The Best Headlamps of 2021

Petzl Actik Core

Petzl Actik Core

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 products available. Therefore, we made this selection 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 products from just three different manufacturers (Black Diamond, BioLite and Petzl) in this selection. These companies have invested immense resources in the technology and thus their headlamps are simply superior to others (at the time of posting).

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, products 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 headlamp for hiking, backpacking or mountaineering 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 product which is compliant with the IPX4 standard can withstand splashing water while a product 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 7 ounces (200 g).

Expert Selections
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
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2. The Best Headlamps Review

Best Headlamps for Hiking

The Best Headlamps – List

  1. Petzl Actik Core
  2. Ledlenser MH10
  3. Petzl Nao+
  4. BioLite Headlamp 200
  5. Black Diamond Spot 350

Comparison:

Scroll Horizontally
Feature/Product Petzl Actik CoreLedlenser MH10 Petzl Nao+BioLite Headlamp 200Black Diamond Spot 350
Weight2.6 oz.5.6 oz.6.5 oz1.8 oz. 3.0 oz.
Weight (Metric) 75 g158 g185 g50 g86 g
Maximum Brightness450 lumens
600 lumens700 lumens200 lumens350 lumens
Beam Distance311 ft.492 ft.442 ft.164 ft. 282 ft.
Beam Distance (Metric) 95 m150 m 135 m 50 m86 m
BatteryRechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Rechargeable Lithium-ion BatteryRechargeable Lithium-ion BatteryRechargeable Lithium-ion Battery3 x AAA Batteries
Maximum Battery Life130 h 120 h 14 h (constant lighting)40 h 200 h
Supports Standard Batteries Yes (3 x AAA Batteries )No (battery pack can be replaced)No (battery pack can be replaced)NoYes (3 x AAA Batteries)
Bulb Type LED LED LED LED LED
Water Resistance IPX4 IPX4IPX4 IPX4IPX8
Petzl Actik Core

Petzl Actik Core

1. Petzl Actik Core

Suitable for:

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

 

The Petzl Actik Core is a compact and robust headlamp which is perfect for hikers and backpackers who often spend a night in nature and thus want a reliable and powerful piece of lighting equipment. The headlamp provides great brightness (450 or 350 lumens depending on the model) and runs for up to 130 hours on the included 1250-mAh CORE rechargeable battery. The battery is rechargeable by a micro USB cable, but the headlamp also works with three standard batteries. This is very useful if you often hike in remote areas where electricity is not available. The headlamp features two beam patterns (flood and mixed) and several white brightness levels. It also has the red lighting mode which preserves night vision and prevents members of a group from blinding each other. The product is also equipped with the lock feature which is useful when you carry it in a backpack. It has a single button for easy use and the headband can be easily detached and washed. The accessories for the Petzl Actik Core include a kit for mounting the headlamp onto a climbing helmet, bike adapt, protective carrying case that diffuses light into lantern mode and more.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Modes
  • Robust
  • Accessories

Cons:

  • /

Video

Ledlenser MH10

Ledlenser MH10

2. Ledlenser MH10

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Backpacking
  • Running

 

The Ledlenser MH10 is a simple but very effective rechargeable headlamp. It runs on a single 3000mAh lithium-ion battery which can be recharged with a USB cable. The rechargeable battery can be also easily replaced with an identical battery which is a great feature if you often do multi-day hiking trips where it’s hard to get access to the electricity. The headlamp features a power indicator which shows the remaining battery life and has a low battery warning feature. The illumination is provided by a single Xtreme LED.  The Ledlenser MH10 allows you to switch between three different modes – power, mid power and low power. The low power mode is intended for reading and around the camp activities. The headlamp has also a lock feature and a red rear light which ensures that you can be seen from behind. The Ledlenser MH10 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:

  • Long beam distance
  • Size
  • Weight
  • Durability

Cons:

  • /

Video

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:

  • /

Video

BioLite Headlamp 200

BioLite Headlamp 200

4. BioLite Headlamp 200

Suitable for:

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

 

The BioLite Headlamp 200 is with the weight of 1.8 oz. the lightest headlamp in this review. It can project up to 200 lumens and features 3D Slimfit. The housing is integrated into the headband which prevent the headlamp from bouncing. Therefore, this headlamp is perfect for fast-paced ascents and running. It features four different modes: white spot, white strop, red flood and red strobe. It also has a dimming function which prolongs the battery life. The battery lasts for 3 hours in white spot mode and for up to 40 hours in the dimmed white spot mode. The headlamp is also equipped with a battery level indicator and has an IPX4 water-resistance rating. The headlamp comes with 700 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The only downside is that the battery can’t be replaced on-the-go like at other headlamps in this review.

 

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Fit
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • The rechargeable battery can’t be replaced

Video

Black Diamond Spot 350

Black Diamond Spot 350

5. Black Diamond Spot

Suitable for:

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

 

The Black Diamond Spot 350 is another lightweight and simple to use headlamp on this list. The headlamp is not only suitable for hikers and mountaineers but also for runners. Despite its small size and low weight, it provides a brightness of 350 lumens and beam distance of 86 meters. The Black Diamond Spot 350 is also the least expensive product in this review.  It is equipped with one QuadPower LED, one DoublePower LED and one SinglePower Red LED. The headlamp features the PowerTap technology which allows you to change the brightness easily and quickly. The Black Diamond Spot 350 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:

  • /

Video

3. 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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Author Information

Blaz

Outdoor enthusiast with experience in all types of hiking and mountaineering. Hiked in the Alps, Iceland and other countries. In love with via ferrata trails and snow-covered slopes. Check out my hikes.