The Best Headlamps Reviewed
Handheld flashlights are a thing of the past now. They were used for some time because it was the easiest way to focus the light into a certain direction. However, with headlamps, you have another priceless feature that makes them an essential piece of gear for every outdoor activity. They provide you the freedom to work with both of your hands and hopefully get the job done quicker!
Since there are so many options nowadays when purchasing a high-quality headlamp, it can take a lot of time and research to make a decision about which one is best for you. To help you more easily make your decision, we’re providing you with a list of the best headlamps you’ll find on the market today, and we’ll cover a few important criteria points you’ll want to consider before you make your decision.
- Petzl Tikka Rxp
- Reactive lighting technology
- Black Diamond Revolt
- Battery life meter
- Petzl Nao
- Works with the Petzl My Light app
10 Best Headlamps
Petzl Tikka RXP
Testing results: The rechargeable battery on this headlamp works on an average scale, and the headlamp can be recharged by putting it on a USB cord. You’re also able to use an on/off button and adjust the brightness on this headlamp as you see fit.
Usage: The battery life on this headlamp isn’t anything poor or exceptional, and rates about average. It does work well and provide enough lighting for a wide variety of outdoor activities, and gives you enough versatility.
Additional features quality: This headlamp is compatible with a CORE rechargeable battery. It’s also small and lightweight, so it’s easy to wear.
Additional features quality: This headlamp is compatible with a CORE rechargeable battery. It’s also small and lightweight, so it’s easy to wear.
Could be more durable
Black Diamond ReVolt
Testing results: The battery performance on the Black Diamond ReVolt brings you a lot of versatility and is easy to adjust and use. It’s one of the most adjustable and versatile headlamps on our list, and it also comes with a lot of options that make it very portable.
Usage: The Black Diamond ReVolt can be charged off just about anything with a USB adapter, which makes this headlamp very easy to use and recharge whenever you are on the go. It’s also very lightweight, and weighs on at only 2.85 ounces with a battery life of about two hours.
Additional features quality: The Black Diamond ReVolt is waterproof, and can handle water coming from just about anywhere. You also get three extra AAA batteries with your purchase.
Could be more durable
Strap sometimes feels uncomfortable
Testing results: The Petzl NAO also offers a constant lighting feature, which can give you a lot of light when you need it. Plus, it features multiple light cones, which help increase visibility greatly each time you use the headlamp.
Usage: The battery life isn’t great on the Petzl NAO, so you might need to plan to recharge it. It all depends on how bright you decide to set the light at, but you’ll want to be prepared.
Additional features quality: The Petzl NAO uses a Lithium-ion battery and can be recharged with a USB port. It also comes with the ability to use the My Light app, which can allow you to adjust the headlamp with your smartphone.
Short battery life
Testing results: The Fenix HP25R is so bright, it can reach about 160 meters with its light, which is far and above its competition, and the brightest lamp on our list. Plus, its lifespan is about 50,000 hours, and it provides an angle of 90 degrees.
Usage: This headlamp requires one 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery, or two CR 123A batteries, and the lamp can last up to two hours. It gives you a maximum output of 100o lumen.
Additional features quality: The Fenix HP25R comes with a bundle back. With a purchase of this headlamp, you also get a carrying case, a battery, and a rechargeable battery.
Comes with bundle
Battery can run out quickly if you put it on max brightness
Ms Force Brightest LED Headlamp
Testing results: Testing showed that the brightness of the lamp is not nearly up to 5000 lumens, yet it is still brighter than many other similar products on the market. When you use the headlamp at its brightest mode, the battery only lasts for around 2 hours, which is pretty normal for a headlamp, even though every manufacturer states otherwise. The recharging time is 6 hours which suggests that you will require a recharger if you are planning on going on a weekend with this headlamp.
Usage: Since this is a pretty powerful lamp with various modes you could switch between, this headlamp is suitable for many outdoor activities such as: camping, hiking, backpacking, biking or even working around the house where there is no lightning.
Additional features quality: This headlamp allows you to point the light in a certain direction without having to turn your head. It is able to rotate to a 90 degree angle and focus the light at a certain point with minimal movement of your head. However, practice shows that this is not very practical since no one’s vision field is at a 90 degree angle of him. Even though there is a guarantee by the manufacturer that states it is resistant to bad weather conditions, it is important to notice that this headlamp is water resistant, it is not waterproof. This means that it will do just fine on a rain, but on a heavy rain you might need to add some protection.
- Four levels of brightness
- Lifetime warranty
- Powerful lamp
- Headlamp is not waterproof, only water resistant
- 90 degree angle of lighting seems unnecessary
Coast HL7 Headlamp
Manufacturer claims: The manufacturer’s claims for the brightness are Focusing 285 lumens with maximum of 1 hour and 30 minutes of runtime. The low lumens are 4 and the low runtime is 70 hours. The beam distance is 119 meters and the low brightness lights provide you at least 13 meters visibility. Three alkaline batteries are included in the package and there is a pouch included.
Testing results: The light this headlamp provides is very bright but also consumes the battery very quickly. However, there is a dimming option that is very suitable for when you are saving battery life. You could also use recharging batteries and or alkaline batteries for maximum use.
Usage: This type of lightning is very good for camping since it allows you to setup the whole camp in the dark. It is also convenient to use when going to the campsite restroom although you might want to use the dimming option for this one.
Additional features quality: The strap which is supposed to go around your head is tight enough, so you don’t have a feeling that you are going to lose the headlamp. It doesn’t shift around and it is pointing the light exactly where you need to. There is also an additional feature of switching between white and red light which is very useful for astronomy enthusiasts. The switching between modes is made easy to handle since the switches are placed on opposite sides of the headlamp. Separate switches for each type of light is usually very convenient option since it is a bit irritating and time consuming for some people for having to cycle through the light modes in order to get the demanded option.
- Good switch modes
- Consumes battery life quickly
- Has a learning curve
Princeton Tec Remix
Testing results: This headlamp does well in a wide variety of outdoor environments, and brings you a lot of versatility. However, it doesn’t have the longest battery life, which could be a problem depending on where you plan to travel.
Usage: Designed with one asymmetrical arm bracket, the battery door on this headlamp is easy to get to, and the headlamp also features a large push button switch. All of these features add to the simplicity of the product design.
Additional features quality: The Princeton Tech Remix is water-resistant, adding to the durability of the product. It is also very lightweight, and does a good job of lighting up long distances.
Could have a longer battery life
GRDE Zoomable Super Bright Headlamp
Testing results: The testing showed that this headlamp is brighter than the average headlamps and it surpasses the brightness features of many headlamps in this price range. The battery also holds pretty well, comparing to some competitive products. The Ms Force headlamp for instance is brighter than this GRDE headlamp, but the battery life of this one is much better.
Usage: Since this is an adjustable headlamp with long straps, you are able to adjust it and use it however you like. You could even attach it over a bike helmet or really, any kind of helmet that you like. When used as a headlamp, the straps are not very tight, and because of the upper strap which serves as an additional safety against falling, there is no chance for it to fall off.
Additional features quality: The most impressive additional feature is its rechargeable option. There are various ways of charging the battery of the lamp, and this makes it suitable for weekly camping trips and excursions. Basically, if you are able to charge a phone where you are going, you would also be able to charge your headlamp, and every camper knows that this is a valuable feature.
- Battery could last longer
- Strap could be more durable
Testing results: While this headlamp is bright and lightweight, it doesn’t offer a long-lasting option for battery life. It is rechargeable, and it does have a battery indicator that will tell you when the battery gets low.
Usage: Batteries aren’t included with this headlamp, but you do need to consider buying lithium batteries to recharge it. Also, this headlamp’s battery life isn’t very long, but it does deliver a very bright light, and the headlamp is easy to wear considering how light it is.
Additional features quality: This headlamp offers a few nice additional features, like the ability to switch to a lower mode to safe battery life when the battery gets low. It is also a waterproof headlamp, and it comes with a smart user interface.
Smart user interface
Short battery life
Lighting EVER LED Headlamp
Testing results: The headlamp is bright enough for working around the camp. The brightest light contains 18 Leds which is more than enough for every outdoor activity in the night you could think of. The headband is coated with foam padding which is pretty thick and comfortable.
Usage: With this headlamp being adjustable, you are able to use it for camping, backpacking, working on your car, biking or even running. The headband can be tightened enough so that it don’t fall out even if you wear it while running. In fact, it is the perfect addition to your night run.
Additional features quality: The features this headlamp contains are with surprising quality considering the price of it. It is safe to assume that this is a high-quality headlamp for the price of a cheap one. However, it also has a downside. Its main downside is the red light. If you are buying it for the red light, keep in mind that there is no option that it doesn’t blink. So, reading with it, or using it for similar activities, other than an alarm light, would be more difficult.
- Red light
- Doesn't blink
What We Looked At In The Best Headlamps
Choosing the right headlamp requires knowledge of certain features. In order to save you some time, we have done the research for you by using all secondary sources and using testing techniques that provided the suggested headlamps. According to us, they are the best from the best on the market and they all provide incredible performances. But first of all, here are the features you need to consider for choosing the perfect headlamp for you.
Quality of the light’s output
The main purpose of the headlamp is finding the trail you are on in the middle of the night. This means that you should be able to look ahead at least hundred meters. This puts the beam distance at the top of the features that you should consider while looking for a headlamp. However, when it comes to quality of the lights, this is not the only feature to be considered. It is also important that the lights don’t have any anomalies such as dark spots that would cause you to believe that there is a hole in front of you. This might inspire you to take another trail and in extreme conditions cause you to get lost in nature. The lights that have lower beam distance or have lower quality can be quite tiring to your eyes and greater attention is required. Nevertheless, the lower quality lights usually have a better battery life which is a great advantage if they are not self-charging. Keep in mind that all of our suggestions have a slight difference in the lights quality that you are going to have to put some effort on noticing.
Opposite to the common belief that the brightness makes the headlamp, there are many more features that should be considered. It could even happen that a light has a greater brightness, but it also has less light quality. Every manufacturer has stated a certain brightness level which you should always check, but never rely on. It is also important whether the lights provide a long beam or a shorter but wider beam.
Reaction to alternative light sources
Another feature you should consider is how the lights react near to alternative light sources such as campfires. This is caused by the built-in sensors that are distracted from the alternative light choices and its focus gets strained. This is called reactive technology. A headlamp could be purchased without one, but or it could be optionally turned off. However, this option is related with an expensive price that is not worth for everyone. If you need a headlamp for camping, you are probably going to use the headlamp when you are looking for something around the camp in the night. Or you are looking for a suitable “toilet”. In this case, this feature would be most important. If you are looking for a hiking headlamp, though, this is much more different since you might need the light for hours and you need it not to cause your eyes to be tired.
Even though manufacturers state the battery life very simply with the hours that a headlamp is able to work without being charged, it is pretty difficult to decide the battery life of a headlamp. What makes it hard are the different range of brightness and the different mode options of each light. When you compare this to the manufacturers’ claims you will notice that they are always promoting the best possible combination. The battery that they are promoting is not very likely to be the actual state. With that said it is vital that you know that brighter lights usually require much more power, even when they burn at a lower mode.
Some headlamps come with rechargeable solutions that will compensate the low battery life. When choosing the battery life of a headlamp it is very important to know how you are going to use it. If you are going to need it for camping purposes only, you will need a good enough light only with long battery life so that you don’t have to recharge it often.
Ease of Use
The ease of use is another feature to look for. If in the middle of the night, you suddenly require a headlamp, it usually means you need it immediately. No one wants to wander around in the night trying to find a way to turn the headlamp on. However, besides turning it on, the ease of use also means switching between modes and the ease of daily operation of the battery. There are some batteries among the suggested ones that are very easy to use and intuitive, while others require that you read the manual in order to master it.
Usable with Gloves
You should only consider this feature if you are a winter camper, backpacker or enjoy some other winter outdoor activity. It is important to consider because when the weather is cold outside you would not want to take your gloves under any circumstances. This requires you to handle the headlamp without having to take them off. Now if this is a factor to consider, so is the thickness of the gloves. Nevertheless, you should be able to turn the headlamp on and off with any glove thickness. Taking out the batteries on the other side is an activity which must be done with the gloves off. The general rule is that the smaller the button is, the more difficult it is to handle it with the gloves on.
Overall Quality Of Additional Features
If you are planning on camping for a prolonged weekend, you are probably going to need to recharge your headlamp. Most headlamps don’t come with an external battery or a solar charger, so if you believe you are going to need one, make sure you purchase it from the same manufacturer. There are also rechargeable kits that are a bit more spacious, but they also come with extra batteries, so you are able to use the headlamp all the time.
More to Think About Before Buying
The weight of the battery is very important for backpacking, and not at all important in camping. Especially if you are traveling to the destination with a vehicle. However, even the heaviest headlamps are only few dozen grams heavier than their competition. Although the weight does not differ much, for some backpackers who are keeping the gear to the minimum, even few dozen grams could make a great difference.
Different types of lighting modes
As previously mentioned, the market today is flooded with different types of lights and the type that you are going to use makes a great difference. However, almost every headlamp today uses the LED technology since it provides more brightness and it requires very little energy. The type of light that you are going to choose should depend on the type of outdoor activity you are planning. That said, there are several major varieties you should choose from:
Spotlight mode – the spotlight mode focuses the light beam to the distance, but it also makes narrower than other types. This light beam is recommended for finding trail marks or other objects in the distance. It is also the preferred option for hikers who need to hike on a trail they have no experience on. The headlamps that have the spotlight feature also have a close proximity mode that you can switch between. However, if you need a spotlight mode, it is recommended that you pick a headlamp choice that does not contain this option. The ones that do are pretty hard to use and handle and the switching between modes is not as easy as you think.
Close proximity mode – The close proximity mode, disperses the light right away once it escapes the headlamp. This provides you a good look on the close objects around you and a good close proximity lighting. The light beam is very narrow, but seeing something in the distance is nearly impossible. The close proximity light has one very important advantage and that is the battery life of the headlamp. Since the brightness is reduced, the battery life is extended. It is convenient to be used for setting up a campsite in the dark or if you just want to check things out. The close proximity light is also less irritating to your camp friends since you won’t be blinding them every time you accidentally point the headlamp in them.
Red light – A red light is also based on the LED technology. The only difference is that because of its color, its brightness is significantly reduced; still, you are able to see everything you need relatively good. Even though this is not the brightest light, in some outdoor sports this is the most preferred option. Hunters, for instance, are using these lights in order to camouflage their existence while allowing themselves to see in the dark. This is done thanks to the fact that animals are not able to see the red lights, so they remain undetected. The battery life is also much better than any other lights on the market. So, if you only need a headlamp for emergencies or just in case situations, this is the choice to go for!
Rechargeable lights – rechargeable lights are the clear choice to go when you are planning on spending more than few days in nature. Batteries are creating waste that also creates dead weight that you are going to have to carry home in your backpack. However, with the rechargeable lights, you will only have those one pair of batteries that you are going to use for a long time on many trips to come. Although there might be a return of investment if you buy rechargeable batteries or a year worth of alkaline ones, having to give that sum of money at once is not an easy task. For this reason, many hikers, backpackers, and campers prefer using the regular ones until the rechargeable battery manufacturers don’t lower the price a bit or maybe even more.
Q: Should you get a headlamp for your kid as well?
Kids like everything that shines and is bright, there are no surprises here. However, whether your kid would wonder of if you give him a headlamp is a question many parents ask themselves. The truth is, after discussing the subject with some mothers that decided their kid should have one, they advise you to go for it. They are not likely to wonder off since most kids have a natural fear from the dark. Another reason you should approve this “toy” for them is because kids are sloppy. If they aren’t careful enough when the weather is bright outside, why expect them to react well to the darkness.
They too should be given the same opportunity of locating themselves in the dark and facing their fears. However, since there is a great probability that you wouldn’t be able to teach him not to point the light directly in your eyes, maybe a red light would be the more convenient choice for a kid. He will love wearing it. And if there are more than one, be prepared for them to chase around, they will love the red color light. As a bonus feature for you is that no matter how far they are, red light is used in rescue situations because they are most easily detectable. So, you would always know where your kid is!
Q: What do I need to know about battery life claims?
As we previously mentioned, the battery life is something that manufacturers always make a “mistake” with. For this reason, we recommend that you ignore the lumen feature stated on every headlamp because is it a poor indicator of its quality and performance. Another reason why you should take lumen as a fixed number is because lumens tend to vary, they don’t stay constant ever. Over the time, the lumens tend to drop and if you have a high lumen number but a low-quality headlamp you will end up with a need to buy another headlamp in just a couple of months. Also, the lumen is completely different depending on the batteries you decide to use.
Q: What do I need to know about how other components affect brightness?
If you also consider the other components of the headlamp such as lenses, led quality, the arrangement of components, size and shape, lower the quality of the light brightness even more unless every one of these components is top of the notch quality.
Q: What do I need to know about the different light colors?
It is also interesting to mention that the human eye is more perceptive to some light colors and less to others. Green lights, for instance, are more likely to seem brighter to the human eye than a red light. This makes it harder to compare lights with different colors one to another. Even though comparing the light brightness of two red lights is relatively easy, comparing a green and a red light will be much more difficult. A green light will appear brighter even though the red one is actually the brighter one. For this reason, when testing two lights with different colors, it is never recommended to rely on your naked eye. Technical tests would go better in this case than human interferences.
Q: What is a burst mode?
A burst mode is something which is pretty vague to the common person buying a headlamp. It is actually the maximum potential that a light has. For instance, if a manufacturer claims that in burst mode it has 260 lumens it might be indeed the case. However, what most people are not aware of is that the burst mode could only be applied for one to several seconds. After that, the light is coming back to its natural state. In burst mode also, the battery wasting is enormous, which couldn’t be good for you, especially if you want to use the headlamp in the outdoors where there aren’t any chargers. Also, when you purchase batteries, be aware that the alkaline batteries are known to have a brighter effect on the beginning of their using cycle, while afterward their brightness lowers.
Q: What else do I need to know about manufacturer’s claims?
Another reason, why these claims are questionable is because the companies self-regulate them. This means they could test a light and have a certificate for the brightness level, but they don’t have to do so. Considering all these reasons, it is far better to read at a review than rely on the manufacturers’ claims when it comes to light performances.
Even if you have gone through that trail for thousands of times, at night, it can be tricky to determine whether it is the right path. In order for this not to happen, a headlamp will ensure you are never in doubt again. A headlamp in a way, prolongs your day, since with it you are able to plan additional activities in the night. A common comparative product to the headlamp is a flashlight that is only convenient if one of you is holding the flashlight and the other one is doing the work. Headlamps provide you the liberty of working with your hands while focusing the light on the right place. The above-suggested models will make sure you are never in the dark again and they will provide you the lightness you need in your life!
If you have any additional questions regarding the headlamp subject, pop us a comment in the section bellow.