Best Headlamps (Review & Buying Guide) in 2023
Illuminate your path in any dark or low-light areas with these products, the best headlamps you can buy.
If you’ve ever been frustrated by a lack of light while you’re working under the hood or trying to see clearly into your car’s inner workings, you don’t need another overhead light: You need a headlamp. While headlamps are must-have accessories for the outdoors, allowing you to see clearly when you’re hunting, fishing, hiking, or even working around your campsite, they’re also pretty handy for auto work too. Lightweight and secured right to your head, one of these compact lights can deliver impressively bright illumination right where it’s needed, allowing you to pinpoint problems, make repairs large and small, or simply see more easily without any difficulty. If you want to improve your visibility, we’ve rounded up some of the best headlamps you can buy right here.
Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp
- USB rechargeable and charges in four hours for 40 hours of consistent light
- 180 lumens, 300 feet beam
- Red and white lights alert others and let you see more clearly
- Waterproof and durable
- No battery indicator light
- Unable to focus the light beam
- Cover for charging port is flimsy
Shining Buddy LED Headlamp Flashlight
- Features high, low, red, and flashing light modes
- Swivels down to 45 degrees, with no bobbing or wobbling.
- 110 lumens
- Bulb lasts up to 100,000 hours
- Uses disposable alkaline batteries
- You have to cycle through the light modes
- No off switch
Energizer Vision HD+ Focus LED Headlamp
- Offers five different light settings for different needs
- Light beam can adjust 45 degrees for better control
- Lightweight and able to survive impacts and drops
- Uses disposable batteries
- Only lasts about three hours on high setting
- Water-resistant but not waterproof
- Best Overall: Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp
- Best Value: Shining Buddy LED Headlamp Flashlight
- Honorable Mention: Energizer Vision HD+ Focus LED Headlamp
- Best for Night Vision: Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp
- Best for Light Use: Ozark Trail 100 Lumen LED Headlamp
- Best Rechargeable: Streamlight Bandit USB Rechargeable Headlamp
- Best for Hunting: Pursuit 200-Lumen Headlamp
In order to choose the best headlamps that we’ve highlighted here, we took a close look at the different headlights available online. We compared different headlamps to one another, considering specs and details like the number of lumens (to determine brightness), ability to direct and control light beam, modes and colors, comfort of the strap, and weight. From there, we considered and took into account users’ real-life experiences via reviews to assess how well any given headlamp worked in different settings. Our top product picks were those that offered a combination of bright illumination, solid battery life, good durability, and lightweight comfort while worn in any setting.
Best Headlamps: Reviews & Recommendations
The Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp is a rechargeable headlamp specifically designed to suit everyday users in various environments. The unit is perfect for lighting in various situations and users can tilt the headlamp’s body to 45 degrees, focusing the light where needed. It also comes with various lighting modes.
Without a doubt, the primary benefits of this headlamp are power, reliability, and durability. It’s made from high-quality yet lightweight materials and comes with a longer burn time of approximately 40 hours. With a weather resistance rating of IPX5, you can be sure it’s protected from splashing water. However, a major downside is that the battery goes off without warning and it might also not hold a charge for a long period after several charges. You might have to carry backup batteries to avoid such situations.
- Lumens: 180 lumen
- Battery Life: 40 hours
- Settings or Modes: Light adjusts 45 degrees; white and red light modes
- Multiple lighting modes
- Water-resistant with IPX5 rating
- Long battery lifespan
- 300-foot light beam
- No warning when battery is dying
- May not hold a charge after it’s been in use for some time
The Shining Buddy LED Headlamp Flashlight is an ultra-light, comfortable, and easy-to-wear headlamp. It’s a perfect go-to light source and, due to its lightweight nature, it’s great for everyone, including adult men, women, teens, and young kids. An outstanding benefit of this product is that you’ll get value for your money as it’s a good quality headlamp, yet available at an affordable price. It is also lightweight, as well as weather- and shock-resistant with an IPX5 rating. It has a non-slip adjustable strap and has four bright LED light settings.
The Energizer Vision HD+ Focus LED Headlamp goes beyond your basic headlamp’s illumination to provide more light, better longevity, and a whole lot of power. Whether you need a little more light or the ability to see clearly in total darkness, this little device can really deliver, despite how compact and lightweight it is. Powered by three AAA batteries, this headlamp can deliver 400 lumens at max power over a distance of 85 meters. Don’t need that much light? With a host of different modes, including high, low, flood, spot, and red night vision settings, you can adjust and adapt.
The convenient Memory Recall feature lets you easily find your favorite setting too. And when it comes to durability, this headlamp is built to last; it’s IPX4 water-resistant to survive splashes and impact-resistant up to 1 meter. The fact that this headlamp uses disposable batteries isn’t ideal, and they don’t last a long time. On its “high” setting, you’ll only get about three hours of light. Additionally, it’s only water-resistant, not waterproof, so you don’t want to wear it in inclement weather.
- Lumens: Up to 400 lumens
- Battery Life: 3 hours on high
- Settings or Modes: Light modes include high, low, flood, spotlight, and red night vision
- Uses Digital Focus technology to narrow and direct light beam
- Customizable and adjustable up to 45 degrees
- Water-resistant and impact-resistant
- Beam covers up to 85 meters of distance
- Water-resistant, not waterproof
- Uses disposable batteries that don’t last long
If you’re searching for a headlamp that’ll offer bright light as well as enhanced night vision, the Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp is a great choice. This product is designed to light your way in total darkness, but it’s also able to help you see at night without messing up your vision, something that’s valuable if you’re fishing, hunting, or just camping outdoors. With 400 lumens of white light on the maximum setting, this headlamp also offers three different night vision modes in red, green, and blue.
A Brightness Memory feature keeps your light on your preferred setting when you turn it on and off, and the PowerTap technology puts you in control of the amount of light with six options to choose from. Plus, you’ll get great durability thanks to the IPX67 waterproof rating, which protects the headlamp even if it’s submerged up to 3 meters for up to 30 minutes. The only potential area of improvement for this headlamp? It doesn’t fit easily onto all helmets, and it’s really best used on your bare head.
- Lumens: 400 lumens
- Battery Life: 5 hours on high
- Settings or Modes: 6 beam settings, including various white light levels and red, green, and blue night vision
- Highly durable, fully sealed construction
- Offers a wide range of different beam settings
- Specialized night vision beams for different needs in darkness
- Solid battery life on disposable batteries
- Doesn’t fit over helmets easily
The Ozark Trail 100 Lumen LED Headlamp is just what you need if you’re looking for a little more light overhead while you work. It doesn’t offer hundreds of lumens—just 100 total—but it’s a great addition for working under the hood of your car, in not-so-well-lit spaces like attics or sheds, and is a helpful addition to any emergency kit. Powered by three AAA batteries, this headlamp offers three light modes (high, low, and strobe), a 1-meter beam distance, and can last 5.5 hours on high or 24 hours on low.
It’s made with durable material and has an IPX4 water-resistance rating to keep it safe from splashes. Plus, the LED bulbs used in this headlamp are designed to last the lifetime of the product, meaning you don’t ever have to worry about replacing them. While this headlamp isn’t the brightest or the most durable, it’s a solid choice if you’re staying around the house and not headed outdoors. Additionally, it doesn’t have any kind of cushioning or padding underneath the light, which can become uncomfortable after hours of wear.
- Lumens: 100 lumens
- Battery Life: Up to 24 hours on low
- Settings or Modes: High, low, and strobe beam modes
- Great for garage and home use
- Offers three light modes including an emergency strobe mode
- Not highly durable or waterproof
- No padding underneath the lamp itself, which can become uncomfortable over time
Forget about disposable batteries, because when you choose the Streamlight Bandit USB Rechargeable Headlamp, you can recharge your light source just like you charge your smartphone. This product allows you to plug in and charge up whenever the built-in lithium-polymer battery is running low. With 180 maximum lumens, a push-button switch for changing between high, low, and emergency flash modes, this headlamp covers all the bases. You’ll also get up to 9.5 hours on every charge.
Constructed out of impact-resistant polycarbonate so it’s tough enough to withstand outdoor challenges and activity, this headlamp is also rated IPX4 water-resistant. It even comes with a visor clip in addition to the head strap so you can wear the lamp in versatile ways. The only real drawback to this headlamp is it isn’t waterproof. While it can withstand very light amounts of moisture, it isn’t equipped for rain or wet weather. So just use it in the garage.
- Lumens: 180 lumens
- Battery Life: Up to 9.5 hours per charge
- Settings or Modes: High, low, and emergency flash modes
- Polycarbonate exterior is highly durable
- Rechargeable battery offers more longevity
- Low-profile and lightweight
- Great indoors and outdoors
- Water-resistant, not waterproof
If you’re a hunter in need of a new headlamp, you’ll definitely want to consider the Pursuit 200-Lumen Headlamp. This bright, illuminating product delivers up to 200 lumens of light on its highest setting, but that isn’t really where it shines. It offers both white light and green light, which is key for hunters. You can use the green night vision setting to enhance your visibility without spooking wildlife, and it’s a color that’s especially great for tracking and trailing.
You can opt for high, low, and strobe settings for white light and high or strobe settings for the green light. Rated IPX4 water-resistant and built with a simple, easy-to-manage dual switch, this headlamp won’t confuse or complicate matters when you need it to work reliably. The only potential disadvantage of this headlamp is it’s only water-resistant, not waterproof. While the product description claims it can withstand showers, you don’t want to run the risk of ruining it in super wet weather.
- Lumens: 200 lumens
- Battery Life: Up to 2 hours
- Settings or Modes: High, low, and strobe modes for white light; high and strobe modes for green light
- Green night vision is ideal for hunting
- Offers multiple night vision light choices
- Dual switch setup makes it easy to use the separate light colors without confusion
- Elastic band fits over hats and other headgear
- Water-resistant, but not waterproof
Need a headlamp that truly offers it all? The TRKR LED Headlamp with Power+ Technology will have you covered and comes from one of the best names in the business. Hitting every one of your needs from light color to beam distance to long battery life, this headlamp isn’t basic; it’s loaded with premium features and advanced choices. It delivers up to 650 lumens and seven different lighting modes, including red light and blood tracking mode for hunters. It can deliver nearly 10 hours of light on a set of three AAA batteries, and you can get a beam that covers anywhere from 17 to 105 meters.
Powered by Bushnell’s Power+ technology, you can opt for disposable batteries or the Power+ rechargeable battery pack for complete versatility. Plus, this headlamp is water-resistant, impact-resistant, and backed by a two-year warranty. Really, the only detail this headlamp lacks is complete waterproof protection, since it’s only IPX4 water-resistant.
- Lumens: 650 lumens
- Battery Life: Up to 17 hours on blue light mode
- Settings or Modes: 7 lighting modes, including spot high, spot medium, spot, low, red, TRKR, flood low, and flood high in different colors
- Offers a wealth of different light modes and color choices
- Special blue and red light modes for hunters
- Can use disposable or rechargeable battery
- LEDs are designed to last the lifetime of the headlamp
- Water-resistant but not waterproof
Our Verdict on Headlamps
For one of the best headlamps with a bright light and many settings, consider the Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp. Save some cash with the Shining Buddy LED Headlamp Flashlight, which offers a long-lasting and powerful light.
What to Consider When Buying a Headlamp
Wondering where you should start and what you should look for when you’re searching for a quality headlamp? We’ve got all of the advice you need. Just follow the tips in our buying guide, and you’ll be able to pick out a reliable, bright lamp for your needs.
Types of Headlamps
These are headlamps that are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Most of these lamps come with a USB cable that can be used to recharge the lamp using a laptop or wall charger. The advantages of these options are that they are eco-friendly and they save you the cost of constantly replacing batteries. Additionally, such headlamps are bright, reliable, and durable. However, these lamps are a bit expensive.
These are the types of headlamps that come with disposable alkaline batteries. AA and AAA batteries are often used to power these lamps. Non-rechargeable models are cheaper than their rechargeable counterparts but you have to keep on replacing the batteries. Therefore, if you are going for upcountry trips, such as hiking and camping, you need to carry extra batteries. Due to the weight of the battery, these headlamps seem bulky and they are not very bright. It is important for hikers and campers to dispose of the batteries properly after using them due to their harmful effects on the environment.
Headlamp Key Features
Headlamps use different battery types to achieve their lighting needs. Some use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, while others use disposable alkaline batteries. Some have a long-lasting battery life of more than 20 hours, while others have a battery life of as low as two hours. When choosing a headlamp, ensure you choose a light that has a reliable charge life depending on the intended usage. You don’t want your charge lifespan to leave you in the dark, even if you’re just working in your garage, so look for a headlamp that can last you at least 3-4 hours. It’s also a good idea to opt for a product that charges quickly so your headlamp is ready to use again ASAP.
Lumen is the unit of measurement of brightness that comes from the light source. The higher the lumen count, the better the amount of light produced by the headlamp. On average, you’ll find budget-friendly headlamps with anywhere from 100 to 180 lumens; mid-level options can offer 200 to 400 lumens. If you’re looking for the highest brightness, you can opt for as many as 650 lumens. While this is an essential factor, just remember that lumen doesn’t affect the quality of the beam pattern. It only describes the total sum of light striking a given direction. This means that two headlamps with the same lumens can have different light quality.
Every headlamp has a specified beam distance. This specifies the brightness of the headlamp and the ability of the lens to focus. Most manufacturers indicate the highest possible output when the headlamp is in spot mode and a low measurement when in close-proximity mode. Always check both numbers to find a headlamp with medium settings, as it will provide a better battery life.
Headlamps come with different light modes that suit different uses. Some common light modes include;
- Red light. This light uses little energy and doesn’t result in pupillary dilation at night. This mode is best for camp chores, as it doesn’t attract flying insects.
- Strobe. This lighting mode is best if you want to make yourself visible when biking, hiking, or running on roadsides. It can also be used as an emergency signal.
- High/spotlight. The headlamp is condensed and focused to produce bright light that is directed at a distant object. It is the best mode for night hiking, spotting climbing aids, bike headlights, or looking for hidden trail signs.
- Low/floodlight. Also known as proximity mode, it produces a soft, dimmer light for viewing close objects. It conserves battery power and is best for cooking in campsites, setting up tents, and going on night hikes on familiar trails.
Ensure that you choose a headlamp with a variety of lighting modes to suit different applications.
Headlamp Brands to Know
Black Diamond is an international company that is situated in Utah. Since 1957, the company has focused on producing innovative and high-quality yet affordable gear for climbing, hiking, camping, skiing, and other sports.
Shining Buddy is another great headlamp company formed in the United States by two brothers who were looking to resolve the lighting problems they experienced in their outdoor escapades. The brothers formed the company in 2012 and launched it in 2014. Ever since, the company has provided various LED lighting products for every outdoor activity. Its products suit avid runners, beginner campers, cyclists, pro anglers, and even those who like walking their dogs at night.
Nitecore is an award-winning American manufacturer of illumination and electronic tools. The company has existed for many years and prides itself on providing reliable headlamps globally. Its products from the company suit divers, cyclists, anglers, and boating enthusiasts. It shares a similar passion with those who like to explore mountains, roads, ice, hunting, and search and rescue missions.
Foxelli is an international company located in Tualatin, Oregon. The company provides high-end, reliable, and durable lighting gear at affordable prices. Foxelli understands the importance of heading outdoors fully prepared, especially with reliable lighting equipment. It seeks to empower outdoor enthusiasts with proper lighting equipment for use in extreme environments and activities.
Bushnell is a brand that’s all about outdoor products, with a special focus on hunting gear and tactical accessories. Whether you’re searching for rugged, outdoor-ready equipment or specialized items that’ll make every hunt more successful, this is one of the best-known names in the hunting space. You’ll find specialized headlamps made just for tracking and with enhanced night vision capabilities from Bushnell.
Streamlight might make plenty of different kinds of flashlights and headlamps, but this brand is no simple light company. Rather, Streamlight specializes in tactical and safety-rated lighting gear, meaning headlamps made by this brand are impressively tough and highly durable. In fact, the people behind the company’s products are those who use lighting tools in all kinds of settings, meaning you can trust that each headlamp is inspired by real-life needs.
Headlamp Pricing Considerations
For less than $20, you’ll find headlamps that are not very bright but suit basic use. They are mostly headlamps with non-rechargeable and disposable alkaline batteries. These lamps are relatively bulky, but their batteries last quite some time since they don’t consume a lot of energy. For $20 or more, you’ll find headlamps are functional and provide extreme brightness for demanding workbenches. They mostly use rechargeable batteries and are durable and waterproof, with long-lasting battery life. In this range, headlamps can also have adjustable brightness and are able to suit different uses.
Tips and Tricks
As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and headlamps. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.
- The plastic casing around the headlamp can get warm if the light is left on for an extended amount of time. However, it should never get dangerously hot. You should always turn it off when not using it, or you can wear gloves if you have sensitive hands.
- The strobe setting is more useful to alert others of your position. If you run or jog at night or ever go camping, consider using this setting to signal someone else.
- You should consider where and when you will be using the headlamp. Runners should opt for ones that are more lightweight and wobble-resistant, while campers should look for brighter headlamps with longer-lasting batteries.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!
Q: Are all headlamps water-resistant?
A: Not only will the majority of headlamps be water-resistant, but they should be waterproof, as they are designed to be used outdoors. However, this does not mean they should be submerged in water. A large amount of water can damage the batteries or ruin the light. However, using them in a light rain or snow should be fine.
Q: What types of batteries do headlamps take?
A: The majority of headlamps will typically run off of AAA batteries or lithium-ion batteries. Many also use rechargeable batteries, which allows you to save money.
Q: What is the purpose of the red light?
A: Our eyes are sensitive to light, especially at night. Red light puts less stress and pressure on our eyes. It takes longer for eyes to adjust after seeing white light, while a red light impacts them less but still allows us to see clearly. You will often see members of the military using red light to read at night.