your shelter. you'll get nowhere near their claimed time in UNREGULATED lights, but regulated light ought to, and generally will, perform closer to the Mfr's claims.
the best thing to do is to borrow someone's and try it out to see if it fits your needs. hopefully, the info i gave you here will prove somewhat helpful in making a good decision.

please feel free to share this info on BPL, but please remove my email address before posting this 'PM'. however, leave this request in so that no one gives you any "flak" for sharing "private"/PM info publicly."

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Lumens for night hiking on 01/11/2009 06:26:27 MST Print View

Mmmm. Lots to think about. I may need something with a longer throw than i initially thought. Most of my hiking is off trail in mountainous terrain. If i get my timings wrong, i can end up descending a mountain in the dark. Most of the time this is pretty safe, and i don't need to see too far ahead on most of the hills i hike. On others though, i need something that can light up a possible descent route down through cliffs and big drop-offs. I don't want to be down-climbing into a dead-end.
One of the more powerful in the Fenix range may suit me better.

I had been using the older Myo XP, so if i'm upgrading, i wan't something better. :)

Edited by MikefaeDundee on 01/11/2009 06:29:16 MST.

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
Myo XP??? on 01/11/2009 08:04:13 MST Print View

I just got a new MYO XP - how does your old one perform? I read on their site that they dont reccommend using Li or even NiMh on this model (although newer ones allow NiMh)
did you use Li? if not how was the clod weather performance?