The best headlamps for camping and backpacking in 2018

best headlamp for camping

Why do I need a headlamp when I have an alternate light source like a flashlight or a lantern? That is a common question you may end up asking yourself or other when the discussion comes around buying a headlamp.

To make it absolutely clear, a headlamp scores over a flashlight by allowing you hand free operation. Imagine needing to climb a tree or a slope with just one hand while you struggle with your other hand to maneuver your flashlight. Hope that is not a situation that you find yourself in.

Be it throwing some much-wanted light while reading a book, illuminating your jogging trail or your surrounding or cooking some dinner, a good headlamp is the gear of choice in such a situation.

In this article, we take a look at some of the best headlamps available in the market and the factors to consider while picking the most suitable headlamp for your needs.

Best headlamp comparison list

Our pick of the best headlamp out in the market and how they stack against each other.
PictureProductWeight (grams)BatteryLight output(lumens) & beam distance(feet) 

Shining buddy headlamp73.73 x AAA110 lumens & 100 feet

Vitchelo headlamp903 x AAA168 lumens & 110 feet
Foxelli headlamp124USB chargeable280 lumens & 120 feet
Xtreme Bright Zoomable headlamp1363 x AAA250 lumens & 500 feet
GRDE Zoomable headlamp1362 x 18650 rechargeable batteries1800 lumens
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp1363 x AAA130 lumens and 200 feet

Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp683 x AAA130 lumens and 200 feet
Petzl - TIKKA XP Headlamp1103 x AAA180 lumens and 250 feet
Fenix HP25R USB rechargeable Headlamp184 1 x 18650 rechargeable battery or 2 CR123A lithium batteries1000 lumens and 350 feet
Nitecore HC60 USB rechargeable Headlamp1401 x 18650 rechargeable battery1000 lumens and 380 feet
Zebralight H600 Mk III Cool White Headlamp1251 x 18650 rechargeable battery1300 lumens and 400 feet

How to pick the best headlamp?

Technically speaking, a headlamp is like any other electronic light source consisting of a bulb and a power source, mounted on a headgear. So when it comes to picking the best headlamp, you need to consider the following factors,

  • Light output
  • Beam distance
  • Battery used
  • Battery life
  • Water resistance
  • Weight

Light output

Light output of a bulb is the measure of how much light is being emitted by the bulb. It is measured in lumens. For normal visibility, a light source of 30 lumens is enough. Most manufacturers offer anywhere from around 100 lumens for headlamps such as Shining buddy and Black Diamond Revolt to as high as 1800 lumens for options such as GRDE Zoomable. When picking a headlamp, you should pick one that has enough output on a low setting so that you can preserve battery as well. The higher setting you use, the faster your battery depletes. So finding the sweet spot between light output and battery consumption becomes all the very important.

A headlamp with an output between 100 and 200 lumens is more than enough to be considered good for most outdoor activities. However, if you are into caving and wilderness hunting, you can consider higher output choices such as the Nitecore HC60 and Zebralight H600 Mk III Cool White.

Beam distance

Beam distance is a measure of the distance to which the light can illuminate an object. It is measured in meters. Simply put, if a lamp has a beam distance of 50 meters, then it can illuminate an object if it is less than or equal to 50 meters. Anything greater than that, the visibility will be affected. The ANSI Standard effectively defines a useful level of light as the maximum distance at which the light source will produce 1/4 lux of light. Beam distance and light output are not directly proportional to each other. So a higher light output doesn’t necessarily mean that the beam distance will also be higher.

Beam distance is accomplished by the reflector and the lamp’s optics. A good reflector and a quality optics and direct the light beam and throw it to a farther distance.

Most manufacturers exaggerate both the light output and the beam distance of the headlamp, often it is some percentage less than what is advertised.

Battery used

A headlamp is a portable gear so it uses some sort of lightweight power source. Most headlamps either use a 2 AA or 3 AAA batteries. Rechargeable ones can also be used if specified on the product else it should be avoided. When selecting a headlamp, it is much better to opt for one that uses less number of batteries to reduce wastage and harm to the environment. If a headlamp uses 2 AA batteries instead of 3 AAA, it is a greener choice. Headlamps which can use rechargeable ones are even better. These are small considerations aimed towards being eco-friendly.

Battery life

The life of the battery is directly proportional to the usage of the headlamp. A bulb with a higher lumen will consume more power. Also operating the lamp on full beam mode can consume more power. The life of the battery depends on your usage pattern. Like we discussed earlier, a higher lumen bulb is just an exaggeration and most people will never need that much power. Make a smart decision between lumens so that you get the optimal life out of your batteries.

Water resistance

Headlamps are just not intended for use in the warm of dry weather. Also, there is no guarantee that the weather will always stay as how it was when you started your camping trip. Snow or rain is common and as such, they are designed to be water resistant. Also, since they rest higher on your head, chances are that they tend to get more exposed to water. Most of them come with an IPX rating. An IPX rating of 4 or higher is preferred. IPX4 means that the gear is tested by splashing water on it from all directions. An IPX7 rating means your gear will be waterproof up to a depth of 1 meter or 3 feet.

Always buy an IPX rated piece so that you get good life out of your gear.


Headlamps are portable gears and are designed to be lightweight. You cannot image lugging a quarter pound of weight on your head. Most headlamps are a little over 100 grams, and some tend to be a little heavier. But they are designed to disperse the weight evenly to not make them feel bulkier. A lighter a headlamp, the less stressful it will be on your neck and make you feel less uncomfortable. The bulk of the weight is at the front towards the bulb and that is where the batteries are also located.

Which is the best headlamp and what are our top picks?

Black Diamond Revolt : Editor’s choice for best all-purpose headlamp

best all-purpose headlamp
The Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp is a lightweight, high performing headlamp from the worldwide leader in outdoor gears. It has one triple power LED, two single power white LEDs and two single power red LEDs which can emit light at a maximum output of 130 lumens over a distance of 200 feet. The settings include full strength in proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red night vision and lock modes.
It runs on 3 x AAA batteries – rechargeable or alkaline. The rechargeable batteries are included with the pack, though you would get better performance with alkaline batteries. The battery life of ReVolt is one of the best in its class. One of the best features of ReVolt is the three-level remaining battery life indicator, which indicates the remaining battery life when the headlamp is turned on.
The headband of the ReVolt is extremely comfortable and comes in 5 vibrant colors – Spectrum Blue, Vibrant Orange, Matte Black, Titanium, and Ultra White. The buttons on the headlamp are decently sized, making it easy to operate the mode when mounted.
The ReVolt headlamp is rated IPX4, meaning it provides decent protection from splashing water, though you may have to protect it in heavy rains.

For all these reasons, the Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp is Editor’s choice for the best all-purpose headlamp.

Vitchelo bright – Editor’s choice pick for the best lightweight headlamp

Best lightweight headlamp
The Vitchelo bright is a super bright headlamp allowing beam distance of up to 110 meters. It has both a red and white light mode with separate buttons for each light type for easy operation. It runs on 3 x AAA batteries and 3 Duracell batteries are included in the pack.

The elastic headband is soft and comfortable as well as adjustable. It is super light and weighs just 90 grams. The beam angle is adjustable up to 45 degrees and is great for sprinting, running and camping.

The Vitchelo bright is rated IPX6 which is great for use in heavy rains and is ideal for an outing in any climate.

For these reasons, the Vitchelo superbright headlamp is our editor’s pick choice for the best lightweight headlamp.

Shining Buddy headlamp – Best value pick for best headlamp

Best value pick headlamp

The Shining Buddy is a great option for its price. It has 4 settings of high & low beam along with red beam and flashing.

It runs on 3 x AAA batteries and comes with 3 Duracell batteries in the pack.

It is ultra lightweight at just 73.7 grams and the band is adjustable. The bulb is rated at 110 lumens. This headlamp is IPX5 rated which is water resistant against jets of water. Ideal for outdoor activities in heavy rains.

For the price, this is a great headlamp for your camping need. For these reasons, the Shining Buddy is our best value pick for the best headlamp.

Batteries and chargers for headlamps

The batteries are probably one of the most important items for your headlamp. Always go with standard alkaline batteries such as ones by Energizer and Duracell to get maximum life and output.
Most of the rechargeable headlamps listed above come with their own batteries. However, if you are looking for replacement batteries and charger for your headlamp, you can consider the following options:

Final thoughts on the best headlamp

A headlamp is an essential camping gear which should be part of your camping gear checklist. Choosing a good one is more than just walking into a store and picking the first available option, it involves considering the weight, the battery type and life, the light output and beam distance and the durability of the product. In this review, we looked at some of the best headlamps in the market to help you choose the best headlamp that will become part of your camping gear. We hope you found this guide useful and will help you pick the best headlamp without any difficulty. Happy camping!

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Featured image credit:Pierce Martin


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