If you run at night or go camping, you know that using a flashlight is so old school. It’s a hassle when you need both hands to set up your tent or take the dogs out for their last walk for the day. A better option is to go hands-free so that you can pay attention to what you’re doing. Check out our picks for the best headlamps.
|Our Rank||Model||Lumens||Rechargeable Battert|
|2||Cobiz LED Headlight||6,000||Yes|
|3||Black Diamond Spot Headlamp||300||Yes|
|4||Ultra Bright CREE LED Headlamp by LuminoLite||160||No|
|5||Foxelli MX20 Headlamp||165||No|
Top Rated Headlamps
Now that you know what to look for let’s run down our list of our favorite ones with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Petzl Tikkina Headlamp
As a long-time caver, Petzl was the name you heard when it came to headlamps. (Please don’t call us spelunkers.) The manufacturer has a loyal following, and it’s easy to see why. The Petzl Tikkina is part of Petzl’s Classic Series of headlamps. It is lightweight with a comfortable fit that we’ve come to expect from their products.
It has a long battery life of up to 220 hours at its lowest setting or 60 hours at the maximum. It is IP X4 (weather resistant) if you get caught in the rain. Petzl swapped out the setting slider of the older models to push button design which was a huge plus. It’s a versatile headlamp with lighting distances of 10, 40, or 55 meters, depending on the mode.
The headlamp in a hybrid model that is compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery. It uses the regulated output with a shorter battery life. The AAA batteries, on the other hand, will dim as they lose juice. At least you get your choice of how you want to power it. It casts a wide beam, making it a good choice for hiking or running.
- It is a lightweight solution and weighs only three ounces.
- The Tikkana has three different setting at 5, 100, and 150 lumens, respectively.
- It has a single push button ON/OFF switch that is easy to use to go through the different modes.
- The headlamp comes with a five-year warranty.
- It does not have a red-light mode.
- It runs on three AAA batteries in its default power source and doesn’t include rechargeable ones.
- It is not one of Petzl’s better designs and reflects its cheaper cost.
Overall, it’s a good value if just because of the superior battery life and the ability to use rechargeable batteries. However, the absence of a red light is a fail.
Cobiz Brightest 4 Modes LED Headlight
The Cobiz LED Headlight has the most radical design of any the products we reviewed with a strap that goes over the top of your head too. It is adjustable on all sides. The lamp itself consists of a larger LED light flanked by two smaller ones on the left and right of it. It has three regular lighting modes that use different combinations of the three LED lights.
It runs on two lithium-ion batteries and is rechargeable. The batteries and the charger are included along with a slick carrying case. Both the switch and the wiring are waterproof. You can zoom or tilt the camping lamp to focus it where you need it most, a feature we certainly appreciate when trying to get a campfire going in the dark.
While it is chargeable, the Cobiz LED Headlight uses a wall charger, not a USB. It’s a potential dealbreaker given the shorter battery life of under three hours at maximum brightness. It does not have regulated output, so at least you’ll know when it’s getting low on power. If you want a truly bright light, this is the one for you.
- The Cobiz LED Headlight is waterproof, not water resistant.
- The headlamp includes an emergency strobe feature.
- The design allows you to place it on a helmet, making it a good option for bicyclists.
- Some people may find the larger profile unsightly.
- The headband isn’t as comfortable as we hoped.
- There are some glaring shortcuts with the design that make it appear cheap.
- It does not have a red light mode.
While the Cobiz LED Headlight is chargeable, the product description could easily mislead someone to expect a USB device which it is not.
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
The Black Diamond Spot Headlamp comes from another manufacturer well known in the caving world. This offering features a brightness of 300 lumens that is power by a DoublePower white LED and a QuadPower LED. It has four lighting modes including a red light one. We loved the attention to detail in that you don’t have to get blinded by the white mode before going to red.
It has a decent battery life at 175 hours on the lowest setting and 30 hours on high. Maximum distances range from 16 meters at low and 80 meters on high. It runs on three AAA batteries which are included. Black Diamond upgraded the brightness of its newest model from 200 to 300 lumens.
The headlamp is lightweight even with the batteries, coming in at just over three ounces. It has a dimming feature which we liked along with a lock mode. Transitioning between full and dim light was smooth and quick. The output is not regulated. Overall, it’s a solid value for the price.
- The Black Diamond Spot Headlamp is fully waterproof (IPX 8) for 30 minutes at 3.3 feet.
- It includes both emergency and red light modes.
- It has a brightness memory feature to lock in your preferred setting.
- Switching between the different modes isn’t intuitive.
- The light gives off a yellow spot in the center of the beam which may turn off some users.
- Some may find the red light a tad weak.
The Black Diamond Spot Headlamp offers the brightest light out of all the headlamps we tested which makes it shine.
Ultra Bright CREE LED Headlamp
The Ultra Bright CREE LED Headlamp by LuminoLite is appropriately named with 160 lumens providing up to 262 feet in coverage. It is the only product we reviewed that lets you cycle through the white and red modes separately. You can use each one on its own or together. It is super lightweight at just 2.6 ounces.
We liked the fact that we could tilt it for the best light, depending on the use. And we have to give it props for comfort. The elastic band provides a snug fit that doesn’t rub or chafe. It’s adjustable and can fit over a helmet if you want to use it for a night bike ride. It runs on three AAA batteries. The battery life is okay at about 30 hours.
The headlamp has five modes including an emergency strobe. It has a slick design that we liked. However, it’s not anywhere near a performance product, but it’ll get the job done for a night hike or some fishing. It has a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one-year warranty.
- The Ultra Bright has easy-to-use controls for intuitive use.
- The IPX-6 waterproof rating means you’ll still have adequate light in the rain or up to three minutes in three meters of water.
- You can tilt it to focus on what you need to see.
- You have to go through all of the modes to turn it off which is a bit of a pain.
- It has a nasty habit of turning on sometimes if you keep in a bag or purse.
- The red light is a bit dim for some uses.
The Ultra Bright is one the right track with the design, but a few missteps with operation kept it from being our top pick.
Foxelli MX20 Headlamp
The Foxelli MX20 Headlamp is a budget model suitable for general use including night running. For the price, it packs a lot of features. It has three light modes with 40, 80, and 165 lumens. The distance range is 15, 35, and 50 meters, respectively. It has a water resistance rating of IPX5 which means you’ll have light to get inside after a good downpour.
It’s lightweight at just over three ounces even with the three AAA batteries inside. The battery life is average at about 45 hours on the low setting. The design borders a tad on the cheap side, but it still gets the job done. That said, it’s not the most comfortable of headlamps that we tried. It could certainly use some padding over the plastic parts of the headband.
For an economy model, it delivers a good strong light with a wide beam, albeit, at the cost of battery life. It does not have regulated output either. Despite some of the downsides, the headlamp comes with a generous 90-day guarantee and a lifetime warranty.
- The Foxelli Headlamp has both emergency and red light modes.
- It delivers a bright light with CREE-3W LED technology.
- Its bright, eye-catching design of the yellow version makes it a good choice for night biking and running.
- Its range is a bit less than we’ve seen with other models that we reviewed.
- Some may find its plastic design makes it look cheap.
- The light has a slight yellow tint to it that some users might find annoying.
The Foxelli Headlamp is a good value for the price for someone looking for a basic headlamp with features you’d expect in something more expensive.
After reviewing the specs, our top pick of the best headlamps is the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp. Having both an emergency and red light mode was high on our list of features because it adds to its functionality and versatility. We were impressed with the manufacturer’s thoughtful design that allowed you to get to the red light mode easily.
The long battery life was another selling feature. We appreciated the fact that it did not have regulated output. We’d rather know what’s coming than be surprised when the lights go out. Versatility came into play again with the ability to use it with a helmet and its waterproofing.
And it didn’t escape our notice that the manufacturer listens to its customers’ feedback with tweaks in the 2017 model to make it a better product. If you’re looking for something that ticks off all the important boxes, you won’t go wrong with the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp.
Headlamp Buyers Guide
Benefits of a Headlamp
Of course, the hands-free part is welcome to make any task easier to do. But a headlamp offers a lot more advantages. State-of-the-art models have greater versatility than older ones. You’ll see it in the different modes and settings. Many make getting around at night simpler by preserving your night vision. Others are great for walking in difficult or mushy terrain so you don’t trip or ruin your boots and gaiters.
Most headlamps have dropped the old incandescent bulbs and have upgraded to LED lights. Finally, you’ll get something that lasts and doesn’t go out when you need it most. And you needn’t feel like a nerd wearing one. Functionality trumps everything, especially when it comes to your personal safety.
This video from the Universidad de Granada of Spain explains the technology of LED lights.
How to Choose a Headlamp
You’ll find bare-bones headlamps to ones that are tricked out with all the bells and whistles. Frankly, some features cross the line into overkill territory if they aren’t necessary for the way you’ll use it. The best headlamps get the job done efficiently with the things you need it to do.
Some manufacturers have fine-tuned their products to fit some uses better than others. You’ll often see them listed prominently in their descriptions. It’s a good clue for picking the right headlamp for you. Let’s do a deep dive into the things you should look for when shopping for one.
Things to Look For in a Headlamp
The price tag is probably high on your list of criteria for picking out a headlamp. You can expect to pay anywhere from under $20 to a couple hundred or more. That’s where that specialty use comes into play. The first thing you need to do is think about how you’re going to use it. A runner will need something quite different than someone going night fishing. Keep that in mind.
The main features in a headlamp include:
- Brightness: The overall maximum is given in lumens. However, bigger isn’t always better. It also depends on the energy source, the beam of the light, and focus. Make sure to check out the beam distance too.
- Weight: Most headlamps run well under one pound. The weight is a critical factor when you’re wearing it for extended periods. Trust me; you’ll notice the difference a few ounces makes.
- Power Source: The power source is the main driver when it comes to weight. You’ll find models that use AAA alkaline batteries, rechargeable ones, and lithium models. It’s another criterion that will matter depending on its use. If you use your headlamp during the winter, you’ll appreciate the superior performance of a lithium battery.
- Battery Life: Power is an important factor when it comes to battery life. It might need be as big of a deal when taking the dog out in the neighborhood, but it’ll be a different story if you’re going for an extended hike in the woods.
- Light Modes: This is one area where you’ll see some extra features. At the very least, you’ll find that most have a high and low setting. Other modes may include a few more. Some may have an emergency strobe mode which is great if you live in an urban area or run on the shoulders. You’ll also find ones with a red light which can save your night vision.
- Water Resistance: That’s a nice feature that you’ll be glad your headlamp has if you ever get caught in the rain. Make sure and read the fine print. Water-resistant and waterproof are not the same thing.
- Fit: The feel of the headband often falls into the dealbreaker category. It has to be comfortable. It does have to toe the line with a secure fit, especially if you wear it while running. Look for adjustable straps to zero in on what is best for you.
- Durability: You want your headlamp to last no matter how you spend on it. Give it a close-up look, focusing on the attachments to the light and the headband. Examine the material of the strap to make sure it’s not going to lose its shape over time.
- Fancy Stuff: Some higher end headlamps will include additional features with the power and longevity of the light. You may find some with a regulated output which is an energy-saving feature to keep it going. However, when it’s done, it’s done which you’ll find out when it suddenly goes dark. You may see models with auto-focusing to adjust the brightness to the setting. It can also keep the batteries going a little longer.
As you can surmise, some features fit different activities better than others. For example, waterproofing is a must-have for cavers or anglers. For others, not so much.