Whether you’re backpacking across Europe, camping in Big Sur, or hiking Australia’s Great Ocean Walk, a good headlamp is a must in everybody’s backpack. To save you hours of research and help you on your quest to find the best headlight, we have handpicked the best headlamps for hiking, camping, and backpacking for you below.
Our Top Choice: After extensive research, we have concluded that the Black Diamond Spot is the best headlight overall. It’s lightweight, waterproof, and it has an impressive 300 lumens. No matter if you intend to use it for hiking, camping or backpacking, you simply can’t go wrong with the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp.
Comparison Chart of the Best Headlamps
Below is a list of the best headlamps for hiking, camping, and backpacking. Click on the headlamp name to read reviews and check prices.
What to Look for in a Good Headlamp
With so many options on the market, many people simply want to know what is the best headlamp. The short answer is the Black Diamond Spot. But because people have different reasons for needing a headlamp, we’ve laid out the most important things to look for to make sure you pick a headlamp that’s perfect for you.
1. Battery Type
Many headlamps use AAA batteries, some use rechargeable batteries, and others are compatible with both. If you’ll be taking long-term trips where you may not have the ability to recharge your battery, then definitely go with one that takes disposable batteries. If you’re not a fan of repeatedly purchasing batteries, then a headlamp with a rechargeable battery is probably better for you.
Also be mindful of where the battery pack is located in the headlamp because it can throw off the balance on your head if there are too many batteries stored in the front.
2. Battery Life
The differences in battery life can be difficult to compare because it depends on the specs the company reports and the setting you have it on. The lighting technology of your headlamp will also have an impact on the battery life.
Headlamps with constant lighting technology will provide stable brightness regardless of the battery level, but that also means your battery life will be shorter. If you purchase a headlamp without that technology you will notice a decrease in brightness as the battery levels decline.
3. Brightness & Beam Distance
The combination of brightness and beam distance are typically good indicators of the quality of the headlamp. Lumens determine the quantity of visual light a headlamp can produce. Beam distance has more to do with the quality of the headlamp’s optical lens system.
If you’re only going to be using your headlamp to hang out around a campfire, then between 25 – 150 lumens should be sufficient. If you’ll be doing trekking or hiking in complete darkness, then we recommend getting a headlamp with more than 200 lumens. For activities like mountain biking or canyoning, to be on the safe side you shouldn’t consider any headlamps with less than 250 lumens.
The beam distance will also be dependent on what you’ll be using it for. Typically, 200 feet is sufficient, but depending on your activities you may be safer getting one with a larger beam distance.
This goes without saying, but it’s important that your headlamp sits comfortably on your head, especially if you’ll be wearing it for hours at a time. Typically, headlamps with rubber padding tend to be more comfortable.
Some headlamps only have one strap and others have two. While headlamps with two straps may be more secure, some people find them less comfortable.
5. Lighting Modes
The different lighting types you may see with a headlamp are spot, flood, colored, and strobe.
- Spot: This is the long-distance beam that will help you see down dark trails. A spot beam is pretty much guaranteed in any headlamp.
- Flood: Flood lighting gives you wide-angle coverage. If you’ll be using your headlamp mainly to search around your campground, then flood lighting is a necessary feature.
- Colored: Some headlamps include a red light, and other high-quality headlamps also include a blue and green light. These are softer lights that don’t require your eyes to adjust, and they’re ideal for hanging out without disturbing people with a bright beam.
If you’ll be hunting, then definitely get a headlamp with a blue light because it will help you distinguish between the red blood of an animal and the green leaves.
- Strobe: Usually the strobe lighting is used as an emergency function, but it can also be used to try to preserve your battery.
6. Reason for Use
The reason you’ll be using the headlamp will help to determine which is really the best headlight for you. If you’ll be doing lots of hikes in the darkness then you’ll need a more powerful headlamp than if you only plan to use it around a campfire.
If you’ll be doing things like mountain biking or caving, then you should get a more secure headlamp than if you’re just bringing it along in case the sun sets on your casual hike.
7. Water Resistance
Unfortunately, you’re not guaranteed to stay dry during any outdoor adventure, and since you probably won’t be carrying your travel umbrella while hiking, biking, etc., it’s important for your headlamp to be water resistant.
Waterproof ratings range from IPX1 to IPX8. If you need the best waterproof headlamp, then go with the Black Diamond Spot because it has the highest waterproof rating of IPX8. A headlamp with an IPX8 rating can withstand being submerged in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes. To compare it with other ratings, an IPX4 rating means the headlamp will be protected against splashes of water.
The weight of your headlamp is super important, especially if you’ll be wearing it for long periods of time because it will impact your comfort. Keep in mind that the lighter it is, the less powerful it is likely to be. There may be several headlamps that work for you, so if they all have similar features, then the weight would be a good deciding vote.
Best Headlight Reviews
Without further delay, here are the best headlamps for backpacking, hiking, and camping available today:
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
The Black Diamond Spot perfectly combines price, brightness, and durability, which is why it’s continually ranked as the best headlight on the market. There are seven different lighting modes that include flood, spot, and red lighting options. Designed with convenience in mind, it has a brightness memory feature that allows you to turn the headlamp on and off at your preferred setting instead of it reverting back to the default every time it’s turned off. Its 300 lumens mean you’ll have no problem finding your way around in the dark whether you’re in your camping tent or doing a late-night hike. Its high quality is evident in features like the impressive IPX8 waterproof rating as well as its locking capability, which ensures it won’t turn on and waste battery while inside jacket pocket. There’s no denying the Black Diamond Spot highlights the list of the best LED headlamps.
Vitchelo V800 Headlamp
As the Vitchelo V800’s 168 lumens radiate up to 360 feet you’ll be confident you chose the best headlamp for backpacking, trekking, and all of your other outdoor activities. It’s designed to be the ideal multitasking headlamp, so whether you’re tackling the world’s best hikes or just hanging out in your camping hammock reading a great travel book, you’ll have all the light you need. The plastic body means it’s lightweight, sturdy, and won’t heat up after it’s been on for a long period of time, and the rubber padding means you won’t have to worry about discomfort. Even with all of its positives, it’s still one of the best cheap headlamp options on the market. If you’re looking for a quality headlamp on a budget, go with the Vitchelo V800.
Petzl TIKKA Headlamp
Petzl has made sure you’ll stay as safe as possible during your adventures by equipping this headlamp with a maximum output of 240 hours, 200 lumens, and 60 meters. There’s even a safety whistle on the headlamp should there ever be an issue. If you’re not keen on continuing to buy batteries, the Petzl TIKKA Headlamp is also compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery. Its simple design, wide beam, and versatility makes it one of the best rated headlamps currently on the market.
LuminoLite CREE LED Headlamp
When searching for the best lightweight headlamp, don’t overlook the LuminoLite CREE LED Headlamp. Including the batteries it only weighs 2.6 ounces, so even if you don’t have a trip planned, you can always keep it in your favorite carry-on bag in anticipation of a spontaneous escape from the city into the mountains. Not only will the 160 lumens light up the night, but you can angle the beam up and down up to 45° toward whatever you need to see. Its IPX6 waterproof rating and five light settings are just a couple of the other features that keep it in the running as the best hiking headlamp. The LuminoLite CREE LED Headlamp has an adjustable strap that fits both adults and children, so you can grab one for each member of the family.
Foxelli MX20 Headlamp
If you tend to be a little rough on your travel gear, then this is the best backpacking headlamp for you. The Foxelli MX20 Headlamp is designed to be waterproof, shockproof, snowproof, dirtproof, and sandproof. It has four light settings and a beam that can extend up to 200 feet. It even has a built-in timer function. If you’re looking for a head flashlight that’s as tough as you, then go for the Foxelli MX20 Headlamp.
Energizer 3 LED Headlamp
Not only does Energizer produce powerful batteries, but they also produces powerful headlamps. What makes this one stand out as one of your best camping headlamp options is its 12-hour runtime. By choosing the Energizer 3 LED Headlamp you won’t have to worry about your headlight dying after only four or five hours of use. It has both spot and flood lighting and a range of up to 27 meters. The convenient pivot feature means you decide where your light goes without having to contort your neck in uncomfortable positions. When it comes to good headlamp brands, it doesn’t get much better than Energizer.
Petzl NAO+ Headlamp
When you check out headlamp reviews, you’ll see that the Petzl – NAO+ highlights the premium headlamps on the market. While it does cost more than your average headlamp, the NAO+ has everything you could want in a headlamp. You can’t argue against it being the most powerful headlamp on the market as it boasts a whopping 750 lumens. Along with its power being an advantage, so is the convenience. Thanks to Bluetooth technology you can download an app that allows you to monitor its battery and performance from your phone or tablet. If you’d rather recharge your batteries instead of buying new ones, there’s more than one reason why the NAO+ is the best rechargeable headlamp. The chief reason being that its reactive lighting feature responds and automatically adjusts to whatever you’re looking at. Not only is it super convenient for you, but it also helps to optimize the battery. If you’re looking for a headlight with all the bells and whistles, this will be the best headlamp for camping, hiking, running, and the rest of your favorite outdoor adventures.
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
The Black Diamond Storm model packs a lot of punch when it comes to power and durability. It can emit 350 lumens and features eight lighting modes, including strobe and three night vision colors (blue, green, and red). It’s designed to be both waterproof and dustproof, so don’t hesitate to take it with you when you find yourself caving or canyoning. In case you need a couple more features to convince you, it’s equipped with a lock feature and brightness memory that you’ll definitely grow to love. You can’t go wrong with the Black Diamond Storm.
Coast HL7 Focusing Headlamp
Coast has created this headlamp to follow you for years down the road. The LED is said to be virtually indestructible while the headlamp is both weather and impact-resistant. In addition, it’s also backed by a lifetime warranty. The HL7 headlamp has 285 lumens that have a range of up to 390 feet. With a run time of up to 70 hours, it has more than enough power to get you through your favorite hikes. Instead of having to fumble with buttons, a twist of the light changes it from spot to flood beam, and a lever on the back of the headlamp allows you to control the output of light. Never count the HL7 out when you’re looking for the best headlamp for hiking.
Shining Buddy LED Headlamp
With each headlamp individually tested, you can be sure you’ll get quality headlamps from Shining Buddy. They’ve addressed the main problems of most headlamps (too heavy, uncomfortable, and weak lighting) and provided a lightweight headlamp that isn’t only ideal for adults, but it’s also among the best headlamps for kids. It’s equipped with four light settings, and the bulb is able to last up to 100,000 hours. The Shining Buddy LED Headlamp is shock-resistant, weatherproof, and only weighs 2.6 ounces. Its lamp boasts 110 lumens and can be angled up to 45°. All of these features come at an incredible price, which is why it’s been known as the best value headlamp on the market.
Don’t let your outdoor adventures come to an end just because the sun sets. Whether you use it once a year or once a day, a good headlamp is a must on everybody’s backpacking packing list.
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