Headlamps

Headlamps

There’s a big price difference between the cheapest headlamps and the most expensive options. Popular headlamps on Amazon can sometimes do the trick. Affordable models can be packed with great features though there will be limitations. Then there are headlamps that go above and beyond with premium quality and a specialized build. These headlamps are built for challenges in tough wilderness conditions. Their prices are higher, but if you have specialized needs it will be worth it.

A rechargeable headlamp could be a game-changer in the realm of sustainability. But too often, we’ve ended up with no light in the darkness wishing we could just switch out some batteries. In your home, doing repairs or finding the fuse box at night, rechargeable headlamps are a great addition to your tool kit.

This guide to choosing the best headlamp considers outdoor excursions far from home. It could be pitching a tent, hanging up food under the night sky, running trails, or climbing rockfaces.

Red light, two lights, dimmer, temperature and comfort are all options we consider when camping or trail running. Our guide takes this into account and reviews the best brands and some reliable, less expensive ones too.

In a market overflowing with options that can start looking the same, it’s confusing which one to choose. Here’s a quick rundown of the criteria. You can use these factors to find the best headlamp suited for you.

  • Brightness and Purpose: Why do you need a headlamp? How many lumens would you need? Do you need different lighting modes?
  • Battery: Do you want a rechargeable lithium-ion or disposable AAAs? Maybe a crossover would interest you. What is your desired runtime? Can it stand cold temperatures?
  • Weight: Are you looking for a lightweight headlamp? Heavier ones typically come with lots of features.
  • Strap: How would you like to wear your headlamp? Are you ok with a classic wraparound strap, or do you prefer T-straps?
  • Weather-Resistance: Water-resistant? Or water-proof? How about dust resistance?
  • Price: How much are you willing to spend?

It’s one thing to know you need a headlamp. It’s another to look for the most suitable one. We understand how time-consuming this can be!

We want to save you some time, so we reviewed our favorites and landed on the top 5.

Also, if you don’t know where to start, hit us up in the comments below. Let’s find the best gear out there together.

You can start your journey in our buyer’s guide below to help you understand each headlamp better.

The Top 5 Headlamps in 2023

Our Top Headlamps of 2022

The Petzl headlamp is a king within climbing royalty. You usually see it in the price too. But the Petzl Tikkina Headlamp is one of their more humble and impressive lights in terms of value.

There’s no red LED bulb on the Tikkina, but with 250 lumens on a 3-level floodlight (low, medium, high), you’ll see as far as 60 meters away with a beam that’s sharper than most!

This Petzl headlamp model is one of the most budget-friendly yet durable headlamps on the market today. It’s comfortable, sits firmly around your brow and is weatherproof.

Even if you end up with a damaged Petzl Tikkina Headlamp, their 5-year warranty’s got your back!

Specs & Features

  • Weight: 2.86 oz
  • Light Modes: Low, Medium, and High Flood Light
  • Lumens: 250
  • Max Beam Distance: 60 Meters
  • Batteries: AAA x 3 or CORE rechargeable battery (available as an accessory)

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.8

Things we like:

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    Super lightweight and easy to use
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    Affordable
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    Easy-to-adjust wraparound strap is comfortable
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    A great light source for night dog walks and activities inside the house
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    It comes with a 5-year warranty

Things we don't like:

  • check-markA red light would be a great addition, so you don't blind yourself while camping or reading, and you won’t attract bugs.
  • check-markRuns off of disposable AAAs. It is, however, compatible with Petzl’s rechargeable CORE battery, but you need to buy it separately.
Read full review

Where to buy:

Petzl Tikkina Headlamp Product Image

Petzl Tikkina

This Black Diamond headlamp is one of the best companions for camping, trail running, or, their original specialty, making a mountain approach before dawn. It is great for a range of tasks both close-up and far away.

Emitting 350 lumens (hence the name), the Spot 350 serves you with a long-range spotlight reaching up to 85 feet. Its other settings include a floodlight for near-distance use, a strobe light for signaling, and red light (ideal for nighttime reading).

If you stay on dimmed mode all the time, your headlamp’s power can take you through dark trails for up to 200 hours!

You can easily switch through these modes with the help of two smart-tap buttons. You might need time to get used to this system. But once you’re comfortable with it, it’s a time-saver.

The strap of this Black Diamond headlamp is your traditional wraparound. Considering its weight, it offers a comfy fit when in use.

With a water resistant IPX8 rating it will be safe for shallow underwater (max depth: 3 feet) use for a half hour. That basically means it’ll survive a dunk but you should probably still rescue it quickly if it falls into a stream or pond. Rain won’t be a problem for the Spot.

The Black Diamond Spot 350 is a powerful all-around headlamp. And if you’ve been a fan of Black Diamond headlamps, this will be a worthwhile addition to your kit.

Specs & Features

  • Weight: 3 ounces
  • Light Modes: Dimmed and Full-Powered Spot, Flood Light, Red Light, Strobe
  • Lumens: 350
  • Max. Beam Distance: 85 Meters
  • Batteries: AAA x 3

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.8

Things we like:

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    Its Brightness Memory feature saves your last setting
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    Two smart-tap buttons make it easy to switch lighting modes
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    Highly water-resistant
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    Lightweight with a durable build
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    The battery can survive up to 200 hours when in a low setting

Things we don't like:

  • check-markYou need some time to get used to the setting buttons
  • check-markRuns on disposable AAAs
Read full review

Where to buy:

Black Diamond Spot 350 Product Image

Black Diamond Spot 350

Traditionally used by hunters, headlamps with Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) lights are gaining in popularity for all outdoor adventurers. Many feel the green light is better for night vision out on trails and for those looking for wildlife it is easier to spot nocturnal action. The Petzl Tactikka +RGB headlamp will give you all 3 color options in addition to clean and clear white output at 3 brightness setting.

Like all Petzl headlamps, the Tactikka is lightweight. has a comfortable easy to adjust headstrap, and an easy to use light adjustment button on the top of lamp head. Petzl creates high quality headlamps that are durable and weather resistant. We were surprised the water resistant rating was only IPX4 given its price and durability, it seems it should be a bit more aligned to extreme outdoor conditions. Since it is recommend for fishing you would think it would have a higher IPX rating.

Specs & Features

  • Weight: 3 oz.
  • Light Modes: White light in low, medium, high; Red, blue, and green modes for night vision
  • Lumens: 350
  • Max Beam Distance: 70 m
  • Batteries: AAA x 3 or CORE rechargeable battery (available as an accessory)

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.6

Things we like:

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    Super lightweight and durable
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    Top button for changing light is easy to use
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    Easy-to-adjust wraparound strap has quick release buckle and is comfortable
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    Red, blue and green lights are versatile for nighttime activities and provide stealth for hunting and fishing
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    It comes with a 5-year warranty

Things we don't like:

  • check-markExpensive
  • check-markRuns off of disposable AAAs. It is, however, compatible with Petzl’s rechargeable CORE battery, but you need to buy it separately.
Read full review

Where to buy:

Petzl Tactikka Rgb Product Image

Petzl Tactikka +RGB

You get a pack of 4 headlamps for around $20! If you’re on a tight budget but still want something the more expensive brands offer, the 4-pack Vont Spark LED Headlamp is worth considering. Giving you 200 lumens, you can select whether to use the tri-mode primary light (low, medium, high) or the red light features (low, strobe and SOS).

This LED headlamp is lightweight and if you stay on the low setting you’ll have more than a full day of illumination. Vont claims 90 hours, but expect something more like a couple of days.

Vont Spark LED Headlamp rates at waterproof IPX5. Meaning you can use it while walking in moderately-heavy showers.

And if for some reason this headlamp stops working, you’re covered with a lifetime warranty. Customer service might not be too easy to work with – thankfully we’ve not needed to test this.

Specs & Features

  • Material: Premium ABS
  • Weight: 1.83 ounces
  • Light Modes: Low, Medium, High, Strobe (Primary Bulb), Low, Strobe, and SOS (Red Side Bulbs)
  • Lumens: 200
  • Batteries: AAA x 3

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.7

Things we like:

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    Comes in a set of four for one low price
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    Easy to adjust and use
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    The strap offers a good fit
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    It emits a super bright light
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    It’s lightweight but feature-packed

Things we don't like:

  • check-markDisposable AAAs power it. You’ll need to properly dispose of and get new batteries every time power drains.
Read full review

Where to buy:

Vont Spark Led Product Image

Vont Spark LED

The DanForce Rechargeable LED Headlamp gives you a powerful light source with some serious battery power behind it. This is a headlamp for people that need to work at night with some technical requirements.

It’s all about the 3 beams and how they work to focus. They either make an extremely intense beam of light to illuminate a target or cast a more diffused light to reveal a wider terrain.

This makes the DanForce a bulkier LED headlamp. The battery pack–which has a locator light–sits at the back to share the weight around.

Specs & Features

  • Material: ABS Plastic
  • Weight: .66 lb
  • Light Modes: Low, Medium, High, Strobe, Red Light
  • Lumens: 1080
  • Max Beam Distance: 200 feet

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.6

Things we like:

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    Feels nice and secure, despite the weight
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    The battery pack is on the back to counter the weight in the front
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    Rechargeable batteries’ life can last up to 8 hours and doesn’t heat up
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    Easy to zoom/adjust the beam distance, angle, and mode
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    Red light helps when hunting or any outdoor activities to avoid disturbing wildlife around

Things we don't like:

  • check-markIts water resistance could use some work
  • check-markNo battery meter
  • check-markNot ideal for close proximity activities
Read full review

Where to buy:

Danforce Rechargeable Led Product Image

DanForce Rechargeable LED

Are you looking for a headlamp you can take to work and will take a bit of a beating? This headlamp from powertool company Milwaukee is a bit of a beast. For this reason, it’s the most durable product we looked at.

With 475 lumens, the REDLITHIUM Milwaukee Headlamp lets you choose five lighting modes, from floodlight to high spotlight. It’s the ultimate solution if you’re on the night shift and need to wear a hard hat while on duty.

It also comes with rubber clips and grips. Meaning you can install it on your climbing or bike helmet and it’ll stay no matter what.

Although it falls on the heavier side of headlamps that doesn’t mean you can’t use it without a hard hat on. This Milwaukee headlamp can be a great companion for nighttime dog walks.

Rated with IP54, the REDLITHIUM Milwaukee Headlamp can endure dust and water splashed from any angle. That sounds like an ideal light source for your night runs when the skies choose to rain on you without any notice.

Bonus, the headlamp unit itself is backed with a lifetime warranty while the battery has a 2-year warranty and will run down and need to be replaced.

Specs & Features

  • Material: Rubber
  • Weight: 7.7 ounces
  • Light Modes: Spot and Flood Light / Low, Medium, High Flood Light / High Spot Light
  • Lumens: 475
  • Batteries: Lithium-Ion

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.3

Things we like:

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    It comes with rubber clips and grips for your hard hat
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    Extremely bright
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    No confusion since there are separate buttons for on/off and light modes
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    It has a durable build
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    Lifetime warranty for the headlamp and two year warranty for the batteries

Things we don't like:

  • check-markIt is a little heavy
  • check-markNo red light option
  • check-markShorter battery life compared to cheaper options, and not cold-resistant
Read full review

Where to buy:

Redlithium Milwaukee Product Image

REDLITHIUM Milwaukee

Related Reviews

Headlamps: Buyer’s Guide

Headlamps can be as simple as your backup light source during emergency blackouts or a necessity to get things done in the wilderness.

They may seem like simple headgear, but actually, they’re pretty complicated. From brightness and weight to the battery’s nitty-gritty details, these are all contributing factors in finding the ideal headlamp that suits your needs.

It’s hard to compare products. But keep note of these factors to help you along the way. Tick them off one by one when deciding what you need in a headlamp and whether or not it’s worth the money. Chances are you’ll find the right one to fit your needs at the right price to ensure you’re a happy customer.

Brightness and Purpose

You need a headlamp so you can see clearly in settings with low light. Identifying how bright you need your light source to be is more critical than you might think (especially in situations where one misstep might cause an accident).

Headlamp brightness uses lumens as a rating scale. It’s the amount of light that a source can emit. As a simple rule of thumb, the more lumens a headlamp has, the more visible light it gives.

Your headlamp’s lumens can be as little as 10 lumens or as bright as 2800 lumens or more.

Any headlamp under 150 lumens is suitable for household use in case of a power cut. But for tricky situations where there’s total darkness (i.e., spelunking or a nighttime tracking or running session), it’s best to gear up with 250 lumens or more.

Where do you plan to use your headlamp? How bright do you need it to be? Light modes might also be something you might find helpful during different situations.

Light Modes

One valuable feature a headlamp can have is its lighting modes. These can range from:

  • Spotlight: The beam travels a longer distance with smaller area coverage.
  • Floodlight: With a broader scope it’s great for giving proximity light.
  • Colored Light: This is commonly red but can be green and blue. These lights are less blinding to both you and those around you and will help maintain your night vision in the dark.
  • Strobe Light: Typically used for signaling. A strobe light can flash rapidly or slowly and might be in combination of blue and red light.

Some headlamps can also adjust between low, mid, and high/boost modes. Although it seems like there’s less/more light during these different modes, it doesn’t affect the number of lumens in your headlamp. But, it’s directly linked to your battery’s life span.

Battery

Some of the most typical headlamp batteries are rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and disposable AAAs. They’ll be located either at the mainframe of your headlamp or at the strap’s rear section to help counter the weight in the front.

Yes, AAAs are super affordable, but once they’re out of power, that’s it. It’s an ideal option if you’re out on a quick hike to watch the sunset by the summit. But for a 3-day trek in the Sierra? Nope. Rechargeable lithium batteries are still more convenient for long-term use. All you need is your power bank, and you’re good to go. (Unless you don’t care about purchasing lots of disposable AAAs, and producing lots of environmental waste). And, of course, as expected, rechargeable headlamps cost more.

You might also come across a headlamp where both AAAs and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries can fit in. This feature adds substantial cost to the price, but if you want the benefits of both power sources, it’s worth it.

Battery Life 

You’ll find information about a headlamp’s battery lifespan either on the box or listing, but you’ll find it’s not always the truth. Who knows, it might be just a marketing strategy. Plus, with different lighting modes, power consumption also varies.

Take a deeper look into customer reviews to uncover the reality. Consider the number of lumens that a headlamp emits, along with the lighting modes.

If you want to prolong your battery’s power, minimize your headlamp use as much as possible. And when you need some light, use only the necessary mode.

Cold-Resistance

Cold weather takes a hit on your battery. If you’re exploring in freezing temperatures, your battery’s power can drain as much as 60%. The cold temps affect the electrochemical reaction in batteries. In short, power generation from the battery to the terminals is slower.

This dilemma is where headlamps with detachable battery packs come into play. You can keep the battery close to your body to avoid power drainage while simultaneously using light.

Weight

Now, you wouldn’t want a headlamp that adds more baggage to your journey. It’s still a wise option to stick to one that won’t get in your way. But sometimes, the more feature-packed a headlamp is, the heavier and bulkier it is.

Many factors need considering when looking at headlamps’ overall heaviness: size, material, plus the type, location, and the number of batteries.

Plastics are lightweight, but there’s always the question of durability. Aluminum-made and thick plastic-framed headlamps weigh more but can take more of a beating.

But again, depending on your purpose, a plastic headlamp is ok for your regular strolls in the woods.

There are models (especially those with lots of useful features) that have the battery in the back section of the strap. This design helps counter the weight and prevents bounciness when you’re moving. Proper weight distribution is more crucial than it looks!

Do you prefer to stay lightweight? Or do you not mind it as long as you reap the benefits of useful features?

Straps

The straps of your headlamp are a vital factor in your overall comfort. It can be the classic wraparound or a T-strap. A wraparound strap is like a usual headband and good for lightweight headlamps, while T-straps are what you’ll find in bulkier ones.

They usually have elastic material and are adjustable. They are very easy to use whether you’re wearing a helmet, baseball cap, or nothing at all. And yet again, the type of strap you need depends on where you’ll use your headlamp.

You’ll want to check customer reviews for the durability of the strap, some straps wear out quicker than others and some straps will slip easily and not stay in place.

Weather Resistance

Now, if you’re an all-out outdoor enthusiast, your headlamp’s weather resistance is essential. If you choose a budget-friendly option, you can expect it won’t be particularly weather resistant.

If the brightness scale uses lumens, weather resistance uses IP ratings. These IP ratings can also come in double digits. The first one represents protection from anything solid, and the second represents water/liquid.

For solid:

  • IP0X has no protection at all
  • IP1X resists anything tangible that’s bigger than 50 mm
  • IP2X anything  over 12.5 mm can’t get in
  • IPX3 means solids more than 2.5 mm stay out
  • IP4X solids bigger than 1 mm can’t penetrate
  • iP5X is highly dust-resistant
  • iP6X means dust-proof

For water:

  • IPX0 means no water protection at all
  • IPX1 can stand vertical drips
  • IPX2 can resist drops from vertical to 15o angle
  • IPX3 drizzles from vertical to 60o angle are tolerable
  • IPX4 can withstand splashes from any angle
  • IPX5 can endure continuous water spray with low pressure
  • IPX6 can stand high-pressure sprays
  • IPX6K: can tolerate extremely high-pressured jets
  • IPX7 is submersible for up to half an hour on a 1-meter deep water
  • IPX8 stays functional even when used on more than 1 meter of water depth (the manufacturer usually states exact info)
  • IPX9K is rare. It can go head-on with high-pressure jet sprays with high water temps from a close source.

You might see a headlamp that doesn’t state its IP ratings. Does this mean it’s not water-resistant? Don’t jump to conclusions.

It might be the case that the company hasn’t tested it yet. Or, they have, but using a different rating method. You can sometimes find the answer from customer reviews.

A headlamp with IPX3 and below rating can work well on a hike under the starry skies. But if you get caught in a monsoon rain while tracking a trail, headlamps with an IPX8 rating are your most reliable option.

Price

It might be the case that your budget is the only buying guide you have. Just like everything else, you’ll typically find mid-and high-end headlamps with better build and features. But that doesn’t always mean that you’re doomed when you opt for a cheaper headlamp.

If you’re out as a beginner weekend warrior, low-cost headlamps can work well with your demands. But if you’re ready to conquer the wilderness as a seasoned outdoor adventurer, investing in high-quality gear will be the wisest thing to do.

FAQ

Frequently asked questions about Headlamps

What is the best headlamp?

It depends on what you need. But for outdoor and general household use, these headlamps will do a great job:

What is a headlamp?

A headlamp is a light source attached to a strap system worn around the head. They’re commonly AAA-powered or with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Some have only white light, while others have red, blue, and green light options.

Headlamps are usually used for the great outdoors while spelunking or hiking, biking, or camping during the night. Other uses include hard hat works like mining and search operations.

What are the red, green and blue lights on my headlamp for?

The blue light in your headlamp is mainly used for tracking if you’re hunting. It highlights the blood trail of any injured animal. For emergencies, red light work’s a universal signal. It also aids in your sleep since it doesn’t hurt the eyes like typical white light does. And if you’re sharing the tent with other people, you won’t wake them up. Green light works best for night vision and high-contrast view, and it’s the least visible light for animals as well, so it’s another go-to for hunting.

How do I turn on and change the light setting on a Black Diamond headlamp?

You’ll find the power switch at the top of your Black Diamond headlamp. Hold it down until you have your desired setting of brightness. Any lighting mode boosts to full power if you use the power tap button at the side. There’s also a secondary button next to the main power button for easy mode selection.

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