LED Lenser NEO 5R - an excellent all-rounder Review

© Dan Bailey

Around the tail end of summer someone is bound to observe, with a sort of wry glee, that the nights are really drawing in. Perhaps it's a Scottish Presbyterian thing. You've been frivolously enjoying all that lovely daylight; but enough with the levity, night is coming. And you deserve it.

It's true that for a few blissful weeks around the solstice a torch is rarely necessary in the Highlands, making that a tricky time to review them for those of us based here. But as the season turns towards darkness, you soon start thinking about lighting again. We're well past that point in the year already; and the torch I'm pondering at the moment is the NEO 5R from German brand LED Lenser. Lightweight and reasonably powerful, sturdy and easy to use, but still affordably priced - there's a lot going for it.

Aimed at runners, but equally applicable to hillwalking, backpacking, climbing and mountaineering, the new NEO series of compact headtorches includes a number of models at various outputs. For all-round use, including winter on the Scottish hills, we think the 5R, the second beefiest in the lineup, has the most useful balance of size, output and burn time.

It's compact, bright, and seems robust - a good all-round hill torch  © Dan Bailey
It's compact, bright, and seems robust - a good all-round hill torch
© Dan Bailey

Weight and robustness

Far lighter torches are available, but they probably won't match the output on offer here. Given that it's a two-piece model with a rear-mounted power pack, rather than a compact all-in-one unit, the NEO 5R is surprisingly slight, weighing just 108g. That's a comparable weight to something like the Black Diamond Storm 500-R, a more powerful model and perhaps more rugged too, but not without drawbacks of its own (see last winter's review).

Unlike the Storm 500, which carries everything up front (and thus has a tendency to bounce that makes it annoying for running), the rear-battery NEO spreads the load, with most of the weight at the back of the head and a comparatively tiny light unit. As a result it has a good stable fit when running, with no bounce. The low-profile light is great too, feeling far less obtrusive on your forehead than bigger front-only units like the Storm.

On rear-battery torches the connecting wire can be a point of weakness; I've broken a couple over the years. However the NEO's rubbery cable feels sturdy, runs part-way through the headband for greater neatness and protection, and has a bit of stretch courtesy of a coil section. The light unit is so small that I imagine it'd be hard to damage, while the slimline battery pack is held in a tough silicone case and seems pretty robust too. While this has not been a long-term test, and I have yet to subject it to more demanding winter use, the NEO 5R seems built to last despite the slightly plasticy feel of the light unit.

In addition to its durability the torch is easily water resistant enough for use in driving rain, with an IP54 rating that means it's proof against water projected in a powerful spray (think your typical day in Eryri).

Light and comfy on the head  © Dan Bailey
Light and comfy on the head
© Dan Bailey

Fit and comfort

With curved mountings that follow the shape of your head, the light unit and battery pack are close-fitting and comfy, and there's an optional extra silicone pad for the front too (I'm not sure why you'd choose not to fit it). This is a torch that you can wear and forget, which says a lot for its comfort and lack of bounce. No overhead strap is needed to stabilise things, since it's all pretty lightweight, and the single narrow elastic headband feels soft on the head. On the downside it's not that breathable, and can get a little sweaty when you're working hard in warmer conditions. The strap is easily adjusted, and while it's not huge it does have enough space to go over a bulky winter hat, or stretch onto a helmet.

For those occasions when a head-mounted torch may be sub-optimal (a high angle light can tend to wash out detail on the ground), LED Lenser have provided a separate chest strap, which is easily threaded on to provide the necessary extra girth. I've not yet used this in anger, but it does seem a good addition.

Designed for running, but equally useful for hillwalking and camping  © Dan Bailey
Designed for running, but equally useful for hillwalking and camping
© Dan Bailey

Brightness and burn time

The clean white LED light is nice and crisp, and the beam pattern has a useful wide angle at close range, while still throwing out good focused distance lighting.

For its modest size and weight, the inbuilt 1800 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery in this torch has a decent amount of oomph. The three basic settings give you the following quoted figures:

  • Low Power: 20 lumens, 5m range, 35hr burn time
  • Mid Power: 100 lumens, 40m, 8hr
  • High Power: 300 lumens, 70m, 4hr

As well as night running close to home - which seems to be what the NEO 5R was designed for - the balance of brightness and battery life looks pretty decent for more consequential mountain use. While it's not up there with the brightness or battery capacity of something like the BD Storm, it's fairly comparable in power terms with smaller models such as the Spot, making it perfectly capable as a hill/climbing torch in its own right.

Low  © Dan Bailey

Med  © Dan Bailey

High  © Dan Bailey

On the go, especially on more bumpy ground that needs a bit of attention, I find mid power insipid, and tend to default to max. However if you're out for hours on easier terrain such as forest roads, and wanting to conserve power, the medium output will do the job. You're not going to get far in low output mode, but it's fine for around camp.

Boost  © Dan Bailey

When negotiating complex ground and needing to check the route far ahead, an additional Boost Mode takes you up to 600 lumens with a quoted 100m range for a ten second burst, before automatically dropping to standard power. This seems a particularly useful feature for climbers, winter mountaineers and hillwalkers. While it might be nice to illuminate that far for longer than ten seconds, the battery life penalty would probably be too great; it's better to have a quick glimpse than none at all.

NEO 5-R on a Knoydart bivvy; turn it right down in camp, to conserve battery charge  © Dan Bailey
NEO 5-R on a Knoydart bivvy; turn it right down in camp, to conserve battery charge
© Dan Bailey

The smaller and lighter your torch, the less battery life you can generally expect. Nevertheless, the compact NEO 5R does pretty well in this regard. As with all burn times quoted by manufacturers, it's worth taking the figures with a grain of salt. No torch will blaze out its initial power level for hours; there is always an early drop-off, and in this case your 300 lumens in high power will be closer to 200 lumens after only 10 or 15 minutes. The regulated output then maintains a fairly consistent power, decreasing quite gradually before dropping off more steeply only as you near the time limit. This sort of pattern is all very standard in a torch, not in any way a criticism of the NEO 5R.

The operating temperature range of 40 to -20C should see you right for any weather you'd actually want to be outside in, though as with all torches it's worth bearing in mind that cold conditions even well short of minus double figures will have a significant detrimental effect on battery life. For the NEO 9R an extension cable is provided, so the battery can be carried in a pocket or pack to keep it going in extreme cold. That's not an option with the smaller, simpler 5R.

It's easy to operate via the single small button  © Dan Bailey
It's easy to operate via the single small button
© Dan Bailey


While some brands seem keen on overly complicated torches which prove a fiddle to actually use in the cold and dark of a mountain night, LED Lenser have kept things commendably straightforward.

Operation is via a single button - small, but usable wearing even thick gloves. It's a simple click through the three modes, with a double press for boost. Crucially, all the models in the NEO series have a locking function, to avoid accidentally draining the battery in transit. You also get a tilting head - it'd be an annoying torch that didn't have one - and a red flashing LED on the rear of the battery pack, to help you be seen on the road at night.


Here's where LED Lenser are bang up to date; in fact they are if anything a little ahead of the pack, and certainly this reviewer. Instead of the old style micro USB, still commonplace in new torches, the charging cable on the NEO has a USB-C at the power output end, while at the torch end it's a funky magnetic connection. I love the magnet, which is less fiddly and prone to damage than a socket. My legacy of old plugs and chargers has yet to catch up with the transition to USB-C, and I couldn't charge the torch until I'd bought a little adapter for a few quid off Amazon. However, those already used to USB-C consider it an improvement in terms of standardisation.

Charging seems pretty quick (might it be faster still if it wasn't going through an adapter?) and there's a little charge indicator light that shows green, yellow or red depending on the level.


Compact, comfy, and bounce-free, the NEO 5R is an excellent midweight, mid-power torch for night running, the role it is marketed for. But this rugged, water-resistant model has a lot more potential than that, with a balance of brightness and burn time that'd make it equally handy for climbers, mountaineers and hillwalkers. The price seems very fair too.

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11 Sep

I guarantee in about 3 years time you will be very glad of the usb-c input. I'm amazed it's your first device with it as most of my electronics are now type c instead of micro.

I own one the LED Lenser MH8s which is very heavy by mountaineering standards but that isn't actually my main gripe, its the non standard non usb-c charger thats more annoying.

I'm not a great one for gizmos and guess I don't tend to buy new ones that often!

Not sure I've explained myself that well in the review since it seems as if you maybe misunderstood what I was trying to say: There's no socket in the torch - it's a magnetic input at that end of the charging cable. At the other end of the cable is a USB-C plug. Nothing I own in terms of chargers or computers has a USB-C sized mini socket to plug that into, so effectively I had a torch I couldn't charge until I'd bought a little adapter thing.

I suspect most people are going to have a bit of an annoying period where they still have old legacy stuff like computers and chargers (and we probably ought to go on using things as long as possible before throwing them away?) that doesn't fit with USB-C. I notice that some USB-C cables have an old style big flat plug at one end, which will of course work with old stuff, while other new cables seem to require something with a tiny USB-C output at the power end. This has just doubly confused me, and surely I'm not alone. Perhaps it's an age thing.

12 Sep

Pretty much every phone sold in the past 5 years at all price levels, not including iPhones*, use USB-C and the majority come with USB-PD (USB-C female socket) chargers, so I feel you are a bit of an outlier on this. That is why so many devices no longer bother to ship a USB-C power supply.

* and even they actually use USB-C plugs on the charger leads, and shipped with USB-C power supplies until they stopped including them.

Haha, well you're talking to the guy who was still using CDs until a few years ago. And I've never bought a brand new phone, reconditioned old models all the way. I'm the archetypal late adopter. Guess progress catches up with us all at some point

12 Sep

I've had LED lensers since the H7R first came out. I had two of those because the cable joining the lamp to the battery pack failed. The cable had been improved on the second one (thicker + strain relief), so I suspect there won't be any problems with the cable on the NEO5R.

It's a shame it doesn't have manual focusing, that was something LEDlenser did better than Petzl. One good thing my older ones didn't have is the guarantee - 2 years as standard, increasing to 5 with registration. That's really good.

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