Home / Tech News / Light up the night! Here are the 10 best headlamps for your outdoor adventures

Light up the night! Here are the 10 best headlamps for your outdoor adventures

Think your flashlight does the trick when camping? Try camping with a headlamp just once and the experience will be… illuminating. After all, even simple tasks such as lighting a match and chopping wood require two hands. And while your precious Maglite might moonlight as a weapon against rampant bears, it’s far too cumbersome when you’re trying to cook a backcountry meal under a banner of stars.

Alas, not all headlamps are created equal. Like most camping gear, they become more durable and functional with the more money you’re willing to shell out. Never fear, though. We’ve picked out several headlamps that represent the best of what’s available at different price points, whether you’re looking for a low- or high-budget source of light.

However, there are a few things to consider when deciding which is best for you. Depending on what you intend to use your headlamp for, factors such as weight, comfort, durability, beam distance and regularity can all play a major part in your decision. Although manufacturing specs tend to exaggerate when it comes to said categories — ahem, lumen output — the headlamps below rarely disappoint.

Petzl Ultra Rush Headlamp ($283)

The Petzl Ultra Rush is our favorite headlamp on the market, however, it is also one of the pricier models out there. The powerful beam dishes out 760 lumens up to 560 feet. Unlike most headlamps, the Ultra Rush utilizes a “constant lighting” feature, meaning the beam doesn’t progressively fade towards the end of the battery life.

In fact, as the battery is nearly depleted, the Ultra Rush will automatically switch to reserve lighting to maximize the remaining energy. The mixed beam has four power options to choose from, allowing greater flexibility for an array of tasks. Situationally, the full power 760 beams may be rather unnecessary, therefore switching to a lower setting will use a more ideal beam for the task at hand and also extend the battery life. The rechargeable battery is ergonomically mounted on the back of the headband.

The entire unit is IP67 graded, meaning the Ultra Rush is capable of being submerged in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes without damage. At nearly 300 dollars, the Petzl Ultra Rush is certainly not for everyone, and at 1.6 pounds it is on the bulkier side, however, if you’re in the market for an intuitive, rugged, and versatile headlamp, the Ultra Rush is hard to top.

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Petzl NAO ($135+)

petzl nao

The Petzl NAO is one of the pricier options on our roundup, and for good reason. The headlamp has an array of handy features and a maximum brightness of up to 575 lumens. The company’s reactive technology and the built-in light sensor allow the brightness and beam pattern to automatically adjust based on your environment, thus affording the headlamp longer burn times and reducing your involvement. The Petzl NAO also has a lock function to prevent the headlamp from unintentionally turning on while stowed, along with two power options — Max and Max Autonomy — which result in brighter output and work to extend battery life. When the beam does go out, however, you can recharge it via the integrated USB connector on the back of the device. Now, if only the battery would last more than five hours at time.

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Black Diamond ReVolt ($60)

Black Diamond ReVolt Thumbs

This rechargeable headlamp packs in a good deal of functionality for the price. Its maximum beam distance isn’t as robust as others on our list, but it is bright enough to suit most needs, especially when it comes time to find the trail. The beam is also even — which is less tiring on your eyes — and adjustable, meaning you can easily dim the the light to whatever strength you prefer. The ReVolt supports a whopping nine hours of battery life when left on high-beam mode, too, capitalizing on either AAA batteries or a lithium alternative you can charge in your car or from a solar charger. A convenient red light option even comes standard — rendering it great for hunting, or reading in a tent — along with a strobe setting that allows you to be seen from greater distances.

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Petzl Tikka RXP ($80+)

tikka 2

Headlamp tech is on the rise. Petzl, for instance, now outfits some of its high-end headlamps with a responsive technology that auto-adjusts the brightness of your headlamp based on what you’re looking at. This is particularly convenient in when you’d like to leave your headlamp on high for prolonged periods and look at close-range things that may not require as much light, such as a map or nearby sign. The feature help saves your battery life, too, and can be turned off in situations where other sources of light — i.e. a campfire or reflective snow — might hinder its performance.

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Black Diamond Icon ($90+)

Black Diamond Icon

The recently-updated Black Diamond Icon provides 320 lumens of light, which is 200 more than the previous model. That said, if you’re looking for a more versatile headlamp, look no further than the Icon. It represents the perfect combination of form and function, providing you with a long-distance beam, fantastic optics, and excellent battery life. Like the ReVolt, it offers variable dimming and a red light that flashes when in need of a signal. You can also submerge it up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. It’s a little heavier and bulkier, so ultralight backpackers might decide to pass, but it’s the headlamp we’d buy if we had just over $50 to spend.

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Princeton Tec Sync ($29+)

Princeton Tec Sync

Of all the low-range options out there for headlamps — and there are a lot — our favorite is the Tec Sync from Princeton. You can always buy a penlight for a mere $15, sure, but if you’re willing to spend a little bit more, you can actually get a very functional headlamp. The lightweight, flexible Tec Sync sports both red and white LEDs, along with mid-range distance and five different brightness levels that are comprised of both spot and flood settings. It should go without saying that few headlamps offer better bang for your buck.

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Fenix HP25 ($74)

fenix hp25

The HP25 is, by and large, the brightest light on our list. Although the light isn’t the most uniform, it does shed light as far as 157 meters, and touts an aluminum chasis that’s as durable as it is sleek. The brighter light does equate to shorter battery life, however, so you’ll likely drain the headlamp within a couple hours if you leave it on high. The aforementioned, uniform lighting might make it somewhat tricky and tiresome when navigating the trail, but being able to see more than 500 feet ahead when biking is convenient to say the least.

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Black Diamond Spot ($30+)

black diamond spot

The 130 lumens afforded by the Black Diamond Spot may not hold a candle to other headlamps on our list, sure, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthy alternative for those working on a budget. The headlamp’s unique, Power Tap technology makes switching between full and dimmed brightness quick and convenient.  The side of the Black Diamond Spot’s housing is also touch-sensitive, meaning you can adjust the brightness with a single tap of a finger. The headlamp runs on three AAA batteries, and a built-in meter displays the remaining battery life for three seconds once the headlamp has been activated. The headlamp is IPX4-rated, too, so it can withstand the occasional splash even if it can’t be submerged. A pair of red LEDs and various strobe settings help round out the basic set features.

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Black Diamond Sprinter ($80)

While the simple single strap headlamp design is fine for many outings, the two band models are ideal for more physical activity. When running, cycling, or mountain-biking, the single band designs can slide out of place and over-tightening them to compensate can make them all the more uncomfortable. The Black Diamond Sprinter is one of the sleeker two band designs on the market.

The TriplePower LED dishes out an ample 200 lumens. This is more than enough for the trailhead or an early morning run. For added safety in urban areas, the unit also has a strobing red taillight, making the Sprinter ideal for runners and cyclists. This taillight can be switched on or off to help maximize battery life. Even when you do eventually drain the battery, the Sprinter is rechargeable via USB with about a five hour total charge time. While some headlamps can weigh well over a pound, at just seven ounces this unit won’t bog you down.

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Coast HL3 60 Lumen LED ($12)

Not all situations call for the most technologically advanced headlamp. If you need a headlamp for basic camping purposes or nighttime tasks around the house, a budget model will do just fine. The Coast HL3 is capable of producing 60 lumens which is more than enough for most low-light/nocturnal tasks. The Max Beam Multi-Reflector system projects light up to 141 feet in ideal conditions.

The model is also impact and water resistant for added durability. Similarly, this headlamp is backed by Coast’s lifetime guarantee. The HL3 runs on three AAA batteries, with an expected battery life of about 12 hours. Rechargeable options are preferential for economic reasons, however, if you’re looking for a headlamp to throw on every now and then without breaking the bank, the Coast HL3 is certainly one to consider.

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