Reviews | The Drive Tactical & Outdoor

Best LED Headlamps: Light Up the Night

Enjoy hands-free lighting with these LED headlamps
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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 the best LED headlamps we rounded up in our buying guide.

Best Overall

Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp

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Best Value

Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight

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Honorable Mention

NITECORE LED Headlamp

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Summary List

Best LED Headlamps: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall

Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp

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Best Value

Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight

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Honorable Mention

NITECORE LED Headlamp

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Our Verdict

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.

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 and 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.

Top Brands

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

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

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.

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.

Key Features

Brightness

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.

Lighting Modes

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. 

Weather Resistance

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.

Other Considerations

  • 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. 

Tips

  • 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. 

FAQs

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.