Edelrid's new range of headtorches - the first they've designed in-house - runs to five different models. There's something for more or less every user here, ranging from the entry-level Pentalite to the 280 lumen Tauri. With a price range of £13 - £55 they are sold on a promise of affordable quality. So do they deliver?
As the second most powerful in the range, striking a useful balance between output and burn time (13 hours at 250 lumens max power), and running on conventional AA batteries, we thought the Asteri offered the most versatility for climbers and hillwalkers. This is simple, gimmick-free lighting; and that's how I like my torches to be. But as a user experience, is it just a little unrefined? Here's how I got on with it:
Fit and weight
At 220g including its three AA batteries (my measure - Edelrid say 200g), the Asteri is not exactly lightweight. Luckily, because that weight is divided between the lamp in the front and the rear-mounted battery pack, it does not feel too heavy on the head. Unfortunately, however, the fit is not the best. With only a single elastic headband - no overhead strap to add extra stability - the lamp and battery pack can tend to jiggle and slip around a little if you're bobbing about. For that reason I would not recommend the Asteri to runners. To be fair, neither do Edelrid: if you're aiming to do a lot of running then they'd suggest the Tauri (£55), with its stabilising overhead strap.
The strap on the Asteri itself is not as soft and comfortable against a bare head as you might like, and I find its adjustment buckle can loosen a little over time. Both the battery pack and the lamp are made of hard pastic and have only a token sculpted fit, so after wearing the torch for a while I've found they can start to dig in a bit. I can't help thinking the Asteri would have been easy to make more comfortable with the addition of padding, a softer/higher quality strap, or even just some more thoughtful plastic moulding. As it is, fit and comfort are its weak point, giving the torch a no-frills budget feel that rather lets down its more positive features.
If you're not a fan of straps, the Asteri is supplied with plastic mountings that enable it to be fitted direct to a helmet without the (easily removable) headband. At home this is a quick and simple procedure. Since this is rather less versatile outdoors though, and implies that you're going to be climbing all day with a torch on your head, and then wearing your helmet on the long walk-out, I have to admit I've not been tempted to give it a go in anger.
Modes and output
Three intensity settings are available for white light (high, medium and 'eco'), with a further two for red (constant and strobe). Here are the stats:
- High: 250 LM 100m 13hrs
- Medium: 110 LM 70m 20hrs
- Eco: 20 LM 30m 85hrs
- Red: 4 LM 9m 115hrs
- Strobe: 170hrs
With its 250 lumen output, 'high' mode may not provide the floodlight-levels of illumination on offer from the latest generation of ultra-powerful headtorches, but in practise I've found it more than sufficient when walking on tricky terrain and route finding in the dark. Full beam picks out plenty of detail in your immediate surroundings and offers enough forward vision to spot the obvious obstacles in good time. I've not been able to accurately measure Edelrid's quoted 100 metre range, but my experience suggests that may be a little over generous. At a rough guesstimate you're getting 70-80m of usable light, which would be enough for finishing a climb after nightfall or abseiling off to avoid a benightment.
At 110 lumens, Medium setting is plenty for less tricky, more easily navigated ground - striding out along a Landrover track for instance. Eco is best saved for the campsite or bothy.
Whether you're climbing or hillwalking, in theory the more light at your disposal the better. However the tradeoff in terms of weight and burn time means that there will always be a compromise. For general mountain use I think that battery life is at least as important as distance vision. As such, the compromise of output versus burn time on offer from the Asteri is a sensible one.
Burn times for the various modes are very decent, comparing well with similar torches from other brands. When you're still out on the hill on those dark winter evenings it's reassuring to know that you have a good many hours of light, even on high output mode. Do bear in mind though that the quality of the batteries has a bearing on output times; that of course they have to be fully charged in order to give you the best results; and that low temperature affects their life.
The main beam is quite an intense, focused affair (so strong, indeed, that the lamp body gets warm). To give you a wider-spread, more even light Edelrid have provided a diffuser. This is a simple plastic filter that slides over the lens. It works well; however the plastic it is made from does seem a little flimsy, and it rattles in its housing. When you're running or waving your head around the constant accompaniment of this rattle does get a bit annoying (until you tune out).
In addition to the forward lighting, Edelrid have provided a red LED strip on the rear of the battery case. Operated via a separate button, with constant and strobe modes, this gives people behind you something to follow if you're travelling in a group.
The Asteri takes three AA batteries, housed in a hinged compartment seated at the back of the head. It works with alkaline, lithium or NiMH rechargeable batteries - I've been using Panasonic Eneloop Pro (2500mAh) which have a pretty high capacity and seem to work well in the cold. Power output is not regulated, so it does diminish as the battery drains: with alkaline batteries the decline is fairly steady, while using lithium batteries gives you more output for longer, but then a steeper drop-off - so Edelrid tell me.
Robust, if a little plasticy in feel, the battery housing is a simple hinged affair with a very secure clip. While the Asteri is officially waterproof (protection type IPX6) the absence of any sort of rubber seal on the battery door means that I won't be putting this to the test of a full immersion. Having had it out in the rain I'd say that it certainly seems weathertight though.
Easy to operate in thick gloves, a single top-mounted button controls the main torch. You scroll through the white output modes with one touch, switch to red with two, and lock/unlock the switch by holding it down for six seconds. Though the button is fairly stiff and unlikely to be nudged by mistake in your bag, this locking function does add peace of mind.
The head pivots with a satisfying click through a range of angles, from straight ahead to about 45 degrees downwards. However it does not swing down quite as far as some rival torches - I've compared it directly with an old Petzl Tikka XP2 for instance. As a consequence the Asteri does not illuminate the ground immediately at your feet unless you go about with your head bowed. This is a small but slightly annoying niggle that I've noticed most when walking downhill.
While it is not notably light, its robust build and sensible balance between output and burn time make the Asteri a competent headtorch for most climbing and walking situations, and so far it seems reliable too. This is all workmanlike stuff; there is nothing cutting edge about it - but then simple reliability is a prime concern when choosing a headtorch for serious use. It may not cost as much as roughly equivalent models from brands with a more established presence, but to an extent you get what you pay for here. The Asteri is rather let down by its cheap-feeling strap, the slightly uncomfy fit, and minor niggles with the head tilt and diffuser. Is it worth £45 though? Sure. While a bit of extra refinement would probably cost you more, the Asteri does the essential basic business at an affordable price, and as such I think it represents value for money.
The unique appeal of the range is undoubtedly the combination of German craftsmanship and genuinely affordable prices, ensuring that great performance is available to everyone – whether you're a climber, runner, hill walker, camper or cyclist.
The Asteri is a robust option that utilises a rearmounted battery pack, importantly it can also be attached to a helmet without the headband – ideal for climbers or cyclists. The adjustable diffuser allows for a speedy interchange between a focused or wide beam depending on the users requirements, and the controls are designed for easy operation when wearing gloves – making it perfect for winter.
- Weight: 220g inc 3xAA batteries (my weight - Edelrid say 200g)
- 1 High Power LED with 3 brightness levels for focused distance lighting and strobe mode
- 1 red Eco LED with night vision and SOS strobe mode, optimal close range vision and a long burn time
- Adjustable diffuser to change from focused to wide beam
- Adjustable light head angle
- Red signal light and strobe mode at rear
- Attaches to helmet without headband (clips not included in delivery)
- Protected against powerful jets of water from any angle (IPX6)
For more info see edelrid.de