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15 Best Headlamps on the Market Today

Black Diamond, Petzl, and Fenix are known for making great headlamps, and that showed up in our testing. They aren’t the only ones that impressed us, though.

15 Best Headlamps on the Market Today

If you spend a lot of time outside, getting caught out after dark is inevitable. A quality headlamp is a necessity, whether you’re out for a pre-dawn run, hiking in the woods, or trying to change a tire on the side of the highway. With literally hundreds of options on the market, it might feel difficult to find the best headlamp for your needs.

Whether you’re looking for a budget headlamp for finding your way around camp or an ultra-high-performance light for technical mountain adventures, you’re going to want a bright light with good battery life and easy controls.

I’ve relied on headlamps a lot throughout my life, and I’ve used enough to know that manufacturer claims about power and run time don’t always hold up in real life. These are our top 15 headlamp picks. I’ll guide you through the details of each and help you find the headlamp that does exactly what you need.

  • Black Diamond Spot 400: Best Headlamp Overall

    Black Diamond Spot 400

    Black Diamond is a Utah-based company that builds top-quality climbing, skiing, and hiking gear. You’ll see this brand a lot on this list because they build an incredible range of headlamps for the outdoors.

    A good headlamp needs to be bright, durable, and ready for anything. The Black Diamond Spot 400 stood out from all the headlamps we tested for its rugged construction, built-in USB rechargeable battery, and powerful light output.

    After using dozens of headlamps that require AAA batteries, I became a big fan of headlamps that are rechargeable. I hate having to search for batteries when my headlamp dies, and using so many disposable batteries is wasteful and bad for the environment. Rechargeable batteries are more convenient and less harmful.

    The Black Diamond Spot 400 has a built-in 1500 mAh lithium-ion battery pack that charges with a micro USB port. That’s about triple the capacity of some less expensive rechargeable headlamps, and it makes for an impressive run time.

    Unlike many comparable headlamps, the Spot 400 has two different LED lights. One is focused into a narrower beam for long-distance lighting, while the other casts wide, uniform flood light for close-up work. I love using the flood lighting around camp because it minimizes the tunnel vision effect I often experience with headlamps.

    There’s also a red light diode for preserving night vision.

    There are two buttons on this headlamp. One switches the light on and off and adjusts the brightness. The other switches between light modes (long-distance beam, flood, red light). There was a slight learning curve before I remembered exactly how to operate the buttons, but now it’s intuitive.

    Another standout feature is the fact that rather than set brightness levels, the Spot 400 has a dimming feature that lets you dial in exactly the brightness you need. With some other lights, I find that low mode is too dim but high mode is too bright. I love being able to select exactly what I want.

    Oh, and it’s also rated IP67 for impressive waterproof performance. You can count on this light to keep going in extreme weather or if you accidentally drop it in a stream.

  • Princeton Tec Refuel: Best Budget Headlamp

    Princeton Tec Refuel

    If you’re on a budget, a fancy high-tech headlamp with lithium-ion batteries is overkill. You just need a decent headlamp that gives you a bright light and doesn’t break the bank.

    That doesn’t mean you should go out and find the cheapest headlamp on Amazon, though. I’ve done that, and it broke a few days later.

    Princeton Tec builds affordable headlamps that still offer good build quality, light output, and battery life. The Princeton Tec Refuel is simple, affordable, and strong enough to last for years of outdoor use.

    This light is pretty basic. It just runs on three AAA batteries, and you won’t get the powerful light output or long beam distance of more expensive headlamps. Still, the 250-lumen output is plenty for most tasks.

    This headlamp even comes with IPX4 water resistance rating, which means it’s protected from splashing water from any direction. That’s a big advantage over cheaper lights.

  • Petzl Actik Core: Best Rechargeable Headlamp

    Petzl Actik Core

    Read through this list, and you’ll find that I’m a huge fan of headlamps with rechargeable batteries. It just makes way more sense. Even though rechargeable lights cost more, they could save you money in the long run since you don’t have to keep buying AAAs. I’ll be happy if I never have to use another AAA in my life.

    The Petzl Actik Core is the best rechargeable headlamp out there for anyone who prioritizes battery life,

    Unlike most rechargeable headlamps, the Petzl Actik Core doesn’t have a permanently built-in battery. Instead, there is a removable 1250 mAh lithium-ion battery that charges with a micro-USB port. The removable battery design has three key advantages.

    First, batteries don’t have unlimited life spans. Over hundreds of charge and recharge cycles, they will start to lose power. The Petzl CORE rechargeable battery pack can be replaced if the battery goes bad, meaning you won’t have to toss the whole headlamp.

    Second, you can buy a spare Petzl CORE battery for longer outings to extend your battery life.

    Third, the Petzl Actik Core can run on either the lithium-ion battery OR three AAAs. That adds a lot of versatility and means you can throw AAA batteries in your bag as backup in case the rechargeable battery pack dies.

  • Nitecore NU50: Best Headlamp for Hunting

    Nitecore NU50

    On a hunting trip, you need a headlamp you can rely on to provide consistent, powerful illumination and long battery life. The Nitecore NU50 is one of the brightest headlamps on this list, and it combines that with a bomb-proof construction and incredible battery power.

    Compared to most headlamps on this list, the Nitecore NU50 is built like a tank. The molded casing is sturdy, and the build quality is superb all-around. It’s also IP68 rated, which is the best waterproof rating on this list.

    The downside of the sturdy build quality is weight. At 5.15 oz, this beefy headlamp is almost twice the weight of other lights on this list. If you want a headlamp to use for running or ultralight backpacking, you may want to check out some more lightweight headlamps.

    Still, the well-designed headband makes this a surprisingly comfortable headlamp despite the weight.

    It also features a USB-C charging port, which is an upgrade from the more fragile micro USB ports most headlamps have.

    Where this light really stands out is in power. The dual LED light combination gives a total output of 1400 lumens. That makes this an ideal choice for navigating through the woods at night.

    That power is backed up with impressive rechargeable battery life, too. The NU50 comes with a massive 4000 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery that gives it 11 hours of run time in high mode and a whopping 180 hours on ultra-low.

    This is a versatile headlamp that’s great for use out on a hunt, on a camping trip, or even just around the house.

  • BioLite Headlamp 325: Best Running Headlamp

    BioLite Headlamp 325

    I distinctly remember when I saw the first BioLite headlamps several years ago. After using more traditional block-on-a-headband-style headlamps for years, I wasn’t sure what to make of BioLite’s unique design that integrates the headlamp body directly into a wide, contoured headband. It just looked so different from everything I’d seen before.

    BioLite claims that this unique design makes the BioLite Headlamp 325 the most comfortable headlamp you’ll ever wear. Yes, I’ll admit the unique design does look like it distributes the weight pretty well, but that’s still a bold claim.

    But this little light lives up to that claim. If you’re sick of headlamps that bounce around on your forehead while running, you’ll love this sleek, balanced light. It’s easy to forget it’s even on your head, and that’s why it wins our top pick for running.

    As the name suggests, this light outputs 325 lumens of bright white light. That’s plenty for nighttime runs on paved paths or easy trails, but if you’re venturing onto more adventurous trails, you may want something with a higher max output.

    There’s both a long-distance beam and a flood light that delivers awesome light quality for seeing closer details. There’s also a red light mode for preserving your night vision.

    I’m a big fan of the simple button operation, which makes this a supremely usable light.

    The biggest downside is the small 700 mAh battery that gives this headlamp a run time of 3-4 hours. That’s plenty for most runs, though, so unless you’re getting into ultrarunning, that shouldn’t be a huge problem.

  • Fenix HM65R: Best Headlamp for Work

    Fenix HM65R

    In my experience, Fenix builds some of the highest-quality flashlights and headlamps in the business. They don’t look as cute and stylish as some competitors, but they’re hard to beat in terms of functionality.

    Whether you’re working under the hood of a car or doing site work at night, a good headlamp is an important trade tool that keeps your hands free.

    The Fenix HM65R is a beast of a headlight that offers incredible power, battery life, and build quality. It’s perfect for on-the-job illumination.

    Few headlamps can match the durability and ruggedness of this Fenix headlamp. It’s made from cast magnesium and molded polycarbonate, and it is IPX68-rated for the best water and dust protection available.

    This light boasts an impressive 1400-lumen max output and casts a beam up to 178 yards. That power is backed up with a lithium-ion battery with a massive 3400 mAh capacity that ensures you won’t need to carry extra batteries.

    Unlike many headlamps with rechargeable batteries, the Fenix HM65R battery is replaceable with any 18650-size lithium cell. That extends the life of this light while still keeping the advantages over alkaline batteries.

    Other nice features include a battery indicator, USB-C charging, and different lighting modes for spot and flood lighting.

    The biggest downsides are weight and cost. This isn’t a headlamp you’ll want to carry into the backcountry, but if you need the best illumination on the job site, this is a great headlamp option.

  • Petzl Tikka Core: Best Hiking Headlamp

    Petzl Tikka Core

    For night hiking you need a headlamp that’s bright enough to give you confidence on the trail and lightweight enough to be comfortable on your head.

    The Petzl Tikka Core is a simple, user-friendly headlamp that puts out an impressive 450 lumens on its brightest setting.

    This headlamp has a single white light beam and a red light setting. The simple controls switch between low, medium, high, and strobe modes. I love this simplicity for hiking because I don’t have to memorize complicated button push patterns to get the brightness I want.

    Like the Petzl Actik Core, the Petzl Tikka Core runs on Petzl’s removable lithium-ion CORE battery. When the battery depletes, you can replace it for more life, and it can also use regular batteries, unlike most headlamp models with rechargeable batteries.

    If you want to save a bit of money up-front, you can also buy the non-rechargeable version of the Petzl Tikka for just over half the price of the Core version.

  • Black Diamond Deploy 325: Best Backpacking Headlamp

    Black Diamond Deploy 325

    For backpacking, you need a light source that is ultralight and that has sufficient battery power to last multiple nights on the trail.

    At a featherweight 1.4 oz, the Black Diamond Deploy is one of the lightest headlamps on the market. Instead of three AAA batteries, it uses a built-in 1500 mAh lithium-ion battery that packs plenty of power and is easy to recharge at resupply points.

    It has good low light and red light settings that are perfect for not ruining your night vision or blinding your hiking partner in the tent.

    Unlike other headlamps from Black Diamond, the Deploy 325 is only IPX4 rated. It should stand up to rain and splash just fine, but make sure you don’t drop it in a lake.

    The headband is a bit thin and isn’t as comfortable as some other headlamps. Still, the extremely light weight and packability make this a great headlamp for backpacking trips.

  • Black Diamond Astro 300-R: Best Camping Headlamp

    Black Diamond Astro 300-R

    Here’s another offering from Black Diamond. What can I say? They make good stuff. For general around-camp use, you need a simple, easy-to-use headlamp. The Black Diamond Astro 300-R is the most stripped-back Black Diamond headlamp, and it’s one of the best headlamps for camping.

    By doing away with fancy features like multiple beam distance patterns, red light modes, and programmable settings, Black Diamond made the Astro 300-R an affordable, value-packed headlamp. I honestly don’t know of another headlamp with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that hits this price point.

    While the 300-lumen brightness and shorter beam distance than some other headlamps, this isn’t the best light if you’re scouting out routes in the mountains. For around-camp tasks or on-trail hiking, it’s more than enough.

    Whether you need it for car camping, backpacking, or just light around the house, the Black Diamond Astro offers impressive functionality and value.

  • Petzl Iko Core: Best Trail Running Headlamp

    Petzl Iko Core

    Trail running at night requires a powerful light with a good beam distance and enough width to keep you aware of what’s around you. Comfort is also key because you don’t want a heavy brick bouncing around on your head while you run.

    The Petzl Iko Core is a one-of-a-kind headlamp designed specifically for trail running. It looks nothing like other running headlamps, and while the design may look a little odd at first, it works incredibly well.

    Instead of the typical elastic headband on most headlamps, the Iko Core has a flexible plastic frame that reminds me a bit of the arms on sport sunglasses. The difference is that it wraps around your entire head.

    This design provides better support and doesn’t need to be cinched down as tight to stay in place. This helps tremendously with comfort while running.

    Another difference is that the Iko Core splits the battery compartment and LED emitter into separate components. The LED light is on the front while the batteries are on the back. This creates much better weight distribution and balance.

    This headlamp doesn’t skimp on performance either. With a 500-lumen output from 7 LEDs, this running headlamp easily illuminates the trail to give you confidence.

    Plus, it’s durable and weather-resistant. Really, the only downside is that this headlamp doesn’t pack down as small as most others.

  • Ledlenser MH5: Best Red Light Headlamp

    Ledlenser MH5

    Red lights don’t hurt your night vision adaptation as much as bright white lights. Because of that, red beam headlamps are ideal for stargazing trips or even setting up camp at night.

    The Ledlenser MH5 is a capable all-around headlamp for the outdoors, but it also has a great built-in red light.

    The red light mode on the Ledlenser MH5 is much easier to activate than some headlamps. That’s a major bonus if you’re specifically looking for a headlamp to preserve your night vision.

    Plus, it’s rechargeable, so you aren’t reliant on disposable alkaline batteries. The battery is removable and replaceable, and it’s a standard 14500 lithium-ion cell. That means you can replace it with any AA-sized lithium battery.

  • Streamlight Sidewinder: Best Tactical Headlamp

    Streamlight Sidewinder

    “Tactical” is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Nowadays, there are tactical flashlights, tactical knives, and even tactical pens. It seems like any product with a rugged style that comes in black, tan, or camo can be called tactical. So, what makes a tactical headlamp?

    The Streamlight Sidewinder actually lives up to the “tactical” moniker. It’s designed specifically for police and military use and has a clip mount to attach it to a helmet or to molle straps on a vest or backpack. It features a lightweight and rugged composite nylon construction.

    This is a very versatile headlamp. It has white, red, and green lights, and it can work with a wide range of batteries. You can use traditional batteries or more specialized CR123A Lithium batteries. The ability to accept standard AA batteries makes it easy to always get replacement power.

    On high power the beam length is impressive, and there’s also a great low-light mode for when you don’t want to be seen.

  • Black Diamond Storm 450-R: Best Waterproof Headlamp

    Black Diamond Storm 450-R

    I promise this is the last Black Diamond product on this list. They honestly just make some of the best headlamps out there.

    The Black Diamond Storm 450-R uses the same battery pack and headband as the Spot 400, but it adds additional power, water resistance, and features.

    It’s rated to function 1 meter underwater for 30 minutes. No, I wouldn’t take it night snorkeling, but it will keep working in the worst weather imaginable.

    The overall design is fairly straightforward, but I love the twin LED setup with one flood beam for up close visibility and one focused light for longer beam distance.

    The Storm 450 has the same 1500 mAh battery as the Spot 400. It doesn’t last quite as long during a battery test on full power because of the brighter output.

  • Petzl Bindi: Best Ultralight Headlamp

    Petzl Bindi

    For backpacking or running, the smaller and more lightweight your headlamp is, the better. You don’t want any extra weight in your pack or bouncing around on your head.

    The Petzl Bindi is a tiny featherweight headlamp that’s ideal for anyone who values a minimal, lightweight light. It weighs 1.2 oz, which makes it the lightest on this list, and one of the lightest I’ve ever encountered.

    The Petzl Bindi has a lower lumen count (200 lumens) than many other lights, so it isn’t ideal if you want the absolute brightest light possible. The light is plenty for city running, hiking, or working around camp.

    One thing I love about this light is that it is very simple to operate. There is a single button that cycles through different brightness levels. There is a great low-light mode that’s perfect for visibility inside a tent.

    This light has a built-in battery and charges with a USB cable.

  • GearLight 2-Pack LED Headlamp: Best Amazon Headlamp

    GearLight 2-Pack LED Headlamp

    I get it; ordering cheap stuff on Amazon is convenient and a great way to save money over expensive name-brand products. If you’re looking for the best value headlamp available, this GearLight LED Headlamp comes in a 2-pack for less money than most single headlamps.

    These headlamps aren’t as bright or tough as something from a name brand like Black Diamond or Petzl, and they don’t have rechargeable batteries, but they work well and are bright enough for hiking, camping, or working around the house.

    The two-pack is perfect for keeping one in your car and one in your house. You’ll never find yourself without a light when you need one.

    This is easily one of the best headlamps on Amazon if you’re looking for the best bang for your buck.

How to Choose the Best Headlamp

There are several factors to consider when you’re trying to sort through the best headlamps.


Headlamp brightness is typically measured in lumens. The higher the lumen count, the brighter the light.

Generally, anything over 300 lumens is sufficient for hiking or general tasks. You may want something brighter for trail running or if you want longer-distance illumination.

Some headlamps have 1000 lumens or higher, which is incredibly bright. These high-power headlamps are awesome, but they also use a lot more power and drain their batteries quickly on the highest mode.

Weather Resistance

If you’re using a headlamp for hiking, running, camping, or anything else outside, there’s a good chance it will get rained on.

Most headlamps are IPX4 rated, which means they are tested to withstand splashing or jets of water. This rating is completely sufficient for rain and weather protection.

If you want the absolute best water resistance possible, look for a light that is rated IP68 or IPX8. These are the best headlamps for severe weather because they are fully submersible and entirely waterproof.

Disposable or Rechargeable Batteries

It used to be that the standard was for headlamps to use three AAA batteries. That’s still the most common option, but now manufacturers like Black Diamond and others are building more headlamps with built-in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

Standard batteries are convenient, and it’s nice that you can find them anywhere, but they often end up costing more in the long run. Plus, if your batteries die and you don’t have any on hand, you’re SOL until you buy some more. AAA batteries are also much worse environmentally.

Rechargeable lights are more expensive up front, but I think the extra cost is always worth it, especially if you use your headlamp frequently.

Battery Life

Whether you choose a headlamp that uses AAAs or recharges with a USB cable, battery life is a major concern. The last thing you want is for your headlamp to die when you’re in the middle of a task or out on a hike.

Most manufacturers advertise run times on different brightnesses. I would always take these with a grain of salt, though. I used a headlamp that said it runs for five hours, but after two hours it was so dim that it wasn’t much use. I recommend always reading reviews to see other people’s real-world testing and experiences with battery life.

Why Trust TravelFreak?

Here at TravelFreak, we are committed to giving you the absolute best product recommendations possible. We are all avid adventurers and are gear junkies at heart. We believe in investing in quality gear that will last a lifetime, and we only recommend products that we actually like.

I’ve tested dozens of headlamps on hikes, winter trail runs, long-distance backpacking trips, and dawn patrol ski touring outings. I dug into the details under the hood of these headlamps to find out how they really perform. I have confidence in every single light on this list.

Headlamp FAQs

  • What are the best-rated headlamps?

    The Black Diamond Spot 400 and Petzl Actik Core are 2 of the best-rated headlamps today.

  • What is considered high lumens for a headlamp?

    For a headlamp, over 400 lumens is bright enough for most tasks.

  • What is the brightest headlamp on the market today?

    At 14,000 lumens, the Olight H67 is the brightest headlamp on the market today.

  • Are rechargeable headlamps worth it?

    Rechargeable headlamps are absolutely worth it. They’re more convenient, save you money on AA batteries over time, and are better for the environment.

  • Is 500 lumen bright?

    500 lumens is plenty bright for hiking, trail running, or spending time around camp.

About the Author

Jakob Thygerson

Jakob Thygerson is an outdoor adventure seeker who collects sunburns, National Park maps, and trail miles. He loves anything that gets him outdoors, whether it’s on foot, on skis, on a bike, or on the open road. A native of the Mountain West, he’s most at home in mountains and deserts with clear air and bright stars. He has a background in product design engineer and knows the ins and outs of materials, design, and manufacturing processes. He loves using this knowledge to analyze outdoor equipment and is an unrepentant gearhead.
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