Our Review of the Best Camping Headlamps
It wasn’t that long ago that if you engaged in overnight camping your only options for night time illumination were dangerous propane lanterns and flashlights that took 3 or 4 enormous “D” batteries. Those handheld monstrosities gave off a pathetic, uneven, glare-soaked beam of light with a funny little bright spot in the center and were always dying on you when you were halfway to the campground latrine. Thankfully, those days are firmly in the rear view. Back in the 80s, the first camping headlamps hit the market and over time they’ve seen continual refinement. Today, they sport LED bulbs that last for decades and kick out generous swaths of clean, clear, even illumination. And as often as not they’re powered by rechargeable batteries that can be plugged into the car or your phone or a portable powerpack so that you never have to worry about being left in the dark. More than almost any other piece of camping gear the headlamp is emblematic of the difference between camping in your parent’s day and camping today. Below we’re going to take a close look at the 10 best camping headlamps on the market.
The Cobiz 6000 is one of the larger, more involved camping headlamps available today. But it justifies all its various aspects and features where it counts: in the performance of its duty. With 6,000 lumens on max power you’ll see half a mile down the road and nearly as far down the trail. And don’t worry if you get caught in the rain. The Cobiz 6,000 can handle it.
What We Like
- The 90 degree tilt – With a full 90 degree tilt you can be sure that nothing on the trail is going to take you by surprise if you need to keep hiking past nightfall.
- The waterproofing – Nature doesn’t care if your headlamp is waterproof or not. Thankfully, the Cobiz 6000 won’t shrivel in the face of rain.
- The multiple light modes – The High Beam, Low Beam, All Bright and Strobe settings have you covered no matter the circumstances.
- The emergency strobe – Should you get lost the strobe light ensures rescue teams can spot you from great distances.
- The battery warning light – The indicator light lets you know if you’re battery is running low or if you’re in danger or overcharging.
The GRDE 18650 is a powerhouse that looks a bit unwieldy but is actually very comfortable once you slip it on. The straps are very soft and forgiving. The 1,800 lumen bulb has a lifespan of 100,000 hours. (Which essentially means it will last the rest of your life.) And the light tilts downward a full 90 degrees for night hiking. It’s a bit heavier than some other camping headlamps, but that weight is pretty evenly distributed so it shouldn’t be an issue.
What We Like
- The brightness – While the 18650 doesn’t boast 6,000 lumens like the Cobiz we just reviewed 1,800 lumens should be more than enough light for your camping trip.
- The overall comfort – This is one of the most comfortable camping headlamps we tested. Certainly the reasonable 12.5 ounce weight has something to do with that.
- The ability to zoom – If you’ve ever hiked trails at night you know that sometimes they can get very claustrophobic and sometimes they really open up.
- The multiple recharging modes – The 18650 can be recharged using a wall socket, a car charger, a power pack or a smart phone. Versatility is a great thing.
Petzl is synonymous with headlamps. And in our opinion their Tikkina 150 lumens headlamp is the best they offer in terms of overall value. The 150 lumens means this is intended to be a campsite light. But make no mistake, it will keep the path ahead well-lit too if you want to take in a bit of night hiking. Compact, light and well-built and with a wide, comfy, stretch band keeping it in place the Tikkina is a camping headlight that will enhance the safety and enjoyment of any camping trip.
What We Like
- The comfort – The Tikkina weighs less than half a pound. It grabs hold gently and doesn’t need constant adjustment like some other headlamps.
- The build quality – Although it’s very light and comfortable the Tikkina is also built to last with a light mechanism fashioned from high impact plastic.
- The light quality – There’s no doubt that the Tikkina is in its element around the campsite. But it’s no slouch on the trail either.
- The battery life – Although it relies on AAA batteries the Tikkina nonetheless gets every last bit of life out of them. If you run it on low that means more than 200 hours.
For some folks a big bulky camping headlight is almost like a badge of courage. Others, however, want their headlamp to meld into the background and integrate seamlessly with the rest of their gear. For them there’s the Black Diamond Spot325. The Spot325 achieves its low-impact wearability by being very light, even with the 3 AAA batteries installed. Use it around the campsite, on the trail or just for visiting the basement.
What We Like
- The weight – Or should we say the lack of weight. At only 3.1 ounces this is one of the lightest 300+ lumen headlamps on the market.
- Ease of use – Nothing here that’s going to scramble your brain or have you fumbling in the cold to find the right switch. Everything is run through the single control button.
- The high level of water resistance – While not truly waterproof the Black Diamond is highly water resistant and should easily survive being dropped in a puddle.
- The price – When you consider the build quality, the ease of use and the level of illumination you have to conclude that this is one of the better values on the market.
The MergerGo has sort of a strange look to it. At least in our opinion. But while reasonable people can debate aesthetics there’s no debating the outstanding utility of this rechargeable LED headlamp. The MergerGo uses a 5W Cree XPE LED to produce 160 lumens of clear, even light in any conditions and will illuminate up to 150 yards down the path. It’s also waterproof (big plus) and priced to go.
What We Like
- The waterproofing – If you intend to spend any serious time outdoors your headlamp better be able to stand up to the rain and snow. The MergoGo does just that.
- The rechargeable battery – The lithium-ion polymer battery recharges quickly and holds a charge for hours even when operating at high levels.
- The comfort – The MergerGo rests lightly on the head and feels equally comfortable in all conditions. It also stays put once you strap it on.
- The quality of the light – The 5W CREE XPE LED produces a clean, clear light that allows you to operate the headlamp on the lowest setting, save your battery and still see everything you need to see around the campsite.
Petzl makes another visit to our list with their Tikka 200 Lumens headlamp. This is an outstanding all-purpose camping headlight that will illuminate all your campsite tasks and serve you well on even the darkest, twistiest trail at night. One of the many great things about this headlamp is that you can swap out the AAA batteries for the company’s CORE rechargeable battery and say good-bye to running out of power.
What We Like
- Battery compatibility – The Tikka 200 is also compatible with the company’s CORE rechargeable battery.
- The red light mode – The red light will prevent you from waking up slumbering creatures. Most of all it will allow you to see your way around without ruining your own night vision.
- The simple on/off button – The centrally located large on/off button allows you control of your light without having to remove your gloves when it’s freezing cold outside.
- The safety whistle – What a great idea! Petzl includes a small but very effective safety whistle that’s attached to the head strap in case you need to call for help or ward off aggressive wildlife.
The BioLite 330 Lumen headlamp weighs only a third what some other headlamps weigh but doesn’t force you to give up function to enjoy that light weight. The BioLite features bands made of what the company is calling “smart fabrics”. This fabric stretches and twists but doesn’t do a number on your forehead or scalp. The light kicks out 330 lumens. Which is enough to tackle any campsite task after dark or to allow you to navigate the darkest path with confidence.
What We Like
- The ultra-lightweight construction – Weighing a mere 4 ounces the BioLite is barely noticeable once you place it on your head.
- The fabric – The bands of the Biolite are fashioned from soft, supple moisture wicking fabric that isn’t going to leave abrasions on your forehead or scalp.
- The power – Oh the power. The tiny BioLite pumps out an impressive 330 lumens. Enough to illuminate any campsite chore or to light up the trail around you.
- The red night light – The red light option ensures you don’t shock woodland creates and it also allows you to retain your night vision.
- The rechargeable battery – We’re big fans of rechargeables. The BioLite comes with a micro USB cord that allows you to recharge it from your phone, tablet or powerpack.
The Totobay is another fairly involved headlamp that is designed to reach down the road or trail or up the side of the mountain. It pumps out an amazing 5,000 lumens of clear, clean LED light, has a head that tilts 90 degrees so you can watch where your feet are going and is fully waterproof; just in case you’re caught in a downpour or drop it in the river. Great around the campsite but designed for the trail.
What We Like
- The incredible brilliance – With a max output of 5,000 lumens nothing is going to surprise you on the trail. Nothing. The LED bulbs also have a lifespan of 100,000 hours.
- The 4 light modes – The Totobay headlamp offers low, middle, high and strobe options so you’re covered around the campsite and out on the trail.
- The waterproofing – This type of gear can’t be waterproof enough in our opinion. And the Totobay headlamp is among the most waterproof headlamps on the market.
- The orientation light – The green orientation light on the back of the headband provides a beacon of sorts for those behind you to follow.
The NU25 from Nitecore is another minimalist camping headlamp that slips on quickly, is devoid of superfluous features that add weight and kicks out a lot of light (360 lumens). It has a 100 degree flood light feature, tilts 60 degrees so you can watch the trail underfoot and weighs a scant 1.3 ounces. It’s comfortable, reasonably water resistant and small enough to stuff in your pocket if you want to take it off for a while.
What We Like
- The light output – We love the quality of the light emitted by the Cree XP-G2 S3 LED. It’s clear and even and isn’t intimidated by rough conditions.
- The charge on the go option – The battery can be recharged on the go. All you need is a power source and the included micro USB cable.
- The compact size – The NU25 weighs only about an ounce (without the strap) and it’s small enough to easily fit in the pocket of your cargo pants.
- The red light option – You don’t disturb wildlife and you don’t have to keep adjusting your eyes between the light and the dark.
The final item on our list of best camping headlamps is yet one more Petzl. This time it’s their 350 Lumens Actik Core headlamp. As the name states it’s capable of pumping out 350 lumens by way of its CORE battery pack. Or, if you can’t find anywhere to recharge, you can just pop in 3 AAA batteries and you’ll be good to go. It’s this kind of versatility we love to see in our camping gear and Petzl knows what versatility is all about.
What We Like
- The built in whistle – It’s the kind of simple, thoughtful touch we’d like to see in all camping headlamps. It gives you one more useful tool should you get lost.
- The water resistance – With an IP X4 rating you can’t go swimming with this but it should be stout enough to withstand a mild rain shower.
- The dependability – Petzl headlamps are known for being durable and dependable in all types of weather conditions. Treat it right and you’ll get years of use out of it.
- The ultra-light weight – As long as you stick to the Lithium-ion battery. Swap it out for 3 AAA batteries (which you have the option to do) and it gets heavier and a little uncomfortable.
- The beam shape – The Actik Core provides a multi-sourced beam that’s both wide and even and ideal for night hiking or jogging.
The days of having to bring bulky, inefficient flashlights into the woods on your camping trip have come and gone. Much to the relief and delight of campers everywhere. Today’s camping headlamps allow you to bring an incredible amount of clean, clear light to bear on any night timTe task without straining your neck or your bank account. And many of them are so light and comfortable they can be worn for hours at a time; whether you’re in the tent mapping your route for tomorrow or on the trail in search of that perfect campsite above treeline. Hike a few extra miles after dark in complete confidence. Have all the light you need to set up camp in the most remote location. Or prepare a gourmet camp meal without having to worry that the poor lighting will cause you to cut yourself accidentally. And don’t worry. You won’t have to bring along extra bulbs because the LED bulb in your new headlamp is going to be with you longer than your mortgage.
If you enjoyed this article, make sure you check out more of our reviews:
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- Best Hiking Jackets for Men
- Best Hiking Backpacks
- Best Hiking Hammocks
- Best Camping Tents
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- Best Camping Headlamps
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- Best Camping Chairs
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- Best Women’s Hiking Jackets