Finding a lighting solution, like so many other things in trail running, is a very personal process. Some people like a small flashlight, others a large one. Sometimes a throw away light is the best for a particular race. Long overnight jaunts might require a headlamp and a flashlight. Or maybe you prefer a headlamp, no flashlight…it’s all dependent on the race, the condition, the trail and the individual. With this in mind, many companies are trying to fill a niche with unique products for un-thought of solutions.
Hence, the Knuckle Lights. I first heard about this light from a friend who recently ran her first ultra and has since done three or four. Yes, she drank the Kool-Aid. Her decline into the insanity that is ultrarunning has been rapid! :) I contacted the company and they were in the middle of doing a redesign and so I decided to wait and review a pair when they had released the new product.
The Knuckle Lights arrived on my doorstep and I immediately took them out for a spin. The idea is that you have two small handheld lighting units, each with a high, low or “strobing” function on them. They are held in the hand, just like you’d hold a large beer stein with your favorite brew.
Both sport an inline four LED pattern with a rubberized strap that holds them fairly secure in the hand during your run. There is a small switch on the top that you can manipulate using only your thumb to toggle between settings.
Here are my impressions of the Knuckle Lights.
Each individual unit throws out 45 lumens of light and they do a great job of lighting the terrain directly in front of you. I was curious if they would function well with normal arm swing, i.e. would there be dark spots, but they actually do a good job of lighting a broad space in front of the runner even at a good clip. They don’t throw out enough light to see clearly beyond about 10 feet.
My second concern was whether or not I’d get eye fatigue from watching the lights move back and forth reciprocally. I’ve noticed at night that I’m fairly sensitive to uneven lighting and I was surprised at how even the lighting was with use even though the arms are moving and thus so is the light.
I haven’t used these enough to get a sense of how long they last. However each takes two AAA batteries.
Each unit (with batteries) weighs 70 grams. After several uses for short and long runs (11 miles the longest) I noticed no uncomfortable blisters, or rubbing although for me, it was necessary to move them around frequently to keep them from getting too uncomfortable in my hand. These lights are extremely easy to hold for long periods of time.
I don’t particularly like carrying things in my hand so with longer runs, I found them to be a bit irritating, but if you don’t mind carrying bottles for your long runs, you’ll be fine with this product. They are fairly easy to adjust with a small clasp that takes seconds to adjust. As the weather gets colder it is nice to know that even with a substantially sized glove on my hand, these lights will adjust to fit.
The biggest issue I had was quality. The first run I took these on they failed to work 100%. On one side only two of the four LEDs lit up and I had to kind of bang them against each other a couple times to get them all on. They did stay on but every run this has been a problem. In fact, as I am writing this post, I turned them on and one of them is not working with all four lights on. I realize that I am a sample of one, but it’s unfortunate that the tester/reviewer got a faulty product.
As packaged the idea is to use both lights at once, illuminating a wider more even area of ground in front of the runner. While these definitely do that, they take up both hands. Personally, I like to have my hands free and for short races (3-5 hours) and prefer bottles. I did test carrying a bottle and using these lights and it was a bit cumbersome. For this reason, I would probably not use these as an option. I like using a good quality headlamp and having a flashlight back up.
I did not like the on/off switch. It took too much effort to fumble and push the switch to get the lights on and to toggle between settings. On a run, I don’t want to have to fuss with my lighting, I want it to work well, be there when I need it and simple to manipulate. If the switches were a bit more on the medial side of the unit and more sensitive to touch they would be a lot better. That would of course make a designated right and left light but I don’t think that would be a problem.
Finding solutions to issues that runners face is a great thing and this product is definitely a nice solution for those folks that enjoy a simple clean lighting system that doesn’t involve a headlamp. Those that are okay with having their hands engaged with lighting might really enjoy this product. However, if you prefer to keep your hands free, then this is probably not the product for you.
Unfortunately, the most important feature of a lighting product for any outdoor run, be it racing or training, is reliability. That would be my number one concern with this product. I didn’t take it out on a run after the first time without having a backup because I didn’t trust it. Something to keep in mind if you purchase this product. Test it on a couple runs and make sure it works well before going it alone with no backup light.
What are your lighting solutions?
Are you a flashlighter, a headlamper, use both, or do you prefer to run with a torch?!
Let us know, the Endurance Buzz tribe wants your input!
- Jason Taylor
You can purchase the Knuckle Lights at knucklelights.com.