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The Best Headlamps of 2024

The headlamp is one of the fundamental outdoor tools. We combined extensive testing with decades of experience to find the best headlamps you can buy now.
Best headlamp review testingGearJunkie's team of testers lights up the night while reviewing the best headlamps of 2023; (photo/Eric Phillips)
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The best headlamps are a hotly contested item here in the GearJunkie office. We each have our favorites, and the arguments get hot over the most important headlamp features, specs, and user interfaces.

So every year, we take them to the field and put them to the test head-to-head. We compare their modes and light up distant rock walls. We try their fit one after another to learn about comfort. And we wear them around the campfire, to learn which is most intuitive, which buttons work with gloves, and so forth.

But we don’t stop there. We also take the headlamps home and put them into some measurable testing. We charge them up, and then let them run on “high” mode to find out how they measure up with their claimed run times. And we compare the color rendering, throw distance, and other qualities of the light the lamps produce. Our testers range from former YOSAR personnel to ultramarathoners and rock climbers.

Don’t have time to read this whole article and just want a great, serviceable headlamp at a reasonable price? Just get the Black Diamond Spot 400-R. It’s the most well-rounded headlamp we tested and should function well in almost any use case, from hiking to hunting to mountaineering.

Where the Spot 400-R thrives forms the base of our recommendations. We judged the lights by a few criteria: battery run time, spotlight range, floodlight quality, user interface, size and weight, lighting modes, and price.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our helpful comparison chart and comprehensive buyer’s guide.

Editor’s Note: For our March 1, 2024, update, we’ve added the comfortably fitting BioLite 325 and the Black Diamond Distance to our lineup.

The Best Headlamps of 2024

Best Overall Headlamp

Black Diamond Spot 400-R


  • Lumen output 400 lumens; spotlight to 100 m
  • Rechargeable Yes, micro-USB
  • Burn time 225 hrs. on low; 4 hrs. on high
  • Weight 2.6 oz.
  • Red light Yes
  • Waterproof rating IP67 (submersible)
Product Badge The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Intuitive user interface
  • Long battery life
  • Lightweight


  • Not the brightest max output, but still plenty sufficient
Best Budget Headlamp

Petzl Tikkina


  • Lumen output 250 lumens, 10-60 m
  • Rechargeable No; 3 AAA batteries needed
  • Weight 3 oz.
  • Burn time 120 hrs. on low; 2 hrs. max power
  • Red light No
The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Good runtime for the price


  • Doesn't come with a rechargeable battery
Runner-Up Best Headlamp

Coast FL85R


  • Lumen output 700 lumens max; floodlight to 70 m, spotlight to 200 m
  • Rechargeable Yes, rechargeable battery pack via USB
  • Burn time 8.5 hrs. on low; 1 hr. 45 min. on high
  • Weight 4.5 oz.
  • Red light Yes
The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Large, easy-to-use buttons
  • Rechargeable, but also compatible with alkaline batteries
  • Top-notch long throw distance


  • Shorter run time (9 hours at low light)
Most Comfortable Headlamp

BioLite 325 HeadLamp


  • Lumens output 325; floodlight to 15 m, spotlight to 70 m
  • Rechargeable Yes, micro-USB
  • Burn time 40 hours on low, 3 hours on high
  • Weight 1.75 oz.
  • Red light Yes
The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Comfortable
  • Very light
  • Sweat-wicking headband


  • Short throw range
Best Ultralight Headlamp

Petzl Bindi Ultralight Headlamp


  • Lumen output  6-200 lumens
  • Rechargeable Yes, micro-USB
  • Weight 1.2 oz.
  • Burn time 50 hrs. on low; 2 hrs. max power
  • Red light Yes
The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Lightweight
  • Easily adjustable fit
  • Good value


  • Lesser runtime
Best Multi-Power

Petzl Actik Core


  • Lumen output 450 lumens max (90 m throw) for 2 hours
  • Rechargeable Yes, also compatible with AAA batteries
  • Burn time 2 hours on high, 130 hours on low (8 lumens)
  • Weight 75 g
  • Red light Yes
The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Good value
  • Rechargeable and compatible with AAA batteries
  • Comfortable


  • Average long-range power
Best Headlamp for Ultramarathons

Black Diamond Distance 1500 Headlamp


  • Lumen output Up to 1,500 lumens
  • Rechargeable Yes, via USB-C or micro-USB
  • Burn time 40 hours on low
  • Weight 7.5 oz.
  • Red light Yes
  • Rear light Yes
  • Waterproof rating IP67
The Best Headlamps of 2024
Best Color Rendering

Fenix HM 50R V2


  • Lumen output 700 lumens
  • Rechargeable Yes
  • Weight 2.5 oz.
  • Burn time 42 hrs. (claimed) on low, 3 hrs. on high
  • Red light Yes
The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Simple user interface
  • Impressive color rendering


  • Not the longest runtime
A Durable Headlamp

Coast WPH30R


  • Lumen output 1,000 (high), 400 (flood)
  • Rechargeable Yes, USB-C
  • Burn time 23 hrs. on flood low; 5 hrs. on spot
  • Weight 5.60 oz.
  • Red light Yes
  • Waterproof rating IP68 (submersible)
The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Very durable; IP68 Submersible
  • Long 149 meter beam throw
  • Good runtime
  • Great user interface, compatible with gloves


  • Heavy
  • Just 5 modes, fewer than many lights
Best of the Rest

Ledlenser MH11


  • Lumen output 1,000 lumens, 320 m
  • Rechargeable Yes
  • Weight 6.3 oz.
  • Burn time 100 hrs. on low
  • Red light Yes
The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Extremely bright
  • Effective reactive technology
  • Long runtime


  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Black Diamond Storm 500-R


  • Lumen output 500 lumens, 12-120 m
  • Rechargeable  Yes, lithium-ion with micro-USB
  • Weight 3.5 oz.
  • Burn time 350 hrs. on low; 7 hrs. on high
  • Red light Yes
  • Waterproof Rating IP67
The Best Headlamps of 2024


  • Blue, green, and red light options
  • Effective waterproofing
  • Comfortable


  • Lower total duration burn time

Headlamp Comparison Chart

HeadlampPriceLumen OutputRechargeableMax Burn TimeWeightWaterproof Rating
Black Diamond Spot 400-R$65400 lmYes225 hrs. on low; 4 hrs. on high2.6 oz.IP67
Petzl Tikkina $25250 lmNo120 hrs.2.8 oz.IPX4
Coast FL85R$63700 lmYes1 hr., 45 min.4.5 oz.IP54
BioLite 325$50325 lmYes40 hours on low, 3 hours on high1.75 oz.IPX4
Petzl Bindi $44200 lmYes50 hrs.2.1 oz.IPX4
Petzl Actik Core$69450 lmYes130 hrs.2.6 oz.IPX4
Black Diamond Distance 1500$2001,500 lmYes40 hrs.7.5 oz.IP67
Ledlenser NEO5R$70600 lmYes35 hrs.3.7 oz.IP54
Fenix HM 50R V2$60700 lmYes42 hrs.2.75 oz.IP68
Coast WPH30R$701,000 lmYes23 hrs. on flood low; 5 hrs. on spot2.6 ozIP68
Ledlenser MH11$1601,000 lmYes100 hrs.6.3 oz.IP54
Black Diamond Storm 500-R$75500 lmYes350 hrs.3.5 oz.IP67
We test headlamps and compare brightness and run-time while considering the best applications for each model; (photo/Eric Philips)

How We Test Headlamps

The GearJunkie team has tested a huge variety of headlamps for countless miles in the woods and at campsites, from hunting to climbing peaks. We polled our crew to determine their absolute favorite headlamps and why. Author and hunt and fish editor Nicole Qualtieri first published this guide in early 2021, and the selection included 9 of the best headlamps available online.

Since then, we’ve refined this guide and kept it updated by testing the latest models. Since then, our list has grown to include 13 models, representing a diversity of manufacturers, from Black Diamond to Fenix.

Additionally, GearJunkie Editor Sean McCoy now contributes most of the testing and hands-on evaluation. Sean is a hunter, skier, runner, and all-round outdoorsman with over 20 years of experience putting gear through the ringer. For headlamps, Sean brings each model on long runs that stretch well past sundown and uses them at hunt camp, where they are put to the test in cold conditions and Sean can evaluate the user interface (the buttons) through a thick pair of gloves.

We’ve also tested many models in a group setting where we can make side-by-side comparisons of brightness and beam length. Our team has used these headlamps for spelunking, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, and running ultramarathons. We’ve also used these headlamps at home — pulling gear out of the crawlspace, unloading the rig post-road trip, and shoveling snow. The utility of a dependable headlamp is prolific.

Some of our editors have used their choice headlamp across every season for many years with no sign of deterioration or a desire to switch. Beyond our team’s experience, we also considered the most popular, most durable, and bestselling headlamps on the market as well as a broad range of price points and features.

For more lighting options, check out our guide to the best headlamps for hunting, and if you’re looking to up your game in camp, have a look at the best camping lanterns.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Headlamp

Headlamp Bulbs: LEDs

Long gone are the days of light bulbs. Modern headlamps almost universally use LEDs (light-emitting diodes). These small, powerful light sources use a tiny fraction of the energy of bulbs. Today, thanks to LEDs, headlamps produce incredibly bright light and run for many hours on rechargeable batteries.

Red light headlamp inside tent
Testing the red light of a headlamp in a tent; (photo/Eric Phillips)

But did you know that all LEDs are not created equal? Yep, LEDs are a rapidly evolving technology. And when you get a good headlamp, one component that makes a big difference is which LED the brand uses.

Some of the very best headlamps use CREE LEDs. Using premium components, manufacturers can enhance headlamp power and light qualities like color rendering and warmth. So, when you spend a little more on a quality headlamp, this is just one of the reasons.

Black Diamond Spot 400 R headlamp
The Black Diamond Spot 400 R headlamp is the best for most people; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Color Options

The standard LED color is white (we’ll go into some variations on this in the Color Rendering section below). But many headlamps also have a red LED (or other colors) light.

We consider the red mode on a headlamp to be almost mandatory. That’s because red light preserves your night vision much more than white light.

So, by using a red light while cooking, around the campsite, or even while walking on a trail, you will still be able to see much more of the surrounding landscape, especially under a full moon. Red light also won’t wake up your tentmate as easily if you need to read or get dressed in the dark. And it’s the best color when hanging out with a group as it won’t blind your friends.

Some headlamps also have green and blue LED lights. Blue light is useful for night fishing and for hunters who need to spot an animal’s blood. Blue light also is a good choice for reading maps in the dark, because the tone picks up red lines on the page.

Green lights are a helpful tool for hunting at night. The color is brighter than red, provides better contrast, and won’t startle animals.

Regardless of the color options, be sure to take a little time to learn your headlamp’s user interface so you can switch between them as needed.

A GearJunkie headlamp tester casts a beam during testing; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Lumens (Brightness)

One of the most important components of a headlamp is how much light it produces. We measure this in lumens. Most headlamps have a low, medium, high, and sometimes “turbo” brightness setting, which users can manually adjust via buttons on the headlamp.

The higher the setting, the faster the battery depletes, so Turbo settings are often short-lived and regulated to preserve battery life. Some headlamps also have a dimming option that lets you gradually adjust the brightness level.

Our favorite headlamps range from about 300 to 1,500 lumens at their highest output. For nighttime adventures like trail running or uphill skiing, opt for a headlamp with a max output of at least to 300 lumens, which can spotlight obstacles and wildlife.

LEDs with higher lumens are better for faster activities or spotting far-off objects. But while higher lumens mean more energy consumption, you can always run your battery in low mode, which we recommend if you have a long time afield between recharges. High-speed activities like cycling are best with at least 1,000 lumens of available lighting, and more is better. Faster activities also require a longer beam distance, which we outline below.

Those looking for super-bright lighting can often do better with hand-held flashlights. Check out our guide to the best flashlights here.

Beam Distance & Type

An increase in lumens usually helps boost the distance the light travels, but there’s not a direct correlation. For instance, the Black Diamond Spot 400-R has 400 lumens and a max output of 100 meters Other factors influence how far the illumination travels, such as the LED placement, diameter, and beam type.

Most headlamps have two types of beams. The floodlight is broadly diffused to the area closest to you. This mode conserves battery power while reaching your immediate periphery.

The spotlight is a tight, concentrated beam of light that exposes the environment farther away and with a narrower field of vision. This setting sometimes requires more battery power, and often people manually click between the floodlight and spotlight.

Some headlamps automatically adjust between the two based on the objects in front of you. The automatic mode switch also preserves the battery. Others may use reactive technology to sense how much light to project, again, preserving battery life.

The distance between each headlamp’s floodlight and the spotlight is unique. For example, the BioLite 330 has an LED light of 330 lumens that reaches 16-75 m. The Coast FL85R is 750 lumens and extends 70-200 m — more than the length of two football fields.

One of our testers uses a Fenix headlamp while helping a stranded motorist near our camp test location; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Light Settings

Headlamps typically have multiple light settings that the user controls manually. Those options include a spotlight, which is the headlamp’s maximum light output and illuminates the environment farther away. A lower output setting concentrates light closer to you.

Some headlamps have a technology that automatically adjusts the low and max output based on the objects in front of you, which saves battery power. A handful of designs also have a strobe mode, which is helpful for visibility in areas with high vehicle traffic.

Battery Life

One of the biggest differentiators between headlamps is battery life. The best headlamps have a long life between charges, with some able to run for days on end without recharging.

But a little education goes a long way when it comes to extending battery life. By using the lower power settings and red light, most headlamps will run for many hours.

Some of the best on this list will run for more than 200 hours on low between charges! But using high will suck battery fast. For example, the Petzl Bindi Ultralight Headlamp battery lasts 2 hours in high-output mode and 50 hours in low-output mode.

Before you head out, make sure you understand how to toggle between the modes in order to manage the headlamp’s battery power.

Rechargeable vs. Conventional Battery Headlamps

Most headlamps these days offer a rechargeable component, but some still rely on regular batteries. Both options can be great depending on how you use your headlamp.

First, note that rechargeable batteries cost a little more at the outset. But given they last for many, many charges, they will be much cheaper over time than buying new batteries over and over.

Next, note that modern rechargeable batteries have gotten really good. You’ll see in our runtime that many of these will run for days without a recharge. And in our testing, they all managed to run for 7 to 24 hours or more. If you need a recharge in the field, just bring a small battery bank to recharge your unit.

There are circumstances where replaceable AAA or AA batteries make the most sense. For example, those running overnight ultramarathons may want to carry an extra set of batteries so they can quickly switch them without having to wait for a headlamp to recharge.

But for most users, a rechargeable battery is reliable, functional, and much more efficient and environmentally friendly. Not only do you produce less waste, but rechargeable batteries require much less energy to produce than disposable batteries and can run for up to 3,000 cycles without losing effectiveness.

You’ll see some headlamps offer both rechargeable batteries and the option for AAA battery functions. These are a great option for folks who want to be sustainable but also might need to rely on the speed of a conventional battery every once in a while.

Biotite Headlamp 330
GearJunkie editor Mary Murphy wears the Biolite Headlamp 330; (photo/Sean McCoy)

User Interface and Buttons

This is a sticking point for a few folks on the crew. One editor wanted a headlamp that could easily be used with gloves.

Some headlamps offer the ability for the user to program buttons and lighting on their own. As we said earlier, a few headlamps offer apps for a plethora of options.

But, for the great majority of headlamp users, that is really unnecessary and a time-consuming step. Our editors and testers all loved headlamps that were simple to use and didn’t require a steep learning curve.

It’s easy enough to take a few minutes to read the instructions and figure out how to use your headlamp. But for most headlamps, they’re intuitive enough to figure out right out of the box. Those are the headlamps that made our list this year — simply because they offer the least trouble.


Most headlamps offer a lock button or switch that prevents them from turning on in your pack and wasting precious battery life (or starting a fire). If you plan to frequently store your headlamp in a bag or backpack, especially while hiking, lockability greatly improves reliability.

On this list, the Black Diamond Spot 400-r is a high-end headlamp with a well-made lock button. When you buy a headlamp, read the instructions to learn how to lock and unlock the light. It’s a valuable feature that will save you an unexpectedly dead headlamp when night falls.

Headband & Adaptability

Headlamps usually sit around the head against the forehead and hair. They typically include one front-facing LED attached to a stretchy elastic strap that’s wide, moisture-wicking, adjustable, and comfortable. The LED slides along the band and is removable, allowing the band to be washed.

There are uncommon headlamp designs, too. For instance, the LED light can be integrated into the band, like on the BioLite 330. Sometimes, a second strap crosses over the top of the head to support a heavier headlamp.

For minimalists, the Petzl Bindi Ultralight Headlamp is constructed with a thin, adjustable drawstring cord.

And other headlamps have a second light or the battery pack on the back of the strap. If you need to wear a hat or helmet, the headlamp will need to fit around that layer.

Ledlenser NEO 5R
Ledlenser NEO 5R has a nice balance for running since the battery sits on the back of the head; (Photo/Sean McCoy)

Headlamp Tilt

Some LED units are adjustable and click up and down to angle the light in an appropriate direction. This feature can be really nice in social settings when you’re trying not to blind another person or when reading a book. It also reduces neck fatigue if you can angle the light down at the right angle to illuminate the trail without craning your neck. Just don’t be surprised if your baseball hat bring blocks the light, so pro-tip; flip your baseball hat backwards when wearing a headlamp at night to get the best performance.


For us, comfort and a lack of bounce are key. Headlamp comfort is influenced by the type of band, adjustability, overall weight, and personal preference.

We’ve found bounce can occur with bulky or cheaply constructed designs that are less streamlined and ergonomic. The weights of our favorite headlamps range from 1.2 to 7 ounces. But heavier headlamps usually need a third strap that goes over the top of your head to ensure comfort for the user.

Water Resistance

Some headlamps have an IPX or IP rating to show how resistant they are to water. IPX0 offers no barrier at all against precipitation, splashes, or sweat. IPX8 provides the greatest amount of protection against full submersion, like if you’re swimming with a headlamp on.

For instance, the Coast FL85R has an IPX4-rated construction, which is sweatproof but not fully waterproof. The Fenix HM 50R V2 has an IP68 rating meaning it can function while completely submerged up to a meter.


The price of our choice headlamps ranges from $30 to $160. A headlamp’s overall features, like the quantity and types of LEDs and batteries, affect the price. The sturdiness, weight, battery capability, lumen strength, and overall power play a role in the cost, too. Generally, you can find a good-quality headlamp from about $30 on up.


When should I use a headlamp?

A headlamp is an ideal tool for hands-on activities such as cooking in low light or pitch black. It’s also great for nighttime endurance sports like trail running.

We’ve used our headlamp for search-and-rescue scenarios, alpine starts for long hikes, backpacking, and even walking home in the dark. And of course, headlamps are great for projects around the house like auto repair or electrical wiring in a house.

How do I choose a headlamp?

First, decide what you’ll use your headlamp to accomplish. If you need to move through terrain with obstacles or wildlife, you’ll need more lumens — at least 300. If you’re a hunter or angler, you might want blue and green LED options.

Choose a design with a band that’s comfortable for your personal needs, including your head, skin, and hair. If you’re bouncing around or running, you might want a headlamp with a top strap.

Also, consider whether the battery duration is a match for your field hours. If not, you’ll need to decide if you want to carry extra batteries or a portable power bank to recharge the headlamp.

How bright is the brightest headlamp?

The brightest headlamp in our guide is the Ledlenser MH11 with 750 lumens. Other headlamps are even stronger. The Ledlenser MH11 delivers up to 1,000 lumens.

That said, headlamps with big-time lumens can require you to carry a separate battery case. They can also be clunky and less comfortable to wear on the head, especially during high-movement activities.

What is the brightest, longest-lasting headlamp?

If we’re talking about lumens, our favorite bright headlamp is the Ledlenser MH11. The design boasts 1,000 lumens, and the battery lasts 100 hours on its low setting and 4 hours in high-output mode.

How many lumens do I need in my headlamp?

The amount of lumens you need in your headlamp depends on the use. We’ve found 200 lumens or less work fine for domestic tasks like pulling gear out of the storage area, loading the truck bed, or setting up at the campground.

If we need to travel through technical terrain, like trail running at night, we opt for at least 250-300 lumens. For spotting distant objects, look for at least 400 lumens with a spotlight mode.

Are expensive headlamps worth the cost?

The tags on our choice headlamps range from $20 to $180. The cost is related to the components like the quantity and types of LEDs. The sturdiness, weight, battery, lumens, and power are all price variables, too.

Personally, we’d rather invest in one headlamp with the features we want, even if it’s a bit more expensive. Headlamps can last for years, as long as they’re not repeatedly dropped, crushed, or knocked off the side of a boat.

Do I need a headlamp with a red light setting?

Yes, we use the red light setting of our headlamps all the time! Most modern headlamps come with a red light setting. While red light settings cannot generate the brightness of the primary white light setting, they are extremely handy.

In social settings, red lights offer visibility without blinding your friends with overly intense brightness. Plus, they help you maintain your night vision while illuminating nearby objects.

When sharing a tent with other people, a red light is great for reading without lighting up the whole interior while others are trying to sleep. Additionally, red lights are less likely to attract mosquitos and other bugs.

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