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Hiking headlamps are an essential part of any hiker’s day pack. Headlamps are lightweight and portable, making them easy to throw into a pack. One should always carry a headlamp with them regardless of time in the day. Hiking headlamps are important to always have, just in case you get left in the dark! Getting caught in the dark while hiking can lead to dangerous situations. Having a bright, working headlamp with you can mitigate hazards that might arise from getting caught in the dark. Headlamps are also great for those that like an early start to their hike.
Hiking headlamps have come a long way. They are now available affordably, at different brightness levels and with the option of rechargeable or non-rechargeable headlamp.
Headlamps are available from a wide variety of companies and usually range in price from around $20- $100. Cheaper options may be available at hardware stores, but those options do not have the durability and power that traditional hiking and camping headlamps have.
Headlamps all use a similar elastic band to adjust the headlamp on ones head. They come in universal sizes and are easily adjustable.
In order to find the best headlamp option, there are a few factors to consider. As always, price should be taken into consideration. In addition, the brightness (number of lumens), as well as charging style are all factors to consider.
Common features of the best headlamps for hiking + backpacking
Here is what you should look for and consider when buying a headlamp.
Most hiking headlamps range between 150-500 lumens. This is mainly a personal preference, as really anything over 200 lumens can guide you on a pitch-black trail. Most headlamps have several different brightness settings on the headlamp. Some even have other colors like red or blue. Red or blue can be easier on the eyes while hiking in pitch-darkness.
Hiking headlamps are either rechargeable often using a micro-USB cord, or they are non-rechargeable by normally using AAA batteries. Battery life for both types is relatively similar, the rechargeable options have gotten much better battery life in the last few years. This also comes down to personal preference, although the rechargeable options are becoming much more popular. Another option is to use rechargeable AAA batteries for your headlamp.
This really depends on what sort of hiking you will be doing. If you are someone that hikes in the dark often, be sure to grab a headlamp with long battery life so you don’t have to charge your headlamp after every hike.
The two companies to start the headlamp search at are Black Diamond and Petzl.
These two companies nearly have a monopoly on the hiking and camping headlamp market.
Because of their background in climbing and skiing headlamps, (as well as Petzl’s industrial background), these companies make many different durable and bright headlamps.
Both companies make rechargeable headlamps, and in fact, Black Diamond makes a headlamp that is both battery operated or rechargeable.
Now let’s take a look at some of the best headlamps on the market in 2020. This list is in no particular order.
Best headlamp options for hiking or backpacking (or trail running)
Lumens: 250 lumens
Runtime: High: 4.5; low: 200; reserve: 14 hours
Battery type: 3 AAA batteries
This is a fantastic budget purchase for anyone looking for a cheap and easy to use a headlamp. While it is not waterproof, it is stormproof, meaning it will be fine for getting caught in a short storm. It also has a lock feature to prevent it from turning on in your backpack, and it has different brightness settings.
Lumens: 250 lumens
Runtime: High: 2 hours / low: 120 hours
Battery type: 3 AAA batteries or Petzl rechargeable option
This is another great budget-friendly option for a hiking headlamp. It allows for several different headlamp settings in terms of brightness and has a slightly longer battery life option than the Astro 250 headlamp. The battery options allow for use of the Petzl CORE, which is a rechargeable battery pack that Petzl sells.
Lumens: 330 lumens
Runtime: High: 3.5 hrs.; low: 40 hrs
Battery type: USB Rechargeable 900 mAh lithium ion
This is an ultralight headlamp that comes in at just 2.43 ounces. Although the battery life is shorter than some of the other options, this headlamp is sleeker and smaller than any other option. If you’re someone that likes to pack ultralight than this is the headlamp for you.
Lumens: 450 lumens
Runtime: High: 2 hours / low: 130 hours
Battery type: Includes USB rechargeable battery, can also be used with AAA batteries.
This bright headlamp allows for multiple charging methods. It also includes multiple beam patterns and includes a red light option, making it easier to see at night. Compared to other headlamps, this has a much longer light range, coming in at 90 meters.
Lumens: 350 lumens
Runtime: High: 4 hrs.; low: 200 hrs.
Battery type: Rechargeable battery provided, also allows for use of AAA batteries.
This has some of the best battery life of all of the headlamps on our list. This is a great option for a powerful headlamp with multiple battery options. It is important to note that the use of AAA batteries makes for longer battery life than the rechargeable batteries.
Lumens: 900 lumens
Runtime: High: 2 hrs.; low: 100 hrs
Battery type: Rechargeable
This is the brightest headlamp on our list. 900 lumens will bright up your path for up to 150 meters. You will never need anything else to light up the way. Although the battery life is much shorter than other options, this headlamp is truly one of the brightest available on the hiking headlamp market. It is rather light too, coming in at 3.5 ounces. This headlamp is only compatible with the rechargeable battery.
As one can see, Black Diamond and Petzl dominate the headlamp market. This is not to say that there are not other headlamp options, but these are most definitely the two best brands on the market. There is no way to go wrong with a Petzl or Black Diamond headlamp.
When leaving a headlamp in your pack, be sure to flip one of the batteries so the headlamp does not accidentally turn on in your pack. The only thing worse than forgetting a headlamp is bringing a headlamp that doesn’t have any battery left in it!