Are you seeking the best backpacking headlamps for everyday adventures? We researched more than 50 models available in 2023 and tested the best 8 side-by-side. The type of headlamp you shop for depends on the type of activity you plan to use it for. Backpacking day and night requires a long-lasting battery. Using a headlamp to work in the garage does not require a red night vision light. No matter what you need, this list has the best to choose from. This product list was made considering battery life, beam pattern, price and additional unique benefits.
Best “All Around” – PETZL Tikkina
The PETZL Tikkina headlamp is an affordable and easy-to-use option. It is the perfect headlamp for any type of activity: camping, hiking, or even work around the house. The beam on the PETZL Tikkina is wide, allowing you to have a broad scope of vision. There is one simple on/off button where you are able to easily and conveniently choose your own lighting mode. The first click of the button turns the headlamp onto the low setting. More clicks bring you to other lighting options, and then eventually turn the headlamp off.
The burn time of the PETZL Tikkina headlamp is 220 hours-long enough to last through the entire night of adventuring. When you purchase this headlamp, it comes with three standard batteries. If regular batteries are not what you are looking for to power your headlamp, this model is also compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery. You can purchase this rechargeable battery separately if you are interested.
The lamp measures two inches high and six inches wide, so it is compact and light on your head. It is also resistant to water, but is not waterproof, so that is something to seriously consider if you plan on using this headlamp in damp environments.
Most Versatile Headlamp – SLONIK Headlamp
Slonik headlamp is a lightweight headlamp that weighs only 4.19 ounces, so it will not weigh down your bag when traveling or hiking. With a beam that can reach up to 600 feet, this backpacking headlamp is great for seeing far into the distance. The five different lighting mods are controlled by one easy button.
The battery that comes with the SLONIK headlamp is rechargeable by USB cord that is included with your purchase. Charging is quick and simple. In two hours, the headlamp will have 8 hours of life while in low mode and 3.5 hours in high mode. Unlike the PETZL Tikkina, the SLONIK is completely waterproof and extremely durable. It is made from aero-grade aluminum alloy. This specific material allows for use in all kinds of extreme conditions.
The SLONIK headlamp could not be any more convenient; it is truly the most versatile headlamp on our list. Because it is so light, it can detach quickly to fit discreetly into your pocket. The mount on the headband allows for 90 degree rotations both up and down. The headband is completely adjustable and a one-size-fits all.
The lifespan of this headlamp is 100,000 hours, and the company offers a 48-month warranty for any manufacturing defects, although customers mention how well-made this product is. The only complain that battery life is too short, and that it is even difficult to charge at times.
Longest Battery Life on a Headlamp – Petzl Actik Core
Another headlamp from the PETZL brand, the ACTIK CORE, is built for the most active of wearers. It features two beam patterns, wide and mixed, so that you can have the best lighting for your outdoor activities. The ACTIK CORE is bright and compact so that it helps you see while remaining virtually weightless on your head.
Although more expensive than the previously mentioned headlamp options, the ACTIK CORE has more features included. Many of these extra features are for safety. For example, the headband on this headlamp is reflective as an added safety measure. In addition, there is a safety whistle connected to the headband.
The lighting options on the ACTIK CORE are also slightly more advanced than previous options. There are low, medium, high, and red light options to set the beam. There are also beam patterns to choose from. As far as distance goes, the high beam of this headlamp is 350 lumens and reaches up to 95 meters, while the lowest beam, the red beam, reaches only 5 meters in front of you. All these options allow for customization based on the activity you are participating in.
With all these lighting options also comes long battery life. The maximum amount of burn time that the ACTIK CORE offers is 160 hours. This backpacking headlamp comes with a CORE rechargeable battery that charges with a USB port. Also, in case of battery failure, this headlamp is compatible with AAA batteries.
The Lightest Headlamp – Nitecore NU25
If you liked all the features that the ACTIK CORE offers, but aren’t looking to spend the extra money, the Nitecore NU25 may be the right headlamp for you. This headlamp has many of the same features, but is offered for half the price. The main difference, however, is that the Nitecore has a CRI (short for Color Rendering Index) auxiliary light. This allows the user to see more realistic colors than the typical LED lights used in headlamps. The red light on the Nitecore is an LED light, however, but it provides help with seeing at night.
You want to know the best part? This headlamp weighs less than an ounce on its own. You read that right: less than an ounce! If you are backpacking for long trips, you know that every ounce in your backpack counts. This ultralight headlamp is the perfect fit, and will easily fit in the smallest of pocket and not add weight to your pack.
Another reason this headlamp is great for travel is that it uses a built-in micro-USB charger and charging cable. This allows the headlamp to be charged virtually anywhere and does not require you to pack along a bulky battery pack or long cord. Because it is compact and light does not mean it isn’t strong. The highest setting throws 360 lumens up to 88 yards away. There are four adjustable brightness settings in addition to the CRI setting and red light setting.
The Longest Lasting Headlamp – Black Diamond Revolt
This backpacking headlamp is made in the USA and has some unique features. The most interesting feature about the Black Diamond Revolt is its ability to program the brightness that you prefer. When you first turn on the headlamp, you can program which level of brightness is the first to appear. This is convenient if you are using your headlamp for one specific purpose.
Another great feature about this headlamp is that it is compatible with multiple different types of batteries and is USB rechargeable as well. You are able to use Black Diamond AAA rechargeable batteries, regular alkaline AAA batteries, or lithium AAA batteries. Although none of these batteries are included with the headlamp, it is convenient to have many options to choose from when ordering.
The lights included in the Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp are one TriplePower LED, two SinglePower LEDs, and two SinglePower red LEDs. The red lights are used in the dark, while the white lights can combine to shine up to a maximum of 300 lumens. Not only are there multiple lights to choose from, there are also multiple light settings to choose from. Depending on your activity, you can choose between proximity and distance lighting, dimming, strobe, red night-vision, and lock modes.
You might be wondering how long you can use the Black Diamond Revolt before the batteries die. While using the TriplePower lights on alkaline batteries, this headlamp has the capability to be used for up to 300 hours before dying. This makes it the longest lasting headlamp on our list.
The Best Emergency Headlamp – PETZL e+Lite
The PETZL e_LITE is a headlamp specifically designed to be used in emergency situations only. It is ultra-compact, and can be stored with its batteries for up to ten years. This headlamp comes with its own carrying case so that it can be stored safely and will be ready in a moment’s notice.
Because this headlamp is designed specifically for emergency use only, it does not have many of the high-tech features that some of the other headlamps on our list feature. It does, however, offer the basic necessities. The white light setting allows you to see in the dark, while the red strobe light allows you to be seen by help in an emergency situation. There is also a lock switch so that the headlamp does not accidentally turn off.
The most unique part of this headlamp is that is able to resist extreme temperatures. The PETZL e+LITE can withstand cold temperatures of -22 degrees Fahrenheit and hot temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It can also be submerged under three feet of water for a maximum of 30 minutes.
The Brightest Headlamp – Fenix HM50R
The Fenix HM50R wins the award for brightest headlamp on our list. This headlamp clocks in at 500 lumens that reach over 87 yards away. The brightness of this lamp is significantly stronger than any others on our list, so if you are looking for the brightest option, this is up your alley.
Not only is the light bright on the Fenix HM50R, but the battery lasts for up to 148 hours on a single charge. Sound like a good choice for a backpacking headlamp yet? The batteries are USB rechargeable, and the charging port is protected by a screw-top cap. In addition to this, your purchase comes with a battery organizer to keep track of and store extra charged batteries in case of emergency.
One single side switch controls the brightness and lighting settings on this headlamp. Simply tap the button until you reach your desired brightness or light mode. This button allows you to operate the headlamp with one hand, keeping your other hand free to partake in whatever activity you desire.
In addition to the multiple lighting settings, the Fenix HM50R has some safety features. The headband that attaches to the lamp is reflective, allowing the user to be seen even if the headlamp is off. In case of emergency, the headlamp is resistant to water and can withstand temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. It can also be submerged up to 2 meters under water.
The Best of the Rest – Ledlenser MH6
Last, but not least, is the Ledlenser MH6. This headlamp is known for its light weight and adjustability. The wide headband strap is designed for optimum comfort and is even machine washable. It is made of a durable material that will last for years to come. The Ledlenser MH6 keeps your hands free while you do all types of activities: camping, hiking, working in the garage, and more.
The rechargeable battery for the Ledlenser MH6 is long-lasting and provides 20 hours of light on a single charge. The headlamp actually has a temperature control system that regulates the temperature of the light and keeps the lamp cool on your skin. The light features three programmable settings. You can choose between power, low power, and defense strobe settings. The headlamp also provides a maximum of 200 lumens of light.
The best feature of the Ledlenser MH6 is the rapid focus feature. This light has a patented advanced focus system that allows the light to transition between settings quickly and efficiently so you are not left in the dark waiting for your light to adjust. The light focuses both near and far seamlessly.
Our team dock points for the length of battery life, saying that it does not last long enough for multiple uses before charging. It is also mentioned that the battery does not recharge easily or fully. Another common complaint is that the light unexpectedly dims on its own at random times.
You may not consider battery life an important quality of a headlamp, however, it is worth considering. If you are an adventurer, you do not want to be held back by having to constantly charge your batteries. Look for a headlamp whose length of battery life matches the type of activities you plan on using it for.
Beam pattern is another quality to consider when choosing a backpacking headlamp. If you are concerned about your long-distance vision, choose a headlamp with a strong, steady beam. If you are concerned about being seen from a distance for safety reasons, choose a headlamp with a strobe option.
Price is always something to consider when making any purchase. As with most products, a larger price tag does not always mean that something is better quality. Make sure to read reviews and compare features of headlamps with their price point.
Additional Unique Benefits
All of the headlamps on our list have some sort of unique feature. Choosing which unique features speak to you is also a personal decision that cannot be made for you. Choose the headlamp that best fits your needs based on its features.
How to Choose the Best Headlamp for Backpacking?
Choosing the best headlamp for backpacking is somewhat of a personal choice. It really depends on what specific qualities are important to you in a headlamp, as well as where and how long you will be backpacking. If you will only be traveling during the day and have somewhere to stay at night, and emergency headlamp will be enough. If you plan to travel at night as well, you need a headlamp with a red light and multiple lighting options. If you plan to be traveling for long periods of time without being able to charge a battery, then you must look for a headlamp with the longest battery life.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answer to this questions depends on where you plan on running. On a city street, the most lumens you need for running would be about 50. However, if you are running on dark, back roads, 100 lumens would be more appropriate.
Some headlamps have a whistle attached to the headband portion. The whistle is an added safety feature in case of emergency. If you are hiking or backpacking or camping and are in danger or need help, the whistle on the headband can be used to signal for assistance.
The red light helps boost night vision. White light simply helps a person see when it is dark. Red light is not as bright, and allows the person to see in the dark more clearly. Red lights on headlamps operate at low lumens.
Yes, 100 lumen mode is typically enough to move safely in pitch dark conditions. This also depends on the quality of your eyesight.