Best Headlamps For 2021 – Key Features For Hiking, & Everyday Use

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Article Categories: Gear | Hiking Tips
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In this article, we breakdown why a headlamp is so versatile, the key features you should be looking for in a headlamp, and our best headlamp picks in each price range. Use the quick navigation to scroll to the section most valuable to you.

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Key FeaturesUnder $25 | Under $50 | Under $100 | Under $200 | Specialty Headlamps | Headlamp Uses

 

We started this article explaining the key specs and features you should be looking at in a headlamp to help you make the right decision. If you are already aware of these features, simply scroll on past, or click for the top headlamps in your budget range.

 

Key Features of Headlamps

Headlamps are easy-to-use, readily available accessories that make working, hiking, camping, fishing, or doing anything else at night far easier and safer, but before you rush out to purchase a headlamp, you need to know what you are looking for. Headlamps come in a wide variety of types with many features, and depending on your need, can be as heavy-duty or as basic as necessary. Here are some of the key features to look for when purchasing a headlamp:

 

Lumens

‘Lumens’ are the standard of measurement used to describe a light’s brightness, with one lumen representing the amount of light produced by a single candle. Headlamp brightness is measured in lumens, with more lumens representing higher levels of brightness. While you may think that you should go straight for the most lumens available, you may not need such a high-powered headlamp depending on your intended use. For basic at-home purposes, some people may find that as little as 30 lumens is adequate, while individuals looking for something with more power for activities like night fishing may choose an option with up to 1,000 lumens. In general, most quality headlamps available today will feature between 100 and 300 lumens, and this range will likely be more than enough for the average user.

 

Light Modes & Settings

Headlamps are designed with a wide range of light modes and settings depending on the manufacturer, with some featuring only “on” and “off” functions and others featuring multiple-beam types and color settings other than the standard yellow/white LED. Some common modes that may be useful for nighttime camping, hiking, or running include:

  • Flood-light: Most headlamps are designed to function as flood-lights, creating a general wash of light across the ground ahead of you – similar to a standard lightbulb. The flood-light setting is good for seeing objects close up, and examining the path directly ahead of you.
  • Spot-light: A spot-light setting is included in headlamps designed for long-distance viewing, and helps to increase the visibility of objects that are far away.
  • Red light: Red light is a great replacement for white/yellow light when you want something less harsh but with similar levels of visibility. Red light can help you to retain natural night vision while assisting your eyes and reducing strain and should be used for basic tasks around camp, reading in the dark, or trips to the outhouse.
  • Blue light: Blue light isn’t necessary for most hikers and campers, but if you intend to hunt with your headlamp, blue light can help you to detect an animal’s trail.
  • Green light: Like red light, green light is a good replacement for standard white or yellow in the dark, but reveals increased detail to help you see your surroundings more clearly. If you are crossing rough terrain, or want to get a really good look at something in detail, green light is the way to go.

 

Beam Distance

Beam distance refers to how far the light of your headlamp can reach and can vary in range from as little as a few meters ahead of you to as much as 200 meters. If you need to see very far in the dark, you’ll want to go for the upper end of the scale, but for most individuals, a beam distance of between 10 and 30 meters is more than enough.

Remember, beam distance will depend on whether your headlamp is set to flood or spot. The general wash of a 100-lumen headlamp won’t reach as far as the intensified spotlight of the same headlamp, so don’t expect them to perform at the same level.

 

Battery Life

Battery life is yet another important factor to consider when selecting a headlamp since you wouldn’t want your light to konk out after just a few hours of use with miles left on the trail and no light to see by. Some cheaper, general use headlamps have extremely limited battery life, and won’t last more than a few hours, even on the lowest settings. Other headlamps are designed to last for days without needing their batteries replaced or recharged, and can easily outlast even you on the trail. In general, we recommend choosing a headlamp with at least 10 hours of battery life for at-home purposes, and 20+ hours for hiking or camping headlamps.

 

Battery Type

No matter how long the battery life of your headlamp may be, there will come a time when it loses all power and needs to be recharged or have its batteries replaced. Before purchasing a headlamp, consider what your preferred method of doing this would be, whether that be to recharge an existing battery pack, purchase new batteries entirely, or even set your headlamp out in the sunlight to soak up solar rays. If you plan to be on the trail for weeks, you may prefer a solar-powered or rechargeable option. If you plan to use your headlamp exclusively for work around the house, replaceable batteries may be the most convenient option. Many hikers choose headlamps with batteries and simply always carry an extra pair.

 

Fastening Design

Headlamps can be fastened to your head or shoulder using a variety of mechanisms, each of which may be preferable for you based on your needs and personal taste. Most commonly, straps are used to secure the headlamp to the head, which feature adjustable fastenings to tighten or loosen for a perfect fit. Alternatively to the traditional strap are some varieties made with thin string, which may be less expensive but typically are less secure. A happy middle-ground between these two options is a sweatband style headlamp which is secured to a thick, well-cushioned headband. If you prefer not to attach your headlamp directly to your head, options featuring clips to fasten the lamp to your hat or shoulder strap are readily available.

 

Tilt

Some less expensive headlamps are fixed, and cannot change position. While these may be good for basic tasks around the house, we recommend looking for headlamps that feature tilting lights so that you may adjust the angle of the beam to your desired position.

 

Weight

Because headlamps are carried on the head, they should be lightweight and comfortable to wear for long periods. Too heavy, and the headlamp will be uncomfortable, or possibly shift during your journey, creating discomfort and distracting you from nature. Though some heavy-duty and high-powered headlamps can be as much as 9-10 ounces, we recommend choosing an option between 2 and 4 ounces for maximum comfort and portability – that’s about the weight of a deck of playing cards. You especially want to go light if you are a trail runner.

 

Durability & Water Resistance

While headlamps don’t typically see much rough and tumble action on the trail, accidents happen, which is why you’ll want yours to be durable enough to withstand whatever is thrown your way. While durable materials and a well-built fastening system will do wonders to protect from bumps and falls, the most important durability feature to consider when selecting a headlamp is water resistance.

Headlamp water resistance is rated on the IPX system of grading, with IPX-0 representing the lowest water resistance and IPX-8 representing the highest. Here’s the scale in its entirety:

 

IPX-0 No protection against water
IPX-1 Protection against condensation or vertical drips
IPX-2 Protection against spraying water, tilted up to 15 degrees vertically
IPX-3 Protection against spraying water, tilted up to 60 degrees vertically
IPX-4 Protection against splashes from any angle
IPX-5 Protection against low-pressure streams from any angle
IPX-6 Protection against high-pressure streams from any angle
IPX-7 Protection against immersion up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes
IPX-8 Protection against submersion for extended periods

 

Ideally, you’ll select a headlamp option with a rating of at least IPX-4.

 

Warranty & Company Values

Whenever possible, it is a good idea to purchase products from companies that share your same values, since you’ll know your money is going to people with the best intentions for the world. For example, if you love nature, you may want to seek out companies that do good for the environment by contributing a portion of their proceeds to conservation efforts. In general, companies that share good, ethical values for people and the planet will also treat their customers fairly, creating only the best products and offering warranties to protect their customers’ purchases.

While you may not care about a warranty for an inexpensive headlamp, some high-end headlamps can cost well over $100, so having the security of a warranty to protect your investment can help make the purchase feel more comfortable. Additionally, if anything were to happen to your headlamp on the trail, you’ll feel confident knowing it can be repaired or replaced.

 

Best Headlamps Under $25

If you need a headlamp for general use around the house, or want to test one out to see if you enjoy wearing one, choose a headlamp from this category. Affordable and readily available, don’t let the reasonable price tag on these headlamps fool you, since each offers high-end performance and long-lasting durability.

 

Petzl Tikkina Headlamp

 PETZL, TIKKINA Outdoor HeadlampAffordable, lightweight, and featuring up to 250 lumens, the Tikkina headlamp from Petzl is an excellent entry-level headlamp that can be used around the house or on the trail. Choose from four colors, or purchase multiples for the kids in your life, since these headlamps are affordable enough to purchase for the whole family.

 

Price: $19.95
Bulb Type: Single LED
Lumens: Up to 250lm
Light Settings: White light settings for proximity, movement, and distance
Max Beam Distance: 60 meters
Battery Life (on low): 120 hours
Battery Type: Non-rechargeable; takes 3 AAA batteries
Weight: 3 oz.
Fastening: Detachable elastic headband; one strap
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-4

Notable Features:

  • Compatible with most helmets and bicycle mounts
  • Washable headband
  • Also make a 300 lumen version

 

See On REI | See On Amazon

 

Black Diamond Astro 250 Headlamp

Black Diamond Astro 250 HeadlampFeaturing a simple, sleek design, the Black Diamond Astro 250 is the perfect headlamp for casual nighttime hikers or makes an excellent backup to a higher-powered headlamp for multi-night hikes. Keep this headlamp safely stashed in your pack until you need it without worrying about it accidentally draining the battery since the Astro 250 features a digital lockout to prevent accidental use.

 

Price: $19.95
Bulb Type: Single LED
Lumens: Up to 250lm
Light Settings: High, low, and strobe flood
Max Beam Distance: 35 meters
Battery Life (on low): 200 hours
Battery Type: Non-rechargeable; takes 3 AAA batteries
Weight: 1.9oz
Fastening: Single adjustable elastic strap
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-4

Notable Features:

  • Brightness memory keeps this headlamp on your preferred setting
  • Digital lockout to prevent accidental use

 

See On Amazon | See On REI | See On Black Diamond

 

Ledlenser NE04 Running Headlamp

LED Lenser NEO4 Run HeadlampEasy to put on and adjust with a single hand, the Ledlenser NE04 running headlamp is a cost-effective option for runners that need a little extra light. Comfortable and secure for slip-free wear, this is the option you’ll want to choose if you are buying your first running headlamp.

 

Price: $24.95
Bulb Type: Single LED
Lumens: Up to 240lm
Light Settings: High, low, blinking
Max Beam Distance: 30 meters
Battery Life (on low): 40 hours
Battery Type: Non-rechargeable; takes 3 AAA batteries
Weight: 3.5 oz.
Fastening: Single adjustable nylon strap
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-7

Notable Features:

  • Rear-facing red light
  • Locking swivel
  • Low-battery warning

See On Amazon | See On Ledlenser

 

Best Headlamps Under $50

Headlamps with enough power to get you through a long evening of hiking may be a bit more expensive than the basic models, but when you spend a little more, you get a whole lot more brightness. For the dedicated evening walker or the newbie nighttime hiker, these mid-range headlamps make excellent choices. These are even great options for the budget seeking advanced hiker.

 

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

Black Diamond Spot HeadlampLooking for a headlamp that will cut through fog, rain, and low visibility? This headlamp from Black Diamond features a high-powered spotlight that can illuminate even the densest, most difficult conditions, providing brightness in any weather. Best of all, the Black Diamond Spot features the highest possible water-resistance rating so it can be worn throughout even the hardest rainfalls.

 

Price: $40
Bulb Type: 1 quad-power LED & 1 double-power LED
Lumens: Up to 300lm
Light Settings: Full-strength proximity, distance, dimming, strobe, and red light
Max Beam Distance: 80 meters
Battery Life (on low): 175 hours
Battery Type: Non-rechargeable; takes 3 AAA batteries
Weight: 3.25 ounces
Fastening: Single adjustable elastic strap
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-8
Notable Features:

  • Superior peripheral lighting
  • Precision spot beam
  • Brightness memory remembers your preferred settings

 

See On REISee On Amazon

 

BioLite HeadLamp 200

BioLite HeadLamp 200Want an eco-friendly, non-alkaline battery headlamp option for less than fifty bucks? If you answered ‘yes’, you’ll love the BioLite HeadLamp 200. Featuring a USB rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can run for up to 40 hours, you’ll love not generating any waste when this headlamp needs to be recharged. Built directly into a sturdy, adjustable strap, this headlamp is great for running, hiking, or early morning bike-rides.

 

Price: $44.95
Bulb Type: 2 LEDs; 1 red light
Lumens: Up to 200lm
Light Settings: White spot, white strobe, red flood, red, strobe, and dimming
Max Beam Distance: 50 meters
Battery Life (on low): 40 hours
Battery Type: Micro-USB rechargeable; 700 mAh lithium-ion
Weight: 1.75 ounces
Fastening: Single adjustable elastic strap
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-4

Notable Features:

  • Reflective headband strips
  • Moisture-wicking fabric
  • Brightness memory

 

See On Amazon | See On REI | See On BioLite

 

Petzl Actik Headlamp

Petzl Actik HeadlampLike a higher-powered, more dynamic version of the Petzl Tikkina, the Actik is a step up from the average headlamp and features both powerful white and red flood and spotlights. 350 lumens help to give this headlamp a whopping 80-meter range, plus an impressive 120 hours of low-level battery life.

 

Price: $49.95
Bulb Type: 2 LEDs; 1 red light
Lumens: Up to 350lm
Light Settings: Flood, spot, red, 3 white settings
Max Beam Distance: 80 meters
Battery Life (on low): 120 hours
Battery Type: Non-rechargeable – takes 3 AAAs; rechargeable compatible
Weight: 3.2 ounces
Fastening: Single adjustable strap
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-4

Notable Features:

  • Reflective band
  • Helmet and bicycle compatible
  • Compatible with Ni-MH rechargeable or Petzl 1250 mAh CORE rechargeable batteries

See On Amazon | See On REI | See On Petzl

 

Best Headlamps Under $100

Once you fall in love with night-hiking, you’ll be chomping at the bit to get a high-powered headlamp. Ideal for long hikes and multi-night treks, these headlamps are among some of the longest-lasting currently on the market and possess a range of special features to help you stay extra safe on your adventures.

 

Black Diamond Revolt 350 Headlamp

Black Diamond Revolt HeadlampRechargeable, super powerful, and comfortably snug, the Revolt 350 from Black Diamond is a securely fitting, high-end headlamp that’s perfect for hiking, walking, running, and everything in between. Multiple light settings, high-powered lumens, and long-lasting battery-life set this headlamp apart from the rest, but its low-profile design won’t have you feeling too flashy on the trail.

 

Price: $64.95
Bulb Type: One triple-power LED, one double-power LED
Lumens: Up to 350lm
Light Settings: High, medium, low, strobe, red, plus dimming
Max Beam Distance: 89 meters
Battery Life (on low): 200 hours
Battery Type: 3 AAAs or rechargeable BD 1800 mAh lithium-ion
Weight: 3.2 ounces
Fastening: Single adjustable strap
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-4

Notable Features:

  • Brightness memory
  • USB rechargeable

 

See On Black Diamond | See On Amazon

 

Fenix HL60R Rechargeable Headlamp

Fenix HL60R 950 LumensOne of the highest-powered rechargeable headlamps on the market, the Fenix HL60R also features impressive durability, long-lasting battery life, and superior water resistance. If you’d like to forego changing batteries without compromising on lumens, the Fenix HL60R will surely impress.

 

Price: $74.95
Bulb Type: One LED, red light
Lumens: 950lm
Light Settings:  Eco, low, medium, high, turbo, and red
Max Beam Distance: 116 meters
Battery Life (on low): 100 hours
Battery Type: One rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion battery
Weight: 4.3 ounces
Fastening: Overhead/top headband and mount, adjustable straps
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-8

Notable Features:

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Micro-USB rechargeable
  • Anti-abrasive finish

 

See On Amazon | See On Fenix

 

Zebralight H600w Mk IV Headlamp

Zebralight H600w Mk IV 18650 XHP35 Neutral White HeadlampIf what you want is a super-wide, super long, super-bright beam of bright white light to cut through the thickest darkness, the Zebralight H600w is the headlamp for you. Featuring a high-powered neutral white LED, super-lightweight design, and impressive water resistance, this headlamp is a workhorse that won’t disappoint.

 

Price: $89.00
Bulb Type: Single LED
Lumens: Up to 1,400lm
Light Settings: High, medium, low, and strobe
Max Beam Distance: 120 meters
Battery Life (on low): 18.5 days
Battery Type: One rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion battery
Weight: 1.3 ounces
Fastening: Overhead/top headband mount, adjustable straps
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-8

Notable Features:

  • Automatic battery saving
  • Battery level indicator

 

See On Amazon | See On Zebralight

Best Headlamps Under $200

Looking for the ultimate in headlamp luxury? These are some of the most expensive and exclusive headlamps you can buy, designed to make you feel like a real professional on the trail. Enjoy long battery life, tons of lumens, various light settings, and superior quality fasteners when you splurge.

 

ACEBEAM H30

ACEBEAM H30 LED Headlamp Rechargeable 3-Color Light Cree XHP70.2 HeadlightAppropriate for arctic expeditions, spelunking in deep caves, and weathering the toughest storms, the ACEBEAM H30 headlamp has all the power you need and then some. Featuring a whopping max brightness of up to 4,000 lumens, you’ll light up everything in your path when you wear this headlamp.

 

Price: $119.90
Bulb Type: CREE XHP70.2 white LED, CREE XPE2-R2 red light, and CREE XPE2-G3 green
Lumens: Up to 4,000
Light Settings: Ultra-low, low, medium, high, turbo, turbo max, SOS, red, and green
Max Beam Distance: 209 meters
Battery Life (on low): 200 hours
Battery Type: Rechargeable 21700 5100mAh battery
Weight: 2.8 ounces
Fastening: Overhead/top headband mount, adjustable straps
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-8

Notable Features:

  • USBC charging port
  • SOS emergency function

 

See On Amazon | See On ACEBEAM

 

Petzl NAO+ Headlamp

Petzl NAO+ HeadlampBy far our most luxurious pick, you probably don’t need this $200 headlamp, but if you want to splurge, you’ll love its extra features. Not only is this headlamp rechargeable, the Petzl NAO+ can connect via Bluetooth to your tablet or smartphone for custom beam, burn, and brightness settings. Rechargeable batteries and an impressive 750 lumens of brightness round out this luxury headlamp, making it ideal for night hikes or working around camp.

 

Price: $199.95
Bulb Type: 2 LEDs
Lumens: 750lm
Light Settings: High, low, medium, and strobe
Max Beam Distance: 140lm
Battery Life (on low): 12 hours
Battery Type: Rechargeable 2,600 mAh lithium-ion batteries
Weight: 6.5 ounces
Fastening: Adjustable i-cord band
Water Resistance Rating: IPX-4

Notable Features:

  • Battery indicator light
  • Ergonomic buttons
  • Lock function to prevent battery drainage
  • Compatible with iOS and Android devices

See On Amazon | See On REI | See On Petzl

 

Best Specialty Use Headlamps

Need help narrowing down your options? Here are our picks for the best headlamps in these three categories:

Best Headlamp for Running: BioLite 200 – $44.95

Best Headlamp for Hiking: Black Diamond Spot – $89.00

Best Headlamp for Everyday Use: Petzl Tikkina – $19.95

 

Why Use a Headlamp?

Handheld flashlights are useful for brief tasks around the house or trips down to dark basements, but carrying a clunky lantern won’t do you much good on a long hike or while trying to get work done in the yard on a dark evening. A headlamp is a more convenient, lighter-weight alternative to a handheld lantern, and makes a conveniently compact addition to your hiking pack or nature toolbox. Some basic applications of a headlamp include:

 

Night Hiking

Hiking at night can be an incredible experience, one that can allow you to see the world in an entirely different way. With daytime creatures hidden away and nocturnal animals out and about, you’ll encounter strange new noises, and experience what goes on when the rest of the world sleeps. Unfortunately, the human eye is not capable of seeing the world clearly at night, so to navigate over rough terrain, rocks, roots, and brambles, you’ll something to show you the path.

A headlamp is the easiest and most comfortable way to carry light with you on a nighttime hike since headlamps are lightweight and take up little room in your pack. Keep your headlamp carefully tucked away until nightfall, then strap on the lightweight lamp to brighten the path ahead while you hike in the moonlight.

 

Camping

The uses of a headlamp while camping are virtually infinite, whether you need a bit of extra light to read a book while tucked into your sleeping bag, or to help you set up your tent should you arrive at your campsite after dark. A headlamp makes a quick trip to the outhouse or designated resting area easy at 2 AM or can help you to locate lost items in a pinch.

 

Walks

If you like to take late evening or early morning walks, a headlamp can help make your adventure a little bit safer. A headlamp is easy to strap on before heading out the door by yourself, with a friend, or with your dog, and can even be brought along in case an early evening walk goes later than expected. Perfect for illuminating the path ahead of you and helping you to detect obstacles, wild animals, or anything else in your way, even short walks can be made better with a headlamp.

 

Running

Many runners like to begin their runs early in the morning, before the sun rises to beat the day and have plenty of time to shower and be dressed for work, school, or other plans. While running in the early morning will allow you to see the sunrise, the period before the sun comes up can be oppressively dark and difficult to see through with the naked eye. Running in the dark can be dangerous without proper lighting since you can easily trip or fall. If you run in the road, even reflective clothing won’t always make you visible to oncoming cars, so the added illumination of a headlamp can make you extra visible.

 

Yard-Work & Brief Tasks

Working in the yard to rake leaves, plant flowers, pull weeds, chop wood, or do the myriad of other things required to keep your yard looking beautiful takes a vast amount of time and commitment, and many gardeners find themselves working late into the evenings. In the summertime, some gardeners may choose to purposefully work only at night, hoping to avoid the harsh rays of the sun and subsequent sunburns.

Gardening requires the use of your whole body and the constant attention of your hands, making it difficult to carry light with you. A headlamp is the perfect solution for nighttime gardening since headlamps illuminate only where you look while providing plenty of light to see exactly what you are doing with no need for eye strain.

Similarly, headlamps are extremely useful for brief, late-night tasks outdoors, like retrieving wood from a woodpile, taking dogs outside, or putting away lawn furniture, pool toys, and food from a day of leisurely entertainment.

Max DesMarais
Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and sharing experiences with others. Max is a published author for various outdoor websites and digital marketing websites. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about

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