A headlamp is an item that everybody should have at home. Whether you like to go camping, hiking, running, walking your dog, feeding the birds, or have problems with power outages, a reliable headlamp can be a lifesaving device.
But given the vast array of different headlamps on the market, finding the most suitable one of your needs can be pretty challenging.
Since we know how difficult such a decision can be, we have picked the best headlamps for 2020 for you, as well as summarized some useful information about the features to keep in mind when you are shopping for a handy little gadget like this.
What to look for when choosing the best headlamp
Although all headlamps may seem the same to novice users, the truth is that there are different features that can make a device like this useful for some, and not so useful for others. It is essential to consider the following features when picking the best headlamp for your needs if you want to make sure that you will be making a wise investment:
The maximum lumens
The first question you should ask yourself when buying a headlamp is how bright a light you need. Brightness is measured in lumens, which determine the brightness emitted. But while this is an essential feature for the total light emitted in a specific direction, it does not measure the quality of the pattern of the beam emitted. Plus, most of these lamps have dimming capabilities with different lumens settings.
This means that two or more headlamps that have the same maximum lumens, the light quality they produce, can be very different, depending on the lens system quality, the width, type, and distance of the beam and other factors.
But nevertheless, you should decide on the lumens number which you will need, and the time period for which you will be using it.
In general, if you want a headlight which you will be using as a backup for a power failure, or for doing a small job at home or outdoors, then 25 to 125 lumens should be sufficient for you.
If you need a headlamp to find your way in total darkness, then you should choose a headlamp with 200 or more lumens.
As for those of you looking for a light for night climbing, night trail running, or cave exploring, then you should opt for a headlamp, which has a brightness of a minimum of 250 lumens.
The Beam distance
The different headlamps have different beam distance specifications. This is a description of the ability of the headlamp’s lens to focus the light, and its total output.
You will notice that most manufacturers list the maximum light output in spot mode and the output in low-light conditions in close proximity. In most cases, you will need to use the light in low or medium mode, except for extreme cases when you need to find your way in complete darkness on difficult terrains when you are more likely to use the maximum beam and lumens mode.
The type of LEDs
Almost all headlamps have several lighting modes to choose from. These can include spot, colored, flood as well as strobe lights.
The spotlight is usually set as a default setting for most lamps. This is a spot beam focused at the largest distance. The spotlight is useful for activities like caving, viewing the route trekking at night, or finding an anchor during rappelling.
In flood setting mode, the head lamp will cast a wider beam that will illuminate the area which is right in front of you. Floodlight is usually achieved with an extra LED added to the LED for spotlighting. Floodlight mode is suitable for camping, walking the dog, finding your gear in a dark tent, and so on. So, make sure you check not only the spot distance but the flood lighting distance specifications provided as well.
Some headlamps have color light options as well. In most cases, these are red, but they can be green or blue in color. The color light is softer than the bright white light, which makes it suitable for reading in the dark, or for hanging out at the camping site with others without blinding them with the bright white light.
In some cases, hunters may use blue colored light to track the blood of animals among the green leaves in the dark.
The strobe light function is available in some headlamps, and it is an emergency light that will make you clearly visible, while saving battery, for emergency and survival situations.
The battery types
Most headlamps on the market are charged by AAA batteries or by rechargeable lithium-ion ones.
The rechargeable ones are more eco-friendly, and are also more economical, as you don’t have to buy replacements and dispose of the old ones every time.
On the other hand, the non-rechargeable AAA batteries can last longer, so they are suitable for longer hikes and trips. Nevertheless, they will cost more in the long run, and you will need to throw the old ones away when you replace them.
The headlamps best for the environment which work with rechargeable batteries are usually the more expensive of the two types.
If you are planning on using the headlamp a lot, then it makes sense to invest in a more expensive lamp with rechargeable batteries, because it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Then though, you will need a power bank or another power outlet to recharge the batteries while on the go.
On the other hand, if you need a headlamp for emergencies at home or occasional use, you can save money by purchasing a cheaper lamp which is powered by replaceable AAA batteries.
If you choose to buy a headlamp with non-rechargeable batteries, you should opt for lithium batteries instead of alkaline ones, because they last longer and are lighter in weight.
For those of you who are not sure which option is better, there are some premium quality headlamps that offer both options. They can work with rechargeable and with AAA batteries, depending on your needs. This is the perfect choice for those of you who want to take advantage of the benefits of rechargeable headlamps, but also want to have a backup plan for cases when there is no power source available for a longer time.
Another feature to look for is where the batteries are located on the headlamp. While most of them are located on the front, there are some lamps that have the batteries at the back of the strap, and some allow for detached storage.
The battery runtime
Another important feature regarding the batteries is their battery life. Keep in mind that many manufacturers provide specifications for the maximum battery life without guaranteeing that the brightness of the lamp will remain the same when used in the brightest setting.
The best way to choose a headlamp with a long battery life is to ensure that it is powerful enough to allow you to use it at a lower or medium setting most of the time, and use the brightest setting only for brief extreme cases. This will ensure that the batteries last for longer.
The weight of the headlamp is among the main factors to consider when choosing the best one, especially if you are planning on wearing it for long periods of time and for covering long and challenging distances.
Usually, the more powerful the headlamp, the heavier it will be, so you should choose one which will provide you with the perfect balance between performance and comfort, depending on your needs.
If you need a headlamp for brief walks in the park, runs, or adventures in average conditions, then it is a better idea to buy a lightweight headlamp. These are usually made of thin plastic and use fewer batteries.
For more extreme adventures and jobs, you may want to opt for a heavy-duty headlamp, made of thicker plastic or aluminum, and powered by more batteries.
The way in which the weight of the batteries is distributed on the lamp is also important.
As mentioned earlier, some headlamps have their batteries on the front, others are on the back of the strap, and there are models with detachable battery packs which you can keep in your pocket or elsewhere.
The comfort and straps
The strap styles among the different headlamps differ quite a lot. Most lamps have single elastic nylon straps that wrap around the head. There are others which are usually the more heavy-duty ones, or those made for helmet wearing which have double straps – one around the head, and the other running over its top.
For general use, the single strap models are easier to put on and take off and are supportive and comfortable enough to wear.
IP Ratings, water resistance, temperature resistance
Unless you plan on using your headlamp at home and inside only, then finding a water-resistant one is a must. The water-resistance is measured in IP ratings, so make sure you check out these ratings before buying a headlamp. An IPX0 rating means no water-resistance, IPX4 equates to water-resistant for rain or snow, and IPX8 means that the lamp will continue working even after being completely submerged in water for up to 30 minutes.
Apart from the water, you should keep in mind the other elements as well. This includes the temperature. If you are going to be using your headlamp in cold or freezing conditions, then you should carefully consider the type of batteries you will be using. The replaceable alkaline batteries are the least temperature-resistant. So, for better performance in freezing temperatures, you should opt for lithium or rechargeable NiMH batteries, which can handle cold better. The best option for extreme cold use is to buy a headlamp, which has a detachable battery pack, which you can keep under your clothing or somewhere warm to ensure that the light stays on, no matter the temperatures.
Just like with any other purchase, you should stick to the budget you have allotted for a headlamp when choosing one. Try to find the best option which is offered for the budget you have set, and keep in mind that choosing a more expensive lamp may mean that you will save money in the long run in some cases.
Here are the best headlamps for 2020
Max. Lumens: 325 (high), 160 (medium), 6 (low)
Beam distance: 80m (high), 60m (medium), 8m (low)
Battery type: 3 AAA batteries
Burn time: 200hrs (low), 8hrs (medium), 4hrs (high)
Water resistance: IPX8 – can be submerged in water for up to half an hour
Biggest advantages: Water-proof, long run time, various light options, locking feature, battery reader and overall excellent value for the price asked
Biggest disadvantages: The variety of different light modes and settings may require some time to get used to
The Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp is the overall best all-round headlamp you can buy in 2020. It has a maximum brightness of 325 lumens, a battery life which can last for up to 200 hours at the low setting, and is completely water-proof and can safely be submerged in 1.1 meters of water for up to 30 minutes and continue working.
The Black Diamond headlamp is comfortable and light with a low profile design, making it among the top preferred lamps for hikers, climbers, and others.
It is available in a wide variety of color options too.
It is feature-packed, and has so many light settings, including dull strength in distance and proximity modes, dimming, lock, strobe and red night vision modes, that you may need some time while getting used to them.
But once you get to know this reasonably priced, powerful, and light headlamp Black Diamond, it will become your favorite piece of gear for your outdoor adventures, or use around the house.
Weight: 0.99-oz without the headband, 1.9-oz with the headband
Max. Lumens: 360 (Turbo), 180 (High)
Beam distance: 88 yards max.
Battery type: built-in rechargeable via USB
Burn time: 160 hours at low, 5 hours at high
Water resistance: IP66
Biggest advantages: An ultra-light lamp with a quick charging USB rechargeable battery with long battery life, and multiple useful features, including a battery life reader, best headlamp for hiking
Biggest disadvantages: The wide beam can blind other people when not in red light mode
The Nitecore NU25 360 Lumen triple Output Headlamp is one of the best options if you want an ultra-light lamp with rechargeable batteries at an affordable price.
This lightweight headlamp is comfortable to wear and has multiple light options, including auxiliary red LED and high CRI lights for preserving night vision and for a clear view of objects in close proximity, as well as different brightness settings.
It weighs a mere 0.99 ounces without the head strap and can fit in your pocket easily.
Thanks to being so light, the headlamp is comfortable to wear for hours while hiking, running, or other activities.
It has a bright maximum output of 360 lumens in Turbo mode, and a throw of up to 88 yards.
Since it has a built-in battery that can be recharged via a USB, you don’t need to worry about finding a wall socket and can recharge it on the go via a power bank or any other USB enabled device.
The headlamp is inexpensive, water-resistant to rain and snow, and impact resistance to 1.5 meters.
Max. Lumens: 450 (High), 6 (Low)
Beam distance: 295feet (90m)
Battery type: rechargeable via Micro USB with CORE battery, and an option for the use of AAA sized batteries
Burn time: 130 hours at low, 2 hours at high
Water resistance: IPX4 – withstands splashing water
Biggest advantages: It has a rechargeable battery with an option to use replaceable AAA batteries, charges via MicroUSB, easy to use and offers bright lighting
Biggest disadvantages: It is more expensive than some of the other lamps in this range
The Actik Core is one of the best rechargeable headlamps you can buy on the market right now. It is on the high-end when it comes to price, but given its versatile battery power options, its excellent performance, and its ease of use, it is worth every cent you will pay.
The Actik Core is powered by rechargeable batteries, which you can charge for just 3 hours while outdoors via a power bank or another device with a USB output port. At the same time, you can take some non-rechargeable AAA batteries with you for longer trips when you need continuous light because this headlamp can work with AAA batteries as well.
It is a very intuitive and easy to use lamp, and has a flood light and mixed beam patterns, several brightness settings and red LED lighting, as well as a locking feature.
The headband is reflective and washable, and the lamp is compatible with all types of helmets and bicycles too.
Max. Lumens: 250 (High)
Beam distance: 196 feet (60m)
Battery type: 3 AAA, but compatible with the CORE rechargeable batteries
Burn time:120 hours at low, 2 hours at high
Water resistance: IPX4 weather-resistant
Biggest advantages: It is the best budget-friendly option for a powerful light output and easy to use, long-lasting headlamp
Biggest disadvantages: It doesn’t have the extra features of higher-end lamps like strobe, red light, locking, and others
The Petzl-Tikkina is the best budget-friendly, reliable headlamp you can buy in 2020. It may lack the bells and whistles of the higher-end expensive lamps, but it has everything you need to find your way around and perform various tasks in low light and dark conditions.
The inexpensive headlamp by Petzl has a max output of 250 lumens and a throw of up to 196 feet.
It is weather-resistant and is powered by AAA batteries, but the model is compatible with the long-lasting MicroUSB rechargeable CORE batteries as well.
This is a superb solution if you want a headlamp which you can use for walking the dog, for power outages or other incidental uses, but without breaking the bank.
Max. Lumens: 160 (high), 80 (medium), 6 (low)
Beam distance: 197 feet (60m) at high, 30m at medium and 3m at low
Battery type: 2 AAA batteries
Burn time: 60 hours at low, 2 hours at high
Water resistance: IPX8 – can be submerged for up to 30 min.
Biggest advantages: Ultra-light, small-sized and yet water-proof and robust, offered at an affordable price
Biggest disadvantages: A shorter burn time than some of the other products in this range
If you want a headlamp which has nearly all of the features of the Black Diamond Spot 325, but prefer a lighter and smaller version, then the Black Diamond Spot Lite 160 is an excellent option for you.
It is offered at a very reasonable price, and is so small and lightweight, with a tiltable housing to direct the beam, that you can wear it all day and all night long without feeling discomfort or fatigue.
It has multiple features, including strobe, dimming, proximity and distance, and red night vision modes, as well as a locking mode.
It works with only 2 AAA batteries, which helps reduce the weight and size of the unit and also decreases the cost of buying replacements.
Max. Lumens: 200(high)
Beam distance: 164feet (50m) at high
Battery type: rechargeable via USB
Burn time: 40 hours (low), 3 hours (high)
Water resistance: IPX4
Biggest advantages: It is among the most comfortable of all headlamps on the market, ultra-light, 4 light modes, and rechargeable batteries
Biggest disadvantages: Low water resistance rating, short run time
The BioLite HeadLamp 200 is among the comfortable ones you can buy in 2020, thanks to its ergonomic design and its smooth head strap, which will stay flush on your forehead even when you are running or climbing.
Its comfort and ultralightweight make it one of the top options for runners and walkers.
The lamp has four different light modes – white and dim, white strobe, red, and dim and red strobe.
It works with rechargeable batteries, which will save you time and effort for having to buy replacements.
The headlamp is available in several pretty color options, and the only downside is that it is not completely water-proof and has a shorter battery life as compared to some of the other rechargeable ones.
Max. Lumens: 500
Beam distance: 87 yards
Battery type: rechargeable via USB, built-in, compatible with 2 CR123A batteries
Burn time: 148 hours
Water resistance: IP68, submersible up to 2m, dustproof, impact-resistant to 1m, temperature resistant to -40 degrees
Biggest advantages: One of the toughest headlamps for extreme conditions, rechargeable, rugged metal housing, multifunctional, bright
Biggest disadvantages: No red mode or strobe mode
The Fenix HM50R 500 Lumens headband, is the best choice for those of you looking for a heavy-duty lamp that will endure impact, submersion in water, and sub-freezing temperatures.
It is perfect for mountaineering and climbing, as well as for skiing and other outdoor adventures which require the use of thick gloves, thanks to the easy to access single side button control.
It has a built-in rechargeable battery pack that can be charged via USB without being taken out.
It is also compatible with the not-so-common non-rechargeable CR123A batteries.
It has a bright and far-reaching beam and can last for up to nearly 150 hours per charge.
If you are into extreme outdoor adventures in extreme conditions, this is one of the best headlamps you can buy.
Max. Lumens: 600
Beam distance: 492 feet
Battery type: rechargeable
Burn time: 120 hours at low
Water resistance: to weather
Biggest advantages: A very bright light at a long distance, rechargeable battery with a long run time, 5-year warranty
Biggest disadvantages: It is the bulkiest of all products on this list, no red light
The Ledlenser MH10 is the heaviest of all the headlamps on this list but offers one of the longest run times for a rechargeable battery lamp. It has a brightness of 600 lumens to up to 492 feet, which makes it suitable for caving and other adventures or jobs in complete darkness.
The lamp offers a choice of high, low, and defense strobe lighting, and features a premium advanced focus system.
Best of all, it is sold with a 5-year warranty for peace of mind.
Max. Lumens: 30
Beam distance: 32 feet (10m)
Battery type: 2 CR2 batteries
Burn time: 12 hours at low, and 9 hours at high
Water resistance: IPX8 – it can be submerged in 1m of water for 30 minutes, operating temperature of -22 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit
Biggest advantages: This is one of the lightest headlamps on our list, and is IPX8 water-proof and resistant to extreme temperatures, a long shelf life of 10 years for emergency kits
Biggest disadvantages: It has a short battery life, the light is dimmer than others
The Petzl e+LITE is designed to be added to an emergency or survival kit. It is ultra-lightweight and has all the basic features you might need during an emergency situation.
Its batteries have a shelf life of up to 10 years, so you can keep it in storage for a decade, and it will work if you happen to need it urgently.
Plus, it is completely water-proof and can work in even extreme temperatures of -22 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
The lightweight headlamp is affordable, easy to use, and has red strobe lighting and a locking function.
Max. Lumens: 350 at high
Beam distance: 262 feet
Battery type: 3 AAA batteries but works with CORE rechargeable ones
Burn time: 120 hours at low, and 2 hours at high
Water resistance: weatherproof
Biggest advantages: Long burn time and high-performance lighting which remains as bright as the battery depletes, option for the use of rechargeable batteries
Biggest disadvantages: No locking, and not completely water-proof
The Petzl-Actik has a long burn time and an option for the use of AAA batteries and a rechargeable battery option.
It is easy to use, with white and red multibeam lighting options, as well as Max Autonomy, Max Power, Standard, Proximity, and Strobe modes.
It is an excellent choice if you are going on a long route without the option to stop and recharge the batteries.
Max. Lumens: 200
Beam distance: 118 feet
Battery type: 3 AAA batteries
Burn time: 130 hours at low and 40 hours at high
Water resistance: weather and splash-proof
Biggest advantages: It is multifunctional and can be used as a bike light or a lantern as well, long battery life
Biggest disadvantages: Not rechargeable, no red mode
The Snap Headlamp Kit is the best lamp to buy if you are looking for a versatile light source. It comes with mounts allowing for easy attachment and use as a bike light or as a tent lantern. It has a built-in magnet so you can literally “snap” it on top of any metal surface for a quick and easy light source.
It is an excellent option for those of you who enjoy bike packing.
Max. Lumens: 150
Beam distance: 125 feet
Battery type: 3 AAA
Burn time: 144 hours at low
Water resistance: weather-resistant
Biggest advantages: A long battery life, easy to use, and comes at an excellent price
Biggest disadvantages: The maximum output is not as bright as some of the others
The Princeton TecSync headlamp is an award-winning backpacking gear gadget. It is easy to adjust the lighting settings with a twist of a single knob, and you can choose between LED, spot beam, and floodlight beam lighting.
This is an affordable and useful lamp, which is excellent for incidental or home use, or for other non-extreme tasks as it is not as bright as some of the other headlamps on this list. But it has a long battery life, and all the different light settings you will need to get around in the dark.
Last update on 2020-08-11 at 10:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API