Light up the trail with an efficient and affordable headlamp. While it may not be the most stylish piece of equipment, a good headlamp can literally save your life. If your hiking trip has ever unexpectedly become a nighttime hike, you understand the importance of having adequate lighting. Whether you are hiking, setting up camp, hunting or just taking a short stroll through the woods, you want to try one of the best headlamps in 2018. This complete guide will help you figure out what to look for in a high-quality headlamp, and give you all the details of the top eight headlamps on the market today. Then, you’ll have everything you need to choose the product that’s right for you.
Why Choose a Headlamp?
While almost everyone has a smartphone flashlight, there are plenty of reasons to choose a premium-quality headlamp. If you’ve ever been frustrated by the short distance your flashlight or smartphone light travels, you understand that not all lights are created equal.
There’s also the hands-free factor to consider, which is a huge bonus if you’re hiking an exhausting trail, or just prone to dropping things.
Some headlamps on this list are expensive, but others are very affordable, which means there are few reasons not to own a headlamp. While headlamps can’t compete with handheld spotlights, there are just as bright, or brighter, than most flashlights.
What Can I Use My Headlamp For?
The two basic beam types will give you a better idea of the many uses of a headlamp. Basically, you want a light that can either see a broad area or a long distance. If you’ve dropped your car keys, or are trying to pack up your tent in the dark, you want a broad beam of light. However, when trying to spot a trail marker, path home or get a glimpse of an animal, you’ll need a long-distance light.
Some headlamps are designed to give you the best of both worlds, but many are specific to one type of beam. Some individuals use their headlamps for work. If you need to work on your car or you work in a low-light garage or barn, a headlamp is an excellent way to keep your task in the light. You won’t have to invest in expensive overhead lighting or worry about holding a flashlight ever again.
What Are Lumens?
Take a look at any headlamp on the market, and you’ll see the number of lumens advertised as a big selling point. Lumens can tell you how much total light is being put out by the light source. However, lumens can be a very misleading feature. Because it’s the total light in any direction, a very wide-beam light could have lots of lumens, but little useable light. That’s why most premium headlamps will also feature the beam distance, to help you get a better sense of the amount of useable light it projects.
Which Beam Type Do I Need?
The two beam types, often called flood and spot, are used to describe wide-angle and narrow focuses of light. A flood-style headlamp tries to illuminate as wide of an area as possible. It’s perfect for finding lost items, like your car keys. It can also light up the inside of your tent, or illuminate your tent site. You'll need a spot headlamp for viewing objects far away, like twists and turns in a trail. Neither one is better than the others, but they both offer unique pros and cons.
Red LED lighting is also a popular feature with many headlamps. It allows you to be seen easily, as well as conserve battery power. Red lights tend to keep your night vision from being ruined, which is a huge benefit if you’re using your headlamp for hunting. Premium headlamps can offer both variations. Consider which beam style will be most useful to you before falling in love with one particular headlamp.
How We Reviewed
With so many excellent headlamps on the market, it’s very difficult to choose the best of the best in 2018. This list includes some of the best. Each headlamp was selected based on customer reviews, best sellers and professional opinions and ratings. This guide won’t give you the best light but will help you understand the type of headlamp that may fit your needs. Once you know how to shop for the perfect headlamp, you’ll be able to pick the option that best matches your personality, budget and your lighting needs.
Headlamps can range a great deal in terms of pricing, depending on the lumens, beam length and build quality. On the low end of this list, the Foxeli headlamp costs only $12.97. It doesn’t include rechargeable batteries, has far less beam length and isn’t as durable or waterproof as more expensive options. The most costly headlamp on this list is the Petzl NAO, at $157.44. It includes plenty of upgrades, like high beam length, lots of lumens and rechargeable batteries. There are plenty of options in between, so consider the features that are most important to you. Find a headlamp that meets your needs and price range.
Top 8 Best Headlamps in 2018
The most affordable headlamp on this list is lightweight, long-lasting and a great value for anyone looking for a mid-range headlamp. While it doesn’t have the beam length of more expensive headlamps, 200 feet is still a reasonable distance. It’s also great for keeping yourself visible, with the red LED light and an SOS function. It’s an excellent choice for a backup headlamp, particularly when camping. Customers love how inexpensive and comfortable this headlamp is. However, it’s not as durable as other brands, and the batteries will drain, even when it isn’t in use. Choose this headlamp as a great way to save money.
One of the brightest headlamps on the list, the Coast FL85 combines a long beam distance, high lumens and adjustable brightness to give you an incredibly useful headlamp. If you’re on a trail that doesn't have clear markings, this can be a lifesaver as the sun sets. This headlamp is water resistant, durable and comes with a lifetime warranty. If you’re on the job, it’s also designed to work with hardhats. Customers love how bright and focused this light is but don’t like the low battery life if you keep it on the brightest setting. A great all-around headlamp, it’s effective for a variety of purposes.
This headlamp is very similar to the Coast FL85 but also includes rechargeable batteries. It isn’t the most expensive headlamp, but it still comes with some of the highest lumen-counts and longest beam distances. The rechargeable battery and USB cord save you money on extra batteries. If you don’t need the maximum brightness, use eco mode and keep your light on for up to 96 hours. Choose between floodlight, spotlight or red light modes, in order to make the most of this flexible headlamp. It’s highly rated, and customers appreciate the brightness and build quality of this rugged headlamp.
The Ledlenser MH10 is an excellent wide-beam choice for all your needs. The rechargeable batteries and 5-year warranty allow you to use this headlamp worry-free. It’s water resistant and is designed to combine the best of both length and width with its light coverage. Use this light to help set up your campsite, or search for deer both near and far when you are hunting. It’s a bit more expensive than models with comparable beam lengths, but this headlamp uses a specialized focusing system to match the wide beam and spot beam in a single function. Choose this headlamp if you don’t like constantly switching between the two options.
The most premium headlamp on the list, the Petzl NAO offers the most lumens and beam length with a unique and advanced upgrade. The NAO automatically adjusts the brightness level, depending on the area you are in. You won’t have to change the settings constantly, but you’ll still have an incredibly long-lasting and rechargeable battery. Customers feel the brightness of this headlamp is incredible, and love the auto-adjusting feature. If you’re looking for a truly top-of-the-line headlamp, the Petzl NAO will outperform any lamp on this list. However, it’s very expensive, and may not be a worthwhile investment unless you need a considerable amount of lighting.
Similar to the Coast FL85, this cost-effective model has fewer lumens and a shorter beam distance. However, the rest of the build is exactly the same. If you’re a fan of Coast products, this is a great, inexpensive choice. It still offers a water-resistant and durable build, but won’t give you the same level of brightness. At 130 lumens, it’s one of the dimmer headlamps on the list. If you need an inexpensive headlamp that is reliably built and reasonably bright for setting up camp, this is a great choice.
One of the sturdiest headlamps comes with an impressive beam length and reliable build quality. It’s slim design makes it lightweight and portable. It includes a memory for your prefered brightness, so the light will automatically be set to your favorite lighting level once you turn it back on. While it’s one of the most costly headlamps, customers love the durability and sleek design of this headlamp.
The OxyLED headlamp is another incredibly affordable option, with plenty of useful features. While it doesn’t have the lumens of a premium brand, this headlamp boasts nine different light modes, including red light and a strobe feature. Choose a red or yellow strap, and take this versatile headlamp as an emergency backup, or your main light for close-range use. It comes with a 1-year warranty, and it is water resistant and reasonably adjustable. Customers love how lightweight and versatile it is, but don’t like how you have to cycle through each light mode to find the one you need.
While some headlamps strive to be multi-purpose, each of these models is very specialized for a different function. The best headlamp for you may not be well-suited for someone else. If you want an affordable model with a range of features, consider the OxyLED headlamp. However, if you want the absolute brightest lamp on the list, try the Fenix or Petzl models. Take your time and look through the FAQs in order to find out which features are most important for your lifestyle. Whether you are nature tripping, bicycling, hiking, or setting up a campsite, there are different settings and features for your needs. Whatever you are doing, you’ll be thankful to have a hands-free outdoor gear to light up your path or surroundings in a reliable, convenient and cost-effective way.