Think your flashlight does the trick when camping or backpacking? Think again. Even simple tasks such as lighting a match or chopping wood require two hands. Our top headlamp pick, the , is an entirely hands-free option that is so bright you can light up an entire campsite.
Not all headlamps are created equal. Like most camping gear, they become more durable and functional as their price tags rise. Fret not — we’ve hiked and camped in the dark, accumulating more than 60 hours of testing so we could select the best headlamps for you. Whether you’re looking for a light for running or one for your kids, we have you covered.
Why you should buy this headlamp? The MH10 is as well-rounded as they get for under $100.
Who it’s for? Individuals looking for a high-lumen output headlamp that won’t break the bank.
How much will it cost? $80 MSRP
Why we chose the:
The Ledlenser MH10 is the most versatile headlamp we’ve seen and is our pick as the best overall unit. The Adjustable Focus System enables quick single-handed lighting adjustments from spot to flood with a simple twist of the front bezel. Nowadays, most top of the line headlamps are rechargeable, however, unlike some models, the MH10’s 18650 Li-ion rechargeable battery can reach an 80 percent charge in just four hours and a full charge in roughly six.
To prevent accidental battery drains during transport, the MH10 has a lock switch to keep it from powering on in a stuffed duffel. A built-in red rear light isn’t necessary for all situations, but cyclists will enjoy the added luminescence on evening rides. As anyone who’s ever slept overnight in a stuffy tent knows, the last thing you want while setting up a tent and bedding is excess heat coming from your headlamp. Thankfully, the MH10 has a temperature control system to keep the LED headlamp cool on your skull during use — even while emitting up to 600 lumens of light.
The best for running
Why you should buy this headlamp? This stylish unit is as comfortable as it is powerful.
Who it’s for? Individuals who want a versatile headlamp that won’t slide out of place — even during strenuous activities.
How much will it cost? $50 MSRP
Why we chose the Biolite Headlamp:
The Biolite Headlamp is one of the most comfortable and no-fuss headlamps we have tested. At 2.4 ounces, it’s also among the lightest. Biolite’s success comes from an innovative strap system that integrates the light and the wiring into the strap itself. The result of this one-piece design is a light that hugs your head and doesn’t bounce even when you are running. It also means there are no messy wires to contend with when you adjusting the strap or taking it on/off your head.
The headlamp features an array of handy lighting modes (Spot, Flood, Spot + Flood, Red Night Vision, & Strobe) and a maximum brightness of up to 330 lumens. The battery delivers up to 3.5 hours on high and 40 hours on low. When the beam does go out, you can recharge it via an integrated USB connector, allowing you to replenish the battery with an array of portable devices.
Petzl Actik Core
The best all-around headlamp
Why you should buy this headlamp? The Actik Core is as reliable as it is powerful.
Who it’s for? Anyone who wants a headlamp that won’t let them down.
How much will it cost? $70 MSRP
Why we chose the Petzl Actik Core:
The Petzl Actik Core has everything you need in a headlamp. The 350 lumens is bright enough to light a broad swath of the trail even on the darkest night. The Actik Core allows you to switch between three levels of brightness and includes a red mode to preserve night vision. The headlamp uses a hybrid power source that allows you to switch between three AAA batteries and the USB rechargeable Core battery. Battery life is respectable — you can eke out two hours at maximum brightness or extend your light to 160 hours at the lowest setting (5 lumens).
The lightest headlamp
Why you should buy this headlamp? The lightweight frame adds only an ounce to your pack
Who it’s for? Ounce-counting backpackers
How much will it cost? $60 MSRP
Why we chose the:
Counting ounces doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. Just look at the Petzl Bindi. This minimal headlamp weighs only 1.2 ounces, yet delivers an impressive 200 lumens of light. It ships with a 680mAh rechargeable battery that provides up to 50 hours of light at its lowest setting (5 lumens).
Versatile is how we would describe the Bindi headlamp. You can adjust the light to three different output settings or switch to red light when you want to protect your night vision. The light has a unique headband that allows you to wear the headlamp on your forehead or around your neck if that is more comfortable. You also can tilt it to adjust the light right to where you need it.
The most stylish headlamp
Why you should buy this headlamp? Solid performance and a unique look set the Uco Beta apart from the crowd.
Who it’s for? Glampers and casual campers.
How much will it cost? $25 MSRP
Why we chose the Uco Beta:
Uco dares to go where no other headlamp has gone before. Rather than stick with standard colors and plain headbands, Uco creates a unique look with its Beta headlamp. A real wood inlay graces the front of the light adding a look you won’t see in any off-the-shelf headlamp. This unique casing is paired with an equally distinctive elastic headband that stands out from the crowd.
Performance-wise, the Uco Beta has a single button that makes the headlamp easy to use. It offers three settings — low, medium and high — with a maximum output of 200 lumens. It’s powered by three AAA batteries and lasts up to 70 hours on low (4 hours on high).
Colorful and fun headlamp
Why you should buy this headlamp? Catchy colors with a solid performance make the Claro a winner in our book.
Who it’s for? Youngsters and those young at heart.
How much will it cost? $30 MSRP
Why we chose the Cotopaxi Claro:
The Cotopaxi Claro headlamp is a gem. The colors are bright and colorful, a breath of fresh air for those who want something whimsical and different. Not only does the Claro look the part, but it also performs the part. The 170 lumens beam reaches up to 50M making it bright enough for most nighttime activities. Several modes allow you to switch between a floodlight and a spotlight depending on your needs. The headlamp charges via USB and can last up to 20 hours on a full charge. We wish it had a red light option, but that’s our only critique.
Best headlamp for kids
Why you should buy this headlamp? Youthful styling and simple controls make the Tikkid ideal for kids.
Who it’s for? Kids
How much will it cost? $25 MSRP
Why we chose the Petzl Tikkid:
Petzl knew what it was doing when it designed the Tikkid, the company’s first headlamp for kids. The 125-lumen headlamp has three modes – a low mode that is perfect for reading at night, a high mode for nighttime activities and a white strobe mode for emergencies. Our favorite feature is the automatic shut-off that turns off the headlamp after an hour. Great for when the kids fall asleep with the headlamp turned on.