LAST UPDATED: December 19, 2019
Best Rechargeable Headlamp: Don’t Let the Dark Hold You Back
Stop holding that flashlight between your teeth and take a look at our top rechargeable headlamps
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON December 19, 2019
Common amongst hikers and backpackers the world over, headlamps were originally designed for handsfree caving. The potential uses in everyday life are obvious, too. Whether you’re changing a tire in the dark, trail running, or putting up shelves in a deep, dark closet, a high-quality headlamp is a must-have. With such a wide range of makes and models available, we’ve reviewed some of the best headlamps on the market.
A high-quality, waterproof, and super-bright multi-use flashlight with headband, pocket clip, and mount for total versatility. Cree XHP50 LED and TIR bead lens delivers maximum brightness of 3,200 lumens and long-distance light output of 153 meters. Recharging is achieved via a magnetic cable and without removing the 18650 battery.
Features a low battery warning and controlled dimming of brightness levels between different modes and settings. It’s covered by a five-year warranty for long-term peace of mind.
The high light output generates a lot of heat, and headlamps can end up too hot to handle comfortably. The customized charging cable is not compatible with anything else, so you’ll need to carry at least another one for your other devices.
This micro-USB rechargeable light produces 180 lumens of ultra-bright, white light for illuminating your work area. It features a variety of lighting modes and a 45-degree tilting angle for versatile lighting. What’s more, you'll get around 40 hours runtime after a single four-hour charge.
It is waterproof and durable, meaning it can withstand rain, cold, heat, or a fall. It is lightweight and has an elastic head strap for a comfortable fit. It comes with a one-year warranty and 120-day money-back guarantee.
It comes with a USB cable but no adapter. Instructions warn users “do not overcharge,” meaning it may not have built-in overcharging protection.
Programmable, rechargeable headlamp with a light output of 750 lumens and Bluetooth connectivity with the associated app. Features reactive lighting technology, multiple light cones, and battery life indicator as well as rear red light, SOS, and strobe settings.
Particularly durable and waterproof. Comfortable to wear, as the battery pack is located on the back of the headband for counterbalance. Admirable battery life improved by automatic dimming.
It’s very expensive and is likely more complicated than most people will need. The battery takes a really long time to reach full recharge.
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Benefits of Rechargeable Headlamps
- Convenient. Having a light source that doesn’t tie up your hands is infinitely useful. Having a rechargeable headlamp means never again having to buy new batteries, which is even more convenient.
- Cost-effective. Rechargeable head torches might be a little more expensive up front, but you only need to charge them a couple of times before you start seeing savings from not having to buy batteries over and over again.
- Eco-friendly. Not having to buy batteries means you also don’t have to dispose of batteries, and any reduction in waste or single-use products is a massive benefit for the environment.
Types of Rechargeable Headlamps
While not as common as LED versions due to high battery consumption and low durability, it’s still possible to buy headlamps with a single halogen or krypton bulb. They’re not ideal because of the fragility of the bulb but are great to have around the house in case of an emergency.
LEDs are capable of providing high-quality white light with very little power requirements and have become very cheap to manufacture. Single LED headlamps often utilize a magnifying glass placed in front of the bulb to improve light output, which means you can get a lot of light at a low price.
Multi LED Array
Increasing the number of LEDs on a single headlamp will increase light output and brightness, but it won’t necessarily improve the beam distance. Multi LED array headlamps are great for camping because the capability to adjust how many of the total LEDs are used at any one time is a fairly standard feature. They usually come with red or green LEDs for even more light options.
Combined Light Array
A hybrid head torch is one that uses LEDs and a single halogen or krypton bulb for maximum versatility and different lighting requirements. They’re heavier than LED headlights, and the battery life will suffer anytime that you’re using the single bulb.
In a buying guide about headlamps—rechargeable or not—it would be completely remiss of us not to mention Fernand Petzl. A passionate caver, Petzl needed to move unhindered in the dark and invented the first Petzl headlamp in his workshop in Isère, France in 1973. This workshop became the Petzl Company in 1975 and, since then, the company has grown exponentially, with offices all over the world and hundreds of products on the international market. If the Petzl NAO+ Headlamp is a little out of your price range, the Petzl Actik Core is a popular alternative choice.
Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Black Diamond Equipment has been designing and manufacturing gear for climbing, skiing, and mountaineering since 1957 when, according to their website, they started with just “a backyard anvil and a hammer.” This multinational company now spans three continents, has its global headquarters in Innsbruck, Austria, and is owned by Clarus Corporation. They have a wide range of headlamps on offer, including the Storm and Spot 325 models.
Fenix describes itself as a company specializing in the research and development, manufacturing, and sale of quality illumination tools. They were established in 2004 and, since then, have won countless awards for their flashlights and headlamps in countries all over the world. The US arm of the multinational brand is based in Littleton, Colo., and they have a range of products, like the HL60R and the HL12R, to suit all budgets.
Rechargeable Headlamp Pricing
- Budget Range (under $50): Expect a lot of own-brand headlamps and some from top brands with basic features and up to around 350 lumens. These are perfect for hobbyists, emergencies, camping, and sports that don’t require precise lighting.
- Medium Range ($50-$200): Unless you need professional-level lighting conditions, a mid-range headlamp should be more than sufficient for 95 percent of users, with all the features you could want plus guaranteed quality from brands you recognize.
- Premium Range ($200 and up): If you rely on a headlamp for safety or need very specific features, you’ll likely be looking in the premium range. You can get a serious amount of light over extended periods if you’re willing to hand over the cash.
The light output of your headlamp is probably the most important feature to consider. Ask yourself how much light you need and for how long you’ll need to maintain that light. Daylight, for example, is anywhere between 100 and 300 lumens, 2,000 lumens will temporarily blind intruders, and 20 to 50 lumens is more than sufficient for finding your tent on the way back from a midnight toilet trip.
If you’re choosing a rechargeable headlamp specifically, you need to know how long a full charge will last and how feasible it is to recharge on the go. Do you need a dual power source, which would include backup battery power, and, if so, should you also carry spare batteries?
Red Light Mode
Using red light as opposed to standard white light has a number of benefits. Red light mode will give you enough illumination to see what you’re doing—even to read by —but it won’t blind your fellow campers if you’re wandering around the site or chatting by the campfire. Lower brightness also means lower power draw, so it’s also a good way to conserve battery between charges.
Is your headlamp simply on at full brightness or off, with no option for anything in between, or does it offer brightness adjustability? Being able to adjust the light output is handy if you’re going to be using your headlamp in a range of situations, especially if you have one with high maximum lumens. Maintaining bright light uses a lot of power and isn’t always necessary.
Your head torch will either have a wide flood beam, a narrow spot beam, or an adjustable combination of the two. Flood beams are ideal for general use, like camping and reading, and even up-close repairs because they provide a pool of unfocused light, but beam distance or focused light is often limited. Narrow spotlights, however, provide tightly focused beams that are great at illuminating over a distance and are much better for activities such as trail running. An adjustable beam obviously offers the most versatility and usage options.
- Weight. If you’re going to be wearing the headlamp for extended periods, it’s probably a good idea to check how much it weighs. Extra weight can unbalance you if you’re moving at high speeds or over uneven ground, and, besides that, nobody wants to carry unnecessary extra weight on long hikes or challenging runs.
- Power Indicator. While the benefits of rechargeable headlamps over battery-powered ones are obvious, the convenience of not needing to carry spare batteries can be dampened if you don’t know when it needs recharging. A power indicator gets rid of the uncertainty and ensures you’re always well-prepared.
- Headband. Most headlamps will have a single one-size, adjustable, and elasticated headband to keep things in place. Whether this is sufficient will depend on personal comfort and what you’re going to be doing while wearing the headlamp. Second headbands (over the top of the head) are worth considering if you want a little more stability and security.
Best Rechargeable Headlamp Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The superbright H2R rechargeable headlamp from OLight is actually a flashlight conveniently attached to a headband, but that didn’t stop us from putting it in the top spot as our overall favorite. If that wasn’t enough versatility, it also comes with a handy pocket clip, and the headband can be wrapped around the light to form a magnetic mount. The custom recharging cable is also magnetic and lets you charge the headlamp without removing the cap on the end. This is very handy, but it does mean you can’t make do with carrying a single USB cable for all your devices. Did we mention it’s also waterproof (rated IPX8), covered by a five-year warranty, and weighs only 174 grams?
Using an efficient CREE XHP50 LED and TIR bead lens enables the H2R to deliver a whopping maximum brightness of 2,300 lumens and a long-distance spot beam of 153 meters, making it the brightest single 18650 battery headlamp around.
However, this maximum brightness will automatically drop down to 750 lumens after one minute. You can keep pressing the button if you want, but you’ll likely end up burning your hand and your battery. Maintaining 2,300 lumens results in a lot of heat, and the headtorch isn’t exactly insulated against this. Although, at a much more manageable 150 lumens, you’ll get around 10 hours of battery life.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly rechargeable headlamp, you could do much worse than the MX200 from Foxelli. Featuring an ergonomic headband and sturdy low-profile headlamp, it was designed to keep sports enthusiasts active regardless of the lighting conditions.
It has a wide range of light modes and delivers a maximum light output of 180 lumens via an impressive 300-foot long-distance beam. Constructed from tough, high-quality materials and resistant to cold, impact, and water (rated IPX5), this lightweight headlamp will provide up to 30 hours of burn time on a single charge.
It’s compact, lightweight and available with a range of headbands in different colors and designs. The manufacturer really stands behind their product and offers a one-year warranty and a 120-day guarantee—during which time you can get your money back if you want to, no questions asked.
Just be careful when charging. The instructions warn users not to overcharge this flashlight. Therefore, you’ll need to keep an eye on the charging indicator going green. This indicates you’re good to go, and a full charge should be achievable in around four hours.
The headlamp we’ve chosen as our honorable mention is on the expensive side but, boy, is it packed with cool features. As you might expect from their background, Petzl makes headlamps for sports enthusiasts who want to carry out technically demanding activities in the dark. The 750 lumens NAO+ certainly delivers.
For example, it’s a little thing, but the battery is on the back of the headband. This provides a counterbalance to the lamp, making it much more comfortable to wear. The 3,100mAh battery is, of course, rechargeable via a standard USB port and features a blue LED charge indicator.
It features a range of different, adjustable light cones, including focused beams for long-distance clarity and wide beams for close-up requirements. Reactive Lighting technology means the headlamp measures the surroundings and adapts its brightness accordingly, which increases battery life and improves performance by minimizing the need for manual intervention. If you want something a little more predictable, you can set your own lighting profile using the app, which connects to the lamp via Bluetooth. Alternatively, you can stick with the constant lighting mode for consistent brightness.
This flashlight is pricey, however, and is probably more than you need. How long it takes to charge is incredibly frustrating and is the main thing we don’t like about the NAO+.
- When buying a headlamp, consider the available powering options. Most lights are powered by rechargeable lithium batteries, while some have dual-powering capability, meaning they can use either a rechargeable battery or a disposable alkaline battery. A dual-powered light is useful when your power bank dies out.
- Consider the light with a versatile beam pattern. A flood beam illuminates a wide area but a short distance, while a spot beam illuminates a small area but a longer distance. It is advisable to get a light that can switch beams to suit different requirements.
- Make sure the headlamp you buy is waterproof to withstand rain and snow if you plan to use it in these conditions. It should also be able to tilt from its strap to help position your beam where you want it. A good headlamp is also lightweight for portability.
Q: Why do I need a headlamp?
A: A headlamp illuminates your working area without getting in the way. It comes with a strap to fit on your forehead, freeing your hands to do other things.
Q: Do lumens matter in a headlamp?
A: Yes, lumens really matter when choosing a headlamp. They indicate the amount of light the light can produce. A low lumen count means dim light, while a high lumen count means the light is much brighter.
Q: How many lumens do I need?
A: The number of lumens you need in a headlamp depends on the purpose of the light. If your headlamp is for illuminating trails when running, about 100 lumens would be enough. If your light is for hunting or some other work that requires a high degree of illumination, your headlamp should have at least 300 lumens.
After thorough research, we recommend the OLight H2R Cree LED Rechargeable Headlamp as our best overall pick. It is versatile, unbelievably bright, and fully adjustable.
If you want something a little more budget-friendly and don’t need super bright light, the waterproof, 180-lumen Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp Flashlight is our best value pick.