If you spend enough time hiking in the backcountry, at some point you’ll get benighted and need a headlamp. Whether it’s on purpose, because you wanted to capture that sweet sunset photo, or because you just had an epic on the trail, the last thing you want is to get caught out in the wilderness at night without a headlamp. To make sure you’re always prepared for some night hiking, here’s a review of the seven best headlamps for hiking and backpacking, along with a guide to all the ins-and-outs of choosing a headlamp. Happy trails!
7 Best Headlamps for Hiking and Backpacking
Here is our top picks of the 7 best headlamps for hiking and backpacking!
Cobiz Brightest High 6000 Lumen LED Work Headlight
Affordability and functionality are the names of the game with the Cobiz Brightest headlamp. Packed full of 6000 lumens worth of lighting power, the Cobiz can light up any outdoor space for fantastic vision on the darkest of nights. With four different settings, including low, medium, high, and strobe, it’s a great all-around headlamp.
Plus, the Cobiz Brightest is water resistant to IPX 4 so it’ll hold up well in the rain. If that wasn’t good enough, it’s affordable and rechargeable, so you won’t have to spend your life savings on batteries for this headlamp, either.
- 4 different settings
- Water resistant rating IPX 4
- 6000 lumen
- No red light
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Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight
If you need a headlamp that’s light and compact for those accidental night hiking epics, the Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight might be the headlamp for you. Tipping the scales at just 3.2 ounces but with a lumen output of 165, the Foxelli brings a lot of light in a tiny package.
The Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight is water resistant to IPX 5 and is also dustproof and shockproof, so it’s a mighty headlamp without the bulk and weight. It even comes with a red light mode to help you see clearly without ruining your night vision.
- Red light mode
- Light and compact
- Water resistant rating IPX 5
- Mid-range light quality
- Short battery life on brighter settings
- SUPER BRIGHT CREE-3W LED TECHNOLOGY (165 feet beam) - wide variety of white & red light modes + 45° tiltable body makes this headlight brightest and most versatile in its class. SOS and strobe mode will keep you safe in any situation.
- WATERPROOF AND DURABLE – why equip yourself with anything but the best and most reliable headlamp? MX20 is built to last. It is rated to IPX5, which means it is protected against splashing or spraying water from any angle.
- LIGHTWEIGHT AND COMFORTABLE – you won't even notice wearing it. Weighing only 3.2 ounces (with batteries) with easily adjustable, ergonomically designed elastic headband makes this light perfect for long distance runners looking for a comfortable fit.
- SUPER LONG BATTERY LIFE – by using leading CREE – 3W technology MX20 provides more light with less power used, resulting in up to 45 hours of run-time. 3 AAA ENERGIZER batteries included. Each head torch has been tested for quality.
Ultra Bright CREE LED Headlamp
Ultralight hikers and ultrarunners can rejoice over the Ultra Bright CREE LED Headlamp, which is both water resistant and highly durable for an affordable price. With five light settings, including red light, and a water-resistant rating of IPX 6, the Ultra Bright is a versatile headlamp for any outdoor enthusiast.
Plus, at just 2.6 oz, this headlamp is so light, it’s hard to notice that it’s on your head. The main drawback to this headlamp is that it only takes disposable batteries, so you can’t recharge it via USB. Moreover, it “only” has 160 lumens, which, while a sufficient light output for most pursuit, is actually considered to be a low lumen count for modern headlamps.
- Water resistant rating IPX 6
- 5 light settings
- Super light
- Disposable batteries only
- Relatively low lumen output
- QUICK AND EASY CONTROL - FEATURES 2 BUTTONS to Easily Select 1 of 5 Light Settings. WHITE CREE XPE LED: Offers Full Brightness (160 LUMENS), Dim and Strobe Modes. RED LEDs: Constant Mode - Perfect for Saving Your Night Vision, and Flashing/SOS Mode.
- LOOKING FOR A VERSATILE HEADLAMP FLASHLIGHT TO LAST?This headlamp Ideal for Overnight Hiking, Camping and Trail Running. IPX6 WATER RESISTANT and Made from Durable Materials to Handle the Great Outdoors. BATTERY LIFE LASTS FOR DAYS.
- LOOK AND FEEL GREAT WEARING IT - 1 x Super Comfortable and Stylish Head Straps are both Stretchy and Adjustable to Fit all Adults and Kids. With it's Stylish and Sleek Design - All your friends and family will want to wear one.
- PIVOT THE ANGLE OF THE LIGHT WITH EASE - Adjust the Beam Angle up to 45 degrees with an easy up or down movement. LIGHT UP THE NIGHT - 262 FT RANGE. Lightweight design weighs just 2.6 oz with Batteries (3xAAA Alkaline) ,DON’T WAIT, GET YOURS TODAY!.
DanForce Revolutionary Headlamp Flashlight 2019 Version
If you value light output over anything else, then the DanForce Revolutionary Headlamp might be for you. This three-bulb headlamp puts out 1080 lumens in 4 different light modes for use in any conditions. Plus, you can adjust the lights on a 90-degree tilt, so it can be perfectly focused on what you need to see.
With a water-resistant rating of IPX 4, it’s able to stand up to rain splashes and snow. That being said, it’s quite heavy and bulky, so it might be a better headlamp for car campers than backpackers and ultralight hikers.
- 1080 lumens
- 4 light modes
- 90-degree adjustable tilt
- Water resistant rating IPX 4
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CrazyFire LED Headlamp
The CrazyFire LED Headlamp is an affordable light source for someone who just needs to hang around camp and read at night. With 800 lumens of light output, this headlamp is bright enough for most pursuits, but with just 25 feet of beam distance, it might not be the best for hiking down challenging terrain.
The zoomable light feature is great for focusing in on a single target and the 90-degree adjustable mount is perfect for keeping your light out of other people’s eyes. That being said, the CrazyFire’s bulky construction and relatively heavy weight mean that it’s not great for backpackers and lightweight hikers.
- 800 lumens
- 3 light modes
- Zoomable light
- Max beam distance is only 25 feet
- No red light
- Not rechargeable
- SUPER BRIGHT: Adopt cree XM-L T6 800lm led light,the beam distance is up to 20+ feet when it is on the brightest setting, the illuminating area is wide enough for running or working.
- 3 LIGHTING MODES: 3 levels of white light brightness,high/ low/ strobe,also include zoomable function so that you can adjust the brightness zone as you want.
- LIGHTWEIGHT and WATERPROOF: Weighing only 7.3oz and with its easily adjustable, elastic headband, ip50 waterproof,the headlamp is perfect for anyone who needs a headlamp.(Note:The battery cover is not waterproof and it can not be soaked in the water)
- ADJUSTABLE and STEADY: The head of the lamp is 90 degree adjustable for oriented lighting.powered by 3 x AA batteries(not include) is easy to get and change when power off.
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
The Black Diamond Storm headlamp is designed by outdoor enthusiasts for outdoor enthusiasts. With 250 lumens, it might not be the brightest headlamp on the market, but it provides enough light for the vast majority of outdoor pursuits.
Plus, the Storm is rated to withstand submersion in water for up to 30 minutes and is even dustproof for all of your desert adventures. The main drawback to this headlamp is that it’s relatively expensive, compared to other models, but it’s a good value for the quality and craftsmanship that’s gone into creating this product.
- IPX 67 waterproof and dustproof rating
- Red and green lights
- Easy button system for mode switches
- Not chargeable
- Only 250 lumens
- One Quad Power LED and one Double Power white LED emit 350 lumens
- Red, green and blue Single Power LEDs for night vision have dimming and strobe settings and activate without cycling through white mode
- Power Tap Technology allows instant transitioning between full and dimmed power
- Settings include full strength in proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red, green and blue night-vision, and lock mode
SmarterLife LED Headlamp
The SmarterLife LED Headlamp is a tiny light that’s best suited for occasional use. At just over 1 ounce, it’s the lightest headlamp in our review, though this does come at a sacrifice in lumen output, as the SmarterLife only has 115 lumens. With 6 light modes, including strobe and red light, it’s also a versatile headlamp for a number of different activities.
That being said, with its relatively low lumen output and short beam distance, it’s a headlamp that’s best used for reading at night or for hanging out around camp. At such an affordable price and light weight, however, it also makes for a good emergency headlamp, just in case.
- Super light – just over 1 oz
- 6 light modes
- IPX 6 water resistance
- Only 115 lumens
- Only uses disposable batteries
- Short beam distance
- HIGH PERFORMANCE CREE LED HEADLAMPS FOR THE TOUGHEST SITUATIONS: Our headlamp uses CREE technology the most trusted brand in LED lights. It delivers energy efficiency and a long life span needed when you’re camping, running, hiking or caught in an emergency on the road. Make it an essential component of your camping or outdoor gear.
- LIGHTWEIGHT HEAD LIGHT DESIGN ENSURES COMFORT AND EASY MOVEMENT: The 1.25 ounce SmarterLife LED headlight flashlight has a curved bracket and adjustable headband for adults and kids. Use it while plumbing, doing car repairs or as a reading light without the bulk and weight.
- IPX6 WATER RESISTANCE DELIVERS CONTINUOUS OPERATION EVEN IN WET WEATHER: Most LED head lamps work on ordinary days but when the weather gets tough, our waterproof headlights continue to operate in rain and any weather condition that’s high in moisture or humidity, which makes it among the most important camping or tactical flashlights to be sure to have.
- 6 MODES WITH EASY PUSH BUTTON OPERATION: The white bulb turns from low, medium and high to flashing SOS mode. Bypass the white light to go to red by pressing the head lights on/off switch for 3 seconds. The solid red light mode allows you to the see the way without blinding others in close spaces such as a tent or your vehicle. The flashing red mode indicates an SOS emergency situation.
Hiking Headlamp Buying Guide
Choosing a hiking headlamp can be a tricky business if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Before you spend some of your hard-earned money on a headlamp, it’s important to understand all of the features you might want in your new headlamp and which ones aren’t worth the extra dough. Here are some things to look out for:
The value of any headlamp is found in its brightness. If a headlamp isn’t bright enough to let you see clearly at night, then it’s really just dead weight in your pack. Thus, one of the most important considerations of choosing a headlamp for hiking really is brightness.
Light sources, like headlamps, have their brightness measured in a unit called “lumens”, which is distinctly different from the unit of “watts”. While watts measure energy use, lumens specifically measure how bright something is.
But what are lumens? It turns out that lumens have a long and complex definition that we don’t want to bore you with here, but this is what you need to know: the more lumens, the brighter! Headlamps come in a wide range of lumens, with some as low as 30 lumens and others as high as 6000 or more lumens.
If you want a headlamp for hiking on rough trails, caving, or climbing at night, you’ll really want to look for something with at least 150 lumens. Anything less just won’t be bright enough. But, if all you want is a headlamp for reading a book at night, 100 lumens will probably suffice.
An LED, or a light-emitting diode, is a small device that creates light when electric currents run through it. These days, the vast majority of headlamps are made with LEDs, which are extremely energy efficient. Compared to incandescent bulbs, LEDs require up to 90% less energy to create the same amount of light.
Plus, LEDs tend to last at least 50,000 hours, which is 40 times longer than the average incandescent bulb lifespan, while also being smaller, more compact, and capable of creating light in different colors. All of these features make LEDs a very popular choice as a light source for headlamps, so you’d be hard pressed to justify a headlamp made with anything else.
The very last thing you’d want after being benighted on a hiking epic is to run out of battery power in your headlamp. Not only will this make it very difficult for you to hike back to the trailhead, but it could also create a dangerous situation.
While you should always carry a spare set of batteries with you, sometimes things just don’t go as you plan, especially if you’re out backpacking for a week or more. Battery life and overall efficiency of your headlamp are important considerations, particularly if you plan to use your headlamp a lot at night.
Another thing to remember here is that many modern headlamps are rechargeable, which eliminates the need for alkaline batteries but poses its own problems. While some headlamps can be charged or use alkaline batteries, some can only be charged via USB, which is problematic when you’re hundreds of miles into the backcountry. Plus, a longer battery life might mean a sacrifice on lumens output or beam distance, so you need to prioritize what’s important for your needs.
If you live in a particularly rainy environment or you often find yourself crossing rivers on your hiking days, you might want to look for a headlamp that’s water resistant. Generally speaking, most headlamps under $20 aren’t waterproof, but the vast majority of lamps at or over that price point are usually rated to at least IPX 4, which means they can survive getting splashed by water in a rainstorm.
Completely waterproof headlamps do exist, though, and are a great option for people who also like to kayak, canoe, or spend time on the water. These headlamps usually boast an IPX 7 rating, which means that they can be immersed in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes without failing. Some headlamps are also rated to IPX 67, which means they are waterproof up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes and are also dustproof.
The distance that a headlight beam can illuminate is a combined measure of how bright the light is and how focused the light is into a beam shape. That being said, the beam distance advertised by manufacturers says nothing about the quality of the light emitted from their headlamp. You might be able to create a 200 ft beam with one headlamp, but not actually see farther than 3 feet away because the light quality is so poor, so sometimes you need to take beam distance measurements with a grain of salt.
Generally speaking, modern headlamps will have two beam distance measurements: one for high beam and one for low-beam. Although beam distance doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about a headlamp, it’s usually a pretty good indicator of overall performance, so it’s worth noting.
Red lights are perhaps one of the most underrated and underutilized aspects of a headlamp. While most people spend the vast majority of their headlamp time using it with
Red light mode is also much more energy efficient, so it’s nice to switch to it if you’re low on battery. Plus, flashing red LED lights can be seen from very far away, which is nice in search and rescue scenarios. Hunters also love red lights because they don’t scare away animals and can help them see better at night.
Not all headlamps have red lights, but if you think you’d find it useful, it’s worth seeking out a headlamp with this extra feature. Some headlamps even have a variety of different color lights, like yellow/green, which lets you see lots of detail, while blue lights tend to be very energy efficient, so it all comes down to what you want in a headlamp.
Most headlamps strap onto your head using a single elastic band that fits on your noggin as a visor would, but some larger and more powerful headlamps have a second strap that runs from the front to the back of your head. Personal preference usually dictates whether or not you like this second strap or if you find it annoying, so before splurging on a headlamp, it’s important to make sure that you’d be comfortable wearing it.
adlamps strap onto your head using a single elastic band that fits on your noggin as a visor would, but some larger and more powerful headlamps have a second strap that runs from the front to the back of your head. Personal preference usually dictates whether or not you like this second strap or if you find it annoying, so before splurging on a headlamp, it’s important to make sure that you’d be comfortable wearing it.
Another thing to consider, when it comes to fit and a headlamp, is to be certain that the elastic strap will fit over your head. Some headlamps have excessively small or large straps, which can pose problems for both large and small head people, alike. Plus, if you plan to use your headlamp with a climbing helmet or over a hat, you want to be sure that it will actually fit before you spend your hard-earned money.
At the end of the day, you can only wear one headlamp at a time, so it’s important to choose one that best fits your needs. After reviewing seven of the best headlamps for hiking, we’ve decided upon the Black Diamond Storm as our number one pick in this lineup.
Although it is the most expensive headlamp we reviewed, the Black Diamond Storm combines a respectable 250 lumen light output with a completely waterproof and dustproof casing, which makes it incredibly reliable in foul weather. It also offers a range of different light settings, including strobe, red, and green lights, so it’s a versatile headlamp that’s specifically designed for hiking and outdoor use.