Anyone that has spent time backpacking will know the benefits a headlamp can bring. It’s a useful tool that can illuminate your campsite cooking equipment or accompany you on night-time hikes.
The sheer amount of headlamps on the market can make finding a suitable option impossible. Whether you’re looking for durability, brightness or battery life; it takes a significant amount of time to assess all the options.
In order to simplify your shopping experience, we have reviewed and compared the best headlamps for hiking. Each option has unique benefits that make it ideally suited to a different type of hiker.
Ranking The Best Headlamps For Hiking
Best Headlamps For Hiking Compared
Super reliable headlamp that will allow you to see in a range of situations
Incredibly lightweight headlamp that performs well at close proximity
Superb brightness and durability for serious night-time adventures
A simple yet reliable hiking headlamp with great all-round performance
Value for money headlamp with performance above its price tag
Excellent spot and close-up beams, waterproof, good battery life, durable
Lightweight, great at close proximity, durable, good emergency features
Extremely bright, durable, waterproof, plenty of settings
Intuitive buttons and settings, impressive flood and spot brightness, comfortable
Budget price, easy to use, packable, reliable, decent battery life
Not bright at distance
Very heavy, overkill for some hikers
Under par battery life
Below average brightness
Why Do I Need The Best Headlamp For Hiking
Having a good headlamp can be essential during multiday hiking trips. It will allow you to explore the outdoors after sunset and open up a world of night-hiking possibilities.
However, the most common place hiking headlamp’s are used is the campsite. It will allow you to set up your equipment, cook your supper and navigate your way around site during the night-time.
Anyone trying to find the best headlamp for hiking will be met with a plethora of options. Many claim to have ‘best-in-class’ performance, but it’s often hard to see the wood from the trees.
Every headlamp we have included in our review has proven reliability and performance over countless hikes. By reviewing and comparing our favoured options, we are sure to help you find the headlamp that’s right for you.
Hint: If you’re a backpacker trying to complete your electronic equipment setup, we have also reviewed the best solar chargers for hiking.
How To Choose The Best Headlamp For Hiking
The brightness of your headlamp can have a big impact on its usage. It’s measured in ‘lumens’, with hiking headlamps ranging anywhere from 10 to 1000 lumens.
In our experience, a rating of at least 200 lumens is required if your aim is to go night-hiking. Anything less than 200 can be useful around the campsite, but it will leave you short sighted on the trail.
Many headlamps also allow you to adjust the brightness depending on the scenario. It will allow you to reduce the beam to save battery during simple tasks, but give you the option to increase when necessary.
Keep in mind that lumens does not always correlate with beam distance and quality. It’s a useful ranking factor that should always be assessed, but be sure to read the key features for the most accurate analysis.
Many quality headlamps come with adjustable beam settings. It will allow you to adjust the light output as your environment and situation changes.
Here, we have listed the most common beam types:
The standard setting for most LED headlamps is ‘spotlight’. It focuses the light at a specific distance and often has the longest beam length.
Any time that you are assessing the beam length of a headlamp, it will usually be based on spotlight. It’s often considered vital by hikers as it allows you to see further down a trail.
The floodlight setting shines a broad light that illuminates the space directly around you. It has a reduced beam distance in comparison to spotlight, but can greatly improve peripheral vision.
Floodlight is most commonly used when performing camp tasks that require close-up light. It’s viewed as essential by many hikers that enjoy evening activities like reading or cooking.
Some higher quality headlamps will include a ‘red light’ setting. It’s designed to be low intensity and creates minimal brightness.
The red light is ideal for those looking to read or write in the evening without disturbing fellow campers. It’s enough to view objects in close proximity and often has a remarkably long battery life.
Many hiking headlamps come with a ‘signal’ or ‘strobe’ setting. It’s designed to notify people of your location in case of emergency and can be seen from long distances.
The beacon of light is widely recognized as a sign of distress and has proven to be a life saving tool for some. It’s typically extremely visible while also having a long battery life.
AAA or rechargeable lithium ion batteries generally power hiking headlamps.
The benefit of using AAA batteries lies in the ability to easily change them at any time. If you carry a spare set in your pack, you are guaranteed ample light at all times.
Lithium ion batteries are becoming a popular choice due to the availability of charging points increasing. Having the ability to charge up via USB at any time has become practical in recent years and removes the on-going cost of new batteries.
Some high-end headlamps have the capacity to run on AAA or rechargeable batteries. If you are looking to ensure vision and improve versatility, they might be worth your while.
The stated battery life of a headlamp can vary wildly between products. It also varies greatly depending on what setting you are using.
Many headlamps are only capable of lasting a couple of hours on high power mode. If you plan on taking long hikes on pitch-black trails, you might need to look for a better option.
Once you change your setting to a less draining beam, battery life is often significantly increased. It’s common to see headlamps lasting more than 40 hours, with many of the best options offering significantly more.
Keep in mind that stated battery life is not always accurate. Although companies are becoming more accurate with their readings, it’s still advisable to take the figures with a ‘pinch of salt’.
Most hikers are keen to reduce weight whenever possible. However, the weight of your headlamp will often be a result of its overall performance and quality.
If you want a powerful and durable headlamp for serious outdoor trips, you will be looking at the heavier options. Increased battery size and tougher materials, such as aluminium or thick plastic, often cause the added weight.
Anyone looking to save weight will often need to accept reduced battery life and durability. Lightweight headlamps are generally made from thin plastics and use fewer batteries, often weighing in at under 3oz.
Most good quality headlamps offer some level of water resistance. It’s measured in ‘IPX’, with a scale of 0-8 signalling its ability to withstand moisture.
Anyone that expects to face the occasional downpour should look for a headlamp with a minimum rating of IPX4. This is classified as ‘splash proof’ and will be sufficient to withstand typical rainfall.
Some of the best headlamps for hiking are capable of being fully submerged under water. IPX7 or 8 is the number you should target if you want submersion, but it will often cost you a premium price.
The strap used will often correspond with the weight of your headlamp. The most common types used are a single-strap or two-strap.
A single-strap headlamp is the most basic type that’s used in lighter models. It’s a simple pieace of elasticated nylon that straps around the sides your head.
Two-strap headlamps have an appearance similar to single-strap, but with one additional strap that goes over the top of your head. It’s commonly used in heavier options to cope with the added weight.
You will find most hiking headlamps use a simple single-strap system due to its improved versatility. However, anyone looking for serious security might opt for a two-strap product.
Best Overall Hiking Headlamp
Ease Of Use
Black Diamond are well-known within the outdoor community for their quality equipment, so it’s no surprise to see one of their products come out on top. Upon review, we found the Storm to be the best headlamp for hikers thanks to its impressive reliability and strong overall performance.
The headlamp is capable of emitting up to 400 lumens on max output, with 3 brightness settings available that are perfectly suited to any situation. Our review found the long distance spot setting to be ideally suited to trail finders, with a flood setting that’s wide and bright enough for close proximity tasks.
Durability has also been prioritised by Black Diamond, with the Storm offering a IPX7 waterproof rating that can be submerged up to one meter. The rugged design also offers an impressive battery life of 5 hours in high mode and 42 hours in low.
The all-round performance offered by the Black Diamond Storm makes it an ideal purchase for hikers. It’s durable, bright, reliable and packed full of features that are are well-suited to any trail or campsite situation.
- Great durability
- Good spotlight distance
- Wide and bright flood setting
- 3 colour LED lights
- Can be submerged up to 1m
- Long battery life
- Bang for your buck choice
- Could be lighter
- Not rechargeable
Best Ultralight Headlamp For Hiking
Ease Of Use
Modern hikers are increasingly looking for lighter gear that will allow them to cover more distance at higher speeds. Anyone looking to seriously minimize weight will be impressed by the super compact Petzl e+LITE, which was easily the best ultralight headlamp in our review.
Weighing in at a measly 0.9oz, the e+LITE offers admirable performance despite its ultralight construction. It comes with an IPX7 rating that makes it submersible up to 1m and is surprisingly durable for its size.
Despite not being the brightest light in our comparison, the close proximity floodlight offered superb wide vision that is on par with some of the best headlamps around. It also comes with a dependable emergency light that has long-term reliability and is super easy to use.
The e+LITE packs an impressive list of features for such a lightweight headlamp, making it a clear favourite for weight conscious ‘speed hikers’. If you want to save a few ounces but still maintain close proximity vision, you will be hard pressed to find a better option.
- Super lightweight
- Excellent at close proximity
- Useful red light setting
- Good battery life
- Reliable in an emergency
- IPX7 submersible
- Easy to use
- Not bright enough at distance
- Batteries not always easy to buy when you’re on the road
Brightest Headlamp For Hiking
Ease Of Use
Heading into the outdoors after sunset can be an amazing experience, but you need a superb headlamp if you want to safely see your surroundings. That’s where the Fenix HL60R comes in, providing outstanding brightness that is significantly better than any other headlamp on this list.
The maximum ‘turbo’ setting emits an impressive 950 lumens of light, which shines for up to 381ft and is more than enough to satisfy the needs of any hiker. In addition, the HL60R comes with an additional 5 settings for a variety of situations, including a red light that is invaluable to some hikers.
The HL60R also offers standout durability, thanks to its ‘best on test’ IPX8 waterproof rating and metal housing that can withstand serious impacts. The USB charged battery is also a favourite of many users, with a stated run time of up to 3 hours on high mode (400 lumens).
Anyone that’s happy to carry some extra weight in search of performance should be looking at the Fenix HL60R. It’s super bright, ultra durable and a great tool to improve your vision of the night-time trail.
- Standout brightness
- 6 brightness settings
- Red LED included
- Incredibly durable shell
- IPX8 fully submersible
- USB rechargeable battery
- ‘Non-bulky’ design
- Very heavy
- Battery life could be better
- Overkill for most hikers
Best Intuitive Headlamp For Hiking
Ease Of Use
Anyone looking for a modern and intuitive hiking headlamp will be impressed by the Black Diamond Spot. It has a simple and easy-to-use design with a reliable light output that will satisfy most outdoor enthusiasts.
The 350 lumen maximum spotlight setting provided outstanding brightness that made trail finding easy, while it also comes with a wide range of proximity settings. Outside of the LED bulbs, you will find a tough housing that is IPX8 rated for serious outdoor usage.
Another key feature is the Spot’s intuitive touch sensitive buttons and easy-to-navigate settings. It was also one of the most comfortable headlamps to wear, with a moderate weight and low-profile design making it feel secure at all times.
The simple navigation and overall performance of the Black Diamond Spot make it an easy choice as one of the best headlamps for hiking. It’s easy-to-use, durable and sufficiently bright for most hiking activities.
- Good brightness
- Plenty of settings
- Useful red light
- IPX8 fully submersible
- Low-profile and comfortable
- Good value for money
- Would be better if it was rechargeable
- Battery life can be an issue
Best Budget Headlamp For Hiking
Ease Of Use
Finding quality hiking gear that won’t break the bank can sometimes feel impossible. However, our review found that the Petzl Tikkina is ready to prove doubters wrong by offering great performance for a very reasonable price.
The 250 lumen bulb provided more than enough light to perform during basic night-time outings and was impressive when considering its budget price. It also comes with a close proximity setting that is sufficient to perform most basic campsite tasks.
The compact and low profile design feels incredibly stable and easy-to-use at all times. The light also comes complete with an IPX4 rating that is enough to deal with any rain you might encounter on the trail.
Overall, we thought that the Petzl Tikkina provided performance that far outweighs its price tag. The light output is impressive, it’s easy-to-use and will be durable enough for most hikers.
- Good max beam brightness
- Comfortable to wear
- Budget price
- IPX4 splash protection
- Packable design
- Uneven close proximity floodlight
- Actual max battery life only lasts for 3-4 hours
- No coloured light option
Finding the best headlamp for hiking can seem challenging. Every option has unique pros and cons that make it suitable for a different individual or scenario.
The products on this list have all been handpicked due to their proven track record of keeping hikers happy. Take the time to assess the key features and analyse all the information to make sure you choose the one that’s right for you.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.