From ultrabright to ultralight, these are our favorite headlamps.
Is the dark getting you down? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve found the best headlamps for running, camping, hiking, and backyard barbecuing. These are our favorites for lighting up the night and adventuring outside.
And just like with our favorite Bluetooth speakers, this list is as varied as our staff. But we can all agree on one thing: It’s hard to beat the necessity of a good headlamp.
The Best Headlamps
Before jumping into the list, take a moment to think about how you will use a headlamp. Do you need something that shines extra bright? Is battery life an important factor? Or do you need to maximize for comfort above all else? Keep this in mind to find the perfect headlamp for your needs.
Princeton Tec’s simple little Sync headlamp is easy to operate and has a great red light mode, a personal must-have feature. I love a red light to preserve night vision and use it mostly for hiking on starry or moonlight nights. This headlamp has been my go-to for hiking, camping, and hunting over the last few years. I love the long burn time (up to 150 hours on red) and the price, as I tend to stash headlamps in cars and packs in case I misplace one.
For slow nighttime adventures, or to drop in a pack or car for emergency use, it’s a solid choice that works simply with three AAA batteries, weighs just 2.9 ounces, and is made in the USA.
— Sean McCoy, Editor-in-Chief
New for 2019, this headlamp is the epitome of comfort. The strap sits flush against the head, so you don’t have to worry about slippage. And the wicking fabric dries quickly and stays stink-free even after a nighttime sweat sesh. Overall, it just feels great. Headlamps often give me a headache, but not the BioLite 330. It’s so comfortable I completely forget I’m wearing it.
You get plenty of brightness, 330 lumens, with this headlamp. And I like being able to dim, spot, or switch to red light. The rechargeable battery can last 3.5 hours on high (and 40 hours on low). It’s a great choice for running, hiking, camping, and all manner of dark night adventures.
— Mallory Paige, Social Media Manager & Gear Editor
I have been rocking the Iota since it launched a couple of years ago. I claimed then that it ushered in “an era of efficient micro-lighting” with its low price ($35), high brightness, and functionality. It’s still a stalwart in the Black Diamond product line, with 150 lumens of brightness on the max setting, which is enough for trail running or a night hike. It weighs almost nothing at 1.9 ounces and fits comfortably on the head. Its battery recharges quickly via USB or a wall outlet.
One caveat is its average 3-hour burn-time on max brightness. That battery life is fine for near-home adventures where you get a chance to plug it in after a session in the night. But for backpacking and longer wilderness missions, bring a headlamp with longer life.
— Stephen Regenold, Founder
This light runs on both rechargeable and AAA batteries so you can take it on longer trips without worrying about having enough power. I like that it lasts for days even in cold weather, and the quick adjustments make switching between output modes a breeze. It has 300 lumens with two modes (proximity and distance) and throws just enough light for night biking.
— Kurt Barclay, Marketing & Projects
This headlamp is super small and versatile. It can be put in the headstrap to be used as a headlamp or pulled out and set up freestanding to light up your workspace. I love how bright it is for such a small package. And it runs so long on each charge I forget that I even have to charge it. It has a “moonlight” mode, which is really nice when you need ambient light in a small space and don’t want to blind everyone around you.
— Zach Burton, Director of Sales
As someone who eschews more complicated technology, I’d always resisted the programmable versions of Petzl’s Reactik lighting line. But a recent multiday trip with limited resupply helped me really appreciate the ability of the Reaktik+ to be set to a custom lighting duration via the Petzl app. Logging into the app, I created a new profile called “fiordland adventure” tailored to the length of the nights here in New Zealand. This allowed me to use “smart” lighting settings that lasted from sunset to sunrise as we pushed through the darkness.
On top of that, it has an easy-lock function to prevent accidental “on,” takes AAA batteries in a pinch (less burn time), is (mostly) waterproof, and has constant lighting settings like a normal headlamp for those dense forest treks when the reactive lighting setting seems more like a disco strobe.
— Jason Magness, Contributor
The MH10 is a light cannon. On high, it blasts 600 lumens and lights up anything in your path. It has high and low settings as well as a focusing system that allows you to make the beam narrow or wide depending on your need. It weighs 5.7 ounces, so it’s a bit heavier than some other less-bright options. It’s always in my car and is my go-to light on the majority of my shorter-length adventures.
— Jake Ferguson, Projects & Marketing
In my car, in my pack, and even hanging by the front door for my nightly walks is the Nite Ize Inova STS headlamp. At first, I was resistant to the idea of using the touch-activated “swipe to shine” technology, as I’m much more old school. However, after getting the hang of it and using it in all types of conditions, it has grown on me.
It has four white LED modes and two red LED modes. The casing is sturdy, lightweight, waterproof, and takes AAA batteries. So while you do have to make sure you have an extra set of batteries on hand, you don’t have to worry about recharging it in the field. Our adventure racing team, Team BendRacing/YogaSlackers, uses these lights as our backup lights, and they have come to the rescue more times than I can count.
— Chelsey Magness, Contributor