Best Headlamps Experts Trust For Hunting, Hiking & Survival

By Jason K. | Updated: 05/08/2024

best headlampToday, I’ve got something I’m really excited to share…

A Complete Guide To The Best Headlamps For Hunting, Hiking, & Survival

Because it’s easy to get overwhelmed with thousands of options on the market today.

Sure, a select few are great, but most are rubbish!

This guide covers all the features to help find THE best headlamp for YOU.

We also look at the best ones per activity, for example:

  • From Camping to Running
  • Hiking to Home Maintenance
  • Backpacking to Climbing
  • Boating to Fishing…
TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE…    ↓(click to jump)
Survival Gear Checklist eBook Cover -with fire piston on a rock and campfire in the background

Want a free 54 item survival gear checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Best Headlamps On The Market Today


First, let’s talk about “general use.”

These are the ones you reach for when:

  • Fixing stuff around the home
  • Car camping
  • Short backpacking trips
  • Or survival scenarios

They put out a reasonable amount of light and have long use at low power (to preserve battery life).

They’re compact but not minimalist.

I believe everyone should have at least one of these:

1. Top Recommendation
BioLite 330 | No-Bounce Rechargeable Head Light
  • Max Lumens: 330
  • Max Beam Distance: 75m
  • Weight: 2.4 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 3.5/40 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The BioLite HeadLamp 330 is a great little headlamp for general use in camp and on the trail.

It's very lightweight and comfortable and perfectly balances the two.

It accomplishes this by separating the front and back of the light and battery modules.

Combined with the light's broad, low-profile base, this makes for a headlamp with almost NO bounce while walking (and even running).

It's easy to adjust the fit, and the smooth, soft headband is non-irritating for long wearing.

Unfortunately, the small size and placement of the control button can be frustrating.

It occasionally leads to accidentally turning off the light every time you go to tilt the lamp.

  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Multiple light modes and brightness levels
  • Tiny control button
  • Button placement makes for accidental shutoffs in use.
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ BioLite 330 Headlamp Review

Petzl - TIKKINA Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 150
  • Max Beam Distance: 60m
  • Weight: 3 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 60/220 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The Petzl Tikkina is a descendant of the original Tikka (the first headlamp I purchased).

It shares many of the same design elements, with a single headband and one-touch control of the light.

But inside, it features a range of upgrades.

It has a dual battery option (standard alkaline or Petzl CORE rechargeable).

And the three-level LED with high/low/wide beam options.

The Tikkina is a reliable but straightforward headlamp.

It's one headlamp anyone can use, excelling at general or in-camp tasks.

It packs down small and easily slips into a pocket.

One gripe, the IPX4 rating might be a bit ambitious as the battery door isn't a super snug fit.

Water will enter the battery compartment in heavy rain (or accidental dunking).

Not ideal.

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Good control buttons
  • Multiple beam options
  • Likely not highly water-resistant
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Petzl Tikkina 150 Lumen

Princeton Tec Snap RGB Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 300
  • Max Beam Distance: 36m
  • Weight: 3.5 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 10/155 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

In the past, I've never had success with Princeton Tec products.

But the Snap was a welcome change from that history.

It features a simple design that minimizes the chances of failure.

The wide beam illuminates well for close-up work.

And it reduces the "tunnel vision" that can be a byproduct of tightly focused beams.

The light can be removed from the headband mount and attached to other bases.

Alternative bases such as:

This is an excellent option for anyone needing different light angles to work on tasks.

In addition to the white LED, it also features red, green, and blue night vision modes.

  • Inexpensive
  • Multiple mounts
  • Not much beam distance from a focused beam
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Princeton Tec: SNAP (+ adapt!) Multi-Use Light

Black Diamond Revolt 350 Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 350
  • Max Beam Distance: 80m
  • Weight: 3.2 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable/AAA
  • Run Time (High / Low): 4/200 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

Black Diamond has always been a favorite manufacturer of outdoor gear.

And I wasn't disappointed with the ReVolt.

I've recommended it to friends looking for a dependable camping headlamp.

At 350 lumens and featuring both spot and flood beams, it's ready for a wide range of tasks.

Dimmable power levels are excellent.

And the Brightness Memory setting allows you to turn the light on and off to the same power level each time.

A single tap on the side of the lamp brings it to full brightness in PowerTap mode.

I will say that cycling through the light modes and colors DOES take a little getting used to it.

And I always struggle when switching to Red/Green/Blue light modes.

The lock mode is also a great addition, preventing you from accidentally turning the light on in your bag.

My only real issue has been that it does bounce a little while moving.

This movement is due to the large battery, light module, and a top strap to resist twisting the headband.

  • Great light modes and colors
  • Brightness Memory and PowerTap features are helpful
  • Great battery life
  • Some bounce while wearing it
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp

Black Diamond Unisex's SPOT 350
  • Max Lumens: 325
  • Max Beam Distance: 86m
  • Weight: 2.9 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 4/200 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX8

Another great headlamp from Black Diamond, the Spot 325, packs a lot into a small package.

The IPX8 rating means it's been tested to operate fully submerged to over 1m for up to 30 minutes.

It even claims it'll function even if water enters the battery compartment.

This is invaluable in a survival situation where you're counting on your headlamp to survive!

The Brightness Memory and PowerTap functions remain as good here as on the ReVolt.

But they're joined by a two-button interface for separate control over power and beam.

This feature lets you quickly dial in on your desired brightness and light profile.

The adjustable band is comfortable, with ventilated mesh inserts.

And enough width to prevent most bounce issues.

The one common complaint with the Spot is that it has too many features, and the controls aren't intuitive.

Too many features have been a common theme with the more advanced units.

And should be less of an issue over time with familiarity.

  • Lightweight Fully waterproof
  • Great price
  • Large buttons
  • Lots of features make settings complicated
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ The Black Diamond Spot 325

And here’s a review of the similar Black Diamond Spot 400:

↓ How To use The Diamond Spot 400 Headlamp

Petzl ACTIK Headlamp - Compact Multi-Beam
  • Max Lumens: 350
  • Max Beam Distance: 90m
  • Weight: 2.7 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 1/260 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The Petzl Actik is the advanced version of the Tikkina series.

It keeps the same style and form but crams more advanced settings and optics into the package.

The multi-beam design features both proximity and distance lighting.

Plus, it also has a red light for preserving night vision.

The small size, single button, and wide headband make it stable.

But it doesn't adjust large enough for bigger hat sizes (I should know).

It also supports a dual battery option. It has both standard and rechargeable CORE battery options.

I've talked with users who've had trouble switching from proximity to distance modes.

They were left thinking the range was only 20m instead of the claimed 90m.

The full manufacturer claim of 90m is likely overstated; it's certainly more in the 60-70m range.

  • Lightweight
  • Good max distance
  • Several light modes
  • Small headband
  • Proximity/Distance setting not intuitive
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Petzl Actik Core Review

Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 350
  • Max Beam Distance: 100m
  • Weight: 4.2 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (4)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 5/200 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP67

The Black Diamond Storm is one of their more powerful general-use headlamps at 350 lumens.

It's a similar form factor to other BD lights.

It combines the light and battery in one unit on the front of the headlamp.

This design does make it more prone to bounce.

But it's a straightforward design with a higher water resistance rating and lighter weight.

The Storm has a full suite of BD power options as well, including:

  • Brightness Memory
  • PowerTap
  • Custom dimmable LED levels in each of the four colors (white, red, green, blue)

It's all controlled by a single top button and side taps.

But some of these are hard to manipulate with cold hands or tactical gloves.

  • Compact
  • Lots of lighting options
  • Hard to manipulate controls with gloves or cold hands
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

Fenix HM50R v2.0 Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 700
  • Max Beam Distance: 80m
  • Weight: 2.2 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 2/128 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP68

Fenix is still a brand most associated with industrial applications.

But they've made inroads with the caving community in the past few years.

Last year, a caver friend showed me several Fenix lights, including the HM50R.

It's a super-compact L-style light, which makes it easy to waterproof and to build ruggedly.

The HM50R uses a brilliant white LED, capable of up to 500 lumens over four lighting modes.

It's dead simple, and you can operate it with a single hand.

It also charges via a simple micro-USB port, making it easy to top off the battery from any USB power source.

However, the High 700-lumen setting is a power hog.

And will run through batteries far faster than advertised.

So keep plenty on hand if you need full strength for long periods!

  • Very bright
  • Durable and compact
  • Integrated, protected charging port
  • Battery hungry
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Let’s Take A Look At The Fenix HM50R


Let’s talk about a new popular category: running headlamps.

These are lightweight lamps with medium power and relatively short battery lives.

They cut out all unnecessary ounces.

They’re generally very stable lights with comfortable straps.

So they stay put and don’t irritate your head while running, even if you sweat a lot.

While they’re a niche market, they’re finding increased favor.

They also focus on safety, with features like rear lights and reflective headbands to increase visibility.

Ledlenser NEO4 LED Headlamp Trail Running
  • Max Lumens: 240
  • Max Beam Distance: 30m
  • Weight: 3.5 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable/AAA (3)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 6/40 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP57

The LEDLenser Neo4 is an inexpensive option for a powerful little running headlamp.

It features a wide beam with 150 and 240-lumen output levels.

This design gives you options for battery conservation or brighter light if needed.

The rear battery pack also features a blinking red LED for visibility.

And the headband itself is reflective for safety.

The front-facing lamp is a little narrow (top to bottom) and easy to roll off the top of your head accidentally.

This issue can happen if you take a shirt off over it, but it's generally pretty stable while in use.

If you're on a hard run, there is a little bounce to the light.

  • Inexpensive
  • Compact
  • The rear LED and reflective headband for safety


  • The narrow light base is harder to control
  • Bounces a little while running
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Ledlenser NEO4 Head Torch Unboxing & First Impressions

BioLite 200 | No-Bounce Rechargeable HeadLamp
  • Max Lumens: 200
  • Max Beam Distance: 50m
  • Weight: 1.8 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 3/40 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The BioLite HeadLamp 220 is, hands down, the most comfortable running headlamp I've tried.

The lightweight and broad lamp base makes it very stable on your head.

So you'll have almost NO bounce while running.

I could wear it with a lighter tension in the headband, which was VERY comfortable on long, hot runs.

The USB rechargeable battery lasts long enough for a good run and has a great life on the low setting (up to 40 hours).

The high-power LED is serviceable, but at only 200 lumens, it can sometimes leave you wishing for more power.

The lack of a rear LED is also unfortunate for neighborhood runs where visibility is vital.

It also has a small control button, so manipulating it with gloves is challenging.

  • Extremely comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • A little underpowered
  • No rear safety LED
  • Tiny control button
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ BioLite 200 | Ultralight USB

Black Diamond Equipment Sprinter 500 Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 275
  • Max Beam Distance: 40m
  • Weight: 4.1 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable/AAA
  • Run Time (High / Low): 4/100 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

While there are several great choices here for a running headlamp, this is the one that I use.

I'm a big fan of an evening and nighttime run (both in my neighborhood and on the local trail system).

And that means a good light is a must-have.

The Sprinter stays in place without any bounce whatsoever.

The front light module throws a wide, oval-shaped cone of illumination on the trail.

And features a dimmable LED to help tailor the light level (and battery life) to your needs.

Balancing the front light is a rear module.

This combination of the rechargeable battery pack and a red LED taillight helps make you more visible from behind.

You can swap out the rechargeable battery pack for AAA batteries.

This design gives you excellent flexibility.

While the 4.1 oz build is a bit heavier than other running headlamps, it makes up for it in a solid, secure, 3-strap fit.

  • Great oval beam for trail illumination
  • Red rear-facing LED for visibility
  • Does NOT bounce while running
  • Heavier than other running headlamps
  • Expensive for light output
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Black Diamond Sprinter

Nitecore NU25 360 Lumen Triple Output
  • Max Lumens: 360
  • Max Beam Distance: 81m
  • Weight: 0.99 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 30sec/160 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP66

NiteCore is a big player in the bike headlight world.

A high-powered bike light is available in nearly every shop I've visited.

This was the first NiteCore headlamp I've seen, and it's a solid, general-use type of light.

It sports all the standard options and a 190-lumen intensity rating.

It comes with both a white and red set of LEDs, as well as several power levels.

It's a headlamp that's up for all survival tasks.

Where the NiteCore stands out is in its unique lightweight build.

It comes under 2 oz, including the strap (.99oz without).

It's almost as light as some emergency or backup light choices.

Seeing that kind of design with a high-powered LED is an excellent option for the weight conscious.

But what about the 360-lumen rating on the advertising? That's my only real complaint here!

The NU25 is "capable" of putting out 360 lumens - but only for 30 seconds at a time.

Any longer, and the small heatsink (a byproduct of the quest for lightweight) will overheat.

So it's a 190-lumen headlamp with an "overdrive" mode for emergency use only.

  • Super lightweight
  • High-powered emergency burst mode
  • Can not sustain high-power output
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Hitecore NU25 Review


These high-powered headlamps are another segment of the market.

And they’re built with the worst-case in mind.

Search and rescue, law enforcement, and military personnel look to this type of light for its tactical advantages.

So do mountaineers, bikers, and other trail users who need maximum visibility to see and avoid obstacles.

Ledlenser, MH10 Rechargeable Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 600
  • Max Beam Distance: 150m
  • Weight: 5.6 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 10/120 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The LEDLenser MH10 is a rugged headlamp designed for high performance on a budget.

It features several programmable light modes, including a blinding, full-power "Defense Strobe" mode.

It's lightweight for a high-power lamp and has good battery life, even at high power.

It features a rear LED and an integrated rechargeable battery.

Unfortunately, it does have a few flaws.

The MH10 isn't billed as a mountaineering headlamp.

But the IPX4 rating is still a little disappointing.

It also doesn't have a red light mode for preserving night vision, which would be a welcome addition.

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Rear safety light
  • Not waterproof
  • No red light mode
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Led Lenser MH10 Review

Black Diamond Icon 700 Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 700
  • Max Beam Distance: 140m
  • Weight: 8.3 oz.
  • Battery Type: AA (4)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 7/190 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP67

The Black Diamond Icon series has been a mainstay of the mountaineering community for years.

Even though several models and improvements.

The 700 is the brightest in the lineup and has all the other features you'd expect from a BD light.

The Brightness Memory is excellent, especially with such a high-powered light.

The PowerTap mode is also an excellent addition, but it's not easy to use with gloves.

Though I usually use red, the red, green, and blue night-vision modes are helpful.

The only real sticking point is that BD has not yet made a rechargeable battery version of the Icon.

You can, of course, use rechargeable AA batteries (x4) in the battery compartment.

But they're not space-efficient compared with a custom rechargeable pack.

  • Bright
  • Durable
  • Lots of light modes
  • PowerTap is hard to use with gloves
  • No rechargeable option
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ The Icon 700 By Black Diamond Review

PETZL, NAO + Programmable, Rechargeable Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 750
  • Max Beam Distance: 140m
  • Weight: 6.5 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 1.5/15 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The Petzl NAO+ seems like a testbed for their advanced headlamp technology trials.

But it's worth a look.

One exciting feature I played with last year was "the Reactive Lighting" technology.

This feature senses ambient light and automatically adjusts the beam's brightness.

It can sense other NAO+ headlamps as well.

So it will automatically switch to a vision-preserving mode rather than blind a teammate.

Unfortunately, this works best in a team with a NAO+.

So this becomes a spendy proposition.

And the rest of the wide range of settings can be programmed with the smartphone app.

This feature makes customization much more manageable than onboard controls.

Despite all this tech, it's still an IPX4 lamp with a shorter-than-average battery life.

  • Lots of customization
  • Extremely long-range for lumen rating
  • Complicated
  • Expensive
  • Not waterproof
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Petzl Nao + Headtorch Review

Nitecore HU60 1600 Lumen Focusable and Rechargeable Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 1600
  • Max Beam Distance: 177m
  • Weight: 4.14 oz. (without battery)
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 1.5/23 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IP67

Another new light from NiteCore, the HU60, is a monster packed with neat features.

First, the 1600-lumen focusable light is NOT a burst mode but full sustained power.

Remember, this is a brand mainly built for nighttime cyclists.

These people depend on being able to light up a technical trail and read that surface at high speed.

It's all run by a large-capacity USB power bank.

But NiteCore has designed it to accept ANY USB power bank.

That way, you can use some of the extra-large power bricks if you need extended run time.

The light even comes with a wristwatch-style remote control, a holdover from biking.

  • Full sustained 1600-lumen output
  • You can use any USB power bank
  • Heavy once the battery is included
  • Cord management is complicated
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Nitecore HU60 1600 Lumen E-Focusable Dual Beam Review


Finally, backup and emergency headlamps are a safety net when your primary light source goes out.

You turn to these lights when it’s time to limp home to safety.

They’re not always as comfortable or as powerful as other options.

But they’re dependable.

Petzl E+LITE Ultra-Compact Emergency Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 50
  • Max Beam Distance: 10m
  • Weight: 0.92 oz.
  • Battery Type: CR2032 (2)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 9/12 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX8

The lightest one on our list, the Petzl e+LITE, is the epitome of backup light.

It's tiny and easy to carry in the smallest pocket.

It weighs less than an ounce yet has an IPX8 rating for water and dust.

It can be stored with batteries for up to 10 YEARS and still work!

The simple rotary switch requires no internal electronics, just simple mechanical contacts.

While it's only 50 lumens, this is a light you can count on to get you back home safely when all other lights go out.

  • Tiny
  • Lightweight
  • Amazing battery shelf life
  • Short run time on even low power mode due to a tiny battery
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Petzl eLite 50 Lumes Torch Review

Black Diamond Spotlite Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 160
  • Max Beam Distance: 60m
  • Weight: 1.9 oz.
  • Battery Type: AAA (2)
  • Run Time (High / Low): 2/60 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX8

The Black Diamond SpotLite 160 is a surprise in our review's "emergency" section.

It's a full-featured headlamp in a small package.

It has a welcome IPX8 rating, making it an excellent option for cases where weather may be a factor.

It's small, lightweight, and has a range of lighting and power modes.

But without the confusing options that have plagued reviews of other BD lights.

It uses standard-size AAA batteries. But will readily accept rechargeable AAAs as well.

The narrow headband is more prone to rolling than other BD models but stays in place overall.

  • Dimmable
  • Strobe and Red Light modes
  • IPX8 rating
  • Not long battery life on high setting
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Best Ultralight Backpacking Torch? | Black Diamond SpotLite 160

PETZL BINDI Ultra-Compact Rechargeable Headlamp
  • Max Lumens: 200
  • Max Beam Distance: 36m
  • Weight: 1.2 oz.
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable
  • Run Time (High / Low): 2/50 hours
  • IP Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4

The Petzl Bindi is a TINY headlamp, but still able to put out 200 lumens!

It's an excellent light for a backup, given that it's just over an ounce and crams down to nothing in a pack or pocket.

The narrow "string" headband isn't my favorite for long-term wearing.

But it's fine in a pinch and great over a hat.

It features a red light setting for a light this size, which helps preserve night vision and not blind your friends.

The buttons are, understandably, pretty small and can be hard to use with gloves.

But that's a function of cutting all weight and size in favor of a minimalist design.

  • Tiny Lightweight
  • Bright
  • The headband is not very comfortable
Check Today's Price
We earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
↓ Should Hikers Be Upgrading? Petzl BINDI After 1 Year

Black led headlamp turned off on a wooden table showing the elastic strap

What Is A Headlamp Anyway?

This seems like a silly question with an obvious answer – because it IS.

The term “Headlamp” is precisely what it sounds like:

“A small light source worn on your head.”

Moving on…

Brief Head Torch History Lesson

They began as a way for miners to work in pitch-black mine shafts.

Especially deep mine shafts nowhere near natural light.

  • The first ones were very crude.
  • They let off only a faint source of light.
  • It’s not much better than a birthday candle.
  • But they were much better than the alternative (nothing).

And even weak light works well once your eyes adjust to low light conditions.

A combustible carbide powered the very first head torches.

They were later upgraded to incandescent electric bulbs.

But nowadays, nearly all modern ones feature LED lights.

Most now include features that would put an 1800s miner in shock and awe.

Survival Gear Checklist eBook Cover -with fire piston on a rock and campfire in the background

Want a free 54 item survival gear checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Best Emergency Headlamp

Why Get A Headlamp Instead Of A Flashlight

As we just discussed, they’ve been a mainstay of the caving and mining world for over a century.

But early on, they were slowly accepted within the outdoor sporting world.

They were a rare oddball tool even a few decades ago.

For example:

Growing up, my family had a dozen flashlights we took camping.

We had flashlights ranging from my Dad’s giant D-cell MagLight to a tiny hand-crank light I got on my 6th birthday.

And I still recall my first mini-MagLight was the envy of my entire Boy Scout troop.

Later, as I got into more serious mountain biking, I bought my first “trail lights.”

They were essentially high-powered, bike-specific flashlights.

It was a light I mounted to my bike’s handlebars to ride a few local trails in the middle of the night.

It wasn’t until my college years that shops began carrying a selection of headlamps.

Of course, I bought one and recall the odd looks I got on my next camping trip.

Despite living in the heart of a coal-mining country, everyone I passed looked at me like I was insane!

A few people asked me,

“Why didn’t you get an ordinary flashlight.”

Even my Dad was unimpressed, noting it would,

“Work for changing a flat tire if you don’t have a quality lantern handy.”

Even so, I bought him one later that year.

But I doubt if it ever made it out of his truck.

Yet, as I got into even more outdoor sports, I found folks quickly embraced them!

Nearly everyone in the climbing and backpacking world was ditching their tactical flashlights.

Why? For one brilliant reason!


This one is obvious, but I can’t overstate it enough. HANDS-FREE!

This inherent design feature is a significant step up over a handheld flashlight.

It makes nearly every task more manageable, especially for detailed work!

Lighter Weight

When it comes to weight, headlamps are a winning design.

They don’t require the batteries and circuitry to be stuffed into the handle.

This design allows you to separate the bulk and weight from the light.

Some modern ones put the battery pack on the back of the head.

While others sandwich a flat rechargeable battery between the LED and the headband.

This feature makes it an all-in-one unit with no external wiring or battery packs.


What do I mean by “faster”?

When you hear a scary sound, you instinctively turn towards the noise FAST.

You immediately illuminate exactly where you look.

With a traditional flashlight, moving your hand toward the sound is slightly delayed.

Your reaction time with your hand involved is a fraction slower.

In Line With Your Vision

Unlike handheld flashlights, head torches shine a beam along your natural sightline.

This feature means less shadowing and better positioning to put the light where needed.

Twenty years after their release, LEDs are taking over the outdoor lighting market by an enormous margin.

And technology is growing each year.

Manufacturers continue to add new features and brighter lights all the time.

Sure, I think I still own a flashlight or two.

I could find one under the seat in my Jeep or the back of the glove box.

But I’m sure the batteries are dead by now.

To be fair, I likely haven’t tried turning them on in a decade.

Even my Dad switched to using one more than a flashlight for most tasks.

Survival Gear Checklist eBook Cover -with fire piston on a rock and campfire in the background

Want a free 54 item survival gear checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Best Headlamp For Camping

Best Headlamp Features To Look For

It seems like a good one should be easy to find.

But many factors come into play when it’s time to pick the right one for your needs.

And the latest ones have come a long way.

And the range of features and specifications available is dizzying.

So to narrow down your list, it’s essential to consider a few specific features.


Lumens measure the amount of light emitted by a given light source.

Think of it as the “overall” power of a light source.

In simple terms, higher lumens equates to brighter light.

Each headlamp has a lumens rating.

You’ll see some with 200 lumens and others with 600 lumens.

Nowadays, the brightest ones “claim” a lumen rating of over 20,000.

BUT lumens is sort of like the number of blades in a razor – it’s getting out of hand.

↓ Who’s The Biggest Headlamp Lumen Liar?

Extreme lumen ratings usually come at the cost of battery life.

So, several other factors control how useful that light is for the task.

Beam Shape

Once the light leaves the LED, it disperses in all directions.

But, it loses intensity if a lens or reflector does not focus it.

Light intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.

This means the light is 10,000 times fainter at a distance of 100ft than it was at 1ft.

So, a light source with a high lumen rating is technically “brighter.”

However, the shape of the reflector and lens control how it projects.

That’s why reflection and lens control drastically affect “how bright” it seems to the eye.

Focusing the light in a narrow spot beam puts more lumens on the target.

But leaves the surroundings less illuminated.

Conversely, a similar lumen-rated wide flood beam will light up the whole area but not seem as bright.

Beam Distance

Better optics affect how well they work at a distance and how far you can see in the dark.

Therefore, most manufacturers also list a maximum range at which the light is effective.

Most of us are looking for a measure of how far the light reaches.

So, this is one of the best comparison metrics.

For example:

I reach for a long beam distance option with Survival And Rescue activities.

Such a tool helps me see the trail and surroundings as far out in advance as possible.

Battery Life

What if you’re looking for an in-camp headlamp to do kitchen tasks, read, or keep a low profile?

In this case, you may not be interested in high lumens or long distances.

My in-camp one (also a backup for emergencies) has a long battery life.

That way, I don’t have to worry about it going out mid-use.

Battery life is directly related to the power setting you use.

If you’re trying to conserve battery, turn the brightness setting to the lowest option.

And turn it off when you’re finished using it (obvious but easily forgotten!)

Battery Type

Battery type is another factor in your selection process.

And it stems from how you plan to use it.


Most manufacturers are going with either integrated or removable rechargeable batteries.

Rechargeable batteries are more environmentally friendly and reduce waste.

For many, this is a significant selling point.

But they’re also harder to maintain on an extended trip, where charging points may be few and far between.

Solar chargers, battery banks, and other accessories can help.

But THAT’s even more survival gear to add to your pack on an extended trip.

Alkaline or Lithium Disposable

Standard alkaline batteries are easy to find in even the most remote gas stations or gift shops.

Plus, they come in bulk packages if you need to have lots on hand.

They’re not the best choice for the environment.

But sometimes there are few better viable options.

Lithium disposables are a little more expensive and harder to find in remote locations.

But they’re more powerful and lighter than comparable alkaline batteries.

Dual Battery Options

Some feature a rechargeable battery pack that can be removed and replaced.

They usually feature standard-size alkaline or lithium batteries (AA or AAA).

This setup gives you tremendous flexibility.

And it still allows for greener choices.


Light is a nearly non-negotiable survival necessity.

Humans are practically crippled in the dark without good lighting.

So look for a reliable, well-built one to take all the abuse you can throw at it.

Manufacturer testing and certifications are essential.

If they pass, they test for water, dust, and shock resistance, adding ratings on their electronics.

Look for an IP/IPX code of at least IPX4 (splash and dust resistant) for everyday use.

For example:

Heavy rain and snow in the Pacific Northwest test the water resistance.

And in the summer, dust and ash are the concern.

I look for electronics for critical work with an IPX7 or IPX8 rating.

These ratings state it should remain sealed from dust and water even if fully submerged.

But I relax that rule for my daily use tasks (i.e., walking the dog or going for a jog).

Why? Because I know I can still get home safely if something drastic happens.


The proper weight distribution, strap comfort, and fit can give you confidence.

A snug fit is essential. But don’t get one that’s too tight, or it will eventually feel like it’s slowly crushing your head.

Soft strap materials and a smooth profile help minimize irritation.


Sure, a couple of ounces may not seem like much.

But it always amazes me how much you notice when every head turn has a little extra resistance.

Of course, weight savings and reduced battery size are trade-offs.

Get the lightest model that meets all your specifications.

That way, you won’t be disappointed.

Accidental Turn-On Protection

If you plan to carry your headlamp in a backpack, get one with a press and hold to turn-on feature.

This prevents the headlamp from premature turning on in your pack when it’s jostled around.

There is nothing more frustrating than pulling out a headlamp at dusk only to find the battery has been completely drained.

So, getting one with a long-press “ON” option prevents such a devastating (and potentially dangerous) mistake.

Survival Gear Checklist eBook Cover -with fire piston on a rock and campfire in the background

Want a free 54 item survival gear checklist?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Final Thoughts

There are many things to consider when choosing a new bright headlamp.

But we’ve walked through the essential features and shared some of our favorite suggestions based on how you might use them.

As with pocket knives, crossbows, bowie knives, survival backpacks, and many other outdoor tools, there’s not always one that does all the jobs you need.

Consider your primary use and a backup light at a minimum.

Don’t get left in the dark!

Why Trust Skilled Survival...

Go here now to review a full breakdown of:

  • Who We Are
  • Our Credentials
  • Our Mission
  • & Product Recommendations...

Here are a few highlights of our teams credentials & certifications:

  • Certified Member of a Mountain Search & Rescue Organization
  • Plant Emergency & Safety Leader for a Major Food Manufacturer
  • Member of the 10TH Mountain Division Hut Association
  • Certifications: Avalanche 1, WFR, CPR
  • Official Gear Tester for Numerous Outdoor Gear Companies
  • Countless Multiday Backpacking trips into Remote Wilderness
  • Bachelor's Degree In Mechanical Engineering 
  • Bachelor's Degree In Civil Engineering
  • Bachelor's Degree In Biomedical Engineering

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." - Warren Buffett

We're fully aware that TRUST is NOT something you GET but is EARNED.

And we'll continue to earn YOUR trust through our forthright and honest approach with each new Blog Post, Guide & Product we create...

Jason K.

  • Born & Raised In The Remote Woods Of Michigan
  • Engineering Degree From A Major University
  • Long Standing Member Of Mountain Search & Rescue
  • Offical Gear Tester For Several Outdoor Companies
  • Avid Outdoorsman: Backpacking, Camping, Fishing
  • Years Researching & Writing About Survival & Gear
  • P.s. Do You Live In A 'Danger Zone' County?

    Find out now using my Danger Zone County List & Special Report it’s absolutely FREE.

    In minutes you’ll know EXACTLY where you stand and if you should be worried or not..

    Cooking over a rocket stove
    Get My 10 Steps To Basic Preparedness Video For FREE.
    Plus daily survival tips (unsubscribe anytime).