If you are going hiking or camping, and you are going to be outdoors during the night, you will find it much easier to find your way around in the dark with a good headlamp. Of course, there are many different options you can go with, and choosing the right one can be time-consuming. Let’s get to it and figure out how to choose the best headlamp for hiking. We also have a specific hiking headlamp that we are going to review near the end.
Hiking Headlamp Buyer’s Guide
Before you buy just any headlamp for hiking, there are some features and considerations you need to keep in mind. You don’t want to go out and buy the first hiking headlamp you see. You don’t want to end up with something that has a weak beam, poor battery life, and limited durability. Hiking headlamps come in handy, at least if you find the right one. Let’s talk about the various features and considerations you want to look out for when buying a headlamp for hiking.
Light Output and Beam Distance
One of the most important things you want to look for when buying a headlamp for hiking is the kind of light output the model in question features. Light output is usually measured in lumens, and these can be 100 lumens or lower, or 500 lumens or higher. It really all depends on the strength and number of bulbs the headlamp has.
Generally speaking, the more lumens the headlamp can put out, the further the beam distance is, and the brighter the light is. Understandably, a high-lumen output headlamp will cost a decent amount of money, but when you are out in the woods, being able to see great distances is a big deal. Just for reference, the hiking headlamp which we review below can put out 350 lumens and has a maximum beam distance of 95 meters.
Battery Life and Charging
The next important consideration is what the battery life is like. Keep in mind that headlamps tend to be quite small, so the size and strength of batteries which they can carry is usually not amazing. However, that said, there are some headlamps for hiking which can muster a pretty impressive runtime on a single charge.
A decent hiking headlamp should be able to last for about 2 hours when it is on high light mode, and around 7 or 8 hours on a lower mode. Keep in mind that different headlamps will have different runtimes on a single charge, so it’s important to read the specs carefully. Moreover, some will allow you to charge them via a USB port, which is nice, but you also want to look for a headlamp that allows for the use of disposable batteries, just in case you have no power source to charge it with.
Waterproofing and Durability
Another important factor is how durable it is. This means that you want the headlamp to have durable circuitry and interior components, and even more importantly, you need it to have a durable shell. Hiking, camping, and mountain climbing can get pretty rough sometimes, and you could end up accidentally dropping the headlamp. Simply put, a hiking headlamp that can withstand a drop from a decent height is recommended.
Even more important is how waterproof the hiking headlamp is. The particular model we review below has a water resistance rating of IPX4, which means that it can withstand some light rain showers or a little splash. However, there are hiking headlamps which have better waterproof ratings. Ideally, you will want to get one that can be dropped in a puddle of water without fear of suffering water damage. If you get one and it breaks for whatever reason, you will be in trouble, so pay a few extra bucks for something durable.
Beam Type and Adjustability
The next thing you should keep in mind before buying a hiking headlamp is the beam type and if the beam can be adjusted. Sometimes you might want a flood light beam, which covers a wide area at once, such as if you are around the campfire on in your tent looking for something.
On the other hand, sometimes you might want to see far distances, in which case you want a concentrated and tight cone of light that can reach far. Therefore, you are best off going with a hiking headlamp that features an adjustable beam type, so you can make it as wide or as narrow and far reaching as you require for the job at hand.
Bulb Type and Color
In terms of the bulb type of the hiking headlamp in question, generally speaking, the most common, affordable, durable, and long-lasting option to go with is the LED bulb. What you should also think about is the number of bulbs which the headlamp in question comes with.
Of course, if you are looking for power, distance, and high lumen output, the more bulbs the better, but keep in mind that more power and multiple bulbs will limit battery life. It’s a tradeoff you should think about.
On that same note, bulb color is important too. For basic hiking and camping needs, white bulbs are totally fine. However, there are other bulb colors which can come in useful, such as red bulbs. The hiking headlamp we reviewed below actually features both red and white bulbs. Red bulbs allow you to see in the dark without ruining your natural night vision.
Yet another thing to keep in mind before you buy a headlamp for hiking is what the headband is like. The material is important to think about. For one, you probably want something that is slightly elastic, so the band is a bit tight around your head and the light does not slip off.
At the same time, having a headband that is adjustable is necessary too, because of course not everyone has the same head size. Durability should also be kept in mind; many people choose to go with a reflective headband as it helps increase overall safety.
Size and Weight
The final factor to keep in mind is the size and weight of the headlamp. Simply put, you don’t want to have a huge and overweight brick of a light strapped to your forehead. Going for something compact is probably the best way to go. Keep in mind that there will be a tradeoff between size and weight, and battery life and power.
Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
When it comes to headlamps for hiking, the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp is one of the best options. First off, this headlamp is on the more expensive side, this much we have to admit. Of course, you do get what you pay for, and investing more in a higher quality headlamp for hiking is recommended. You are better off paying a bit extra for something that is durable, powerful, and long lasting, rather than going with something super cheap that is going to fail you in various ways.
The Petzl Actik Core Headlamp features a pretty decent battery life. If you have it on full brightness mode, you can expect it to last for up to 2 hours, and if you have it on the low light mode, you can expect it to last for about 7 hours. This may not seem like a very long runtime on a single charge, but it’s actually better than most other available options. There is also the fact that the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp can be recharged via USB port. Even better, it is also compatible with AAA batteries, so if you have nothing to charge it with, you can always turn to disposable batteries.
As mentioned before, the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp comes with a low and high light mode, so you can choose between the two depending on what you are doing. This hiking headlamp comes with an adjustable beam; you can use it in floodlight mode, or you can concentrate the beam into a focused cone too. Keep in mind that the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp comes with 2 LED bulbs which are white, which is fine for basic use. However, it also comes with a red LED bulb which allows you to see during the night without ruining your night vision.
The Petzl Actik Core Headlamp is made of durable materials that should be able to withstand a drop or two. Furthermore, it comes with an IPX4 water resistance rating. Now, this is not the best ever, because the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp cannot handle a strong rainstorm or being dropped in a puddle, but it will handle a splash or lighter rain. We like how this headlamp comes with a durable, comfortable and adjustable headband, and is also reflective for safety reasons.
Before you go hiking or camping, you want to get some sort of headlamp. They keep you safe and let you see at night! The one we reviewed above is one of the better options to go with. It’s durable, comfortable, bright, adjustable, has good battery life, and comes in at a pretty decent price.