8 Best Hiking & Camping Headlamps in 2020 Reviewed
8 Best Hiking & Camping Headlamps in 2020 Reviewed
A camping headlamp is a fantastic solution to light up your nighttime adventures, whilst keeping both arms free for the task at hand. Whether you’re pitching a tent in the dark, or love trail running at dusk: a headlamp is a handy accessory for all kinds of outdoor activities.
In the past, headlamps were quite bulky and cumbersome, but fortunately, this is no longer the case. New technologies and innovations led to the arrival of a new generation of headlamps, lightweight, rechargeable, streamlined, and super bright. And the best part? A quality headlamp for campers, hikers, backpacking, mountaineering, biking, trail running, or simply reading a book in your tent is now more affordable than ever before!
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
- One Quad Power LED and one Double Power white LED emit 300 lumens. Max Distances : [High] 80 m; [Low] 16 m. Max Burn Time : [High] 30 H (est.); [Low] 175 H (est.)
8 Best Hiking and Camping Headlamps - Overview
And here’s an overview of the best camping headlamps on the market today:
With so many options, it can be challenging to determine which headlamp ticks all the boxes. That is exactly why we’ve created this comprehensive Best Camping Headlamp overview. We’ve compared dozens of different products on Amazon, rating them on value, brightness, comfort, and durability, resulting in a list of 3 top-rated choices.
We've ensured that our top 3 includes the top-rated product at every price-point: budget-friendly (PETZL TIKKINA), mid-budget (Black Diamond Spot), and high-end (COAST FL75R Rechargeable LED Headlamp). Instead of overloading you with options, this curated top 3 instantly guides you towards the best-value choice, based on what you want to spend.
Discover details about the Best Headlamps below, and get inspired to upgrade your outdoor gear with this nifty, hands-free gadget!
1. Black Diamond Spot
- One Quad Power LED and one Double Power white LED emit 300 lumens. Max Distances : [High] 80 m; [Low] 16 m. Max Burn Time : [High] 30 H (est.); [Low] 175 H (est.)
The Black Diamond Spot is one of the most popular headlamps amongst outdoor enthusiasts, and it's no surprise why this style is rated so highly. This mid-budget option offers high-end functionality and durability, making it a worthy investment that should last you for years to come. The Black Diamond Spot boasts 300 lumens, more than sufficient light output to illuminate your path during night hiking, biking, or trail running. The maximum beam distance of the style is approximately 260 feet (80 meters).
The Spot by Black Diamond also comes with an impressive range of lighting functions, allowing you to customize its brightness for each specific occasion. The design includes a dimming function, a flashing mode, a red light night vision, strobe mode, lock mode, and low and high lumen settings. Another perk is that the Black Diamond Spot comes with innovative PowerTap technology. This means that you can quickly adjust the brightness and switch between modes by tapping your finger on the side of the touch-sensitive housing. Yes, it really is that easy!
This headlamp is also waterproof and has been quality tested to operate up to 1.1 meters underwater for 30 minutes. There is some discrepancy in the style's water-resistant rating. The manufacturer lists it as IPX8 but based on the tests performed, we'd rated it at an IPX7. That said, this IPX7 rating still exceeds many other headlamps on the market. And is more than sufficient for usage in heavy-rain. But it is worth noting that the manufacturer's mention of IPX8 might be slightly misleading if you plan to use the headlamp for water activities.
Comfortable and energy-efficient
Overall the style also scores a big thumbs up on comfort and wearability. The low-profile headband design makes it comfortable to wear for extended periods, whilst its 3oz weight is relatively light for a style this versatile. The Black Diamond Spot uses 3 x AAA-batteries (included) and comes with a three-level power meter that shows the remaining battery life. According to the manufacturer, the battery life is a maximum of 180 hours. Unfortunately, the Black Diamond Spot is not available in a rechargeable battery option, only an AAA-powered version. We would have liked to have the option to enjoy its fantastic versatility and bright illumination without having to deal with disposable batteries, but for the price listed, we think it's a fair tradeoff.
2. PETZL TIKKINA Headlamp
- GREAT FOR CAMPING: Lightweight and compact, the TIKKINA is the ideal headlamp for the campsite, the trail and your pack; Weighs just 81 g and features an IPX4 protection rating
Looking for a budget-friendly headlamp that doesn't compromise on performance, then you'll love the PETZL TIKKINA. Don't be fooled by its very affordable pricing: as this design might be cheap, but its also definitely cheerful. Ideal for campers who want basic functionality, without all the bells and whistles. The PETZL TIKKINA offers more than sufficient illumination to light up your outdoor adventures, for great-value pricing that makes it quite the steal. Weighing just 2.9oz, it's also a lightweight choice that won't weigh down your camping comfort!
The PETZL TIKKINA has an output of 250 lumens via a single white LED, adequate for both campsite usage and nighttime backpacking or hiking. The design has a maximum beam distance of approximately 200 feet (60 meters), which should be sufficient for most tasks. Though for trail running or other fast-paced activities, you might want to consider a different product with a higher beam distance to ensure maximum safety and broader vision.
Though the PETZL TIKKINA lacks some of the fancier lighting modes, as found in the Black Diamond Spot, it still comes with the most essential functionality. The style offers three different white light levels, emitted by its single white LED: proximity, distance, and movement. Do note that this option does not come with red LED lighting abilities. For its affordable pricing, you'll also need to sacrifice a bit of water-resistance, as this product is rated at IPX4 (resistant to water splashes from any direction).
Hybrid battery option
A big perk of the budget-friendly PETZL TIKKINA is its battery type: hybrid. This means the headlamp can operate on 3 standard AAA-batteries but is also compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery (sold separately). We appreciate the option to switch to a rechargeable solution, as this is more cost-effective in the long-term. And also allows you to switch to regular AAA-batteries when your rechargeable battery is drained and you don't have access to a power source. The PETZL TIKKINA has a maximum burn time of 120 hours.
Overall, we rate the PETZL TIKKINA as a great buy for campers on a budget. It's not the most heavy-duty, versatile, or durable style of all, but for the price listed, you can't go wrong. With sufficient lumens, beam distance, and basic light modes, it's a simple yet functional addition to your camping gear.
Tip: Want an even more affordable, basic option? Consider the Energizer 80 Lumen LED Headlamp. Though this style lacks the light output for nighttime hiking, it's basic 80 lumens is just adequate for usage inside your tent/around the campsite. Plus, for under $10, it's extremely budget-friendly. Though, if it was up to us, we'd advise you to spend a bit more to enjoy triple the performance of the 250 lumens PETZL TIKKANA.
3. COAST FL75R Rechargeable Headlamp
- TWIST FOCUSING OPTIC: The simple Twist Focusing system goes from an Ultra View Flood Beam to Bulls-Eye Spot Beam.
If you want maximum lumens, beam distance, and lighting options, the COAST FL75R Rechargeable Headlamp is your high-performance match. This rechargeable headlamp has a maximum output of 530 lumens, which is 1.5x more than the mid-budget Black Diamond Spot. The trade-off is that the COAST FL75R is more expensive and heavier: but if you want ultra-bright light and powerful beam distance, that's a fair compromise to make.
The headlamp's 530 lumens result in a single beam distance of 511 feet (156 meters), which is more than adequate in any type of backcountry scenario. And you don't have to worry about blinding your camping companions, or yourself, when you use the headlamp for short-distance illumination, as multiple light settings allow you to quickly dim brightness when desired. This style has 3 brightness levels: low (65 lumens), medium (260 lumens), and maximum brightness (530 lumens), and an additional red light mode.
The COAST FL75R Rechargeable Headlamp is easy to operate with two intuitive buttons. The first button gives you the ability to shine an ultra-wide floodlight beam, whilst the second button switches instantly to a fixed red LED light to preserve night vision. When in regular white LED flood beam mode, COAST’s Twist Focus system allows you to easily transition to a long-reaching spot beam, simply by rotating the head of the lamp. The transition between beams and modes is seamless, with no halos or hotspots, adapting quickly to your needs without interruptions.
Rechargeable or AAA-batteries
Another reason we rate the COAST FL75R Rechargeable Headlamp as one of the best headlamps on the market is that this high lumen design comes with a hybrid battery type option. The design's special COAST Dual Power technology enables you to use either a USB-rechargeable Li-ion battery pack (included) or 3 standard AAA-alkaline batteries (also included). The option to switch between battery types means this headlamp never loses its functionality. When the Li-Ion battery pack is drained, and you don't have access to a power source to plug in the charger, simply switch to regular AAA-batteries and voila: you're good to go. Even better, when you order the COAST FL75R Rechargeable Headlamp, the package already includes the batteries, the USB-charging cable, and the AC and DC adapters - meaning you don't have to spend additional cash to instantly take advantage of its hybrid battery option.
Other perks are that the COAST FL75R Rechargeable Headlamp comes with a reflective headband to make you visible to others in low light. And the lamp itself features a hinged, tilting head, allowing you to configure it to the perfect setup for your preferred lighting angle. This great headlamp is also hardhat compatible and includes special clips to make attaching it to a hard hat simple and straightforward - ideal for mountaineering!
Quite heavy compared to other models
There are some cons. The COAST FL75R Rechargeable Headlamp is quite heavy compared to the previously listed models, weighing 3.7oz. You may not consider this a very big weight difference to the Black Diamond Spot's 3oz, but trust us: every gram makes a difference when you wear a lamp on your head. We also wish the COAST FL75R Rechargeable Headlamp had a higher IPX water resistance rating. Listed as IPX4, it's waterproof enough to withstand rainy conditions, but for the price listed, we would have expected the IPX rating to be slightly better. Also, the COAST FL75R Rechargeable Headlamp is relatively expensive, making it less accessible for those on a stricter budget. That said, we think it's a reasonable price when you take into account its very impressive 530 lumens output, high beam distance, and high-quality construction.
4. Black Diamond Revolt
- One Triple Power LED and 1 Double Power LED can combine to emit up to 300 lumens
With several added features, the Black Diamond Revolt is an improvement on the Black Diamond Spot 325. It has maintained the low-profile design and although it isn’t quite as ultralight it still grants hikers and backpackers hands-free white light and red light high lumen light modes for night hiking. Black Diamond has designed this headlamp with one TriplePower LED, two SinglePower white LEDs, and two SinglePower red LEDs. Like the Spot 325, the Black Diamond Revolt has a peripheral setting for tasks around the campsite and a dimming feature to go from maximum brightness to lower light modes according to the task at hand. The PowerTap feature makes it easy to get a boost of light.
The red light night-vision mode has proximity and strobe settings and activates without needing to cycle through white mode. Black Diamond has built the Revolt to include full strength in proximity, distance, dimming, strobe, red night-vision, and lock modes. The three-level power display will let you know how much juice is left in the device, and this model is USB rechargeable with the option to use AAA batteries. With two power options, you can have twice the battery life. That’s one advantage of the Black Diamond Revolt, but it does have a lower waterproof rating than the Black Diamond Spot with an IPX 4 rating.
5. Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
- One Quad Power LED and one Double Power white LED emit 350 lumens
The Black Diamond Storm Headlamp is fully waterproof with a rating of IPX 6 7, allowing it to withstand extreme weather and immersion up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. With 350 lumens of power and three different colored night vision modes, including red light, white light, and RGB night vision, the Black Diamond Storm has eight distinct lighting modes. Improved peripheral lighting aids close-range campsite tasks like cooking, reading or sorting gear. Brightness Memory allows hikers to return to the chosen brightness level without cycling through the other options. You can have full strength light output in proximity, distance, dimming, strobe, red, green and blue night-vision, and lock mode.
This model has a higher lumen light output out of the three Black Diamond models in this guide so far. All modes toggle using the single button on the top of the lamp. There’s also a PowerTap feature where the user can get a boost of light by tapping the side of the lamp. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a rechargeable battery so you’ll have to use AAA batteries with this model. The Black Diamond Storm LED headlamp has great ease of use that makes it handy for all sorts of nighttime outdoor activities.
6. Black Diamond Icon Headlamp
- One Quad Power LED spotlight and 1 Double Power white LED emit 500 lumens (max. setting)
This is Black Diamond's most powerful headlamp for hikers and backpackers who need high-output lighting. The Black Diamond Icon headlamp features 500-lumens of power, waterproof construction, and a removable balanced battery pack. It has a red light mode and the same green and blue light modes found in the Black Diamond Storm. Lighting settings include full strength in proximity and distance modes, as well as dimming, strobe, RGB night vision options, and a lock mode so it won’t turn on while you carry around in your pack. With a waterproof rating of IPX 6 7, the Black Diamond Icon is great for saltwater and extremely wet or dusty environments. The Icon is completely sealed and operates up to 1 meter underwater for 30 minutes. Unlike other models, it requires no drying out or maintenance after submersion.
This headlamp doesn’t have a rechargeable battery and rather than AAA batteries, it runs on AA batteries and requires four of them. That’s the tradeoff for the high-power LED lamp. The headband is also superior on this model, with a breathable adjustable head strap around the head and an additional head strap that goes long-ways down the center of the wearer’s head for additional support and security, which makes it ideal for outdoor activities like running and biking as well as hiking. The Black Diamond Icon is the most robust of the Black Diamond models available on Amazon.
7. Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
- HAVE A LIT ADVENTURE: The powerful and lightweight ACTIK CORE is built for mountaineering, running, cycling, hiking, and backpacking.
The rechargeable Petzl Actik CORE headlamp offers 350 lumens of power which makes it ideal for outdoor activities like mountaineering, running, hiking and backpacking. It comes with CORE, a battery that is USB rechargeable in any standard Micro-USB port. It is compatible with standard AAA batteries without the need for an adapter. The red light mode preserves night vision and prevents blinding other hikers. Its reflective headband helps you to be seen when a light is shone on it and is equipped with an emergency whistle for rescue situations.
The Petzl Actik Core has a run time of 160 hours, plenty for a long backpacking or hiking trip. It’s compact and ultralight so it doesn’t take up too much room in your pack. The dimming feature allows for toggling between maximum brightness and lower light modes. The Petzl Actik Core also has a wide beam setting that allows hikers to see more on the trail before them. It’s a solidly constructed and comfortable headlamp that will work in just about any dry situation in the backcountry. Careful though, because this headlamp does not have an IPX waterproof rating.
8. Fenix HM65R Headlamp
- POWERFUL DUAL BEAM - The HM65R has a max output of 1400 lumens. The spotlight reaches out to 178 yards, great for long-range applications. The floodlight can reach 60 yards at a wide-angle making it...
The Fenix HM65R rechargeable headlamp puts out 1400 lumens of light when both its spotlight and floodlight are activated. The spotlight reaches out to 178 yards for long-range applications. The floodlight can reach 60 yards at a much larger angle, illuminating your surroundings for hiking, backpacking, camping, and exploring activities. You can also easily adjust the beam angle of the HM65R up to 60 degrees. The headband is really comfortable and has an added cross head strap for a snug fit.
The Fenix HM65R is specifically designed for the toughest environments. The lightweight magnesium alloy is ultralight and durable. The all-metal frame of the HM65R is impact resistant up to 2 meters, passing the drop test from 6 different sides. Furthermore, the HM65R is rated IPF 6 8 waterproof, and can withstand complete submersion for up to 30 minutes. This durable headlamp is dual-fuel and can be powered by the included USB rechargeable battery or two AAA batteries. The battery level indicator will remind you when it is time to recharge. Once charged with the included USB cable, this headlamp can run up to 300 hours in low mode.
Each option on this list is a great headlamp, making picking a winner difficult. Each design has its pros and cons. Whilst the PETZL TIKKINA is lightweight and budget-friendly, it compromises slightly on lumens and beam distance. And whilst the COAST FL75R offers ultrabright illumination, it's slightly heavier and pricey compared to the other two styles. That said, each of the products on this list beats the competition in their respective price-ranges. We've carefully filtered through hundreds of customer reviews, expert ratings, and comparison tables to only include products that tick the box on value, performance, and comfort. Rest assured: whether you choose the PETZL TIKKINA, Black Diamond Spot, or the COAST FL75R - all three are a solid choice to illuminate your camping in style.
If we could only recommend one style out of the three, we'd advise you to invest in the Black Diamond Spot. This mid-budget option combines high-end features with budget-friendly pricing. And, in our estimate, it offers the best value-for-money out of all three styles. Its 300 lumens output and 260 feet beam distance are more than sufficient for night hiking, and even trail running, whilst its multiple light modes also allow you to dim the brightness to a level adequate for reading a book in your tent - without blinding yourself, or a partner. A red light LED mode adds to its versatility, whilst its 3.1oz silhouette is still lightweight enough to be worn for extended periods. Plus, with an IPX7 rating, it's the most water-resistant of all options on this list. A minor compromise is that this style is only available in a 3 x AAA-battery powered option, not a USB-rechargeable one. But that is pretty much the only con to be considered. The Black Diamond Spot is simply a great deal, and we think this high-quality headlamp will make any outdoor enthusiasts a 'happy camper'.
Best Camping Headlight Buying Guide
These are the most important factors to take into consideration when buying a camping headlamp:
Headlamps come in all shapes and sizes, meaning their weight can also vary greatly. From ultralight styles that weigh so little, you’ll hardly notice you’re wearing them, to heavy and super durable options that will put some strain on your muscles. That is why it's important to review the weight of a headlamp before you buy so that you avoid unwanted hefty surprises.
The weight of the headlamp is directly impacted by the materials used, the type of battery, and it’s construction. Ultralight headlamps often have a plastic casing to minimize weight. Though these are often more comfortable for all-day - or should we say: all-night - wear, they are less durable than their steel and aluminum counterparts. In contrast, heavier headlamps use premium, top-grade materials built to last, for example, stainless steel, to withstand even the toughest conditions and impact.
There isn’t an ideal weight, as each camper will experience it differently. What may feel heavy for one, is perfectly comfortable for another. However, it is handy to keep in mind that the lighter a product, the less strain it will put on your head, neck, and muscles.
One of the most important buying factors of a camping headlamp is its lumens. Lumens is a term that explains the brightness/light output of a headlamp. The higher the number of lumens, the more powerful its illumination.
Now the big question: how many lumens does a headlamp need to have? There isn’t a singular answer to that, as it depends on where and when you plan to use the headlamp. If you only plan on using it around the campsite, for example, to read a book in your tent, 50 lumens can already be sufficient. However, if you’re looking for a headlamp that provides enough light for nighttime running or after-dark hiking, at least 200 lumens is recommended.
Or, to summarize:
50-100 lumens is enough for campsite usage
100-200 lumens is enough for short distance illumination and navigation in the dark (pitching a tent, finding your way to the toilet block)
200+ is the minimum amount of lumens recommended to see your surroundings clearly during nighttime activities such as hiking, running, biking, and more.
A great solution is a headlamp with multiple light modes/intensities. If a headlamp allows you to switch between high lumens (300+) and low lumens (50-100), it’s simply more versatile. You might be tempted to simply choose a style with a high lumen output, but do consider that this light may be too harsh for use in a tent. So, by investing in a multi-setting headlamp, you’re able to alternate settings to find the perfect amount of lumen for the task at hand.
Though lumens are a great indication of the brightness and light output of a headlamp, it’s not the only factor that determines how powerful a headlamp is. Lumen measures the amount of ‘visible light’ that headlamps can produce, not the beam distance or beam focus. Some headlamps may have a moderate amount of lumen, but due to special beam focus technology, they can still reach enough distance to illuminate a trail on night hikes. Similarly, some high lumen output styles may tick the box on visible light but could lack the beam strength or focus to deliver pinpoint illumination when needed. As a general rule of thumb: lumen is a leading factor, but not the only factor. Don’t neglect to look at beam distance and customer reviews to get a better understanding of the actual brightness and performance of a headlamp.
The beam distance of a headlamp is related to the amount of lumen (output of visible light), beam focus, and the construction of the lamp. Not all headlamps are created equal, meaning there is quite a big difference in beam distance between styles and brands. How much beam distance do you need? Well, just like the lumens, this depends on where and when you plan to wear the headlamp. A beam distance of 25 feet may already be sufficient for campsite usage, but if you want full visibility of your surroundings, you’re going to need a lot more. For after-dark hikes, caving, or nighttime backpacking trips where seeing longer distances is key, choose a style with a minimum beam distance of 150 feet to guarantee performance.
Another important buying factor is whether a headlamp is water-resistant. Though most options on the market will mention being waterproof, the actual resistance to wet conditions can vary greatly. And the last thing you want on a nighttime hike is for your headlamp to fail you when bad weather strikes. This is why it helps to have a better understanding of how to measure water resistance, using the IPX Rating.
The IPX Rating, officially known as the IEC Standard 60529, is a scale of water resistance, developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission. The commission created a scale to determine if a product is only drip-proof, or fully-submersible, with 11 different levels of water resistance. This scale is:
IPX0: The product offers no special protection from water.
IPX1: Can resist water that drips vertically onto the product.
IPX2: Can resist water that hits the product at a 15° angle or less.
IPX3: Can take water sprays of up to 60°.
IPX4: Is resistant to water splashes from any direction.
IPX5: Can resist a sustained, low-pressure water jet spray.
IPX6: Can resist high-pressure, heavy sprays of water.
IPX6K: Can resist water jets of extremely high pressure. Rarely used.
IPX7: Can be submerged up to 1 meter in water for 30 minutes.
IPX8: Can be submerged deeper than 1 meter. The exact depth is specified by the manufacturer.
IPX9K: Resists high-pressure, high-temperature sprays at close range. A very special case that’s dictated by a separate standard. Rarely used.
When shopping for the Best Headlamps, look for a design with an IPX rating of at least IPX4 to ensure it is water-resistant enough to handle rainy and/or conditions, though having an even higher rating on the scale, never hurts. For caving activities or other water activities, a minimum of IPX8 is required.
When deciding on what headlamp matches you best, it’s also crucial to consider the battery type. Headlamps can run a wide range of batteries. Most low lumen budget-friendly styles use AAA-batteries, whilst high output lumen headlamps often require a battery pack to provide powerful illumination. Another option is a headlamp with rechargeable batteries, which can be more cost-effective in the long-term but may be pricier on the initial purchase. To summarize, these are the battery types most used by manufacturers to power headlamps:
Either 3 x AAA or 4 x AAA - one of the most common battery configurations for headlamps. Though AAA-batteries get the job done, they do tend to drain quickly and will need frequent replacement. Making this option cheaper on initial purchase, but more expensive in the long run. Plus, packing spare batteries will weigh down your pack, and are not a very environmentally-conscious choice.
Often found in high-lumen, long beam distance styles that need more battery power. Battery packs are nearly always located at the back of the headlamp to maintain stability. Avoid headlamps with a large or heavy battery pack at the front, as this isn’t very ergonomic and may put a strain on your neck muscles.
Headlamps with a rechargeable battery or rechargeable battery pack are more affordable than ever before, making this an option for every camper; even those on a smaller budget. Some rechargeable batteries require a separate adapter pack (not always included), whilst others include a micro USB-cable that can be simply plugged into a USB-port. This last option is our preferred choice, as it means you can always recharge the batteries of your headlamp on the go if you bring a solar power bank - ensuring you don’t run out of battery power.
Rechargeable batteries are also more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly in the long-term, but if you don’t have access to a power source to recharge them on the go, they can prove a hassle if you run out of battery power. Making AAA-battery type headlamps a smarter choice for multi-day trips, as you can simply pack spare batteries to ensure your headlamp keeps working at all times.
Hybrid headlamps are the most versatile choice in battery type. These lamps work both on rechargeable batteries, and AAA batteries: giving you a choice of which battery to use. This means that when the rechargeable battery runs out, you can simply insert some AAA-batteries and don’t have to worry about finding a power source to recharge. Do note that hybrid battery type headlamps tend to be slightly more expensive. But for their versatility, we think it's worth the investment if you plan on going long distance with your headlamp.
Battery run time
Also important to note is that headlamps can vary in energy-efficiency, which will directly impact the run time. Some designs may only provide a few hours of light on the highest lumen setting, whilst others can last multiple days thanks to their energy-efficiency. If you plan on using a headlamp continuously for multiple hours, double-check that the battery has sufficient run time if shopping for a rechargeable style. If you’re more fond of an AAA-battery powered option, check how long the headlamp will run on a single load to get an idea of often you’ll need to replace the batteries. As this prevents you from being caught off guard by not packing enough spares.