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Headlamps are special; they ensure we enjoy our activities at night as much as we do in daylight. There are many activities that find headlamps useful, and deciding which to buy can be a hassle. With so many options, you’re spoiled for choice. Being able to differentiate between a good headlamp and the best headlamp is a skill few possess.
This guide recommends and reviews the best headlamps for a variety of purposes. If you’re in a hurry, skip through to the activity that you find relevant. The pros and cons of each headlamp are discussed, and compelling reasons to justify their placement in this article are also given.
These are the recommended headlamps:
- Best Headlamp for Running: BioLite No-Bounce Head Light
- Best Headlamp for Hunting: Streamlight BuckMasters Trident
- Best Headlamp for Fishing: Nitecore HC60
- Best Headlamp for Skiing: PETZL NAO+
- Best Tactical Headlamp: Streamlight Vantage Helmet Mounted Flashlight
- Best Headlamp for Work: DEWALT DWHT81424
How to Choose the Best Headlamp
There are considerations that need to be made when purchasing a headlamp. Even within a specific niche, there are many good headlamps. To be the best headlamp, it must have an impressive build quality and possess as many of the following attributes as possible.
Lumens: The Brightness of the Lamp
Lumen is a unit measurement used to quantify the amount of light being put out by a light source. Headlamps range from 15 lumens to an astonishing 1000 lumens. Brighter lamps aren’t always best (depending on your choice of activity), but as a rule of thumb: a higher lumen number is better.
But this rule only applies to high-quality brands (like those mentioned in our recommendations). If you happen to see a large lumen number from a low-quality brand, then don’t purchase it. The high lumen number will, in most cases, be compensating for a deficiency in another feature of the headlamp (the light optics, for example).
Brighter lamps (a higher lumen number) are best for running in the dark, skiing, and mountain biking. Headlamps with a lower lumen number are best for camping, reading in a tent, or doing high-precision work.
Our Lumens, Lux, and Candela article is a great resource to learn more about Lumens and light output
There are two beam types: a spot beam and a wide beam. Some high-end headlamps can switch between both. Beam types impact how helpful the light can be. Below is a short description of each beam mode:
- Wide beams are best for camping as they provide an even floodlight. They light up a larger area.
- Spot beams are focused beams and ensure that you can see farther. Spot beams are conducive to night runs.
- A mix of both beams is best for action-packed activities like skiing and mountain biking—this combination aids in seeing the unpredictable terrain ahead.
The power source of a headlamp can determine its usefulness. If the duration of planned activity is short, skiing, for example, then rechargeable batteries are a good option. If, however, you’re spending a week or two hunting in the Serengeti, then replaceable batteries are a better alternative. There are also some headlamps that offer both options.
Learn everything you need to know about Batteries with our Ultimate Guide to Batteries!
Regardless of your power source, battery life is important. Naturally, it’s always more convenient to have more battery life. The brighter the headlamp, the less battery life it will have. So, don’t be too excited when you find a very bright lamp. Inspect the spec sheet. It will usually have the “burn time.” Battery life ranges from a few hours to several weeks.
Just like your phone, battery life is affected by cold weather; this may disadvantage winter sports enthusiasts. The manufacturer usually mentions the battery performance in different conditions. If you’re going to face extreme weather, then ensure you pay attention to this.
Size and Weight
There’s no advantage to a heavy and large headlamp. It can strain your neck and cause unintended health problems. If the quality is the same, always opt for the lighter and smaller option.
Our phones are waterproof; now our headlamps are too. Not everybody needs a waterproof light. If your activity is close to water, fishing, for example, then a waterproof headlamp is a great option.
How durable is it? What does IPX6 mean? Read our Ultimate Guide to the ANSI/PLATO FL1 Standard symbols!
The Best Headlamps Reviewed
Below are recommended headlamps and their impartial review. The reviews consider the points discussed above and hopefully help you understand why they are the best headlamps on the market.
Best Headlamp for Running
This ultralight and ultrathin model from BioLite is a spectacle. Weighing only 2.5 ounces, the BioLite Headlamp is equipped with moisture-wicking fabric that absorbs any sweat from your forehead, keeping you comfortable during your run.
The maximum output is an impressive 330 lumens, which is more than adequate for even the darkest of nights. It has adjustable beam modes; this is accompanied by a perk where the headlamp remembers your previous modes and settings, saving you valuable time.
There’s also an extra “red light” feature. Red light is less obtrusive and is suitable when running from well-lit areas to poorer lit ones.
The adjustable modes can be used to optimize battery life. When on low-beam, this headlamp lasts for 40 hours, but on high-beam, it only lasts for three hours; this isn’t bad, but neither is it too impressive. The headlamp has rechargeable batteries as a power source, which is very convenient for city living.
Available in four colors, this headlamp is strikingly stylish and will definitely match with your trendy running shoes.
- Max output 330 lumens.
- Red light included.
- Adjustable front panel.
- Moist-absorbing material.
- Stylish and available in four colors.
- Average battery life.
- Power source not suited to trail running.
Click to see more Best Headlamps for Running
Best Headlamp for Hunting
For a relatively low price, you get one very durable headlamp. This headlamp has water-resistant properties and can undergo the most extreme conditions with very little wear; this is a must-have in the artillery of any accomplished hunter.
The headlamp is manufactured by a reputable company, Streamlight. That’s the most compelling value proposition this product has to offer. Streamlight promises to produce gear that’s reliable enough to save lives. So, whether you’re riding through the Kalahari or tracking game in the mountains of Nepal, Streamlight gear will never fail you.
The product comes with three lighting modes. It features three 5mm LEDs that are ultra-bright for long and close distance light, and a single C4 power LED in one package; this increases the versatility of the headlamp and makes it suitable for the unpredictable conditions of the wild.
With replaceable batteries that can run for five hours on full beam and a lifetime warranty, this product is easily the best of the best. What more could you want? Decreased weight, maybe? At 8 ounces, this isn’t the lightest piece of gear. But considering everything else, this is a worthy compromise.
- Very affordable price.
- Impervious to shock; IPX4 rated for water-resistant operation.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Great battery life.
- Equipped with a low battery warning indicator.
- Comes with both rubber and elastic head straps (how cool is that?)
- From a reputable manufacturer.
- Heavier than other products on the market.
- Could do better with the design. It isn’t aesthetically pleasing.
Click to see more Best Headlamps for Hunting
Best Headlamp for Fishing
This headlamp is a completely different beast. There’s hardly anything else like this on the market. With a mouth-gaping maximum output of 1000 lumens, this headlamp is incredibly bright. The beam coverage is equally impressive. At 100 degrees wide and for a 128-yard distance, you’ve found a life-long companion as a nighttime fisherman.
The product can be regarded as extremely lightweight, weighing under 5 ounces. That’s astonishing considering the rechargeable 3400 mAh battery that comes with it. But at only one hour of run time at full output, is the bewildering brightness this headlamp’s downfall?
- Lightweight and comfortable at 3.4 ounces.
- Incredible maximum brightness output.
- Memory mode included.
- 5 Adjustable output modes.
- Waterproof and submersible to 1m.
- Battery life—1 hour at 1000 lumens and 2 hours 30 minutes at 420 lumens.
Click to see more Best Headlamps for Fishing
Best Headlamp for Skiing
The Petzl is possibly the fanciest piece of technology on the list of recommendations. What’s special about this headlamp is its Bluetooth function. You can control the luminosity, the shape of the light cones, and the light duration with a free downloadable app called PETZL MY LIGHT APP. It’s available on both the App Store and Google Play Store.
The headlamp is equipped with reactive lighting technology, which adjusts the shape of the beam and luminosity through a brightness sensor to retain battery life. The rechargeable 3100 mAh battery is reliable. However, one would expect better at this price point. But for off-piste skiing in Verbier or Chamonix, it will suffice.
In headlamp terms, this product costs an arm; this isn’t a problem for everybody. Some people have a little more to spend, but for the majority, a cheaper alternative may be considered. Fancy technology like Bluetooth, is excellent, but is it necessary? And more importantly, is it worth the price?
- Great build quality.
- 750 lumens maximum output.
- Bluetooth feature.
- Has an accompanying mobile application.
- The price (It’s actually insane.)
Best Tactical Headlamp
When searching for tactical gear, function and discretion are the most important attributes. The Streamlight Vantage has both. With a very low profile and compact design, it’s worthy of the title of the best tactical headlamp. The lightweight design makes it suitable to easily attach above or below full brim fire and industrial helmets.
The case is sealed for water resistance; it’s shockproof and essentially indestructible. These are the features you’d expect from the winner of this category. One would be discouraged at the mere 115 lumens the headlamp features. But remember, tactical procedures are about subtlety, and a lower lumen number is a good thing in this case.
As with the previous headlamp, this too costs an arm. What’s more surprising is the lack of grandeur and ostentation in the Streamlight. So why does it cost so much? It’s the build quality, and unless you actually get to feel how well crafted this headlamp is, you’ll find it difficult to justify the price.
- Great build quality.
- Great battery life.
- Water-resistant and shockproof.
- Features an impressive ultra-bright blue LED safety tail light together with the latest in power LED technology.
- The price.
Best Headlamp for Work
When using a headlamp for work, you need it to be durable and comfortable. This one from DEWALT is that, and so much more. Brightness isn’t the objective when carrying out your work. That’s why the 200-lumen number is a very reassuring feature.
With dust and water resistance, this headlamp is manufactured to last a long time. DEWALT carries out a 6.6-foot drop test on all their products, and this headlamp consistently passes, making it extremely durable.
Extra features include motion sensors that turn the headlamp on and off, saving you precious time and an anti-slip strap to attach well to helmets. With a 24-hour runtime, this is the very best headlamp for work. Additionally, it’s very affordable.
- Water and dust resistant.
- Motion sensor function.
- Not designed to go straight on your head. Better with a helmet.
Click to see more Best Headlamps for Work
Having gone through the recommendations, you’ll probably understand what to look for when deciding on a headlamp to purchase. Most people resort to buying the most expensive product because the expense is often associated with quality. But for the true headlamp connoisseur, the value of a product is seen in a variety of factors.
The headlamps mentioned in the article take all these factors into consideration. Even the more expensive ones have enough quality in them to justify their price. So, whatever your profession or chosen activity is, you will hopefully enjoy some nighttime fun or productivity.
Click to see all of our other Headlamp reviews!