About Tactical Headlamps

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!

Best Tactical Headlamps 2020

    Weight 1.42 oz
    Lumens 1000
    Beam Distance 530
    Life Span 330
    Current Price $87.95

    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.

    • 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
    • The head strap can break easily

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

  1. Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
  2. Editors Rating:
    (4.8 / 5)
    Weight 3.2 oz
    Lumens 350
    Beam Distance 260
    Life Span 120
    Current Price Price not available

    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 their discomfort. 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.

    • 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
    • Battery life is a bit inconsistent and can drain quickly

    Read our full review of the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

  3. ONE80 Light Headlamp
  4. Editors Rating:
    (4.4 / 5)
    Weight 3.3 oz
    Lumens 360
    Beam Distance 50
    Life Span 7
    Current Price Price not available

    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.

    • 180° peripheral lighting
    • 20 High powered LED's
    • USB rechargeable batteries
    • Comfy, machine washable strap
    • Not waterproof
    • No vertical range of motion for the lamp.

    Read our full review of the ONE80 Light Headlamp

    Weight 4 oz
    Lumens 315
    Beam Distance 260
    Life Span 50
    Current Price $19.97

    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.

    • Very bright 315 lumens
    • Affordable price
    • Comfy headstrap
    • Light swivel kind of cheap

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

  5. Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
  6. Editors Rating:
    (4.1 / 5)
    Weight 3.1 oz
    Lumens 300
    Beam Distance 262
    Life Span 30
    Current Price Price not available

    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.

    • 300 lumens with a 30 hour burn time
    • PowerTap technology for easy setting adjustment
    • IPX8: Waterproof-Tested up to 1.1 meters of water
    • 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.

    Read our full review of the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

    Weight 3.2 oz
    Lumens 435
    Beam Distance 430
    Life Span 16
    Current Price $48.70

    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.

    • 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
    • Short battery life, easy to burn out

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

  7. VITCHELO V800 Headlamp
  8. Editors Rating:
    (3.7 / 5)
    Weight 4 oz
    Lumens 168
    Beam Distance 330
    Life Span 120
    Current Price $15.95

    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.

    • Under $20
    • 3 Brightness settings including SOS
    • Red light with strobe
    • 2 button light control
    • Can break easily if dropped
    • Battery casing wears out over time
    • Not fully waterproof

    Read our full review of the VITCHELO V800 Headlamp

  9. Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp
  10. Editors Rating:
    (3.5 / 5)
    Weight 3 oz
    Lumens 180
    Current Price $25.88

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

    The Pezel 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.

    • 180 Lumen
    • 3 Brightness settings
    • Automatically switches to lower setting when battery running low
    • Cheap head strap
    • Not as bright as other headlamps

    Read our full review of the Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp

Tactical Headlamps Buying Guide

Everything you need to know before purchasing Headlamps

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.