Which high-end headlamp is best?
For anyone spending ample time outdoors, a headlamp is an essential item. Having a headlamp safely attached to your head frees up your hands to take care of other tasks like looking at a map or even getting a better grip on your trekking poles.
While there are tons of great options on the market, the Petzl Actik Core truly rises above the competition. It is lightweight, maxes out at 450 lumens, and comes with a rechargeable battery pack, while also compatible with AAA batteries.
What to know before you buy a high-end headlamp
How long your trips are
For someone who just takes day trips, a standard headlamp for emergencies might be all they require. The longer your hikes are, the more factors you will have to consider when buying a headlamp. It may not be feasible to bring a headlamp that requires a charge for a two-week hike since a power bank could easily die over the trip.
The purpose of your trip
Many people use headlamps for hiking or trekking. However, some others might need a headlamp for a more specialized purpose. For example, someone on a search-and-rescue team could need a headlamp with a higher lumen output since they might be searching for clues to locate a missing person. Before buying a headlamp, know your needs exactly.
What features do you need
For the inexperienced, a headlamp just seems like a flashlight you attach to your head. Modern headlamps have made giant leaps forward, though, and they are getting more and more complex all the time. There are different colored lights, beam types, beacon settings and so on.
What to look for in a quality high-end headlamp
Brightness on headlamps is measured in lumens. Consumer-grade headlamps typically range from 0-1200 lumens. Finding a headlamp with over 1,000 lumens is still very rare, and these headlamps can typically only sustain such a high level of brightness for less than an hour.
Most headlamps will be somewhere between the 0-800 lumens range. For night hiking and finding trails, 200-500 lumens are usually more than enough. Running the headlamp at higher lumen settings will drain the battery much faster, and hikers typically only use these settings for specific situations such as dense fog.
Battery or charge
Headlamps are charged either by using traditional alkaline batteries or by an internal rechargeable battery and a power source such as a power bank.
Both options come with pros and cons. Battery-operated headlamps require you to bring many extra batteries. USB-powered headlamps require a power source, which is excess weight in the pack.
Some modern headlamps have dual-power modes, meaning both batteries or a power source can power them.
There are three standard beam types.
- A flood beam, or wide beam, casts a wide net of light. This is good for reading or fixing something at camp where you need to see something right in front of you. It isn’t optimal for seeing things at a distance.
- Spot beam is a narrower and more focused beam. This is great for seeing at longer distances, and this setting is generally preferred for following a trail in the dark.
- Hybrid beams mix both. A lot of headlamp manufacturers try to find a perfect balance. This option sometimes works out well, but you may have to fiddle with the headlamp to get the perfect setting.
Most headlamps offer white and red light. White light is great for finding the trail and hiking. Red light is great to use at camp. It leaves your night vision intact, and many different insects cannot detect red light. It is also much less obtrusive when talking to a tentmate.
Some headlamps even utilize green or blue light. It’s much rarer to see than white or red light. Green light is also great for preserving night vision, and it’s used by the military, which has a lot of technology that is compatible with green light. Blue light is good for map reading since it won’t wash out the red lines on a map, unlike red light.
High-end headlamp FAQ
Do headlamps dim while in use?
Unfortunately, the headlamp will inevitably begin to dim as the battery dies. Certain headlamps have a stable power mode, but even then, the light source will dim when the batteries begin to drain.
A dim headlamp means it’s time to change the batteries. After the batteries are replaced, there should be a huge increase in the brightness.
Which headlamps have a longer battery life?
In general, alkaline batteries last longer than chargeable batteries. For people doing longer hikes, relying on just a rechargeable battery might be a risk. Finding a dual power-source headlamp is safer since you can use alkaline batteries if anything goes wrong with the power source.
Headlamps can last from a few hours to a few hundred hours, but brighter settings will drain any headlamp faster than lower lumen settings.
What’s the best high-end headlamp to buy?
Top high-end headlamp
What you need to know: The Petzl Actik Core’s versatility, brightness and dual-power options make it ideal for any hiking trip on the horizon.
What you’ll love: This headlamp maxes out at 450 lumens while offering a 6-lumen camp setting. It weighs just 2.6 oz, and you can control every setting with just one simple-to-use button. There are multiple beam options, and it can run up to 130 hours.
What you should consider: It’s not as water-resistant as some other headlamps on the market.
Top high-end headlamp for the money
What you need to know: The Spot 350 is very affordable with a max brightness of 350 lumens and memory settings, so you don’t need to toggle through settings constantly.
What you’ll love: This headlamp lasts longer than most other headlamps on the market, with minimum dimming effects. It comes with white and red light and offers both flood and spot beam settings with a 350-lumen max.
What you should consider: There is no rechargeable battery, so three AAA batteries are required.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Weighing a mere 2.72 oz, the Nitecore takes up almost no space and has longer battery life than almost any of its competitors.
What you’ll love: The Nitecore NU32 has an 1800 mAh lithium-ion battery, which equates to nine AAA batteries and less charging. It features a convenient power indicator to tell you how much battery is left. It maxes out at 550 lumens and has multiple brightness settings.
What you should consider: The Nitecore only has a rechargeable battery, requiring you to bring a power source to charge it.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Stephen Morin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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