The Best Headlamps of 2018


Petzl Reactik+

Petzl Reactik+

Even well-planned hikes can end up taking much more time than anticipated (due to bad weather, injuries, blocked trails etc.) and to ensure that you don’t end up being stuck in nature in pitch-black darkness, it is crucial that you bring a headlamp in your backpack. A headlamp also gives you possibility for planning a trip in the dark, taking a run after sunset or simply getting an early before-sunrise start of your hiking trip.

Many hikers get perplexed when faced with the task of buying a headlamp because there are so many different headlamps available. Therefore, we made this selection of the best headlamps which includes everything from the simplest headlamps for basic needs to those suitable for alpine climbing in extreme conditions. The qualities that these headlamps have in common are reliability, durability and good value for the money. As making a good headlamp requires a lot of innovation and resources, not many companies make great headlamps. Therefore, don’t be surprised to see that we included headlamps from just three different manufacturers (Black Diamond, Princeton Tec and Petzl) in this selection. These companies have invested immense resources in the development of headlamps and thus their headlamps are simply superior to other headlamps.

We regularly update our reviews and selections to always recommend you the best products on the market.

1. Buying a Headlamp  – What is important?

Battery Life:

A hiking headlamp should work for a reasonable amount of time without having the batteries recharged/replaced.  Some headlamps are equipped with rechargeable batteries while others use disposable batteries. If you are buying a headlamp that uses rechargeable batteries and plan to use it for long hiking trips in remote areas, check that it also works with disposable batteries (or that you can buy an additional rechargeable battery pack) – it’s easier to carry additional batteries with you than a (heavy) power bank or a solar charger.

Note that some products in this selection use constant lighting technology which means that they provide steady brightness even when the battery level decreases. Such headlamps have a shorter battery life. However, headlamps without this technology provide very poor illumination when the battery level significantly decreases. In general, you should not expect that a headlamp will provide good illumination for much more than 15 hours without having the batteries recharged or replaced.

Brightness and beam distance:

A hiking headlamp should provide good brightness and beam distance. Our selection lists products which offer a brightness of at least 300 lumens and a beam distance of at least 80 meters. Note that a headlamp of a very high brightness will not necessarily have a longer beam distance as the beam distance also depends on the optical lens system which concentrates the light into a beam. Therefore, products with high-quality optical lens systems can have a longer beam distance despite offering less lumens. It is also very important that the beam is not too narrow – after all you want to see the surroundings, not a specific point in the terrain.

Water resistance:

As hiking is not limited to dry weather, a hiking headlamp should be waterproof or at least water-resistant. Water resistance is typically measured by the IEC standard 60529 which includes ratings from IPX1 to IPX8. For example, a headlamp which is compliant with the IPX4 standard can withstand splashing water while a headlamp which is compliant with the IPX8 standard can withstand submersion of up to 1 m for 30 minutes. All products in this selection are compliant with the IPX4 standard or higher and thus suitable for use in heavy rain.

Weight:

As the headlamp is attached to a headband (or a helmet) it should be as light as possible. Therefore, we only selected lightweight products – all products listed in this review weigh less than 10 ounces (300 g).

2. The Best Headlamps Review

Best Headlamps

Best Headlamps

The Best Headlamps – List

  1. Petzl Reactik+
  2. Black Diamond ReVolt
  3. Petzl Nao+
  4. Princeton Tec Apex
  5. Black Diamond Spot

Comparison:

Feature/Product Petzl Reactik+Black Diamond ReVolt Petzl Nao+Princeton Tec ApexBlack Diamond Spot
Weight4.1 oz.3.4 oz.6.5 oz9.8 oz. 3.1 oz.
Weight (Metric) 115 g97 g185 g280 g88 g
Maximum Brightness300 lumens
300 lumens700 lumens550 lumens300 lumens
Beam Distance360 ft.262 ft.442 ft.390 ft. 262 ft.
Beam Distance (Metric) 110 m 80 m 135 m 120 m80 m
BatteryRechargeable Lithium-ion Battery 3 x AAA Rechargeable BatteriesRechargeable Lithium-ion Battery4 x AAA Batteries3 x AAA Batteries
Maximum Battery Life17h (constant lighting) 175 h 14 h (constant lighting)150 h 175 h
Supports Standard Batteries Yes (3 x AAA Batteries )Yes (3 x AAA Batteries) No (battery pack can be replaced)Yes (4 x AAA Batteries)Yes (3 x AAA Batteries)
Bulb Type LED LED LED LED LED
Water Resistance IPX4 IPX8 IPX4 IPX7IPX8
1-Petzl Reactik+

Petzl Reactik+

1. Petzl Reactik+

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Backpacking
  • Hunting
  • Military use
  • Running

 

The Petzl Reactik+ is a very innovative headlamp which in late 2016 replaced the highly popular Petzl Tikka RXP (still available at some retailers). The Petzl Reactik+  is perfect for hikers and mountaineers who often spend a night in nature and thus want a reliable and powerful piece of lighting equipment. In comparison to the discontinued Tikka RXP, Petzl Reactik+ offers a higher brightness (300 lumens compared to Tikka’s 215 lumens), longer maximum battery life (17 hours compared to Tikka’s 14 hours) and a Bluetooth chip which allows you to adjust the beam pattern, brightness and battery burn time from your smartphone (the Petzl app is available for iOS and Android devices). Nevertheless, the beam pattern and brightness can also be adjusted on the headlamp without the app. The Petzl Reactik+  has a sensor which analyses the ambient light and adjusts the beam pattern and brightness accordingly (reactive lighting mode). Therefore, you don’t have to worry about regulating brightness in relation to battery consumption; the headlamp will adjust itself to achieve the optimal results. However, you can still choose between 3 different battery modes – Max Power, Standard and Max Autonomy. These battery modes come in handy as you can quite accurately predict how long the battery will last; in Max Power mode the battery will last for approximately 2.5 hours, in Standard mode for approximately 5 hours and in Max Autonomy mode for approximately 10 hours. The brightness sensor operates in all three modes. The reactive lighting can also be turned off so that the headlamp provides stable brightness despite the ambient light and surroundings. When the reactive lighting is turned off, the maximum battery life is 17 hours. As the Petzl Reactik+ features constant lighting technology, the brightness and beam distance don’t decrease when the it is running low on battery. The product is also equipped with a lock feature which is useful when you carry it in a backpack. The Petzl Reactik+ can be used with a night vision device as it is equipped with a red lighting feature. The battery is rechargeable by a micro USB cable but the headlamp also works with disposable batteries (adapter is required, however). The Petzl Reactik+ is not the cheapest product in this review but as it offers incredible performance we would recommend it to every outdoor enthusiast.

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Pros:

  • Reactive lighting
  • Constant lighting
  • Weight
  • Modes

Cons:

  • /

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Video

Black Diamond ReVolt

Black Diamond ReVolt

2. Black Diamond ReVolt

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Backpacking
  • Hunting
  • Military use
  • Running

 

The Black Diamond Revolt is a simple but very effective rechargeable headlamp which has been redesigned in 2017 and now offers even better functionality (higher brightness, better water-resistance etc.). It doesn’t provide as good illumination as the Petzl Reactik+ but on the other hand it is also half the price. The headlamp runs on 3 AAA NiMH batteries which can be recharged with a USB cable. However, it can also run on 3 disposable AAA alkaline batteries. This is a great feature as it allows you to simply replace the batteries on multi-day hiking trips where it might be hard to get access to electricity. Additionally, it features a three-level power indicator which shows the remaining battery life. Illumination is provided by one TriplePower LED, one DoublePower LED and one DoublePower Red LED. The Black Diamond Revolt allows you to switch between six different modes – proximity, distance, dimming, strobe, red and lock mode. The red mode can be activated without going through the white modes, thus making the headlamp appropriate also for hunters and military personnel (concealed use). In addition to that, it is water- and dirt-resistant. The Black Diamond Revolt is a great product for recreational hikers as well as for more experienced outdoor enthusiasts as it offers great performance for a relatively low price

 

Pros:

  • Battery life
  • Size
  • Weight
  • Durability

Cons:

  • /

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Where to buy?

Also available at:

REI | Campsaver

Petzl Nao+

Petzl Nao+

3. Petzl Nao+

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Alpine Climbing
  • Backpacking

 

The Petzl Nao+ uses state-of-art technology to provide hikers, mountaineers and climbers with the best illumination possible. The headlamp can project up to 750 lumens and features reactive lighting technology which automatically adjusts the brightness and beam pattern. It is equipped with a lithium-ion (via USB) rechargeable battery. The lifetime of the battery is up to 15 hours when the reactive lighting mode is enabled. In constant lighting mode the battery lasts for up to 8 hours. It takes approximately 6 hours to recharge the supplied lithium-ion battery fully from zero. The battery compartment is placed on the backside, thus increasing the balance of the headlamp. However, the battery compartment can be also attached to the belt of your pants or put in a jacket pocket to reduce the weight on your head and keep the battery warm (for longer battery life). The headband is equipped with a top strap, so that the headlamp stays firmly on your head during technical activities such as climbing. Furthermore, the Petzl Nao is also equipped with a lock feature and the settings can be configured directly from the MyPetzl light app which is available for iOS and Android devices (Bluetooth connection). The Petzl Nao is an extremely sophisticated product which meets and exceeds the standards of experienced mountaineers, climbers and hikers

 

Pros:

  • Reactive lighting
  • Constant lighting
  • Brightness
  • Detachable battery compartment

Cons:

  • /

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Video

Princeton Tec Apex

Princeton Tec Apex

4. Princeton Tec Apex

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Backpacking
  • Hunting
  • Military use

 

The Princeton Tec Apex LED  is an extremely powerful but compact headlamp which can project up to 550 lumens. It is also very inexpensive for the power, but it has one big disadvantage; weighing almost 10 ounces it is the heaviest product in this selection. It is powered by 4 AAA batteries which according to Princeton Tec last for approximately 150 hours at lowest brightness and for 2 hours at highest brightness. It features five different lighting modes; spot high, spot low, flood flash beam, flood high and flood low. The headlamp is also equipped with a battery power meter and has an IPX7 water-resistance rating. Therefore, it can withstand submersion of up to one meter for 30 minutes. The battery compartment is placed on the backside so that the headlamp sits securely on your head. Different versions of the Apex headlamp which project less or more lumens are available.

 

Pros:

  • Power
  • Battery life
  • Durability

Cons:

  • Weight

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Black Diamond Spot

Black Diamond Spot

5. Black Diamond Spot

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Backpacking
  • Running
  • Hunting
  • Military use

 

The Black Diamond Spot is the lightest and simplest headlamp in this review. Therefore, it is not only suitable for hikers and mountaineers but also for runners. Despite its small size and low weight, it provides a brightness of 300 lumens and beam distance of 80 meters. The Black Diamond Spot is also the least expensive product in this review.  It is equipped with one QuadPower LED, one DoublePower LED and one SinglePower Red LED. Like the Black Diamond Storm, it features the PowerTap technology which allows you to easily and quickly change the brightness. The Black Diamond Storm runs on 3 AAA batteries and has an IPX8 water-resistance rating. Furthermore, it also has a battery level indicator and the lock feature. While it might not be the most advanced product in this review, it does provide great durability and retails at a relatively low price.

 

Pros:

  • Price
  • Simplicity
  • Weight
  • Size
  • Battery Life

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

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3. The most attractive product in the review

Which product do you prefer?
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4. Questions and Answers

Is a headlamp better than a flashlight?

Flashlights are not suitable for hiking, mountaineering and other demanding outdoor activities. When you are on the trail you need your hands free to do different tasks such as handling map(s), getting things out of the backpack and so forth.

How many lumens should a headlamp provide?

Nowadays headlamps typically have more than 200 lumens. Note that headlamps with many lumens don’t necessarily provide better brightness because the brightness also depends on the optical lens system which concentrates the light into a beam.

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