Fourteen hours and 80km into the Prom100 Trail Race and race director, Paul Ashton handed me a still packaged LED Lenser SEO5. “Here, try this one out,” he said. Ignoring the rule about not trying out new gear in a race, I ripped open the pack and had the light on my head ready to go in a couple of minutes. No instruction, sight unseen, in the heat of battle; what better way to really test a new piece of kit!
The Prom is notorious for it’s harsh, unpredictable weather. And this year was no exception: squally rain pelting down, howling gale, warm sunshine, balmy dead calm, icy wind, stinging horizontal drizzle and to top it off, a glorious rainbow. But now it was night. Inky-black darkness with low cloud that periodically dumped another burst of freezing rain. Bundled in thermals with jacket hood pulled tight around my face, I shuffled off into the night, shivering. The new LED Lenser cut a piercing shaft of light through the darkness.
Functionality: having never met the SEO5 before I fumbled initially to find the small on/off pressure button on the top of the unit. My fingers were near numb and thick gloves made it a bit fiddly but I soon worked it out. I cycled through the settings: high, low and flashing modes.
High beam was really bright and punched a distinct cylinder of white light a long way ahead. I used this high beam to spot signposts in the distance and it was especially useful for picking up beach exits from afar. Also useful to reassure me when the occasional startled wombat would crash through the bush.
Low beam was my preferred mode. Again the beam was a distinct cylinder with a crisp perimeter. You are either in the beam or not. No grey area around the edges. If you have an issue with tunnel vision effect from LED lights then this might worry you. But I found it a really useful spread. At around 3 metres ahead of me the diameter was about 3 metres wide which more than adequately lit up the wide tracks with no wasted peripheral scatter. The intensity was bright enough to make me comfortable moving over technical ground when I could persuade my legs to get going. But not too bright to get that reflected glare back off the track or bounce back off the rain and drizzle that cut visibility.
There is also a focussing dial on the front of the lens to further reduce the beam width and increase intensity into a tightly focussed spotlight. The main light unit bevels easily inside the housing unit for ease of adjustable angle and positively holds that position. The batteries (3 x AAA) are housed in the back of the unit so it is a very compact and lightweight set-up.
I spent 5 hours out on trail, road and beach in moonless darkness and never felt wanting with the light provided by the SEO5. Even running downhill on very technical singletrack, I felt comfortable. Having since had a chance to read the instructions there is far more on offer in terms of functionality.
The light intensity can be altered by selective switching of the on/off button to scale up or down between the high/low settings. This can then be saved as a midrange beam replacing the low beam. There is a small red LED on the lower face of the unit with a flashing mode as well. This would be useful for map reading on rogaines. Unfortunately to select the red light, the white light comes on first, upsetting your night vision. But once selected you can switch on and off without the white light coming on. And the on/off button can easily be locked out for safe travel or carrying in your pack through the day without fear of accidentally running down your batteries.
The headband is a soft-touch but a very firm broad elastic band that was comfortable and didn’t slip, squeeze or bounce. A novel but useful addition is a carabiner clip built into the slide buckle allowing secure attachment to your pack when not in use.
Technical specs: weight is quoted as 85g, which is excellent for the output. Maximum brightness is 180 lumens for a range of 130 metres and burn time of 7 hours. Low range is 20 lumens for 40metres and 25 hours. Presumably this is with the provided alkaline batteries. Lithiums would improve the performance.
When I stumbled back into the campground at 1am several hog deer looked up and froze in the beam of my new friend, the SEO5. Job done. The LED Lenser SEO5 had performed effortlessly to guide me through the night. I will definitely get plenty of quality night hours out of this little beauty. I would highly recommend this unit and I will be using it on my next all-night foray.
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