Why We Secretly Hate Headlamps: BioLite Solves the Unspoken

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BioLite may be the first outdoor company to light up the elephant in the darkened room: People don’t like wearing headlamps because the fit is all wrong.

“When they’re sitting around a campfire, people put them around their necks,” said Mindy Abbruzzi, senior industrial designer for BioLite. “Anyone with experience using headlamps knows they’re uncomfortable. We realized that this was an area of hardware that, despite being worn on your head, had not yet become truly wearable.”

Trail runner wearing the BioLite Headlamp 330

In its first headlamp product, BioLite, a brand already known for its lanterns and other innovative outdoor lighting solutions, tried to solve the No. 1 issue that no one talks about: Headlamps can be a headache.

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The BioLite HeadLamp 330 launched on Kickstarter last year. The headlamp category was already awash in a lumens race. So BioLite went in a different direction, delivering a headlamp that combines performance, fit, affordability, rechargeability, and brightness into a single offering.

Woman illuminating map with the BioLite Headlamp 330

BioLite knew the opportunity was ripe. “Headlamps had evolved by making incremental improvements in lumens, runtime, or beam distance, but they had not been innovated upon,” Abbruzzi said.

“Even the smallest or lightest-weight headlamps still didn’t address a basic physics problem, which is having a doorknob cantilevered off your forehead.”

Oven Mitts, Track Spikes: Headlamp Inspiration

BioLite’s goal — producing a minimalist, well-balanced headlamp that felt great and performed just as well as any $50 personal lighting device on the market — was years in the making.

BioLite headlamp sketches

During research and development, BioLite ripped up all kinds of bulky and ultralight headlamps from competing brands. Then, when initial prototypes didn’t push fit far enough, engineers went to the office “inspiration bin” for more ideas. BioLite explored everything from surprisingly complicated oven mitts and socks to track spikes and running shoes.

The goal was to produce the first headlamp that integrated — rather than spliced together — the best of hardgoods and softgoods.

Track spikes, BioLite HeadLamp 330 inspiration

Designers were obsessed with balance, arrangement, and weighting. “We did so much testing to convince ourselves that this was possible,” Abbruzzi said. But in trying to completely change the product architecture — and the headlamp category as we know it — BioLite opened up a big can of worms, too. The brand had to rethink everything.

How BioLite Did It: 3D SlimFit Construction

Enter 3D SlimFit construction. After extensive R&D, BioLite landed on the trifecta, or what it calls the three dimensions of a better fit. In the BioLite HeadLamp 330, the three dimensions are a flush front, super-smart wicking fabric, and better 360-degree balance.

BioLite headlamp research and development

The result is a headlamp that sits flat on your forehead and doesn’t bounce around, wicks sweat without impacting lighting performance, and feels downright comfortable during any activity.

Remarkably, BioLite got the HeadLamp 330’s ultrathin, 3D-molded housing down to just 9 mm thick without sacrificing performance. With a flush front and weighing in at 69 grams total, BioLite’s first personal lighting product is 50 percent thinner than the next-smallest headlamp in the category.

BioLite HeadLamp 330

The BioLite HeadLamp 330‘s techy strap delivers on the second dimension with a highly functional fabric. A moisture-wicking, triple-bonded stay-put base material deflects sweat and water but won’t transfer moisture into the LED. That means you stay dry while your light stays bright.

The third big innovation was moving the battery to the back of the strap. This shift rebalanced weight and moved necessary power-source bulk to an area of the head that doesn’t typically lead to a headache. That was a huge technical hurdle, as power cabling had to be routed through the laminated head strap. But the innovation paid off all around.

Testing the BioLite HeadLamp 330: First Time’s a Charm

The experience of putting on a BioLite HeadLamp 330 the first time sells the product.

“Instantly, it makes people realize what something truly wearable should feel like,” Abbruzzi said. “It’s so comfortable that we’ve had users tell us that they walk into the house and forget it’s even on.”

Two hikers using BioLite HeadLamp 330 at dusk, mountains in background

Want to try one for yourself? The rechargeable BioLite Headlamp 330 retails for $50 in four colors online and at retailers around the country.

Shop the BioLite HeadLamp 330 at REI


This article is sponsored by BioLite. Learn more about the BioLite HeadLamp 330 here.