20 Best Headlamps [With Video Reviews] On The Market Today

best headlampIf you’re searching for the best headlamp for (running, camping, hiking, hunting, etc.), you’re in the right place.

Because it’s easy to get overwhelmed with thousands of headlamps on the market today.

Sure, many headlamps are great, but some are complete rubbish!

In this article, we breakdown all the features to look for in finding the best headlamp for YOU.

We also look at the best headlamps for all sorts of activities:

From camping to running; hiking to home maintenance; backpacking to climbing – we’ve got you covered!

That’s why today, I’m going to share everything I know about the best headlamps on the market, specifically:

**Note: If you just want our top recommendations, feel free to SKIP AHEAD HERE.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We’re Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Black led headlamp turned off on a wooden table showing the elastic strap

WHAT IS A HEADLAMP / BRIEF HISTORY OF HEADLAMPS


This seems like a silly question with an obvious answer – because it IS.

The term “Headlamp” is precisely what it sounds like: “a small light source worn on your head.”

Headlamps began as a way for miners to work in pitch-black mine shafts. Especially deep mine shafts nowhere near natural light.

The first headlamps were crude. They let off only a faint source of light. Not much better than a birthday candle.

But they were much better than the alternative (nothing). And even weak light works well once your eyes adjust to low light conditions.

The very first headlamps were powered by a combustible carbide. Then later were upgraded to incandescent electric bulbs.

But nowadays, nearly all modern headlamps feature LED lights. And most now include features that would put an 1800s miner into a state of shock and awe.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We’re Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Best Emergency Headlamp

WHY YOU SHOULD OWN A HEADLAMP INSTEAD OF A FLASHLIGHT


Headlamps have been a mainstay of the caving and mining world for over a century. But early on, they were slow to acceptance within the outdoor sporting world.

They were a rare oddball tool even a few decades ago.

For example, growing up, my family had a dozen different flashlights we took camping.

We had flashlights ranging from my Dad’s giant D-cell MagLight to a tiny hand-crank light I got on my 6th birthday. And I still recall my first mini-MagLight was the envy of my entire Boy Scout troop.

Later, as I got into more serious mountain biking, I bought my first “trail lights.” They were essentially high-powered, bike-specific flashlights.

It was a light I mounted to my bike’s handlebars before riding a few local trails in the middle of the night.

It wasn’t until my college years when shops began carrying a selection of headlamps.

Of course, I bought one on a whim and recalled all the odd looks I got that summer on a Southeast US camping trip.

Despite being in the heart of the coal-mining country, everyone I passed looked at me like I was insane!

A few people even asked me, “why I didn’t have an ordinary flashlight.”

Even my Dad was unimpressed, noting it would “work for changing a flat tire if you don’t have a quality lantern handy.”

Even so, I bought him a headlamp for hunting that year, but I doubt if it ever made it out of his truck.

Yet, as I got into even more outdoor sports, I found folks were quickly embracing headlamps! Nearly everyone in the climbing and backpacking world was ditching their tactical flashlights for headlamps and for one brilliant reason!


FireHawk Tactical FlashlightClick here to get a FREE FireHawk Tactical Flashlight (+S&H)

WARNING: DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THIS FLASHLIGHT AS IT MAY CAUSE LOSS OF VISION.


Headlamps Are HANDS-FREE

I know this one is obvious, but I can’t overstate it enough. HANDS-FREE!

Once you have your headlamp on and illuminated, you’re free to use both hands for tasks!

This inherent design feature is a significant step up over a handheld flashlight. It makes nearly every task more manageable, especially for fine, detailed work!

Headlamps Are LIGHTER

When it comes to weight, headlamps are a winning design.

They don’t require the batteries and circuitry to be stuffed into the handle. This design allows you to separate the bulk and weight from the light itself.

Some modern headlamps put the battery pack on the back of the head.

While others sandwich a flat rechargeable battery between the LED and the headband, this feature makes it an all in one unit with no external wiring or battery packs.

Headlamps Are FASTER

What do I mean by “faster”?

When you hear a scary sound, you instinctively turn towards the noise FAST. But with a headlamp, you immediately illuminate exactly where you look.

With a traditional flashlight, your hand is on a slight delay. Your reaction time with your hand involved is a fraction slower.

Headlamps Are IN LINE With Your Vision

Unlike handheld flashlights, headlamps shine a beam along your natural sightline.

This feature means less shadowing and better positioning to put the light where you need it.

20+ years after modern headlamps came out, they’re taking over the outdoor lighting market by an enormous margin.

And technology is growing each year. Manufacturers continue to add new features and brighter lights all the time.

Sure, I think I still own a flashlight or two.

I’m sure I could find one under the seat in my Jeep or the back of the glove box. But I’m sure the batteries are dead by now. To be fair, I likely haven’t tried turning them on in a decade.

Even my Dad made the switch to using a headlamp more than a flashlight for most tasks.

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Best Headlamp For Camping

KEY FEATURES TO LOOK FOR IN A BEST HEADLAMP


It seems like a headlamp should be a pretty easy thing to choose. But many factors come into play when it’s time to pick the right one for your needs.

Modern headlamps have come a long way. And the range of features and specifications available is dizzying.

So to narrow down your list, it’s essential to consider a few specific features. And weigh how important each one is in the way you’ll be using your headlamp.

Lumens

Lumens are a measure of the amount of light emitted by a given light source.

Think of it as the “overall” power of the headlamp.

In simple terms, more lumens equates to brighter light. But several other factors control how useful that light is for the task at hand.

Beam Shape

Once the light leaves the LED, it disperses in all directions. But, it quickly loses intensity if a lens or reflector does not focus it.

In fact, the intensity of light is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.

This means the light is 10,000 times fainter at a distance of 100ft than it was at 1ft.

So, yes, a light source with a high lumen rating is technically “brighter.” But the shape of the reflector and lens control how it projects.

That’s why reflection and lens control has a more drastic effect on “how bright” a headlamp seems to the eye.

Focusing the light in a narrow spot beam puts more lumens on target. But leaves the surroundings less illuminated.

Conversely, a similar lumen rated wide flood beam will light up the whole area, but not seem as bright.

Beam Distance

Obviously, better optics play a part in how a headlamp works at a distance and how far you can see in the dark.

Therefore, most manufacturers also list a max range at which the light is effective.

Most of us are looking for a measure of how far the light reaches. So this is one of the best metrics to use when looking for a powerful headlamp.

For example, with Survival And Rescue activities, I reach for a long beam distance headlamp. Such a headlamp helps me see the trail and surroundings as far out in advance as possible.

Battery Life

Now, what if you’re looking for an in-camp headlamp to do kitchen tasks, read, or keep a low profile?

Well, in this case, you may not be interested in high lumens or long distances.

My in-camp headlamp (which also serves as a backup for emergencies) is one with long battery life. That way, I don’t have to worry about it going out mid-use.

Battery life is directly related to the power setting you use.

If you’re trying to conserve battery, turn the brightness down to the lowest setting. And make sure to turn it off when you’re finished using it (obvious but easily forgotten!)

Battery Type

Battery type is another factor in the headlamp selection process. And it’s one that stems from how you plan to use the headlamp.

Rechargeable

Most manufacturers are going with either integrated or removable rechargeable batteries.

Rechargeable batteries are more environmentally-friendly and reduce waste. For many, this is a significant selling point.

But they’re also harder to maintain on an extended trip, where charging points may be few and far between.

Solar chargers, battery banks, and other accessories can help. But that’s even more survival gear to add to your pack or bug out bag on an extended backcountry trip.

Alkaline or Lithium Disposable

Standard alkaline batteries are easy to find in even the most remote gas station or gift shops. Plus, they come in bulk packages if you need to have lots on hand.

They’re not the best choice for the environment. But sometimes there are few better viable options.

Lithium disposables are a little more expensive and harder to find in a remote location. But they’re more powerful and lighter than comparable alkaline batteries.

Dual Battery Options

Some headlamps feature a rechargeable battery pack that can be removed and replaced. They usually feature a standard size alkaline or lithium batteries (AA or AAA).

This setup gives you tremendous flexibility. And it still allows for greener choices.

Durability

Light is a nearly non-negotiable survival necessity. Humans are practically crippled in the dark without good lighting.

So look for a reliable, well-built headlamp that can take the abuse you plan to dish out. Manufacturer testing and certifications are essential.

They test for water, dust, and shock resistance and add rating on their electronics if they pass. Look for an IP/IPX code of at least IPX4 (splash and dust resistant) for everyday use.

For example, heavy rain and snow in the Pacific Northwest test the water-resistance of my headlamps. And in the summer, dust and ash are the concern.

I look for electronics for critical work (including headlamps) with an IPX7 or IPX8 rating. These ratings state it should remain sealed from both dust and water even if fully submerged.

But I relax that rule for my daily use tasks (i.e., walking the dog or going for a jog). Why? Because I know I can still get home safe if something drastic happens to my headlamp.

Comfort

The proper weight distribution, strap comfort, and a fit can give you confidence in your headlamp.

A snug fit is essential. But don’t get one that’s too tight, or it will eventually feel like it’s slowly crushing your head.

Soft strap materials and a smooth profile help minimize irritation.

Weight

Sure, a couple of ounces may not seem like much. But it always amazes me how much you notice it when every head turn has a little extra resistance.

Of course, weight savings and reduced battery size go hand in hand, so it’s always a trade-off.

Get the lightest model that meets all your specifications. That way, you won’t be disappointed.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We’re Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

20 BEST HEADLAMPS ON THE MARKET TODAY


BEST GENERAL-USE HEADLAMPS

First, let’s talk about “general use” headlamps.

These are the ones you can reach for when you’re doing just about anything from:

  • Fixing stuff around the home
  • Car camping
  • Backpacking trips
  • Or survival scenarios

They put out a reasonable amount of light and have more prolonged use at low power to preserve battery life. They’re compact, but not minimalist.

Everyone should have at least “one” light in this category as a first headlamp that sees the most use.

1 – BioLite HeadLamp 330

BioLite HeadLamp 330

  • Max Lumens: 330
  • Max Beam Distance: 75m
  • Weight: 2.4 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 3.5/40 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The BioLite HeadLamp 330 is a great little headlamp for general use in camp and on the trail.

It’s very lightweight and comfortable and achieves the perfect balance between the two. It accomplishes this by separating the light and battery modules’ front and back.

This, combined with the light’s broad, low-profile base, makes for a headlamp with almost NO bounce while walking (and even running).

It’s easy to adjust the fit, and the smooth, soft headband is non-irritating for long-wearing.

Unfortunately, the small size and placement of the control button can be frustrating. It occasionally leads to accidental turning off the light every time you go to tilt the lamp.

PROS

  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Multiple light modes and brightness levels

CONS

  • Tiny control button
  • Button placement makes for accidental shutoffs in use


2 – Petzl Tikkina

  • Petzl Tikkina

    Max Lumens: 150

  • Max Beam Distance: 60m
  • Weight: 3 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 60/220 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The Petzl Tikkina is a descendant of the original Tikka (the very first headlamp I purchased).

It shares many of the same design elements, with a single headband and one-touch control of the light. But inside, it features a range of upgrades.

It has the dual battery option (standard alkaline or Petzl CORE rechargeable). And the three-level LED with high/low/wide beam options.

The Tikkina is a reliable but straightforward headlamp. It’s one headlamp anyone can use, excelling at general or in-camp tasks.

It packs down small and easily slips into a pocket.

One gripe, the IPX4 rating might be a bit ambitious as the battery door isn’t a super snug fit.

In heavy rain (or accidental dunking), water will make it into the battery compartment. Not ideal.

PROS

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Good control buttons
  • Multiple beam options

CONS

  • Likely not highly water-resistant


3 – Princeton Tec SNAP

  • Princeton Tec SNAP

    Max Lumens: 300

  • Max Beam Distance: 36m
  • Weight: 3.5 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 10/155 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

In the past, I’ve never had success with Princeton Tec products. But the Snap headlamp was a welcome change from that history.

It features a simple design that minimizes the chances of failure.

The wide beam illuminates well for close up work. And it reduces the “tunnel vision” that can be a byproduct of tightly focused beams.

The light itself can be removed from the headband mount and attached to other bases. Alternative bases such as:

  • a handlebar mount
  • a keychain clip
  • or even the integrated magnet base

This is an excellent option for anyone who needs different light angles for working on tasks.

In addition to the white LED, it also features red, green, and blue modes.

PROS

  • Inexpensive
  • Multiple mounts

CONS

  • Not much beam distance from a focused beam


 

4 – Black Diamond ReVolt

  • Black Diamond ReVolt

    Max Lumens: 350

  • Max Beam Distance: 80m
  • Weight: 3.2 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable/AAA
  • Run Time (High / Low): 4/200 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

Black Diamond has always been a favorite manufacturer of outdoor gear. And I wasn’t disappointed with the ReVolt.

In fact, I’ve recommended it to friends looking for a dependable camping headlamp.

At 350 lumens and featuring both spot and flood beams, it’s ready for a wide range of tasks.

Dimmable power levels are excellent. And the Brightness Memory setting allows you to turn the light on and off to the same power level each time.

A single tap on the side of the lamp brings it to full brightness in PowerTap mode.

I will say that cycling through the light modes and colors DOES take a little getting used to it. And I always have to struggle when switching to Red/Green/Blue light modes.

The lock mode is also a great addition, preventing you from accidentally turning the light on in your bag.

My only real issue has been that it does bounce a little while moving. This movement is due to the large battery and light module and no top strap to resist twisting the headband.

PROS

  • Great light modes and colors
  • Brightness Memory and PowerTap features are helpful
  • Great battery life

CONS

  • Some bounce while wearing it


5 – Black Diamond Spot 325

  • Black Diamond Spot 325

    Max Lumens: 325

  • Max Beam Distance: 86m
  • Weight: 2.9 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 4/200 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX8

Another great headlamp from Black Diamond, the Spot 325 packs a lot into a small package.

The IPX8 rating means it’s been tested to operate fully submerged to over 1m for up to 30 minutes. It even claims it’ll function even if water enters the battery compartment.

In a survival situation, and must count on your headlamp to live, this is invaluable!

The Brightness Memory and PowerTap functions remain just as good here as on the ReVolt. But they’re joined by a two-button interface for separate control over power and beam. This feature allows you to dial in on the brightness and light profile you need quicker.

The adjustable band is comfortable, with ventilated mesh inserts. And enough width to prevent most bounce issues.

The one common complaint with the Spot is that it has too many features and the controls aren’t intuitive.

Too many features have been a common theme with the more advanced units. And should be less of an issue over time with familiarity.

PROS

  • Lightweight Fully waterproof
  • Great price
  • Large buttons

CONS

  • Lots of features make settings complicated


6 – Petzl Actik

  • Petzl Actik

    Max Lumens: 350

  • Max Beam Distance: 90m
  • Weight: 2.7 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 1/260 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The Petzl Actik is the advanced version of the Tikkina series. It keeps much of the same style and form, but cramming more advanced settings and optics into the package.

The multi-beam design features both proximity and distance lighting. Plus, it also has a red light for preserving night vision.

The small size and wide headband make it stable. But it doesn’t adjust large enough for bigger hat sizes (I should know).

It also supports a dual battery option. It has both standard and rechargeable CORE batteries options.

I’ve talked with users who’ve had trouble switching from proximity to distance modes. They were left thinking that the range was only 20m instead of the claimed 90m.

The full manufacturer claim of 90m is likely a bit overstated; it’s certainly more in the 60-70m range.

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Good max distance
  • Several light modes

CONS

  • Small headband
  • Proximity/Distance setting not intuitive


7 – Black Diamond Storm

  • Black Diamond Storm

    Max Lumens: 350

  • Max Beam Distance: 100m
  • Weight: 4.2 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (4)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 5/200 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP67

The Black Diamond Storm is one of their more powerful general use headlamps, coming in at 350 lumens.

It’s a similar form factor to other BD lights. It combines the light and battery in one unit on the front of the headlamp.

This design does make it more prone to bounce. But it’s a straightforward design with a higher water resistance rating and lighter weight.

The Storm has a full suite of BD power options as well, including:

  • Brightness Memory
  • PowerTap
  • Custom dimmable LED levels in each of the four colors (white, red, green, blue)

It’s all controlled by a single top button and side taps. But some of these are hard to manipulate with cold hands or gloves.

PROS

  • Compact
  • Lots of lighting options

CONS

  • Hard to manipulate controls with gloves or cold hands


8 – Fenix HM50R

  • Fenix HM50R

    Max Lumens: 500

  • Max Beam Distance: 80m
  • Weight: 2.2 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 2/128 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP68

Fenix is still a brand most associated with industrial applications. But they’ve made inroads with the caving community in the past few years.

A caver friend showed me several Fenix lights last year, including the HM50R.

It’s a super-compact L-style light, which makes it easy to waterproof and to build ruggedly.

The HM50R uses a brilliant white LED, capable of up to 500 lumens over four lighting modes.

It’s dead simple, and you can operate it with a single hand.

It also charges via a simple micro-USB port, making it easy to top off the battery from any USB power source.

However, the High 500-lumen setting is a power-hog. And will run through batteries far faster than advertised. So keep plenty in hand if you need the full strength for long!

PROS

  • Very bright
  • Durable and compact
  • Integrated, protected charging port

CONS


BEST RUNNING HEADLAMPS

Next, let’s talk about a new category of popular headlamps- running headlamps.

These are lightweight lamps, with medium power and relatively short battery lives. These design features are to favor cutting all unnecessary ounces.

They’re generally very stable lights with comfortable straps. So they stay put and don’t irritate your head while running, even if you sweat a lot.

While they’re a niche market, they’re finding increased favor. These headlamps are loved by people out for an evening dog walk or a quick check under the car’s hood.

They also focus on safety, with features like rear lights and reflective headbands to increase visibility.

9 – LEDlenser NEO4

  • LEDlenser NEO4

    Max Lumens: 240

  • Max Beam Distance: 30m
  • Weight: 3.5 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable/AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 6/40 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP57

The LEDLenser Neo4 is an inexpensive option for a powerful little running headlamp.

It features a wide beam with 150 and 240-lumen output levels. This design gives you options for battery conservation or brighter light if needed.

The rear battery pack also features a blinking red LED for visibility. And the headband itself is reflective for safety.

The front-facing lamp is a little narrow (top to bottom) and easy to roll off the top of your head accidentally. This issue can happen if you take a shirt off over it, but it’s generally pretty stable while in use.

If you’re really on a hard run, there is a little bounce to the light as well.

PROS

  • Inexpensive
  • Compact
  • The rear LED and reflective headband for safety

CONS

  • The narrow light base can roll easier
  • Bounces a little while running


 

10 – BioLite HeadLamp 200

  • BioLite HeadLamp 200

    Max Lumens: 200

  • Max Beam Distance: 50m
  • Weight: 1.8 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 3/40 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The BioLite HeadLamp 220 is, hands down, the most comfortable running headlamp I’ve tried.

The lightweight and broad lamp base make it very stable on your head. So you’ll have almost NO bounce while running.

I was able to wear it with a lighter tension in the headband, which was VERY comfortable on long, hot runs.

The USB rechargeable battery lasts long enough for a good run and has a great life on the low setting (up to 40 hours).

The high power LED is serviceable, but at only 200 lumens, it can leave you wishing for a little more power at times.

The lack of a rear LED is also unfortunate for neighborhood runs where visibility is vital.

It also has a fairly small control button, so manipulating it with gloves on is a challenge.

PROS

  • Extremely comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive

CONS

  • A little underpowered
  • No rear safety LED
  • Tiny control button


11 – Black Diamond Sprinter

  • Black Diamond Sprinter

    Max Lumens: 275

  • Max Beam Distance: 40m
  • Weight: 4.1 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable/AAA
  • Run Time (High / Low): 4/100 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

While there are several great choices here for a running headlamp, this is the one that I personally use.

I’m a big fan of an evening and nighttime run (both in my neighborhood and on the local trail system). And that means a good light is a must-have.

The Sprinter stays in place without any bounce whatsoever.

The front light module throws a wide, oval-shaped cone of illumination on the trail. And features a dimmable LED to help tailor the light level (and battery life) to your needs.

Balancing the front light is a rear module. This combination of the rechargeable battery pack and a red LED taillight helps make you more visible from behind.

You can swap out the rechargeable battery pack for AAA batteries. This design gives you excellent flexibility.

While the 4.1 oz build is a bit heavier than other running headlamps, but it makes up for it in a solid and secure, 3-strap fit.

PROS

  • Great oval beam for trail illumination
  • Red rear-facing LED for visibility
  • Does NOT bounce while running

CONS

  • Heavier than other running headlamps
  • Expensive for light output


12 – Nitecore NU25

  • Nitecore NU25

    Max Lumens: 360

  • Max Beam Distance: 81m
  • Weight: 0.99 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 30sec/160 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP66

NiteCore is a big player in the bike headlight world. It is a high powered bike light available in nearly every shop I’ve visited.

This was the first NiteCore headlamp I’ve seen, and it’s a solid, general use type of light. It sports all the standard options and a 190-lumen intensity rating.

It comes with both a white and red set of LEDs, as well as several power levels. It’s a headlamp that’s up to all the tasks you’d expect.

Where the NiteCore stands out is in its unique lightweight build.

It comes in under 2 oz, including the strap (.99oz without). Heck, it’s almost as light as some of our emergency or backup light choices.

Seeing that kind of design with a high-powered LED is an excellent option for the weight conscious.

But what about the 360-lumen rating on the advertising? That’s my only real complaint here!

The NU25 is “capable” of putting out 360 lumens – but only for 30 seconds at a time.

Any longer and the small heatsink (a byproduct of the quest for lightweight) will overheat.

So it’s a 190-lumen headlamp with an “overdrive” mode for emergency use only.

PROS

  • Super lightweight
  • High powered emergency burst mode

CONS

  • Can not sustain high-power output Short battery life


BEST HIGH-POWER HEADLAMPS

These high-powered headlamps are another smaller segment of the headlamp market. And they’re built for the worst-case conditions in mind.

Search and rescue, law enforcement, and military personnel all look to this type of light for its tactical advantages.

So do mountaineers, mountain bikers, and other trail users who need maximum visibility to see and avoid obstacles.

13 – LEDLenser MH10

  • LEDLenser MH10

    Max Lumens: 600

  • Max Beam Distance: 150m
  • Weight: 5.6 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 10/120 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The LEDLenser MH10 is a rugged headlamp, designed for high performance on a budget.

It features several programmable light modes, including a blinding, full-power “Defense Strobe” mode.

It’s lightweight for a high-power lamp and has good battery life as well, even at high power.

It features a rear LED and an integrated rechargeable battery.

Unfortunately, it does have a few flaws.

The MH10 isn’t billed as a mountaineering headlamp. But the IPX4 rating is still a little disappointing.

It also doesn’t have a red light mode for preserving night vision, which would be a welcome addition.

PROS

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Rear safety light

CONS

  • Not waterproof
  • No red light mode


14 – Black Diamond Icon 700

  • Black Diamond Icon 700

    Max Lumens: 700

  • Max Beam Distance: 140m
  • Weight: 8.3 oz.
  • Battery Type: AA (4)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 7/190 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP67

The Black Diamond Icon series has been a mainstay of the mountaineering community for years. Even though several models and improvements.

The 700 is the brightest in the lineup so far and has all the other features you’d expect from a BD light.

The Brightness Memory is excellent, especially with such a high-powered light.

The PowerTap mode is also an excellent addition, but it’s not easy to use with gloves.

The red, green, and blue night-vision modes are helpful, though I usually just use red.

The only real sticking point is that BD has not yet made a rechargeable battery version of the Icon.

You can, of course, use rechargeable AA batteries (x4) in the battery compartment. But they’re not space-efficient compared with a custom rechargeable pack.

PROS

  • Bright
  • Durable
  • Lots of light modes

CONS

  • PowerTap is hard to use with gloves
  • No rechargeable option


15 – Petzl NAO+

  • Petzl NAO+

    Max Lumens: 750

  • Max Beam Distance: 140m
  • Weight: 6.5 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 1.5/15 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The Petzl NAO+ seems like a testbed for their advanced headlamp technology trials. But it’s worth a look.

One of the exciting features I got to play with last year was “the Reactive Lighting” technology. This feature senses ambient light and adjusts the brightness of the headlamp beam automatically.

In fact, it can sense other NAO+ headlamps as well. So it will automatically switch to a vision-preserving mode rather than blind a teammate.

Unfortunately, this works best in a team where all members have a NAO+ headlamp. So this becomes a spendy proposition.

And the rest of the wide range of settings can be programmed with the smartphone app. This feature makes customization much more manageable than through onboard controls.

Despite all this tech, it’s still an IPX4 lamp with a shorter than average battery life.

PROS

  • Lots of customization
  • Extremely long-range for lumen rating

CONS

  • Complicated
  • Expensive
  • Not waterproof


16 – Zebralight H600w Mk IV

  • Zebralight H600w Mk IV

    Max Lumens: 1400

  • Max Beam Distance: 120m
  • Weight: 3 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 2.8/4 months
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX8

The Zebralight H600w MkIV is a burly little headlamp.

It has simple controls and a very high output light capable of 1600 lumens. It’s built of machined aluminum, allowing the entire headlamp body to act as a heat sink for the LED. It’s also IPX8 rated, waterproof to 2m.

But like some other high-output lights, the maximum 1600 lumen mode is only a burst mode. It’s used for up to 30 seconds before the light begins to overheat, and the mode is turned off.

They also seem to have issues with either counterfeit products or quality control. There are many reports of non-functional lights that required return and replacement.

Luckily, they seem to be willing to work with the customers to resolve issues.

PROS

  • VERY high power burst
  • Durable build

CONS

  • Quality control or counterfeit issues
  • Max lumens only in 30s burst mode


17 – Nitecore HU60

Nitecore HU60

  • Max Lumens: 1600
  • Max Beam Distance: 177m
  • Weight: 4.14 oz. (without battery)
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 1.5/23 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP67

Another new light from NiteCore, the HU60, is a monster and packed with neat features.

First off, the 1600 lumen focusable light is NOT a burst mode, but full sustained power.

Remember, this is a brand mainly built for nighttime cyclists. These are people who depend on being able to light up a technical trail and read that surface at high speed.

It’s all run by a large capacity USB power bank. But NiteCore has designed the headlamp to accept ANY USB power bank. That way, you can use some of the extra-large power bricks if you need extended run time.

The light even comes with a wristwatch-style remote control, a holdover from biking.

PROS

  • Full sustained 1600 lumen output
  • Can use any USB power bank

CONS

  • Heavy once the battery is included
  • Cord management is complicated


BEST EMERGENCY HEADLAMPS

Finally, backup and emergency headlamps are a safety net when your primary light source goes out.

These are the lights you turn to when it’s time to limp home and make it back to safety.

They’re not always as comfortable, as featured, or as powerful as your usual headlamp. But they’re dependable and always ready.

18 – Petzl e+LITE

  • Petzl e+LITE

    Max Lumens: 50

  • Max Beam Distance: 10m
  • Weight: 0.92 oz.
  • Battery Type: CR2032 (2)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 9/12 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX8

The lightest headlamp on our list, the Petzl e+LITE, is the epitome of a backup light.

It’s tiny, easy to carry in the smallest pocket.

It weighs in at less than an ounce, yet has an IPX8 rating for water and dust.

It can be stored with batteries for up to 10 YEARS and still work!

The simple rotary switch doesn’t require many internal electronics, just simple mechanical contacts. While it’s only 50 lumens, this is a light you can count on to get you back home safely when all other lights go out.

PROS

  • Tiny
  • Lightweight
  • Amazing battery shelf life

CONS

  • Short run time on even low power mode due to a tiny battery


19 – Black Diamond SpotLite 160

  • Black Diamond SpotLite 160

    Max Lumens: 160

  • Max Beam Distance: 60m
  • Weight: 1.9 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (2)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 2/60 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX8

The Black Diamond SpotLite 160 is a surprise headlamp in our review’s “emergency” section. It’s a full-featured headlamp in a small package.

It has a welcome IPX8 rating, making it an excellent option for cases where weather may be a factor.

It’s small, lightweight, and has a range of lighting and power modes. But without the confusing options that have plagued reviews of other BD lights.

It uses standard size AAA batteries. But will readily accept rechargeable AAAs as well.

The narrow headband is more prone to rolling than other BD models but stays in place well overall.

PROS

  • Dimmable
  • Strobe and Red Light modes
  • IPX8 rating

CONS

  • Not long battery life on high setting


20 – Petzl Bindi

  • Petzl Bindi

    Max Lumens: 200

  • Max Beam Distance: 36m
  • Weight: 1.2 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 2/50 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The Petzl Bindi is a TINY headlamp, but still able to put out 200 lumens!

It’s an excellent light for a backup, given that it’s just over an ounce and crams down to nothing in a pack or pocket.

The narrow “string” style headband isn’t my favorite for long term wearing. But it’s fine in a pinch and great over a hat.

Impressively, it features a red light setting for a light this size, which helps preserve night vision and not blind your friends.

The buttons are, understandably, pretty small and can be hard to use with gloves. But that’s a function of cutting all weight and size in favor of a minimalist design.

PROS

CONS

  • Headband not very comfortable


FINAL THOUGHTS


There are a lot of things to consider when you choose a headlamp.

But we’ve walked through the essential features and shared some of our favorite suggestions based on how you might use it.

As with pocket knives, crossbows, bowie knives, survival backpacks, and many other outdoor tools, there’s not always one headlamp that does all the jobs you need.

Consider your primary use and a backup light at a minimum.

Don’t get left in the dark!

Jason K.

P.s. Do you know where the closest nuclear bunker is from your home?

There are a lot of natural nuclear shelters in the US that are absolutely free. And one of them is near your home.

Click on the image above to find out where you need to take shelter.


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