Thursday, 21 February 2013

Petzl Nao review

Ah, the Petzl nao. Reactive lighting. I'd heard a lot about it, and saw someone with one of the first ones out doing the rounds this time last year on the High Peak Marathon. What a cool looking bit of kit - and only £135 or so. (Which to some people may seem inordinately expensive, but when you consider what you are getting, isn't actually all that much).
I don't actually have one, but managed to blag one off a mate for a few weeks, which was good, as he was off ice climbing and apparently didn't need it. As luck would have it, I then became inordinately busy during the evenings and didn't manage to get out with it for a couple of weeks, and then had a concerted effort at getting out and about with it just recently.

Yes, there are more comprehensive reviews out there, with a whole lot more words, but it's best not to repeat everything they say, that'd be pretty pointless.

So, in my opinion, what's it like?

To look at -as I'm sure you know if you are reading this, its got 2 lamps - one diffused and one spot, and a distance sensor thing on top of it, a head gripping head band, which seems a bit revolutionary as it uses string, elastic and plastic, and a contoured battery pack at the back, which is USB rechargeable. Nice, all well and good and a pretty design.

Considerable lack of comfort
The first thing I noticed when I put it on was that the lamp portion of it seemed quite heavy in comparison to other lamps I've used recently (mostly Silva), and it took me a bit of time to work out what was the most comfortable tightness to pull the cord to in order to keep the torch on my head. Once on, it was very stable, and certainly didn't feel like it was going to come off. However, the lack of padding on the bit attaching itself to my forehead was really hard. I'm not normally one for complaining about how uncomfortable headtorches are, but the light unit on the Nao, being forced onto my head by the amount of tension I had to crank into it was not comfortable in the slightest.

Locked on, but uncomfortable on the ear
Off I went for a run, thinking that it was going to get a little more comfortable. Well, it did, a little, but only because I put a buff on and made sure that was between me and the lamp. The only other annoying thing was the cable routing on the left hand side of the torch - when on my head, the attachment (which is non-adjustable) appears right next to my left ear, and after about 45 mins of running causes considerable discomfort.

The lighting, though, especially the reactive nature of the torch is terrific. Seamlessly translating from close up dimness to far away 355 lumen brightness, is most impressive. The adjustment is infinitely changeable via a natty bit of petzl computer progamming, however it kept crashing on me. In fact, it crashed so regularly I nearly threw the thing out of the window.

For those of you worried about it reflecting back on you in the mist, or as you breathe and steam goes up in front of your face - yes, it reflects back on you and dims accordingly - however, there is an option to have the torch on one single power setting at a time and take away the reactiveness- on downhill sections when you are pounding away and really really don't want the torch to suddenly dim on you because it thinks something is close to it - you can whack it on a specific brightness (chosen by you back at your computer) and away you go.
lower setting

The only thing I found a little concerning is that the generic brightness when I was running was just a little too dim for the speed I was going. If I looked further along the trail, the torch got brighter, but I wasn't looking at where I wanted to put my feet, and when I looked down at my feet, the torch dimmed to the point that it wasn't as useful as I wanted it to be - and I couldn't find a setting to make the middle setting brighter. I wonder if it has been set at a specific level for a certain amount of distance.
Maybe that's one which someone with more patience, or perhaps a petzl program that doesnt crash - could answer.

So overall I was very impressed with the reactive lighting tech, and that there is a solid light that you can rely on as well if you are heading through a section where you really really don't want the light to react to anything. However, I found it heavy and uncomfortable, and have some reservations about the usefulness of it while running at speed.
Its a great concept, but for running, I'll be waiting for the 2nd generation.
The on-ny off-y switch. rotational and with a lock. Excellent idea

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


Sunrise run in Glenridding. Stop making excuses and do it. 
I got annoyed at the beginning of this year with a lot of people making a big show of "giving up" alcohol for the first month of the year. Abstaining from drinking any alcohol for all of 31 days. Could they do it? Would they fail?
To be honest, it didn't really interest me, and what made it more annoying was the fact that some people had the temerity to try to get sponsored for their abstention. I mean, really. Giving someone money to give to (and admittedly) good cause because they managed to stay off the sauce for a short time. I think not.
Just give the charity the amount of money you have saved by not drinking 3 bottles of wine a week, and at the same time, don't shout about it.

Which brings me to Lent. That time of the year when traditionally the New Years Resolutions have been long forgotten, and we look to another reason to deny ourselves the things we may enjoy. In my cynicism of the world and the people in it at the moment, I didn't so much rail against the whole idea of abstaining from something for 40 days, but was thinking about something I heard about a while ago - that it takes 21 days to make a habit.
Theoretically, over 40 days, it should be possible to make something a habit - indeed, within a month it should be possible, but only if you are willing. If you give up something completely, cold turkey, and you spend a lot of time thinking about the thing you can't have, that only heightens the enjoyment of the end of the self-imposed denial period - and goes a long way to explaining why people get horrendously drunk at the end of a time away from alcohol - or binge eat chocolate at Easter after ostensibly not eating any for a period before.

So I decided not to give up something material for this period, especially something that I enjoy - as that would mean giving up running, or cycling, or lifting weights. Yes, I could give up nutella - but that happens when the shop doesn't sell it in big enough jars. Yes, I could give up carbohydrates, but then my training would suffer. I'm not saying I don't have any bad habits, I'm sure I do, and Lynne could give me a whole list of them, however, after a long period of introspection, (about 5 minutes) I came to the conclusion that I would give up making excuses.

My internal voice is now sounding something like this...

"I can't train because I don't have time".  - Make time.
"I don't have time to study" - make time
"I'll never understand that concept because it means learning about something else in order to work it out, and I don't get that either" - in which case, study what you need to and work up to it.
"Oh - I'll get around to doing that later on" - do it now
"I love going for a run, (but I'll sit around and talk about it rather than doing it)". Shut up and go for a run then.

That kind of thing.
As it is, I have had a much better time of it recently - it also helps that I have some excellent motivation to work hard and train hard, in the guise of MFT and the Gym Jones site.
All is good, and although its harder work than it seems, giving up making excuses is making me more productive, stronger, and happier.
I somehow doubt that I'm going to binge on excuses come Easter.