We’d never rate an outdoorsy person based on the quality of their gear, with one exception, that is: The headlamp. After all, your time spent in nature is only as good as your ability to see what’s around you. And if you’re into adventurous endeavors like hiking, climbing, or trail running, good visibility is downright essential.
That’s why, with your well-being in mind, we’ve collected a shortlist of the best headlamps around. From action sports to nighttime photography to goofing around in the woods with friends, our top headlamp picks have all the essential features for safety, security, and good times in the great outdoors. You’re welcome.
All-around favorite: BioLite Headlamp 200
A word of caution: If you can’t find your BioLite Headlamp 200, it’s probably already on your head. A revamp of BioLite’s Headlamp 300, this new version (launched just last month) is better than ever, boasting a weight loss of nearly an ounce as well as a USB recharge port, versatile lighting modes including Flood, Spot, and Strobe, and an output of up to 200 lumens. The press-button system is as intuitive as it gets — each a half-second press of the button cycles through the lamp’s various light strengths. But the BioLite’s best feature (in our opinion) is the breakthrough 3D SlimFit technology, which integrates headlamp electronics directly into the performance fabric band for a fit that’s flush to your head. No more front-loaded weight means no more bouncing, slipping, or constant readjustment. If you’ve been looking for your third eye, look no further.
Specs: 200 lumens, 40-hour standard burn time, 50m visibility distance, 50g weight
Best for high-powered illumination: Lupine Betty RX Headlamp
If you’re planning a spelunking trip, a midnight photography expedition, or even just a bike commute through Friday night traffic, you’ll be grateful for the 5,000 lumens of this high-powered headlamp. Precision-milled in Germany from a single piece of lightweight, high-quality aluminum, Betty is waterproof, durable, relatively compact … in other words, designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, the wear-and-tear of rough terrain, and impact up to 2 meters. The exterior battery (where do you think all those lumens come from?) and formidable weight class make the Betty RX undeniably chunky, but one look at the sweeping nighttime vistas this high-powered headlamp provides, and you’ll barely notice the extra weight.
Specs: 30 to 5000 lumens, 24-hour standard burn time, 380m visibility distance, 610g weight
Best adjustability: Coast HL8R Rechargeable Pure Beam Focusing Headlamp
Water-resistant and hardhat compatible, with a Light Control Dial that allows you to fine-tune light output, this is truly the headlamp for all occasions. The Coast HL8R’s Twist Focus system lets you dial in the shape of light you need by simply rotating the lamp head. Flex Charge technology features a battery that can be recharged either inside or outside the light. Patented focusing technology seamlessly transitions between the Flood beam’s full-circle short-range viewing and the Bulls-Eye Spot beam which sends a sharp ray of light at a distance. The only thing it doesn’t do is make breakfast.
Specs: 50 to 800 lumens, 62-hour standard burn time, 214m visibility distance, 349g weight
Best for active sports: Knog Bandicoot Headlamp
Even the toughest headlamp will fall in the face of strenuous action sports. The exception is the Bandicoot Headlamp from Aussie outdoor brand Knog. The secret is in the silicone, which (among other virtues) is waterproof, helping the headlamp adhere to your skin even when you’re dripping sweat. Four pre-programmed light modes (Spot, Ambient, Red Night LED, and Reading) are placed side by side in four separate LEDs, so no need to cycle through multiple settings to get the light you want. With a weight of 60g, a range of 40 meters, a built-in USB plug for the easiest charging you’ve ever seen, and about a million notches on the band to ensure a perfect fit, the Bandicoot is the stuff of headlamp geek dreams.
Specs: 6 to 100 lumens, 28-hour standard burn time, 40m visibility distance, 60g weight
Best lightweight headlamp: Petzl Bindi Headlamp
The cutest little headlamp we ever did see, the Petzl Bindi dings the scale at just 35 grams. But this featherweight status isn’t the Bindi’s only virtue. It’s also IPX4 water-resistant, USB rechargeable, and boasts a Two-Lock function that guards against unintentional turn-ons. The adjustable cord not only significantly reduces weight and bulk, but also ensures an easy-to-adjust fit. And with three different white light modes ranging from 5 to 200 lumens) plus a 1-lumen red option, you’ll always have the right lighting for whatever situation you’re in.
Specs: 5 to 200 lumens, 50-hour standard burn time, 36m visibility distance, 35g weight
Best for relaxing: UCO Beta Headlamp
If your outdoor adventure calls for more hammocking than hiking, more bonfire hangs than backpacking, skip straight to the UCO Beta. This is the ultimate Zen in headlamps — an independently articulating lens, a battery-powered bulb, and a press-button three-setting cycle. The 200 lumens aren’t going to light up the night, but they’ve got all the illumination you need for breaking away from the campfire to grab another beer from the cooler. The simple functionality is paired with good looks, including a real wood inlay on the lamp, and 4 unique photo-quality graphic straps to express your personal style.
Specs: 200 lumens, 100-hour standard burn time, 229-ft visibility distance, 51g weight
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