LAST UPDATED: December 19, 2019
Best LED Headlamps: Light Up the Night
Enjoy hands-free lighting with these LED headlamps
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON December 19, 2019
A headlamp is the epitome of comfort as you work on your car in the garage or when hiking at night. You can keep your hands free as you illuminate the area around you when there’s insufficient natural light. If you are tired of holding a flashlight with your mouth or working with a single hand, consider using any of the headlamps in our buying guide.
A high-quality, 325-lumen headlamp with powerful LED lamps that offers three lighting modes and four different light settings.
Compact, low-profile design for easy use. Impressive weather resistance with an IPX8 rating. Burn time of up to four hours on high and 200 hours on low mode. Comes with an adjustable and breathable headband. Unique touch-sensitive housing for easy brightness adjustments.
The batteries are not as protected as the electronic parts are and might malfunction due to water exposure. Takes some time to figure out how to use it.
A super bright and powerful LED headlamp featuring CREE-3W technology, which provides more light while using minimal power.
Lightweight and comfortable. Well designed for durability. IPX5 rated against water splashes or sprays from any angle. Power-efficient and offers 45 hours of continuous runtime. It offers three light modes: white, red, and SOS. Features an adjustable headband. The headlamp is tiltable by 45 degrees.
The bright light produced may affect your long-distance vision. The headlamp swivel point is a bit fragile.
A bright, rechargeable, 550-lumen headlamp with multiple light modes including spot and flood illumination.
It has a maximum runtime of 330 hours. Can illuminate distances of up to 136 yards. It features an adjustable headband and uses rechargeable batteries. Offers four lighting modes to suit both indoor and outdoor activities. Feels light on the head. It has an easily accessible switch button.
The headband may bruise your forehead when tightened. Its wide-angle beam is a little dim.
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Benefits of LED Headlamps
- Convenience. Unlike regular flashlights, LED headlamps allow for hands-free use. They are also more comfortable and easier to use. Regular flashlights might get in the way when two-handed operations are needed. With LED headlamps, you can use both hands and achieve better results in different tasks, from performing car repairs to backpacking.
- Bright light. LED headlamps are more powerful than most regular flashlights and headlamps. That is because of the LED bulbs they utilize. They are brighter than traditional bulbs. LED headlamps offer better performance and many hours of continuous light emission.
- Durability. LED bulbs last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. You'll get more hours of use once you install new batteries into the LED headlamp. That means you don't have to worry about your flashlight turning off in the middle of a hike or on a road trip.
- Versatility. With LED headlamps, you can tackle all kinds of tasks, such as working underneath your car or fixing small problems in the middle of the road during the night. They are also very convenient for campers, hikers, cyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Due to the hands-free design, you can use them in many situations and occasions.
Types of LED Headlamps
Headlamps With Rechargeable Batteries
Headlamps fall into two main categories depending on the type of battery they use. Products with rechargeable batteries last longer, and they are less expensive. They require a USB cable (included with most headlamps) and a power source, such as a phone, a solar charger, or a laptop. With rechargeable batteries, you don't have to worry about buying new batteries for an upcoming trip or task. The downside is, however, they might have shorter run times.
Headlamps With Disposable Batteries
Headlamps that use disposable batteries typically rely on AA or AAA batteries. These batteries are quick and easy to replace and are available for purchase almost anywhere. The main benefit is that they hold a charge longer than rechargeable batteries. That makes them convenient for emergencies. The drawback is the batteries must be replaced, which can add up in cost.
Black Diamond Equipment
Black Diamond Equipment was founded in 1989 and is based in Salt Lake City, Utah. It started with a few rock climbers producing outdoor gear in the backyard and selling them locally. Slowly, it evolved into a global company that produces all kinds of climbing, skiing, and mountain equipment. One of the company's best-rated products is the Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp.
Foxelli is based in Tualatin, Oregon. The company focuses on producing high-quality outdoor gear products at affordable prices. Its combination of low prices and quality materials makes Foxelli a good contender in the outdoor gear industry. One of its popular products is the Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight.
Nitecore is an award-winning company that produces all kinds of illumination and electronic tools for professionals. It was founded in 2007 and is based in Austin, Texas. Nitecore products are available in more than 100 countries and regions. One of its top products is the NITECORE LED Headlamp.
LED Headlamps Pricing
- Under $30: Headlamps in this price range are efficient, simple, and offer a long run time. However, they have fewer lumens and don't typically work well over long distances.
- Over $30: These headlamps tend to have more lumens and are better for demanding activities that require more visibility at long distances. They also have some extra features, such as multiple lighting modes and higher IPX ratings.
The brightness is dictated by the number of lumens a headlamp has. The higher the number, the brighter the light. However, more lumens drain the battery more quickly, and it’s not the only indication of a high-quality light. To see things at close distance, 100 lumens or fewer is enough. For navigation in complete darkness, more than 200 lumens might be required. More than 300 lumens is necessary for extreme activities, such as skiing and trail running.
Every headlamp comes with a set of lighting modes you can adjust according to your activities. The most powerful one is an LED spot beam. It's a long-distance beam suitable for extreme activities, such as hiking or caving when you need a detailed view of items that are far away. The floodlight mode offers wide-angle coverage, and it's perfect for campsites. There are also headlamps with different LED colors (red, blue, and green). They are soft and safe for the eyes at short distances.
If you're planning to use a headlamp outdoors where it will be exposed to different weather threats, look at the weather resistance. Check the IPX rating scale before making a purchase. It ranges from zero (no protection at all) to eight (the highest possible protection). Depending on the purpose, you'll need more or less protection. For example, a headlamp with the IPX4 rating should be able to withstand common exposure to snow, water, and other weather threats.
- Weight: The weight depends on the batteries and influences headlamp performance. Brighter lights require larger batteries or they use more of them, making the headlamp bulkier and heavier. If you don't need a super-powerful headlamp, you can opt for a lighter one with a minimalist design. These are more comfortable and easier to carry. If you do need brighter light, you might want to deal with the extra weight for better performance.
- Comfort: The headlamp should feel comfortable on your head and stay securely in place. There are two options to choose from when it comes to head straps. A simple elastic nylon strap that wraps around the sides of your head is easy to adjust and handy for daily activities. A two-piece strap includes an additional strap, which goes over the top of your head and offers a more secure fit.
- Runtime: Consider the batteries' average runtime before making a purchase. It will help you choose the right headlamp for your needs. In most cases, batteries that last for four to six hours are sufficient. You don’t need the extra power or more hours for tasks around the house or car repairs. If you're night hiking or mountain biking, however, you'll probably need more than 10 hours of runtime.
Best LED Headlamps Reviews & Recommendations 2019
This is a high-quality headlamp that offers an exceptional balance of power, portability, and design. It features 325 lumens, three light modes (high, medium, low), and six light settings (proximity, distance, dimming, strobe, red night-vision, and lock mode). The device can work for up to four hours on high and 200 hours on low mode. The combination of these features makes the headlamp powerful, super-bright, and quite versatile.
The compact, low-profile design makes this headlamp lightweight and easy to carry around. The device is secure enough to be used while running and jumping, yet is quite light on the head. The elastic straps are adjustable and breathable, which ensures comfort on extended use. When it comes to the construction, the device has a sturdy housing resistant to all weather threats. Thanks to the IPx8 rating, the headlamp is completely waterproof and works in one meter under water.
The main downside is the battery compartment. It's not properly sealed and protected from water like the electronic parts are. That might cause leaks and consequently, battery malfunctions. Another drawback is the unique touch-sensitive design that might take some time figuring out and getting used to.
This is a quality LED headlamp with an excellent light output. It's ultra bright and suitable for many activities, from camping to walking a dog at night. The headlamp features CREE-3W technology, which means it produces more light without shortening the battery runtime.
The headlamp works for up to five hours on the highest setting to 45 hours in the lowest one, which makes it ideal for both professional and DIY use. It offers three lighting modes: white, red, and SOS. The device is lightweight and compact, yet quite sturdy. It comes with an IPX5 rating, which means it's impact- and water-resistant. The head strap is comfortable and easy to adjust, and the headlamp body tilts 45 degrees for easy use.
The main drawback is the quality of the red LED light that is less bright than the white one. The white light is so powerful that it might affect long-distance vision. There have also been some complaints about the durability of the headlamp, especially in the swivel point that feels a bit fragile.
This is a USB rechargeable headlamp with an impressive 550 lumens. It has four brightness levels you can switch between according to your needs. It offers both flood illumination and a soft mode for closeup tasks. The battery life lasts up to one hour on turbo mode and extends to 330 hours in low mode. Thanks to the micro-USB port, it recharges rather quickly.
The headlamp is lightweight and highly portable. It's convenient for everyday carry as it easily fits inside backpacks and travel bags. It features a polycarbonate housing that is not only water-resistant, but impact-resistant as well. You can drop it from up to two feet without worrying about possible damages. Additionally, the headlamp feels comfortable on the head and has an adjustable headband.
Although the headband is comfortable, it might loosen a bit after some time and cause discomfort when tightened. The necessity for a tighter fit also comes from the bulky design that causes the headlamp to slide down the forehead. Another drawback is the wide-angle beam that proves to be a little dim.
- Cold weather can affect the performance of batteries. When hiking in cold regions, keep your batteries warm by storing them in wool socks. If possible, switch to rechargeable NiMH or lithium batteries, which are more resistant to cold.
- If your headlamp comes with rechargeable batteries, we recommend that you remove them after use and store them in a cool and dry place to protect them against discharging and corrosion.
- For long trips, always pack extra batteries or a spare headlamp for backup in case you run out of power and can’t find a place to recharge.
Q: What are lumens?
A: Lumens describe the level of brightness emitted from a single light source. It doesn’t necessarily describe the quality of the beam of light, but rather the total light emitted in any direction. This means that two headlamps with the same lumens can have varying performance mostly with regards to beam distance.
Q: How long do headlamp batteries last?
A: It depends on the type of batteries that you use. AA and AAA batteries can offer a continuous runtime of at least seven hours. For a longer burn time, consider upgrading to lithium batteries. They are also lighter than alkaline batteries. You can increase the battery runtime by switching to a low light setting.
Q: How do I prevent flying insects from swarming around my headlamp?
A: If you are not a fan of bug spray or applying bug repellent on your forehead, you should switch to red light mode if possible. Flying insects are typically attracted to white light. Also, the red light can help you move around stealthily at night. This prevents your pupils from dilating and uses minimal energy.
Our top pick is the Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp. It's a high-quality, super-bright and waterproof headlamp that can last for hundreds of hours in low mode.
If you are looking for a cheaper yet high-quality option, consider the Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight.