Lumen Lunatics


They are out there, appearing after the sun goes down.  No matter the time of night,  during any phase of the moon. They are the lumen lunatics!  We have all been terrorized by them.  Those fellow runners who upon the dimming of the day, strap on their search lights looking to slay vampires with their artificial suns.  Their numbers are growing so beware not to become one!

I must confess that the basis for this musing came from very thoughtful and timely post that popped up on the Grand Canyon R2R2R Facebook Group by a Phillip Edwards.  Below I am capturing some of his thoughts and expanding upon them.

As you may be aware lighting technology has advanced tremendously over the last several years offering a large variety of high performance headlamps for the trail runner or stage racer to select from.  However, we may be approaching too much of a good thing.  It is not uncommon to find models that can seriously illuminate the environment but are they really needed?

Stage racers must find balance in many things and this is true with lighting.  The general trade offs are between lumens, weight and burn time.  But there is more to consider here and I am specifically talking about headlamp etiquette.

To sum it up, with great headlamps comes great responsibility.  Misuse and inconsiderate behavior reflects poorly on the individual and when around tired and grumpy competitors this can cause friction.  So here are some things to consider.

  1.  Do not over light the situation.  Do you really need to see 300 meters down the trail constantly when you are shuffling along?  Too much light also kills your peripheral vision and cause the hypno-cone of light especially when you are tired.  Over illuminating can also INCREASE eye fatigue.  Minimizing your light output maximizes your burn time and may reduce weight if less batteries are required.  Yes, night orienteering or hard route finding may require all you got.
  2. Use red or green low level lighting when ever possible such as in camp, check points, easy sections or around others who are using these colors. This preserves night vision and minimizes disturbing others.
  3. Watch where you are pointing that thing!  Don’t spotlight.  Take care not to shine your light into other peoples eyes even  from far away.  Aim your headlamp down when around others or don’t look up at them.  This is especially true when close.  If you make someone see spots they may make you see stars.
  4. Back-lighting is bad.  Coming up from behind with a bright light can cause dark, jumping shadows for the runners in front of you making it impossible for them to see hazards.  This is especially true for older racers who are starting to loose their night vision.  Turn it down and pass or back way off.
  5. Aim low.  This keeps your beam out of other’s faces and puts the light where it is needed illuminating more details.  This is also very imperative during foggy or snowy conditions to minimize reflection of light back at you.  If necessary you can use your headlamp as a hand held.
  6. Train using less light.  You would be surprised with what you can get by with (or without).  Sometimes even a full moon is enough.

Don’t be afraid of the dark, embrace it!  Night is a great time with lots to see if you are not blinded by the light.

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