The Trail Speed 4XT is a powerful yet adaptive headlamp made for running, hiking and biking. Utilizing innovative Flow Light Technology, the beam of light adjusts on the fly for any situation, near or far. This is my review.
There is a lot to unpack with the 4XT. Primarily, it is a headlamp with a large rechargeable 3 amp hour battery. It comes with multiple attachment methods and accessories to make each viable. There is a two part adhesive based helmet mount, a Velcro battery mount, a rubber handlebar mount, and of course the stretchy and adjustable forehead mount with an optional overhead support band. The battery is detachable and comes with multiple lengths and types of cables, each designed around the different activities the unit is designed for.It operates in 3 power modes at 80, 600 and 1200 lumens respectively with single button press being all that is required to toggle between them. The minimum burn time is about 5 hours at maximum and an estimated 20 hours at low. It weighs about 257 grams (.57 pounds) and MSRP is around $250.
What I liked
the 4XT’s brightness ranges somewhere between glorious overkill and perfectly balanced, depending on how it is used. As a biking lamp, the 1200 lumen punch it provides is exquisite, pushing through the night and illuminating trees and roads over vast distances that exceed 150 feet in range on the maximum setting in my tests (actually farther but I couldn’t work up a way to measure it). When used for running, it provides huge advantages while simultaneously navigating, allowing the shapes and landmarks of the topography to come into full view. This makes on the fly way finding easily possible even in poor conditions. When hiking, the low and medium settings are more than enough, easily illuminating the trail near and far, reserving the precious battery for emergencies or multiple days on the trail. Basically, this thing gets incredible bright, but also settles to an appreciably low and soft glow, finding a place in this spectrum for just about any situation.
The lighting technology on display here is quite interesting and genuinely useful. There are two: “Intelligent Light” and “Flow Light”, which work together to adjust their beams in unison on the fly. Intelligent light is essentially two exceptionally powerful LEDs, one focused on near terrain and the other focused on the far. “Flow Light” manipulates these two LEDs based on where the headlamp is angled (forward or down) widening and boosting the beam accordingly. Up close with the lamp angled down, the beam gets wide, diffuse and softer to the eye, casting in a way that makes map reading or navigating tricky near foot terrain possible. Angling the lamp forward pushes the beam out in a harsh but concentrated beam, outlining terrain far in the distance. Putting the angle of the lamp somewhere between them finds a balance between them, with the LEDs fading in and out to make each situation viable. It’s clever, neat to watch, and really comes in handy as the pace or terrain changes.
I really enjoyed being able to move the lamp between various activities. Having one device for multiple activities not only adds value, it adds familiarity with the equipment, which is valuable on the trail. The helmet mounts stick semi-permanently to a helmet with a quick release allowing the lamp itself to pop off the mounts. It can also be strapped to a handlebar by means of a dedicated bar mount for the lamp, and a simple Velcro strap for the battery which is flexible in placement (bike frames work the best). For on skull use, it has a well built head strap and the battery can either be mounted to the back of the head or to the hip via an included extension cable, with a strong recommendation towards hip mounting. Once you learn the bits and pieces and how they work together, transitioning the lamp and battery between sports is fairly quick and painless. The cables take some effort to separate, but otherwise it isn’t bad at all. It’s also worth mentioning that every mounting technique is very secure, with neither the lamp nor battery ever slipping or bobbing around in any of my test, with the exception of having the battery on the back of my head, which always made me feel like a bobble head.
The battery life has been really good. Despite the lamp burning at a sizzling 1200 maximum lumens, the lamp gets around 5 hours of burn time in fair conditions, or about 2.5 hours if it is very cold. At the other end of the output scale, it has been hard for me to test as it lasts so long. However, I’m estimating around 8 and 20 hours respectively for medium and high (this is just an estimate though, I’ll report back when I narrow it down). I did find some mild power leakage, even with the battery disconnected, but it isn’t a big issue. Just a few percentage points every few days. Just check the battery before you go out if it’s been sitting unused.
Build quality is great, with every strap and especially the headlamp and battery being built to take a real beating. The casing is all metal and very high grade plastic, and everything simply feels rugged to the touch. The single button has a nice sturdy click to it, and the straps and stitching is very high quality. The cables are also stiff and rather robust. I have zero concerns about long term durability here and the IPX5 rating means this thing will survive long, sustained heavy rain flow with no issues also.
The weight of the device is good for the type of equipment, but still a bit hefty overall. Given the high output and efficiency of the unit, I still have to count this as a pro as similar lamps I’ve tested have been much heavier or inferior in build quality, but half a pound is still a notable, even if it is considered light-weight for its potential and capability. The separated battery and lamp was a good decision from the designers as it allows most of the mass, the battery, to be put in convenient weight bearing areas like the bike frame or a hip, which really helps. It’s light for what it is, but still has some heft.
Using the lamp itself is incredibly simple. It just takes a long press to activate, with quick presses to toggle through the three available brightness levels. The angle of the lamp adjusts the beams automatically (with a cool fading effect for good measure) and that’s about all there is to using it. Cabling routing and moving it between sports is a little more involved, but very doable.
What I didn’t like
One thing that bothered me with the 4XT is the fact that when it is mounted as a headlamp, I didn’t find it that comfortable. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the weight (which actually feels pretty good with the battery mounted to the hip) but instead the shape of the plastic that sits against the forehead. It has a nice built in curve that is designed to sit softly against the curve of the skull. However, my forehead is relatively flat and pronounced, meaning the edges of the curved plate just end up pressing in against my skin. It creates two pressure points, one on each side, that I found hard to deal with. I found a couple ways to add a little extra padding to it which really helped, but it was never ideal for me. Your skull and experience likely will vary as we’re all different. Obviously, this isn’t an issue when helmet or bar mounted.
My particular unit came with the Velcro strap for the battery being hard mounted incorrectly. Basically, the strap is kind of upside down and backwards, which causes conflict when routing the strap and using the one-sided Velcro. It takes some extra work and thought to make it work, but it does. It is still entirely functional this way, but it makes mounting the battery a bit of a pain at times. It seems that I can disassemble the battery to correct this, but Silva didn’t seem too confident as I think I’m the only one to have the issue. I’ll try it out and report back.
I’m not a big fan of having a cable running down from the lamp to my hip. It’s a minor thing, but something I noticed almost at all times when using it in this configuration. The cord is a sort of bungee, which makes sense, but it does move around a bit and can definitely be felt over a thin shirt and definitely against bare skin. Wearing a jacket or backpack makes it largely unnoticeable, but otherwise I found it distracting, but only as a headlamp.
There is no strobe function, which I found very surprising and was my biggest issue with the lamp. As someone who does hit some occasional road sections on my bike, this is a feature that I really appreciate to announce my presence to traffic. It is a basic safety feature that I’ve never been without. Luckily, putting the lamp on high makes me and my bike very visible even on a bright sunny day(1200 lumens will do that), but I would still like a strobe for emergency situations, signaling, and for the proven benefits to visibility and awareness.
The Trail Speed 4XT is an impressive headlamp with some really useful technology. I loved the powerful beam, the on the fly adjustment of the focus and independent LEDs, and the battery life was rather spectacular given the light output it provides. Using it helmet and bar mounted has been great, with the high quality light output providing confidence and real utility. I also liked it for hiking and backpacking, despite the weight penalty that comes along with having such a large battery pack. Where I didn’t care for the lamp was trail running, where I found the cord distracting despite careful cable routing . I am also a bit disappointed with the comfort of the forehead plate, but this could just be the particular shape and build of my skull. I also constantly felt the lack of strobe functionality every time I hit a road or busy gravel area on my bike. Still, taken as a whole as a “do it all” high performance lamp, I still really like the 4XT. It’s powerful, built exceptionally well, and it provides one of the best biking experiences I’ve ever tested, helmet or bar mounted. It’s comparatively lightweight, fairly priced, and it’s hard to argue when the device provides this much functionality across so many disciplines. As a whole, it is still easy to recommend.
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