Picking a headlamp is no easy task. Reading the technical specs might not help you if you don’t know what they mean. Not only that, but you can be easily confused by similar ratings if you don’t know exactly how they apply to your situation. The easiest way to get the best headlamp for your needs is to go for an all-purpose light source. One that’s comfortable, powerful, and energy efficient, and which preferably comes with both white and red light settings. The PetzlReactik+ is perhaps the best headlamp overall and it doesn’t drop in performance based on your activity.
That’s not to say that there aren’t other similar products that might give you good value for the money. If you’re looking for a headlamp that excels just in one area, we have some suggestions worth looking into, especially if you’re looking to save a buck or two.
The best headlamp is the one that can offer the best value for multiple activities. The PetzlReactik+ might be just the device you need for all your nighttime endeavors. It has a bright light, it’s energy efficient, and it has a comfortable headband and comes with a USB port to make recharging even easier.
Top 5 Headlamps
|PetzlReactik+||All-purpose headlamp||White + Red||Check Price|
|Streamlight 61070 BuckMasters||Hunting headlamp||White||Check Price|
|Coast HL7||Spelunking headlamp||White||Check Price|
|Vitchelo V800||All-purpose headlamp||White + Red||Check Price|
|InnoGear Rechargeable Headlamp||Rechargeable headlamp and power bank||White||Check Price|
Best Overall Headlamp
Innovation is key to developing the best possible headlamps for people in need. The PetzlReactik+ is more than just a stylish head piece. It’s loaded with high-quality features which include maximum beam length of 110m.
What makes the PetzlReactik+ truly stand out is its efficiency. The reactive lighting mode has the ability to adjust the beam pattern depending on the brightness of the ambient light. This means you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to adjust the beam setting yourself if you don’t want to. And, under the right conditions it also saves battery life.
The Bluetooth feature lets you control settings by using the MYPetzl Light app from your smartphone. You can adjust the beam pattern and brightness (300 lumens max) and monitor the battery life.
The headlamp uses a 1800mAh lithium-ion battery which has a pretty good runtime even on the max setting. The presence of the USB port makes charging super easy, especially if you have a travel solar charger with you.
The headband is fully adjustable and offers a secure fit even during activities such as running. It’s also washable so there’s no need to worry about the sanitary aspect.
The reactive lighting feature should be more than enough to make the PetzlReactik+ stand out on its own. Fortunately there are even more features that make this tiny gadget a potential life saver. As far as having a durable and efficient light source on the road with you, it hardly gets any better.
Pros and Cons
- Great beam length
- Adjustable headband
- Three beam settings
- USB port for charging
- Upper price range
- Very sensitive buttons
2. Best Headlamp for Hunting
Streamlight 61070 BuckMasters
The Streamlight 61070 BuckMasters is a great hunting headlamp. It’s not only impervious to shock and quite cost efficient, it also has an impressive runtime of up to 63 hours. This makes it so you don’t have to purchase a more expensive rechargeable battery. And, in some cases, just your standard AAA set might just last you for an entire hunting season.
There are three levels of lighting for you to adjust. There’s also a battery life indicator that should help you plan your trail better. The headband is a mixture of elastic and rubber for a very secure fit.
The waterproof rating is just IPX4 but that should be enough for light showers or an accidental fall in a body of water. Besides, the headlamp is made for hunting above sea level so it shouldn’t come in contact with much water anyway.
The maximum beam distance goes up to 126 meters and the peak intensity is80 lumens. The 61070 BuckMasters trident headlamp should help you spot your target from distance or help you avoid detection by using a wide and dim light, just enough to gauge your surroundings but not enough for animals to see you from a distance.
Sure you might get good results with an all-around headlamp, but why settle for that when you can have great results? There’s a reason why hunters prefer the 61070 Buckmasters headlamp and it’s not just because they have a soft spot for Streamlight, though the manufacturer has proven time and time again that their products are more than reliable.
Pros and Cons
- Long runtime
- Multiple brightness settings
- Extra secure head strap
- Battery life indicator
- A bit bulky and heavy
3. Best Headlamp for Spelunking
The Coast HL7 headlamp is a very efficient and popular unit among cave divers and explorers. It is available in a variety of lumen ratings ranging from 100 to 800. It also has a whopping runtime of up to 70 hours on low setting for the 285 lumens version (the max runtime will go up or down slightly if you go with a different version). Safe to say, in an emergency having days worth of light can come in handy.
The HL7 runs on AAA batteries and your first set of three is included in the package. The headlamp weighs 2.2 pounds which might be a bit much for some, but the quality of the focus light helps offset this inconvenience.
Although you could just strap the headlamp to your head and be done with it, it’s worth noting that the unit is also hardhat compatible. You can use the special clips to affix it on your hard hat if you’re always using one.
To adjust the light you can use a lever located at the back of the gadget. This is really nice as it gets rid of the inconvenience of sensitive buttons, which are quite common on headlamps. You can rotate the lever with your free hand at any point.
The durability is impressive for such a budget-friendly headlamp too. The LED is almost impossible to break which makes this a good choice for spelunking. Impact resistance is a key factor. The waterproofing is also quite decent for a headlamp designed to be used underground.
Pros and Cons
- Adjustable lighting
- Durable LED
- Decent waterproof rating
- Lever control instead of buttons
- Great runtime
- Price goes up with the lumen rating
4. Best Headlamp on a Tight Budget
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent quality headlamp that you can use for multiple outdoor applications. The Vitchelo V800 headlamp is truly made for everyone’s budget and comes with some very interesting features that make it perform well above its price range.
First of all, it’s a lightweight design. It sits comfortably on your forehead whether you’re reading in the tent, trying to find the campsite, or climbing your way out of a dark cave system.
The LED comes with brightness settings (168 lumens max). You can squeeze enough light to help you fix your car’s engine or do repairs in tight places. You can also dim it down so that you get a nice warm light, enough to read but not enough to keep the other camping partners awake at night.
The V800 also has a red light feature which means it can come in handy in a search and rescue type of situation. The headband is elastic and adjustable and comes with reflective details too. If you’re looking for a cheap way to make your night jogs safer, you can’t go wrong with the V800.
The waterproof rating is IPX6 which is pretty much as high as it gets for a headlamp. You can trek in heavy rain, cross streams, all without worrying that the light will go out or the unit will catch any rust over time.
The separate controls for white and red light settings come in real handy. The fact that the headlamp is lightweight, powerful, yet highly affordable is even better. Moreover, the runtime is rated at up to 120 hours.
Pros and Cons
- IPX6 rating
- Duracell batteries included
- Red light setting
- Comfortable headband
- Touchy controls
- Not as durable as more expensive models
- Some may find it a little small
5. Best Rechargeable Headlamp
InnoGear Rechargeable Headlamp
The InnoGear 5000-lumen headlamp is an interesting choice if you want reliable battery life. Unlike most headlamps which come with regular batteries, this one uses two rechargeable 18650 batteries that are included in the price of the gadget.
What makes this an even better choice is that the USB port allows the headlamp to act as an emergency power bank. Not only do you get plenty of light but you can also charge your phone just enough to send a distress call should you need to. It can also help charge your GPS and other essentials.
The lamp comes with four working modes. Three settings affect the level of brightness while the fourth puts the LED in flashing mode. This is great for search and rescue situations.
The maximum output is 5000 lumens– that’s higher than two 40W long fluorescent tubes or three 100W incandescent bulbs. We are not ready to vouch for this rating but we can tell you that this is a very bright headlamp capable of getting you through almost any situation.
The lamp is also lightweight which means you can use it just fine while running. You can also rotate it up to 90 degrees if you want to. In terms of durability, the lamp handles light showers just fine due to the use of aluminum alloy and plenty of rubber gaskets and parts. It’s also heatproof so you don’t have to worry about it while trekking in the height of summer.
Aside from looking pretty cool, the InnoGear is useful in a variety of situations. As a light source/power bank it can perform well during any outdoor or underground activity. Its ability to act as an emergency power bank for your electronic devices might just be its defining feature.
Pros and Cons
- Flashing mode included
- Very bright
- Comes with rechargeable batteries
- Works as an emergency power bank
- The super bright setting depletes the batteries fast
There are more than a couple of reasons to pick a headlamp for your outdoor activities over the traditional flashlight. For one, it’s a big advantage to have both hands free. A hands-free light source will let you focus on climbing, aiming, or turning the page on your favorite book.
Headlamps are also more compact than a regular flashlight which means they don’t take up much storage space while you’re packing for the road. They’re also lightweight so they won’t hinder your ability to move freely.
There’s also something to be said about the durability of modern headlamps. Although they’re small and seem fragile, you should know that they’re quite sturdy despite the appearance. Some are even durable enough to endure diving to two-meter depth or work in heavy rain.
How to Choose the Best Headlamp
Picking the best headlamp for the job requires you to become familiar with many features. It also requires you to be sure about the activities you need it for. Are you camping, skiing, trekking, hunting, or spelunking?
Those are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself before picking out a headlamp. You should also know that there are plenty of all-purpose headlamps which perform rather well no matter what situation you find yourself in. At the same time, there are headlamps optimized for one type of activity.
Here are some of the factors to consider before making a purchase.
Activities that Require Headlamps
Here are just a couple of outdoor and indoor activities where having a headlamp makes things better:
- Home repairs
- Search and rescue parties/Disaster scenarios
- Bike riding
- Following hiking trails
- Bird watching
Important note: While most people try to pick out well illuminated streets for their nightly runs, the option is not always available. A headlamp can help you spot potholes, cracks, and other potential hazards on the road.
It can also make you visible to drivers from a great distance, thus giving them more time to react. It also helps out if you happen to go out running and a power outage happens. Truth be told, headlamps should almost be mandatory for anyone that does their outdoor cardio work before bed.
What are Lumens?
The lumen rating determines the brightness of a light source. Although all headlamps come with lumen ratings you might not want to base your decision solely on this. Since this measurement doesn’t account for the beam pattern quality, you can’t tell for sure if the product is good for you.
Lamps with the same lumen rating don’t necessarily perform equally well in real life. The quality of the lens and batteries has an effect on the beam quality, therefore it’s more important to determine whether or not your headlamp of choice is suited for your needs.
There are plenty of quality headlamps within the 100 grams range.
If you’re hunting for example, you’ll want a lightweight headlamp. You’re already wearing heavy gear so the last thing you need is a headlamp that adds even more uncomfortable weight. You’ll also want something light if you’re skiing so as to maintain your balance better.
When you’re considering the weight, also consider the strap. Make sure it’s a high quality fabric that will hold the weight of the headlamp for an extended period of time.
The beam type is very important. For example, if you want a headlamp for hunting you need a spotlight beam with a strong center. If you just want a headlamp for reading, you could go for a softer beam. That way you could also save on battery life.
The beam distance is also a major deciding factor. Particularly when trekking through harsh terrain or when hunting, the further away you can see the better. Some headlamps provide visibility of up to 300 feet or more.
A floodlight mode offers a wider beam. It is recommended for lighting up objects in close proximity. It’s what you will want to use for moving around the campsite, reading, etc. Because it’s a dim setting, you’ll also avoid blinding any fellow hikers by accident.
The spotlight setting is what you want to use if you’re trying to get a clear picture of something at a distance. The focused beam is brighter and has significantly more distance than a floodlight. It’s what you need to spot trail markings, potential dangerous animals, or lost members of your camping party.
Some headlamps also come with a red LED light setting. This comes in handy when you’re trying to save up on battery life. Search and rescue situations call for a red light setting because the flashes can be seen from a great distance and they can be sustained for longer.
Sometimes a red light is also good for hunting. If you’re experienced enough, you may be able to recognize animals by how the light hits their skin or fur.
You probably didn’t know this but the actual shape of the light pattern is very important. You might need a wider beam if you’re spending a lot of time in the rainforest. A narrower beam is better suited for hunting or any activity that requires focusing on an object.
Although some headlamps perform fair in different scenarios, to get the most out of yours it’s best to pick the right one for the activity that you’ll be doing.
Flashing patterns are worth paying the extra buck for almost every time. If you ever need to send a distress signal and you can’t use your hands to create a strobe pattern, pressing a button for the flash pattern might be the only thing that can save you.
Sometimes the best headlamp isn’t the one that gives you the most powerful light. On long treks you might benefit more from having a powerful battery. AA and AAA batteries are common in most headlamps but so are rechargeable li-ion batteries.
Alternatively, a solar powered headlamp is also a good idea. However, some of these can be quite expensive. In any event, you can still use a solar charger to charge the batteries. Even better, solar chargers can help you recharge other items and tools that you might have with you.
Keep in mind that the more powerful the light, the more batteries you’ll probably need. If the lamp has a max beam distance of over 300 feet, it will usually need at least three AAA batteries.
The maximum water resistance of most headlamps is for a depth of two meters. Most commercial headlamps aren’t made for extensive underwater use, which means the waterproof rating is more related to the lamp’s ability to work well in heavy rain.
Even the headlamps that can be used underwater won’t last long. The most you can get out of them is 30 minutes of use at around two meters deep. After that, you’ll want to give it a break and let it dry off.
Depending on what you need the headlamp for, you should consider if the better waterproof rating is worth paying extra for.
Although most headlamps are durable enough for outdoor activities, you might want to spend a bit extra for a well-built casing. You wouldn’t want your headlamp failing you in dangerous situations.
The waterproof rating is not the only thing you should worry about. Try picking a lamp that can withstand a few knocks. You might also want a lens that doesn’t crack easily if you’re doing a lot of climbing or night hunting. And, you should also make sure the headlamp comes with a sturdy case or protective bag so you don’t accidentally mess it up in transit.
Although all five headlamps featured in this article are winners in their own rights, the PetzlReactik+ headlamp simply offers a bit more overall.
Featuring both white and red light settings make it quite versatile. The USB port is also cool as it gives you another charging option should you run out of juice. The beam length reaches well over 100m when you need it to.
The superior runtime of the PetzlReactik+ is another reason why this is among the best headlamps you can get for both indoor and outdoor use.
Following our guide and familiarizing yourself with what makes or breaks a headlamp, depending on the activities you enjoy doing, should help you make the best possible decision.