Alpkit Gamma - bargain of the year?

Posted in Rated or Slated by Matt Ward on Wed 23 Nov '11

2 comments
© www.alpkit.com

When it comes to ‘safety’ kit for us runners, there is a fine balance between necessity and ‘nice-to-have’. As the nights draw in and training time becomes limited by the daylight hours many of us need to train in the dark…

So, this quickly promotes the trusty head torch to an essential piece of kit.

The marketplace for such items is flooded with options, and you can spend as much as 100 quid for this lovely Hope Vision One. Also Petzl and Silva are prominent on the market, with extensive ranges.

But, with the opening of the door to the far east in recent times you can now pick up a ‘me too’ bargain, often direct from the source, for a fraction of the price. It then comes down to reliability and whether you need the safety blanket of a known brand. Enter the Alpkit Gamma.

© www.alpkit.com

When we were sent this product a few weeks back the price alone made us take note, and offer a ‘this can’t be much cop for that price’ stance. Never judge a book by it’s cover was never more appropriate. At a measly £12.50 it’s the price of a couple of fish suppers these days!

But what has knocked us sideways this last week or so is the performance too. The beam is plenty strong enough for a late night plod in the hills, the 1 watt LED options are adequate for close work (such as erecting your tent or reading) and you get the bonus of a red led on the battery pack.

Comfort-wise the Gamma gets full marks too – light and no pinches on the head or tightness in any areas. At just 118g it’ll not weigh your pack down either as a piece of safety equipment on those long summer training runs or races.

In a nut shell this head torch is an utter bargain, and could be the best £12.50 you spend all year!

© www.alpkit.com

Tech data

Features at a glance
Two modes – 1W LED or 5mm LEDs.
Instant off – from any mode.
Orange button – single multi operation button.
Green and Red LEDs – for night vision.
Pivotable head unit – give your neck a rest.
Emergency strobe mode – attract attention.
Adjustable elastic headband – because we all have different sized heads.
Water resistant – that doesn’t mean waterproof to 10m!
Batteries included – and they are Duracell.
Red light – on battery pack with strobe mode.

Lighting modes
The Gamma Headtorch functions from a single multi operation button (SMOB). This orange SMOB gives access to two lighting modes each with multiple settings:

1W LED Mode
This is the large central LED, it provides the brightest light. When in this mode the button toggles between 4 settings; High > Low > Strobe > Off.

5mm LED Mode
This mode toggles between the three 5mm LEDs and has 5 settings; White LED > Green LED > Red LED > Red LED (Strobe) > Off.

Bonus Backlight LED
In addition to the two modes of the head unit we have given you a bonus. The battery pack is fitted with a red LED light, this light has 3 settings; On > Strobe > Off. A button on the side of the battery compartment cycles between these settings and operates independently from the button on the head unit.

Operation
Turn the torch on:
Press the orange button once. The Gamma torch will illuminate your world in the mode it was last used (either in 1W LED or 5mm LED mode).

Cycle through the settings of a mode:
Press the switch again to step through each setting of the currently selected mode.

Toggle between modes:
To change modes turn Gamma on and then press and hold the button for 3 seconds.

The head unit
The head unit contains three 5mm LEDs and one 1W Luxeon LED. The unit pivots so that you can direct your light during use. The orange button on top of the unit toggles between the torch’s modes and functions. This part of the torch cannot be opened and the bulbs are not replaceable.

Lighting test
Jim takes things in to his own hands and tries to find the Alpvan with a selection of headtorches. Check out our Lab Notes for the results.

The battery compartment
The battery compartment takes three 1.5V AAA alkaline batteries. The compartment is opened by holding the unit in your left hand and firmly twisting the cap on the righthand side of the compartment. An orange button on the left side of the battery compartment toggles between the functions of the backlight.

Adjustable headstrap
The elasticated headstrap can be adjusted for different sized heads, wearing over a monster wooly hat or climbing helmet. The straps can also be removed or replaced by sliding the elastic through the small slots in the plastic housings.

Why do you need different colours?
The different colours on the Gamma are for a few different uses, the main white beam lets you see loads, but to save on battery power the 5mm white LED will let you do most tasks in the dark. The solid Red 5mm LED is great to stop you losing your night vision, the Green LED is great for looking at the map while walking along and highlighting the contours, where the red one makes them disappear. The flashing red lights are great for saving on battery life, for use in an emergency or to scare the kids with a story about monsters and their one flashing red eye.

A note on batteries: The Gamma and Indigo headtorches have 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. Cheap batteries are more likely to leak and leave a gooey mess on the contacts.

Two modes – 1W LED or 5mm LEDs.
Instant off – from any mode.
Orange button – single multi operation button.
Green and Red LEDs – for night vision.
Pivotable head unit – give your neck a rest.
Emergency strobe mode – attract attention.
Adjustable elastic headband – because we all have different sized heads.
Water resistant – that doesn’t mean waterproof to 10m!
Batteries included – and they are Duracell.
Red light – on battery pack with strobe mode.
Specification
1 × 1W Luxeon LED (up to 88 lumens)
3 × 5mm LED’s Red, White, Green (1.8 lumens)
Weight: 118g with batteries
Batteries: 3 × 1.5V AAA alkaline included
Battery life

1W LED mode: 10hrs HIGH
1W LED mode: 20hrs LOW
1W LED mode: 25hrs STROBE
5mm LED mode: 80hrs
Red strobe light: 160hrs

SRP: £12.50

Reactions so far
  1. Paul Bateson Nov 26, 06:07 PM

    So many head torches but why don’t a few companies offer a waist or sturnum option (such as GoMotionGear in USA) head torch beams fatigue the optic nerve, a light on your waist or chest is far better and just as effective.

  2. MRMJB Dec 11, 10:33 AM

    I bought myself one and was so impressed that I then went and bought 5 more to equip an expedition I’m doing next year. I often end my run along a narrow country lane with no streetlights or pavement so the rear flashing red led in invaluable and I couldn’t find another torch with that.

    Paul I’m sure you could easily adapt this for a belt, in fact after equipping the expedition I will have a spare so I might try it.

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