Updated: December 2017

Headlamp Reviews:

If you've ever wished for another hand to hold the flashlight while you're fixing a car, trying to start a campfire in the dark, trying to read a map at night, or just looking for something in your basement, you're in luck. Headlamps provide that extra hand for you. Very much like the headlamps that miners wear, headlamps are coming out of the mines and into the mainstream. This guide will let you know what to look for in a headlamp and help you decide which one is right for you. I recently used a few while hiking on a backpacking trip. I saw several other campers using them as well in the evening when the sun goes down and you need to be able to read a book before bed.

Choosing the Best Headlamps - The most basic function of a headlamp is obviously providing you with light when you need it and when you need it without your hands. To ensure it provides the best quality light for you, look for the following:

*When looking for a light, we tend to think that brighter is better. That's not really the case with headlamps. It can be difficult to read a map or book with a light that is too bright. You don't want a spotlight: you likely want a headlamp so you can do close-up work, which is more difficult with ultra-bright lights.
*Brightness. The level of brightness can affect the duration of the battery. Some LED headlamps have adjustable light levels so you can optimize battery life. When you need more light (which you will probably rarely use with a headlamp), you can always adjust it up. Flood beams are the best for your close-up work, while spot lights are better for distance work. Some LED headlights have both.
*Lux versus lumens. Lux will tell you what the output is at a specified distance, which is a pretty reliable way to compare lamps. Lumens will give you an idea of the output, but these are measured differently by different brands, so it is hard to get a sense of comparison by this alone.
*Voltage regulators. As your battery wears, the light can start to fade. A regulator helps keep the light consistent.
*Consider your usage: if you're going to be using your headlamp for camping or driving, for instance, you may want one with a strobe or emergency setting to signal for help. If you're going to be using it at night, you may want a red LED, not a red LED filter. Filters can be a hassle because they can get lost or be hard to put on, on the fly. Another consideration is whether you need/want your headlamp to be waterproof.
*Finally, consider your power source. Batteries can be expensive, so you may want to try a lamp with rechargeable NiMH batteries or rechargeable lithium batteries, which would be better but more expensive. Lithium-ion batteries last for a long time and are a great choice if you want to spend the extra money. At least you won't be replacing the batteries after every other use. You can also get a solar-powered headlamp, which is nice for travel. The Everlite EL8 Solar Headlamp is a good choice.
*One more to think about: comfort. A headlamp isn't going to do much good if you have to take it off because it pinches or doesn't sit right.

REI is another great source for products like headlamps. You can browse the best selling headlamps online here.

Best Headlamps:

ConsumerSearch is a site that combs through thousands of reviews and selects the ones that receive consistently high marks from consumers. They then make a short list for you so you can make a more informed decision. ConsumerSearch named the Princeton Tec Quad as their favorite wide beam headlamp and called it ideal for camping and power outages, as well as very comfortable to wear. The Quad features an LED bulb with a burn time of 105 hours, an elastic head strap, 45 lumen output, 4 modes, waterproof up to 1 meter, push button on/off modes, and is powered by 3 AAA batteries. This last makes it a very cheap headlamp to run with alkalines. The Quad has a voltage regulator, battery meter, and lifetime warranty. ConsumerSearch did note some potential downfalls: the Princeton headlamp doesn't throw light over 100 feet. This makes it excellent for close-up tasks but not so good for long range ones. This, however, could be just what you need. There is no red light for nighttime use, so that is another factor to keep in mind. You can find the Princeton Tec Quad for $35 at retailers or pay about the same online at Amazon. If you want a Princeton Tec that is better suited for longer distances, try the Tech Eos. This was ConsumerSearch's choice for Best Long Distance LED Headlamp. It shoots a narrower beam of light almost 200 feet, had an adjustable brightness spotlight, voltage regulator, up to 44 hours of battery life, and a lifetime warranty. The trade-off is that the narrower beam is not well-suited for close-up tasks. You can find the Eos for $34. If you want a headlamp that can go even further, 3Luxe recommends the Brunton L5 Headlamp. (3Luxe is a site that reviews thousands of products in endless categories and makes a list of the top 3 to help consumers make informed purchase decisions.) The Brunton L5 offers a beam of light to encompass a distance of nearly 250 feet. It has the reputation of being the brightest LED headlamp in the world. The L5 features 5-watt luxeon K2 LED light, 4 light modes, water resistance, emergency flash mode, 5 watt output, battery life of 50 hours with a rechargeable 4.5Ah NiMH pack, and a 1-year warranty. A great choice certainly, but you'll pay for those extra feet. The Brunton headlamp costs about $175.

Headlamps for Camping:

If lightweight is your deciding factor, there is no one better than Petzel. Both ConsumerSearch and 3Luxe agreed on this brand and put them in their "Best of" category. 3Luxe liked the Petzel Tikka XP, while ConsumerSearch opted for the even more petite Petzel e+LITE. The Tikka XP is only 3 ounces, and it features: 3 lighting levels, including economic, both continuous and flashing modes, flood beam, spot beam up to 35 meters, boost mode, which boosts its range to 50 meters for 20 seconds, low battery warning, water resistance, and interchangeable lenses. You can get red, green, blue, and transparent wide angle lenses, and a 3-year guarantee. This is $58. Its brother, the e+LITE, was lauded by ConsumerSearch for its light weight of 0.9 ounces, its red LED night vision, waterproofing, and ability to clip to a hat, collar, or jacket if needed. The e+LITE throws light to 19 meters, has 45 hours of battery life (a little on the low side for some), 360-degree swiveling light source, and versatility. You can wear it on your head, wrist, neck, or clothing with the integrated clip. A 10-year guarantee comes with this model. It doesn't have a voltage regulator, and it is not really meant for very tough use. It is good for light camping, maybe walking the dog at night, having snacks in the car, etc. You can find this for $30. Keep your eyes out for the big names: Petzl, Princeton Tec, Brunton (expensive but very good), and Everlite. Also keep your usage in mind. As you can see with the above suggestions, some will be better suited than others for your needs. You can also look here for a wide selection of headlamps that fit your budget, your needs, and your head! Check out the top rated headlamps here.