If you are planning your next hiking or backpacking trip, you need to put a headlamp on your packing list. A headlamp is something that most people don’t think about until it’s needed, and then you are stuck with a flashlight in your mouth in the dark while trying to pitch a tent, or worse. I bought my first headlamp when I began to bike and run at night, and it is now a part of my daily gear for these activities.
While biking or running at night, a light on your head is high enough that you can be seen more easily while on the road. Having both of your hands available while setting up your camp can also mean the difference between being able to cook or pitch a tent quickly and easily or trying to do all of your work one-handed. Just ask the guy who is solo camping and trying to make camp for the night or the ultra-marathoner who is pushing for those extra 10 KM after it gets dark if they would prefer a traditional flashlight or a headlamp.
But how do you choose the perfect headlamp? There are so many options out there, and there a few things you need to know about selecting the best lamp to suit your needs. Let’s go over a few things that will help even the newcomer choose the perfect headlamp for themselves.
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1. Petzl – REACTIK+ Headlamp
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Our Black Diamond headlamps which got an editor’s choice award given by a comparative reviewer at OutdoornGearLab are bright, own a super long battery life, and have diverse modes that are actually useful. They are also adjustable and are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, which is key when doing activities that ask for a lot of moving around like running or biking. Finally, it’s well-built and water-resistant, so you know it will last a long time.
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When you are climbing, running or out in the back trails, you need a headlamp that is lightweight and will last for hours. A light that will last and adapt on the fly to your needs, whether that is a red light to keep your night vision, or REACTIVE lighting while running in a pack of people. Your lamp needs to give you that edge to climb safely and move faster.
2. Fenix HP25R Rechargeable LED Headlamp
When climbing at night, sometimes the best option is a bright light. One that will dominate the other options available at a still affordable price. Burn time isn’t a factor, you want to see as far as you can for as long as is possible. A climber needs to see the next anchor, and the shadows thrown by a less powerful lamp might cost valuable time in your climb.
3. Fenix HL60R 950 Lumen USB rechargeable CREE XM-L2 T6
When you are deep in a cave or fishing at night, you want a bright light that just won’t give up. A powerful lamp that will still work after being dropped on the ground or in the water. A perfect lamp for the darkest, most remote places. The Fenix HL60R is perfect for cavers and night fishermen, providing a super bright light that is a favourite among those who spend their free time in caves exploring deep in the depths.
4. Coast HL6 Dimming 285 Lumen
Sometimes, simplicity is best. You want to work on your car or in small spaces, and your headlamp needs to be a powerful and easy to use. For almost 100 years, Coast has been producing quality and innovation with headlamps like the HL6. The Coast HL6 has the unique Pure Beam Focusing system to change the beam with a simple twist, going from a full flood to a tightly focused beam in one second without any fuss.
5. The Petzl Ultra Rush Headlamp
You love the rush of a fast ride or run. Whether you are riding a mountain on a bike, running through a dark forest or even hunting snakes at night, the Petzl Ultra Rush Headlamp will provide you with the most potent mixed beam possible to see everything in your path. With four levels of intense white light, you will be able to move at your most demanding pace with your surroundings lit up brighter than the lights of Broadway.
Factors to Consider
Let’s start off with beam types. There are three types to consider.
Flood: A flood or wide beam is best for in a campsite or tent, reading maps or other types of general use.A floodlight headlamp is a type of lamp that provides a wide beam of light. These lamps are good for lighting up the immediate area, making them useful for completing household tasks. However, they do not throw light far enough ahead to make them ideal for hiking or running.
LED: LED lamps provide more versatility in the light they can provide. These lamps may be able to switch back and forth from a wide flood-like beam of light to a more concentrated beam that allows the wearer to see farther.
Spot: This is the beam that will cast a robust, tight light farther away. This type of light is better for being on the trail or road at night when you need to see off in the distance.
Flood/Spot: This is a lamp that can do both, and will be perfect for multiple tasks. It may cost a little more, but if you are hiking at night and then setting up a camp, then you will need both.
Two Strap Lamps: Most headlamps are mounted on a single adjustable strap that holds the lamp in place. However, there are lamps available that have an additional strap that comes down over the head. This adds to the stability of the light, although some people may not find them as comfortable.
Beam Distance & Brightness:
Beam distance and Lumens together are the next things to consider. Lumens is a word for brightness at the source of the light, while beam distance is how far the lamp can cast its light. That being said, automatically choosing more Lumens in your bulb is not the best idea as it also depends on the quality of light coming from the lamp and its optical system.
Taking that into consideration, it tends to be better to focus on the beam distance. Think about how far you need that light to see ahead of you. Do you need to understand only in the camp or do you want that spotlight to hit the length of a football field?
As one of those people who has always dropped their phone at the WORST possible time, longevity is a must in my choice of the perfect headlamp. Regardless of the weather or being dropped you will need that headlamp to work, as a working light can sometimes be the difference between safety and disaster.
There are many options, from water resistant (able to resist light rain and snow) to fully waterproof and the higher the IPX rating(ruggedness rating), the more abuse it can take. At the very least, your lamp should be dust-proof and able to survive a rainstorm.
Battery & Battery Life
Every lamp is different for battery and battery life. How long do you need it to last at full output? If you are a cold weather camper/hiker, lithium-ion batteries might be your choice as they perform better in cold weather. On the other hand, Alkaline batteries hold a charge longer and tend not to drain when not in use like a lithium-ion battery does. When you need all night run time at full power, consider taking extra batteries or opt for a device with longer run time. If you are using a non-rechargeable device, get a device that makes the same size batteries as all your other devices. There are now even solar options available, but they are still on the pricey side.
Other things to consider
Once you have looked at the main options, you can start looking at other features such as these:
Tilt: This is a feature that will allow the lamp can change its position. It can be a handy option especially when doing any up-close work.
Bluetooth capability: There are devices now that can show battery life and help you optimize your settings on your phone, so there is no need to take off your headlamp and fuss with it.
Red light: Some lamps include colored beams which are suitable for night vision, and so you don’t disturb others in your tent. A red light can also help reduce battery drain at night.
Many other features come with different lamps, but with these options, it is more a matter of choice and what kind of convenience that you are looking for.
So there you have it, a quick and easy guide to choosing a headlamp. Check out our site to see our great selection of headlamps as we will have the perfect one for you here.