Top Headlamps Reviewed

A good tactical headlamp is an absolute necessity for every backpacker.  Every camping or backpacking trip will require navigating the backcountry in the dark and a reliable headlamp will become one of your most important tools.

The beauty of a headlamp on the trail is the convenience of a hands-free light source.  They come in handy when hiking on dark trails, setting up after the sun’s gone down, late night bathroom trips, reading, and so much more.

The hardest part in choosing the right headlamp is knowing which one is best for your adventure. 

Because there are so many great headlamps to choose from, it’s important to know exactly what your needs are, along with your desired fit.  You also want to make sure you get one that’s designed specifically for backpackers, some are better for night workers, mechanics, and engineers.

You can find all kinds of different tactical headlamps that include different brightness levels, lumens, beam distance, battery life, and even colors.

To compare headlamps, be sure to check out ratings and reviews below of the best tactical headlamps available today.

If you’re more interested in just cutting to the chase, make sure to read up on our featured headlamp, the TL900 Tactical Headlamp.

We’ve also included a handy buying guide below, with tips on how to find the best tactical camping headlamp for your next adventure!

Top Headlamps Rankings

  1. Nitecore HC30 1000 Lumens Rechargeable LED Headlamp

  2. Editors Rating:
    (4.9 / 5)

    Best Overall Option

    Weight 1.42 oz
    Lumens 1000
    Beam Distance 530
    Life Span 330
    Current Price $87.95
    Pros 1000 max lumens, 5 light settings, and 3 special modes, Good for camping and work, Ultralight headlamp that uses 18650 rechargeable battery or 2 CR-123's,
    Cons The head strap can break easily, , , ,
    Our Take:

    The Nitecore HC30 1000 Lumens Rechargeable LED Headlamp is a powerful headlamp that fits perfect for hiking and backpacking with the utility of a work headlamp.

    Despite weighing less than 1.5 ounces, the Nitecore HC350 runs off of one high-capacity 18650 rechargeable battery or 2 CR-123’s so you don’t have to fuss with constantly buying new batteries.

    You do have the ability to remove the light itself from the headgear to use as a flashlight on its own and performs as good as most other camping flashlights.

    The light is provided by a CREE XM-L2 U2 LED which can crank out 1000 max lumens which is impressive for a backpacking headlamp.

    You also get 100 degree wide angle which helps for needing to see things up close, with a 162 meter throw for enhanced distance visibility.

    The light is built from mineral glass coating and reflects nicely to provide a powerful beam.

    You get 5 standard settings:

    Turbo: 1000 lumens / 1 hr
    High: 400 lumens / 3 hr 30 min
    Mid: 210 lumens / 7 hr 15 min
    Low: 70 lumens / 15 hr 15 min
    Ultralow: 1 lumen / 330 hr

    You also get 3 special modes including:
    Strobe for tactical advantage.
    SOS and Beacon for alert and signaling.

    The cooling grooves at the head of the lamp are a nice touch to help the light cool down after long use. There’s also Advanced Temperature Regulation (ATR) which automatically prevents the lamp from overheating.

    Included with the Nitecore HC30 are also an i2 smart charger, Car AC adapter, and LumenTac battery organizer.

    We encourage you to compare the Nitecore HC30 to our editor’s choice best camping headlamp, the TL900. Be sure to choose the best one for your next outdoor adventure!

    Read our full review of the Nitecore HC30 1000 Lumens Rechargeable LED Headlamp

  3. Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

  4. Editors Rating:
    (4.8 / 5)

    Weight 3.2 oz
    Lumens 350
    Beam Distance 260
    Life Span 120
    Current Price $43.67
    Pros 8 different lighting modes, 3 Night Vision modes including Red, green, and blue lights., Very comfortable strap and LED casing, 1 Button, Power Tap technology,
    Cons Battery life is a bit inconsistent and can drain quickly, , , ,
    Our Take:

    The Black Diamond Storm Headlamp is a well-constructed headlamp that’s built for all outdoor conditions.

    The Storm is very comfortable on your head. One of the most annoying parts about headlamps is the discomfort of the strap and LED pressing against your forehead.

    The Storm actually feels so good on your head that it’s easy to forget that it’s even there in the first place.

    The headlamp is also IP67 certified waterproof and can withstand being submerged up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. It’s also dustproof.

    As opposed to the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp’s 7 light modes, the Storm gives you 8 light modes which include red, green, and blue lights for improved night vision.

    The lighting power itself is very powerful at 350 lumens reaching about 85 meters. This will give you nighttime backpackers plenty of illumination on the dark trail.

    However, when you don’t need that kind of power, the Black Diamond Storm can switch to more peripheral lighting for close more close-up needs like reading, searching through your pack, cooking, or looking for a bathroom spot.

    There’s also one button Power Tap technology and memory settings that make it easy to find your desired brightness setting.

    The Black Diamond Storm is versatile offering full range of motion from the LED itself

    Max burn time is around 120 hours from 4 AAA batteries.

    See how the Black Diamond Spot headlamp compares to our top-choice tactical headlamp.

    Read our full review of the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

  5. ONE80 Light Headlamp

  6. Editors Rating:
    (4.4 / 5)

    Weight 3.3 oz
    Lumens 360
    Beam Distance 50
    Life Span 7
    Current Price from $50.00
    Pros 180° peripheral lighting, 20 High powered LED's, USB rechargeable batteries, Comfy, machine washable strap,
    Cons Not waterproof, No vertical range of motion for the lamp., , ,
    Our Take:

    The ONE80 Light Headlamp is a great headlamp for backpackers looking for a wider flood of light versus just the narrow beam and spot that you get with most other headlamps.

    The ONE80 gives you 20 LED’s that provide both a powerful spotlight setting and a wider, 180° peripheral lighting setting that produces more of a natural, daytime-like lighting which can be easier on your eyes.

    This kind of natural vision can be very helpful on the trail where you don’t always need to see so far ahead as much as you need to see more of what’s on your sides.

    The only downside is that the peripheral lighting does not reach as far out in front of you as the spotlight. This is why it’s good to be able to switch between the 2. Versatility on the trail is always good.

    The only downside of this headlamp is that there only 2 settings which is low (180 lumens) and high (360 lumens). Gearheads might be a bit disappointed by this, but it really is all you need. You have the ability to see far out in front, or dim it down for more close up needs like reading, sorting through gear, cooking, etc.

    Not to mention the high setting is very bright.

    The USB rechargeable battery pack is convenient so you’re not dropping your camping budget on batteries. On high you get about 3 hours of life, low will give you 7.

    Also keep in mind that ONE80 is not waterproof. It can deal with some light rain, but if it is submerged in water you might be out of luck.

    Aside from the unique lighting, the headstrap is very comfortable with very strong velcro strapping and weighing 3.3oz.

    Remember to see how the ONE80 compares to our editor’s choice for best tactical headlamp

    Read our full review of the ONE80 Light Headlamp

  7. Energizer LED AAA 315 Lumen Headlamp

  8. Editors Rating:
    (4.2 / 5)

    Best Budget Option

    Weight 4 oz
    Lumens 315
    Beam Distance 260
    Life Span 50
    Current Price from $25.12
    Pros Very bright 315 lumens, Affordable price, Comfy headstrap, ,
    Cons Light swivel kind of cheap, , , ,
    Our Take:

    The Energizer LED AAA 315 Lumen Headlamp is an affordable headlamp that is built to last.

    You get 5 light settings including high, low, full spot, full flood, and night vision red light.

    The settings are easy to adjust by simply pressing one of the 2 buttons on top of the lamp.

    On the high setting, you get 315 lumens at a beam distance of 85 meters which will give you plenty of light if you’re doing some handy work. You can also get away with using this for camping and jogging, but it’s not the brightest flood compared to others, but for the price it works.

    There is the memory setting feature so you don’t need to scroll all the way through to find your last brightness setting.

    The bezel gives a 3 position tilt for your desired directional focus while the headstrap band is also very comfortable

    The swivel seems cheap and brittle at first but is built tough and can handle a lot of use over time as long as you are careful when opening. This can be a bit of a nuisance to remember while actually wearing it.

    The LED uses 3 AAA batteries which are secured in the casing by a clip.

    Remember to compare the Energizer LED AAA headlamp to our favorite headlamp, the TL900 Tactical Headlamp to make sure you get the best headlamp for your next adventure!

    Read our full review of the Energizer LED AAA 315 Lumen Headlamp

  9. Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

  10. Editors Rating:
    (4.1 / 5)

    Weight 3.1 oz
    Lumens 300
    Beam Distance 262
    Life Span 30
    Current Price $28.50
    Pros 300 lumens with a 30 hour burn time, PowerTap technology for easy setting adjustment, IPX8: Waterproof-Tested up to 1.1 meters of water, ,
    Cons The battery compartment is not fully secured and if the light does get wet you will need to remove the batteries to let them dry., , , ,
    Our Take:

    The Black Diamond Spot Backpacking Headlamp is loaded with convenient features that work great for backpackers especially.

    This light packs some decent power delivering 300 max lumens up to 80 meters.

    One of the coolest features on this headlamp is Black Diamond’s PowerTap technology. This allows you to easily switch from the light’s distance mode down to proximity mode by simply tapping the side of the light casing.

    This is especially great for backpackers who need to switch light intensity from lighting up the trail to just a dim light for reading or cooking.

    Within each mode, there are several brightness settings as well, including dimming, strobe, red night-vision. The great thing is you don’t have to cycle through all the different settings to get to your light.

    There’s also brightness memory so you can get your previous light setting when turning the light back on.

    The light casing is extremely durable with an IPX8: Waterproof-Tested up to 1.1 meters of water and will operate for 30 minutes.

    The only bummer is that the battery compartment is not fully secured and if the light does get wet you will need to remove the batteries to let them dry.

    The head strap is very easy to adjust. Unlike other headlamps, you don’t have to remove the Black Diamond off your head and can fully adjust the strapping while its still on your head. This is also great for runners.

    This headlamp takes 3 AAA batteries and has a run time of 30 hours at 300 lumens so it works great for a few nights out on the trail.

    As much as we loved the Black Diamond Spot, we always encourage our readers to compare this headlamp to the TL900 Tactical Headlamp, which is our editor’s choice backpacking headlamp.

    Read our full review of the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

    Weight 3.2 oz
    Lumens 435
    Beam Distance 430
    Life Span 16
    Current Price from $32.95
    Pros Twist Focus system allows easy adjustment of light intensity from Ultra View Flood Beam to Bulls-Eye Spot Beam by simply twisting the LED bezel., Reflective stars on the head strap, 435 lumens max output, IPX4 water resistance,
    Cons Short battery life, easy to burn out, , , ,
    Our Take:

    The COAST FL75 435 Lumen Dual Color Focusing LED Headlamp is a versatile headlamp that offers a ton of useful features for any backpacker.

    To start, the Coast FL75 has a twist focus system that allows you to adjust the beam intensity from Ultra View Flood Beam to Bulls-Eye Spot Beam by simply twisting the LED bezel.

    Not only is this feature convenient it allows you to find a more preferred beam focus instead of relying on the preset beams.

    You get 3 brightness modes with the Coast headlamp of High, Medium, and Low, and these are all accessible by simply pressing the right button above the LED.

    The high beam gives you 435 lumens that will run for 2.5 hours which is good for a less expensive light. Low setting will give you 16 hours.

    The second button on the left side of the LED controls the red light mode which is simply just on and off. This helps for pure night vision, low light around camp, or even just reading.

    The 3 AAA batteries are easy to install just on the back of the light, although these can add up after a while if you’re doing a lot of camping.

    There are also 3 angle settings, which helps for seeing the ground or space in front of you.

    One of the coolest parts is the head strap includes a number of reflective stars that help give you more visibility to other campers or cars for night time running.

    The Coast also is IPX4 rated design for water resistance 1-meter drop protection.

    Along with the Coast FL75, we recommend also checking out our editor’s choice for the best tactical headlamp, the TL900 Tactical Headlamp to see which one works best for your next adventure.

    Read our full review of the COAST FL75 435 Lumen Dual Color Focusing LED Headlamp

  11. VITCHELO V800 Headlamp

  12. Editors Rating:
    (3.7 / 5)

    Weight 4 oz
    Lumens 168
    Beam Distance 330
    Life Span 120
    Current Price from $10.99
    Pros Under $20, 3 Brightness settings including SOS, Red light with strobe, 2 button light control,
    Cons Can break easily if dropped, Battery casing wears out over time, Not fully waterproof, ,
    Our Take:

    The VITCHELO V800 Headlamp is a great budget headlamp for those backpackers looking to save some money on a headlamp without sacrificing quality.

    The Vitchelo runs off 3 AAA batteries to keep the power simple, so no need to run looking for an outlet or fear of losing any USB cords.

    The band is actually very comfortable and easily adjustable.

    There are 3 brightness settings here so it can be used for needing to see far, or more up close vision needs.

    The settings need to be scrolled through which some people don’t love, but isn’t a big deal to others. There’s also an SOS feature.

    There’s also an included red light for better night vision that does have the option for strobe.

    The red and white light are controlled through 2 different buttons on top of the lamp for ease of light selection.

    The battery casing is kind of cheap and not very durable. I hesitate to say you get what you pay for because the light quality itself is still very good. Just don’t rely on this for any high-impact backpacking or anywhere it can be easily dropped.

    The Vitchello is IPX6 rated waterproof, which means it can’t be submerged but can deal with some rain or splashing.

    For under $20 this is a great headlamp.

    If you’re looking for a headlamp that’s more upscale, be sure to check out our choice of the best headlamp for your next adventure!

    Read our full review of the VITCHELO V800 Headlamp

  13. Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp

  14. Editors Rating:
    (3.5 / 5)

    Weight 3 oz
    Lumens 180
    Current Price from $36.88
    Pros 180 Lumen, 3 Brightness settings, Automatically switches to lower setting when battery running low, ,
    Cons Cheap head strap, Not as bright as other headlamps, , ,
    Our Take:

    The Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp is an efficient headlamp that will help illuminate any camping and backpacking trip.

    The Petzel Tikka XP is a bit of a downgrade from the next generation XP2 which was discontinued, however, this model still works great.

    There are 3 LED’s with 3 brightness settings including high, medium, and low along with a standard red and strobe red light.

    At the highest setting you get 180 lumens which will is good for a basic camping light, but you don’t want to use it for actual hiking or backpacking as it does not reach the distance, nor the brightness of other headlamps.

    You can adjust the light’s aim to your desired high, medium, or low focus.

    The battery life is ok, but the cool thing is that when the battery starts going off it won’t dim but instead will switch to the lower setting to conserve battery life.

    The head strap is comfortable but isn’t the easiest to adjust and can break easily.

    While the Petzel Tikka XP is a great headlamp, be sure to check out our editor’s choice, the TL900 Tactical Headlamp, and compare the 2 to see which works best for your next adventure!

    Read our full review of the Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp

Last update on 2019-11-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Headlamps Buying Guide 2019

How to Pick

How Many Lumens Do You Need In A Headlamp

The truth is, you do not actually need a crazy amount of lumens to have an effective tactical headlamp.

The TL900, for example, offers 800-1000 lumens, which is about as powerful as any backpacker might need.

At that level, you will get an extremely powerful light bright enough to illuminate any situation.

Much brighter than that, and you are in overkill territory, and may even hurt your eyes!

Many companies claim that they offer the “brightest headlamp”, but this is generally just a marketing ploy intended to sway less-informed customers.

The most you would need is a 1200 lumen headlamp. The minimum we feel for campers or hikers would be a 700-lumen headlamp.

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Nick P

Nick spent his mostly unsupervised youth raising hell in the woods and ponds of 16 Acres in Springfield, MA (AKA Hell's Acres). He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and loves hitting the northeast trails when his schedule allows and camping on his roof deck when it doesn't.

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