Today’s LED headlamps are incredibly bright while keeping battery drain to a minimum so that you get an incredible bang for your buck. Like your moisture-resistant tent and warm sleeping bag, a great headlamp is a must-have item if you’re going hiking, camping, or caving. In fact, investing in the right headlamp can be a lifesaving decision in an emergency, so it’s important to have a reliable one on hand.
Why buy a headlamp?
While a great flashlight can always come in handy, there are certainly times when you don’t have a hand free to hold one. Luckily for campers, climbers, cavers, and nighttime runners, headlamps provide hands-free illumination of their immediate surroundings that can be controlled with a twitch of your head. Many headlamps also offer durable, water-resistant designs that are perfect for rugged outdoor activities.
What should you look for in a headlamp?
- Activity Type: Ensure that the headlamp you purchase is geared towards the activities you’ll use it for. For instance, cyclists should seek out a long-range headlamp that offers exceptional light output, whereas weight and battery life may be more important purchasing factors for long-distance hikers. Luckily, there are plenty of versatile headlamps on the market that are great for a wide range of activities.
- Battery Type: Both rechargeable headlamps and battery-powered headlamps have their advantages. In the long run, a rechargeable model might cost you less due to the money you’ll save on disposable batteries. However, these will cease working when their battery is drained and you’re all out of mobile chargers. On the other hand, battery-powered headlamps will always work for you as long as you pack plenty of emergency batteries for your trip.
- Beam Style: It’s important to get a feel for the type of light beam a headlamp produces before you make your investment. Some headlamps offer a spot beam, which illuminates a relatively small area far ahead of you. On the other hand, some offer a wider beam of light or adjustable modes that allow you to choose the beam that works for you.
What extra features should you look for in a headlamp?
Look for a headlamp that offers strobe functionality since this may be one of the best ways to quickly get someone’s attention in the event of an emergency. You’ll also want to check a headlamp’s degree of water resistance before you buy. While some are completely waterproof, most water-resistant models should be a reliable fit for hikers and campers.
GearLight LED Headlamp - Pack of 2
This reliable set of headlamps offers excellent brightness and emergency strobe functionality.
Pros: Featuring impressive brightness for its size and price point, these GearLight headlamps are great for those seeking something lightweight and perfect for long-distance hikes. These headlamps also score points for their multiple brightness modes, and the intense strobe function can come in handy during an emergency. Factor in this product’s above-average battery life and comfortable, adjustable fit, and it’s easy to see why this headlamp is a best seller at its price point.
Cons: While most reviewers seem to be impressed by this headlamp’s white light, its red light scored less stellar reviews. As such, if you’re looking for a headlamp that has an exceedingly bright red light function, this model is probably not a good match for your needs.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for budget-friendly headlamps that look and perform like much more expensive products, this set from GearLight is unlikely to disappoint. While its red light doesn’t necessarily impress in terms of brightness or nighttime visibility, its bright white light, easy-to-adjust design, and reliable build quality make this a stellar headlight for camping and hiking.
Lighting EVER LED Rechargeable Headlamp
This rugged rechargeable headlamp stands out for its intense brightness and beam distance.
Pros: Featuring a durable build quality that feels like it’s capable of taking plenty of use and abuse, the Lighting EVER LED Rechargeable Headlamp sports an insane beam distance at its highest setting. Compared to other rechargeable headlamps, it also impresses in terms of battery life, so you probably won’t need to recharge it until after your weekend camping trip, even with regular use. If you’re looking for a bright rechargeable headlamp that’s rainproof to boot, this one is well worth considering.
Cons: To switch this headlamp’s mode or to turn it off, this product requires you to cycle through its other modes, which can be kind of annoying and distracting to people at nearby campsites. Some reviewers also noted having issues with buttons sticking, although reports of this defect are few and far between.
Bottom Line: While this isn’t the most intuitive headlamp to switch between modes, its impressive brightness and long-lasting rechargeable battery make it a great value for the asking price. It’s also nice and light, so it shouldn’t weigh you down too much if you’re hiking long distances at elevation.
This heavy-duty headlamp sports a unique triple-bulb design and next-level brightness.
Pros: The DanForce Headlamp stands out for its unique three-bulb design and nice color options, but its impressive beam distance and next-level brightness are what really set it apart from the pack. As such, it’s a great option for nighttime cyclists and others who need maximum visibility to stay safe at night. While this rechargeable headlamp doesn’t offer a world-beating battery life, it comes with replaceable rechargeable batteries that can be swapped out for extended use.
Cons: While this product’s incredible brightness and intuitive adjustments are tailor-made for hiking, it’s bulky, heavy design is not exactly geared for life on the trail. That being said, its design is still a great option for night fishing or a casual night at the campsite.
Bottom Line: While the DanForce Headlamp’s Sam Fisher-esque design won’t be a hit with everyone, most people will be impressed by this product’s strong suits. As such, those who are willing to pay a little extra for the best, brightest, and most heavy-duty rechargeable headlamp shouldn’t be disappointed in their investment.
BORUIT Rechargeable Diving Headlamp
This underwater headlamp is great for diving or underwater exploration.
Pros: If you’re into diving, you’ll need an effective underwater headlamp to stay safe while participating in the hobby you love. The BORUIT Rechargeable Diving Headlamp combines a fully enclosed one-piece structure with IPX8 waterproofing and incredibly bright light beads to provide up to 1,000 lumens of brightness where you’ll rely on light the most. However, this headlamp’s multiple light modes (including an SOS mode) and easy-to-read battery life indicator up the ante, making it one of the best diving headlamps at its price point.
Cons: Like many underwater headlamps that share this product’s technology, the BORUIT Rechargeable Diving Headlamp is prone to running incredibly hot. As such, it’s recommended for use in cold conditions.
Bottom Line: Thanks to its effective waterproofing and incredibly bright light, the BORUIT Rechargeable Diving Headlamp has a lot to offer as a budget-friendly diving headlamp. However, you should test it first to ensure it meets your safety and usage requirements.
Extremus Midnight Torch Headlamp
This budget-friendly headlamp features motion-activated modes for hands-free use.
Pros: Featuring an affordable price tag that’s rather surprising given its unique features, the Extremus Midnight Torch Headlamp is a lightweight and comfortable option for hikers and campers alike. This headlamp stands out for its unique motion-activated modes, which enable you to turn on the headlamp with a wave of your arm instead of struggling to push the right button. While this headlamp won’t wow you in terms of battery life, it’s easy to recharge once you get to camp if you’re traveling with a USB power stick.
Cons: As noted above, this budget headlamp’s battery gets drained relatively quickly, so don’t expect much more than an hour or two of use if you’re running it on its brightest setting. Seeing as how this product is rechargeable and can’t take disposable batteries, its limited battery life can be a real liability for those who are unprepared.
Bottom Line: While this headlamp doesn’t have the most impressive integrated battery or heavy-duty design, its hands-free functionality and plethora of settings make it a solid choice for those looking to save some money. That being said, it’s better employed as a backup headlamp due to its limited battery life.
In a pinch, a great headlamp won’t just make your life a little easier; it can actually save your life. As such, it’s essential to do your research to be sure your new headlamp will meet your needs. Since a headlamp can be an important safety tool, be prepared to invest a little extra money and some time to make an educated purchase.