If you spend a lot of time outside, getting caught after dark is inevitable. A quality headlamp is a must, whether you’re out for a pre-dawn run, hiking in the woods, or trying to change a tire on the side of the highway. With literally hundreds of options on the market, it can be difficult to find the best headlamp for your needs.

Whether you’re looking for a budget headlamp for finding your way around camp or an ultra-high-performance light for technical mountain adventures, you want a bright light with good battery life and easy controls.

I’ve relied heavily on headlamps throughout my life, and I’ve used enough to know that manufacturer claims about power and run time don’t always hold up in real life. These are our top 15 headlamp picks. I’ll walk you through the details of each and help you find the headlamp that does exactly what you need.

How to choose the best headlamp

There are many factors to consider when you are trying to sort through the best headlamps.


The brightness of headlamps is usually measured in lumens. The higher the lumen count, the brighter the light.

Generally, more than 300 lumens is sufficient for hiking or general tasks. You may want to look for something brighter for trail running or if you need long distance illumination.

Some headlamps have 1000 lumens or more, which is incredibly bright. These high-power headlamps are awesome, but they also use a lot more power and drain their batteries faster on the highest mode.

Weather resistance

If you’re using a headlamp for hiking, running, camping, or anything else outdoors, there’s a good chance it’s going to get rained on.

Most headlamps are IPX4 rated, which means they are tested to withstand splashes or jets of water. This rating is fully adequate for rain and weather protection.

If you want the best possible water resistance, look for a light rated IP68 or IPX8. These are the best headlamps for severe weather as they are fully submersible and fully waterproof.

Disposable or rechargeable batteries

It used to be standard for headlamps to use three AAA batteries. It’s still the most common option, but now Black Diamond and other manufacturers are making more headlamps with built-in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

Standard batteries are convenient, and it’s great that you can find them anywhere, but they often cost more in the long run. Also, if your battery dies and you have nothing, you’re SOL unless you buy some more. AAA batteries are also very bad for the environment.

Rechargeable lights are more expensive up front, but I think the extra cost is always worth it, especially if you use your headlamp often.

Battery life

Whether you choose a headlamp that uses AAAs or recharges with a USB cable, battery life is a major concern. The last thing you want is for your headlamp to die when you’re in the middle of a task or out and about.

Most manufacturers advertise run times at various brightnesses. However, I will always take this with a grain of salt. I used a headlamp that says it lasts five hours, but after two hours it was too dim to use much. I always recommend reading reviews to see other people’s real-world tests and experiences with battery life.

Why Trust TravelFreak?

Here at TravelFreak, we’re committed to giving you the best product recommendations possible. We are all avid adventurers and gear junkies at heart. We believe in investing in quality gear that will last a lifetime, and we only recommend products that we really like.

I’ve tested dozens of headlamps on hikes, winter trail runs, long-distance backpacking trips and dawn patrol ski touring outings. I dug into the details under the hood of these headlamps to find out how they actually work. I believe in every light on this list.

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