Whether you are hiking solo or need handsfree light while at your campsite, choosing the right headlamp will give you confidence when exploring the great outdoors in the dark.
You will not only have peace of mind hitting the trails early in the morning, but extra light comes in handy when you hear the sound of crunching leaves outside your tent in the middle of the night. Not to mention a headlamp should be an essential part of your emergency supply kit.
First, below is an overview of the best headlamps for hiking and camping in case you are in a hurry. But make sure to keep reading as I dive deeper into the great features each choice has to offer to help illuminate your surroundings and keep things bright!
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|Black Diamond Cosmo 350||350||AAA (3)||IPX8|
|Petzl Tikka||300||AAA (3)||IPX4|
|Biolite 200||200||USB Rechargeable||IPX4|
|Black Diamond Storm 500-R||500||USB Rechargeable||IPX7|
|LED USB Rechargeable||300||USB Rechargeable||IPX4|
Top Hiking and Camping Headlamps in 2022
Black Diamond Cosmo 350
Black Diamond is a brand known for its high-quality hiking, climbing, and mountaineering gear – and a trusted name in the industry. The Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp provides 350 lumens of brightness in a nearly completely waterproof package assured by an IPX8 rating.
It is coveted for its precise, powerful beam that is ideal for seeking out navigational markers in the dark, powered by three AAA batteries. The headlamp has a lightweight and compact design making it easy to pack away and ready whenever you need it.
The Cosmo has a lockout feature, so you need to worry if you headlamp will turn on accidentally while in your backpack. Plus, the Brightness Memory feature lets you turn on and off your headlamp, saving the last chosen light setting without having to pick your favorite brightness again.
Petzel is another notable brand for outdoor enthusiasts and is well known for its hybrid concept design – allowing you to use the provided AAA batteries for power or having the option to use a CORE rechargeable battery when you purchase it separately.
Tikka is Petzl’s first LED lamp, launched 20 years ago – so I’d say this is one headlamp built to last! Offering 300 lumens of light, the Petzl Tikka is ideal for any outdoor excursion, whether you’re doing a nighttime section hike on the Appalachian Trail or camping in the Rocky Mountains.
Bonus feature? The headlamp has three white lighting levels for proximity, movement, and distance.
Don’t forget, you can detach the headband and wash it to help keep it clean after a long weekend’s use. The Petzl Tikka has an IPX4 rating, meaning it’s okay to use this product during light rain, but it is not ideal for extremely wet climates or if dropped in standing water.
The BioLite HeadLamp 200 is the most comfortable option on our list. The band is smooth and the light sits flush against your forehead. BioLites’s compact design allows for easy packing so that you can take it with you anywhere – only weighing 1.75 ounces.
The HeadLamp 200 provides, you guessed it, 200 lumens of brightness. With a rechargeable battery, you don’t have to worry about battery waste every time your light goes dead. The battery doesn’t last very long on this one, so make sure to have a full charge before heading out or bring a small battery bank with you.
In addition, this model has a no-bounce band, which comes in handy if you decide to go for a trail run. The waterproof rating on this headlamp is IPX4.
Black Diamond Storm 500-R
The Black Diamond Storm 500-R headlamp has a long-lasting rechargeable battery that can be charged via USB. At 500 lumens, you can rest assured your campsite or hiking trail will be lit up, especially since the max beam distance is 120 meters – that’s almost 400 feet!
If you prefer less lumens, the medium setting on the Storm is 250 lumens, which is still very bright. And if night mode settings are your thing – there are red, green and blue night vision light options.
The Black Diamond Storm has a waterproof rating of IPX7 – so even if your headlamp is submerged in water, the casing is sealed and the light will continue to work as it should.
LED USB Rechargeable Headlamp
The LE LED USB rechargeable headlamp is an affordable option since it’s a 2-pack deal! Small but mighty, this little lamp offers 300 lumens of brightness and tips the scales at just 2.65 ounces.
The batteries provide up to 15 hours of light on a single charge and will recharge from any USB port. This headlamp is ideal for day hikes, camping, and even weekend backpacking trips.
With an IPX4 waterproof rating, this headlamp is water-resistant, but as mentioned above, it is best to stay away from large amounts of H20. This USB rechargeable headlamp offers a 45 degree tilt to adjust the brightness in the direction you need most, in addition to six different light modes.
BONUS: UltrAspire Lumen 600 3.0 Waist Light
Although not a headlamp, the UltaAspire Lumen 600 3.0 waist light is an excellent choice if you plan on hiking on very uneven terrain, go trail running in the dark, or decide to wear a ball cap for the day.
The 600 lumen flood cone lighting helps eliminate tunnel vision and gives you a much better field of vision. In addition, the waist belt includes a removable pocket so you can carry a couple of essentials with you – like your phone or food, or you can just leave the pocket off.
If you are worried about the waistband moving around, don’t! The UltrAspire has proportional waist distribution, a cone-shaped belt, and limited stretch elastic, creating a nice, snug fit to your body.
You will not need to worry about replacing batteries frequently, as the light has a rechargeable battery and can be recharged via USB. The IPX7 rating makes the UltrAspire waterproof and fully submersible.
7 Things to Consider Before You Buy
Brightness is measured in lumens, usually ranging from 50 to more than 500. Lumens refer to the brightness the bulb emits in all directions but doesn’t necessarily indicate the distance a beam reaches, so it’s important to look at all the lamp’s optics.
A lumen measures the amount of visible light generated – not necessarily how well it will light up a dark trail. As a general rule, you will want a headlamp with a minimum of 200 lumens for navigating a trail in complete darkness.
2. Light Types
Most headlamps can produce multiple forms of light, including spot, flood, colored, and strobe settings. You need to think about which types of light you’d prefer in different situations so you can pick a headlamp that meets your specific needs.
The LED spot beam is the default setting for most headlamps. The spot setting enables long-distance viewing and will be the best for navigating a trail in the dark.
If you plan on spending a lot of time around a campsite, you’ll want a headlamp with a floodlight setting, which provides wide-angle coverage to maximize the view of your immediate surroundings.
Many headlamps have a red light setting, which preserves your night vision and can be a great asset when you’re spending time in a tent with someone else (ie: the light can be very blinding). These red – but sometimes blue or green – LEDs are useful for hanging out at night without disturbing others around you.
Lastly, many headlamps have an emergency strobe light function, which helps preserve battery life.
3. Beam Distance
While lumens will tell you how bright the headlamp glows, beam distance will tell you how far the light goes. Manufacturers typically test and provide both pieces of information to consumers.
Beam distance is especially important when navigating trails at night through the wilderness and can range from thirty to hundreds of feet.
4. Battery Life
This can be a tricky topic because the battery life listed by manufacturers may not accurately reflect how long the headlamp can last at full brightness. Plus different brightness settings will use different amounts of the batter.
Unless the light is regulated, take battery life with a grain of salt. Over time, the light’s maximum brightness capacity will fade.
While we’re on the subject of battery life, let’s talk about batteries. Most headlamps use AA or AAA batteries and there are many models on the market with rechargeable batteries. Both options have their pros and cons.
With AA or AAA batteries, you can bring extras with you incase your light goes dead, but they do create more waste and can become expensive since you continuously have to buy new ones. Rechargeable batteries are better for the environment, but you need to make sure you have a full charge before heading out on your weekend trip and/or be prepared with a power bank to recharge your headlamp when does goes dead.
It’s important to research how long a headlamp will last on a single charge or a single set of batteries. But when planning a hiking or camping trip, it is best to bring along extras or, better yet, a cool hiking gadget like a portable battery pack.
5. Water Resistance – IPX Rating
Most headlamps are not entirely waterproof but offer a level of water resistance – ideal for hiking and camping in wet, rainy conditions. Waterproof ratings are provided by the letters “IPX” followed by a number.
The higher the number, the more water-resistant the headlamp. Most headlamps have a minimum IPX4 rating, which means they’re protected from splashes and rain. If you’re camping or hiking in wet climates, an IPX rating of 7 or 8 is preferable, as it will provide a higher degree of waterproofing.
While weight might seem insignificant when considering a small headlamp that fits into the palm of your hand, you might be surprised at the substantial variation between models. Some lightweight models weigh an ounce, while beefier versions can tip the scales at nearly a pound.
Typically, the more powerful the headlamp, the heavier the lamp, but with technological advances, this doesn’t necessarily hold true for every product. There are some powerful, lightweight headlamps on the market designed for alpine climbing and mountaineering – a sport in which every ounce you carry makes a difference.
Lighter options are typically crafted with a thin plastic casing and require fewer batteries. In comparison, heavier options utilize heavy plastic or aluminum and are more durable in the event of an impact. Also, consider weight distribution: where are the batteries located?
7. Headband Fit
Most headlamps have adjustable headbands made of elastic nylon that fit around the back of the head. The two-strap design is ideal for use in conjunction with a helmet, such as when you’re rock climbing.
Some have an additional strap that runs over the top of your head, making for added stability. These styles are more suitable for extreme adventure sports or when you’re trail running, preventing the headlamp from bouncing up and down.
You can remove the additional overhead strap in some styles.
Wrapping It Up…
My number one choice for the best headlamp for hiking and camping is the Black Diamond Cosmo 350. In my experience, fumbling around in the wilderness at night without light is a bit spooky, so having a quality headlamp is essential for an enjoyable time.
Be prepared and if you have the mindset that headlamps are a necessary part of an emergency kit then you’ll never leave it behind.
Happy (well-lit) trails!