Headlamps are great for RUNNING, CAMPING, CYCLING, CAVING, and 100’s of Activities. We cover EVERYTHING you need to know about Headlamps from PETZL, OLIGHT, BLACK DIAMOND, and FENIX. WE GET IT! Inside this Best Headlamps Buyer’s Guide we have heaps of helpful details.
We’ve SOLD OVER 31,800 HEADLAMPS in 2 YEARS! You’re in the RIGHT PLACE. Let’s Get Started!
[Last Updated: 2 January 2023]
10 Best Headlamps of All Time
Like every year, we begin testing the best headlamps from Petzl, OLight, Black Diamond, and Fenix to see which headlamps match which activities and which headlamps are strong and durable, able to take a beating. We are experts in rainforest herpetology and we have used most of these headlamps daily for a decade looking for wildlife in the forests of Southeast Asia. We have comprehensively tested more than 34 headlamps.
Our Top 10 Recommended Headlamps
- PETZL: Actik CORE ($40-70) | DUO S ($460) | Nao+ (Plus) ($170) | SWIFT RL ($130) | Ultra Rush ($430)
- OLIGHT: H2R Nova Cool White ($90) | HS2 ($99)
- BLACK DIAMOND: Icon ($95)
- FENIX: HL60R ($79)
- ENERGIZER: Hard Case Rugged ($29)
Best Overall Headlamp: Petzl PETZL SWIFT RL
Last year, our number one recommended headlamp (OLight H2R) sold over 11,000 units for us. The feature set was solid, and yet it just wasn’t anything more than a basic, well-made, reliable headlamp for under $100. It’s STILL a great headlamp in 2020, but this year we have a new model that we think is even better. Petzl’s SWIFT RL headlamp offers some features that are outstanding. This new headlamp is so good that it probably meets the needs of 95% of you reading. No joke. It’s that good. Let’s take a look…
Activities the Petzl SWIFT RL is PERFECT for:
- Walking and Hiking: Great for dirt trails or city streets.
- Running: Streets or trails (fast or slow).
- Cycling: Streets or trails (fast or slow).
- Fishing, Camping, Hunting, Caving: This headlamp is great for anything.
- Survival and SHTF BugOut Scenarios: Very long-lasting battery life and small strong lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries make this a must-have headlamp.
- Water Activities: Wet caves and anything in or near water
- Around the Home Work or Emergency Lighting: Long battery life and bright enough for anything.
Activities the SWIFT RL is Not Perfect for:
- It is difficult to come up with something negative. If we could ask Petzl to do one thing differently, it would be to make the headlamp military grade – even stronger than it is.
- Super-bright: 900 Max Lumens for 2.5 hours in Reactive Lighting mode.
- Cheap Batteries: Just $35 each adds hours of use.
- Ultra-white Light: Petzl employs perfect color-balance, with no orange or blue tint. Pure white.
- Long Battery Life: Reactive Lighting stretches your battery life significantly – something no other headlamp manufacturer has.
- Very Lightweight: 100 g. is like a bowl of dry cereal. Superlight! Lighter than 90% of our headlamps.
- Strong: Durable hard-plastic design.
- One-Button Operation: All functions with short and long button clicks. Features sliding lock.
- Battery Recharge Time: At 6 hours to recharge, we think this can be improved greatly. That’s all we could come up with for a negative.
We have already sold 296 Petzl SWIFT RL’s in 2020. You’ll love it.
To see a full review of the OLight H2R headlamp, click here.
If the OLight H2R meets your needs, check price and availability here.
Best Runners Headlamp: Petzl Nao+ Plus
For the last two years, this headlamp was #2 overall and the best runner’s headlamp. This year, it’s #2 overall AND tied for the best running headlamp. We just can’t choose between the Petzl SWIFT RL and the NAO+ for running. They’re both great. They both have Reactive Lighting Tech. They are both lightweight and have strong beams and great beam coverage.
This Petzl Nao+ Plus headlamp (E36 AHR 2B) would have been our #1 Recommendation this year, but still, the price (around $170) is a bit hard for people to get over. It’s a WORLD CLASS headlamp, but not that many people need such a great headlamp. If you NEED something you can rely on for your life, get this Petzl over the #1 OLight above.
As it is, it’s very close in capability to the Ultra Rush, but it’s lighter and has some other benefits you can find in the Pros and Cons bullets below. Ultra-runners and others who are weight-sensitive and want a lightweight unit will appreciate the Petzl Nao+ Plus headlamp without a doubt. Before buying a number of the newer headlamps for our 2017-2018 list,
I used the Petzl Nao 2 headlamp for over a year in the forest during research. The Nao+ Plus is the new model and they’ve increased the brightness over time, and also gave the Nao+ Bluetooth connectivity so you can create custom lighting profiles from your smartphone (Android and Apple). Petzl appears to have slightly tweaked the RLT algorithm so it nails most lighting situations, saving, even more, battery than the older model. The new battery model is E36200 2B.
If You Want a WELL-BUILT, DURABLE, BRIGHT, AUTO ADJUSTING LIGHT – the Petzl Nao+ Plus headlamp is probably for you.
Reactive Lighting Technology (RLT)
The Petzl Nao+ top line of headlamps comes with Reactive Lighting Tech which senses the environment and automatically adjusts the light beam output to match. RLT saves precious battery juice to extend battery life beyond what most headlamps can provide on just one 2600 mAh 18650 rechargeable battery.
Dozens of climbers and runners on the Petzl Team use it, including Kilian Jornet – the world’s best ultrarunner, Tony Krupicka, and Sebastien Chaigneau. Three champions. There are 1000’s of other Petzl users, you can see them lined up at the start of every ultra race around the world that includes an overnight section. When you buy a Petzl, you’re in the company of world-class athletes.
We sold over 890 of these NAO+ headlamps just during Christmas.
Excellent build quality, beam shape and quality of light combined with Reactive Lighting Technology make the Petzl Nao+ Plus one of the top headlamps in the world. All of the headlamps on this page are highly recommended for specific uses, this light covers more activities than most of the others. Grab One!
Activities Petzl Nao+ Plus Headlamp is Best For
- Cycling: Perfect for the road or trail.
- Camping: It’s the perfect all-around camping headlamp.
- Hunting: Not great for spotting far in the distance, but for close needs – works well.
- Running: Perfect beam shape, color balance, and size of the beam for trail or street running.
- Skiing: For best results, use the brightest manual setting.
- Trekking/Hiking: Illuminates the trail sufficiently to increase safety.
- Caving: Great for caving. Set up the MYPETZL Light application on your mobile phone and custom program the Nao+ to give the max duration of time at the brightest possible output for cave exploration/spelunking.
- Anything: The Petzl Nao+ is a trusted headlamp for just about any activity.
Activities Petzl Nao+ is Not So Good For
- Sitting on a shelf.
Petzl Nao+ Plus Headlamp Pros
- Bright: 750 lumens available in RLT mode.
- Battery Savings: Reactive Lighting Technology saves battery!
- High Tech: Lightweight, durable, comfortable, easy-to-use.
- Custom Lighting Profiles: Functions with Bluetooth smartphone app.
- Round Beam: Even lighting with slight center bias, ideal for most activities.
- Red Strobe: Flashing strobe or solid red light on battery pack for enhanced visibility to vehicles (can turn off).
- Water-resistant: High rating is good for moderate to heavy rain.
- Multifaceted: Good for almost any activity.
Petzl Nao+ Plus Cons
- No Manual Max: Maximum 750 lumens only available in RLT mode.
- Expensive Batteries: Though batteries are reliable and last 2+ years, they are around $60-80.
To see a full review of the Petzl Nao+ headlamp, click here.
If the Petzl Nao+ 750 lumens meets your needs, check price and availability here.
Best Expensive Headlamp: Petzl DUO S
The Petzl DUO S can be seen as a significant upgrade to the Petzl Ultra Rush – the winner of last year’s Best Headlamps 2017 list! Unfortunately, it’s priced even HIGHER. Apparently, Petzl has a group of people who can afford $600 headlamps, but we’re not going to be one of them.
We ordered one to test – and then the seller said they couldn’t ship the battery overseas as it was considered a dangerous item. They canceled the order. We didn’t re-order. It’s just too expensive, and we found the OLight H2R Nova above – and that was more impressive for the price alone – 1/6th of the DUO S!
Like the Ultra Rush in #4 below, you probably DON’T need a $600 headlamp, but some of you will insist on it. Here’s what it’s all about…
Activities the Petzl DUO S is Great for
- Walking or Running fast or slow on street or trail
- Cycling fast or slow on the street or trail
- Skiing fast or slow
- Construction jobs
- Home remodeling
- Automobile work
- Camping, Fishing, Hunting, Caving
Activities the Petzl DUO S is Not So Good for
- no explosive environment rating – not for use on oil platforms, however, the Petzl DUO Z1 and Z2 are rated for this activity
Petzl DUO S Pros
- Latest Design: Petzl’s latest headlamp designed to be good for any activity (at a price).
- Super-bright Turbo Mode: 1100 Lumens in a 5-second burst.
- Bright High Mode: 700 Lumens for 3.5 hours. More light than most people need.
- Multiple CREE Beams: 3 separate lights great for short and long-distance needs.
- Strong: Durable, long-lasting, shockproof, waterproof.
- Battery Charging: Fast.
DUO S Cons
- Expensive: Was $600 USD when first introduced. Now can find for around $460.
To see a full review of the Petzl DUO S headlamp, click here.
If the Petzl DUO S lumens meets your needs, check price and availability here.
Best Herpetology Headlamp: Petzl Ultra Rush
It’s Expensive! There, we said it. This is the most expensive headlamp we’ve tested. The build is STRONG. The beam is perfect for our needs – herping in the rainforest. Most people DO NOT NEED this headlamp, but those who do – those who need gear that will last a long time and is VERY RELIABLE.
This Petzl Ultra Rush was our top recommended headlamp to buy in 2017. We absolutely love it. It’s expensive, but we have this thing about buying the best equipment for the job. We take people from all over the world out on excursions to see wildlife in the forest in Southeast Asia – and we need the most reliable, most durable headlamps we can possibly have for our herpetology excursions. This is it for us. It’s also great for Cycling, Long-Distance Running, Trekking, and Camping.
The Ultra Rush really shines in situations that require constant lighting, with instant-on power on standby. Workers on the high seas or in harsh environmental conditions should consider this headlamp. Those working on wind farms, or others scaling heights to do their jobs – buy this headlamp.
The Price Can Change – see if the price of the Ultra Rush is right for you today. Note – the Ultra Rush is rarely available in 2019 because the DUO S is the upgrade. 🙁
In addition to professional uses, it just whacks the competition for battery life-giving 38 hours low-light use – perfect for construction work, camping, fishing, trekking, climbing volcanoes, etc. Because the Petzl Ultra Rush is built so solidly and has two batteries in its ACCU 2 battery pack (E52 ACW), it is best for applications in which you’re not moving too fast. Meaning, horseback riding is going to bounce this headlamp all over your head.
Ultra Rush Technology
The Ultra Rush is built very solidly. It’s tough. You won’t break it unless you launch it off the top of a mountain. I think if you fall on it, you’d have to hit it just right to crack one of the lenses on the front. They’re strong. The guy who established the brand, Ferdnand Petzl was a pioneer in caving and climbing. He made the first Petzl headlamp in 1981!
The Ultra Rush is super-bright – cranking out 760 lumens at the top power setting for up to two hours. The second brightest setting is 430 lumens and you’ll get that level for 5 hours. That’s really bright. If you need 7 hours of light, drop it to the 2nd setting and get 300 lumens for 420 minutes. If you need the light just for walking, you’ll have 38 hours of juice at 65 lumens – which is more than adequate lighting. Most people who buy this light will want something SOLID, BRIGHT, and LONG BATTERY LIFE.
This is a top-of-the-line headlamp from one of the best manufacturers of headlamps in the world. Thousands of professional runners, climbers, and workers on oil platforms and other rigs and boats in the middle of the ocean, use the Ultra Rush and have used Petzl headlamps over the last 40 years. There are good reasons why!
Note – the following link is for the upgrade headlamp – the Petzl DUO S. Better in every way, and more available than the Ultra Rush. The Ultra Rush was discontinued and now very hard to find. The DUO S is a much better headlamp if you can find it. Try the link below and see if it’s in stock.
To see a full review of the Petzl Ultra Rush headlamp, click here.
If the Petzl DUO S meets your needs, check price and availability here.
Activities the Petzl Ultra Rush Headlamp is Best For
- Cycling. Best on 3rd or 4th setting for lighting up the trail.
- Camping. From low 65 lumens to 760 max, there isn’t much you couldn’t do.
- Hunting. Best on low setting, or high for spotting to 170m.
- Skiing. On the high setting, you’d have 2 hours of very bright 760 lm illumination.
- Trekking/Hiking. With 2 – 38 hours battery life, you probably won’t need more than this headlamp.
- Working. Great for construction, boats, farm, heavy industry.
Activities Petzl Ultra Rush is Not So Good For
- Cave exploration/spelunking. The beam is too tightly centered and there is no floodlight.
- Running. The Ultra Rush is just too heavy for most people. You can get around this by purchasing the waist pack kit with cable. You can use with either the ACCU 2 or ACCU 4 battery, taking the weight of the battery off your head and putting it on your waist – great for longer treks or ultra-running.
Petzl Ultra Rush Headlamp Pros
- Bright: 6 very bright LED CREE beams.
- Even Lighting: Round light footprint is very evenly illuminated.
- Water Resistance: Waterproof under 1 meter for 30 minutes (minimum).
- Battery Life: Long for all but the highest setting, which still gives 2+ hours.
- One Dial Simplicity: All settings accessible from one knob.
- Multi-Use: Good for nearly any activity where strong light is necessary.
Ultra Rush Cons
- Heavy: Not so good for runners – a bit heavy.
- Expensive: One of the very expensive headlamps over $400, but built to last.
Note – the button below leads to a page where the Ultra Rush headlamp can sometimes be found. Usually, they show other alternative headlamps because the Ultra Rush just isn’t available much in 2019. Your best bet is to try to find the upgrade to this unit, called the Petzl DUO S. These too, are difficult to find, but they would be on THIS PAGE if available. 🙂
To see a full review of the Petzl Ultra Rush headlamp, click here.
If the Petzl DUO S meets your needs, check price and availability here.
Best Budget Runners’ Headlamp: Petzl Nao
This Nao 2 headlamp is still in our list, and probably will not be here next year as Petzl just came out with the Petzl Actik Core 450. These are very hard to find, and now the price for them is increasing. You are better off to buy either the Actik Core just mentioned, or the UPGRADE NAO+ available HERE.
This is an incredible runner’s headlamp that has given us years of happiness. The upgrade to this (E36 AHR) headlamp is the NAO+ Plus (our #2 for 2018).
I still have not noticed any problems with the battery in our Nao 2 unit! It’s still a solid headlamp in 2018. I get more than 90 minutes at maximum power on the manual setting. Max power with this light is probably as much as you will ever need, but the other two headlamps above put out some extra light if you need it. The Petzl Nao – we also call the ‘Nao 2’ because it’s the 2nd edition but with the same name (Nao).
This headlamp is ideal for hiking, camping, running, biking, climbing trees to get coconuts, whatever you’re doing! Right now you can get this headlamp for around not much over one-hundred dollars, which is a substantial discount off the price before the new model (Nao+) came out.
Best Runners Headlamp
In 2016, the Petzl Nao 2 was listed as our best-rated headlamp – and it would have been the same story in 2017 but the Ultra Rush came out. Then this year, we’ve found the OLIGHT H2R Nova. Just rest assured, this headlamp is one of the best in the world STILL and ultra-runners are still using this headlamp to compete in overnight 50m and 100 mile runs.
I’ve used this NAO 2 Headlamp over 350 times in the rainforest. I can vouch for its reliability. A great headlamp if you can find one!
I strongly suggest you get one of the Nao headlamps. Ferdnand Petzl created a company I’ve grown to love. Their products are exceptional.
My advice is to just buy the Nao+ because it is brighter, the battery lasts a little longer, and most importantly, it is programmable through an app on your phone. You customize the beam strength to last as long as you need it. Replacement batteries are easily found as well. See the NAO+ Plus with 750 lumens above.
Activities Petzl Nao is Best For
- Biking. Slow riding, not full out Gonzo on the downhills. Get the Ultra Rush above for that.
- Caving. If you need for caving, you’re better off with the Nao+ Plus above.
- Camping. Great for camping – all uses!
- Running. A great light and great beam for street or trail running. Used by some top ultra trail runners in the world.
- Skiing. Not for fast, but slow skiing – yes!
- Trekking/Hiking. Ideal for these activities because light and strong lumens.
- Multi-Use. Can be used for nearly any activity. BUT, the Petzl Nao+ does the same, and better.
Activities Petzl Nao Headlamp is Not So Good For
- Very Fast Activities. Avoid for biking, skiing, rollerblading, skateboarding, kite surfing, hang gliding, etc.
- Hunting. The center beam strength is probably not enough for what most hunters would like for spotting game far off.
Petzl Nao Headlamp Pros
- Battery Life: Reactive Lighting Technology saves battery.
- High Tech Design: Lightweight, durable, comfortable, easy-to-use.
- Even Lighting: A round light footprint that is evenly lit, and with bias slightly on center.
- Water Resistance: Good for rain.
- Multi-Use: Good for almost any activity. A great all-around light.
- Price Drop: Getting more affordable because the new model (Nao+ Plus) is available.
Petzl Nao Cons
- No Manual Max Power: Max 575 lumens Only Available in RLT Mode.
- Expensive Batteries: Battery replacements are expensive but are exceptionally reliable.
- Scarce: Getting hard to find – we recommend you get the NAO+ Plus 750 lumens light now.
Note – the button below goes straight to the NAO+ headlamp. This is a huge upgrade to the older NAO 2 headlamp, but with the price difference sometimes being less than $10, it makes so much more sense to get the NAO+ Get it HERE or click the button below.
To see a full review of the Petzl Nao headlamp, click here.
The NAO+ is the upgrade and we highly recommend it. If the Petzl NAO+ meets your needs, check price and availability here.
Best Cool Features Headlamp: Black Diamond Icon
Lumens Output: 500
Weight: 230 grams (8.1 oz.)
Max Beam Distance: 125 meters (410 feet)
Positives: Bright light and decent waterproofing standard; battery life; many colors; strobe; dimming.
Last year we reviewed this Black Diamond Icon headlamp with the focus on the brightness of the beam and not so much affordability and what most people use their headlamps for – camping, hiking, reading a book in a tent and other slow activities.
This year we’ve ranked it higher as we gain an appreciation for some of the features that are quite helpful in the forest. The max beam strength is 500 lumens. That’s probably average among the headlamps we’re ranking this year. No other light has a blue or green light, dimming, and double-A (AA) batteries as an option. Some people love this because they don’t have to worry about charging a battery, they just pull up to 7-11 and grab a pack of batteries to last as long as their trip.
For the price, this Black Diamond Icon is competing with some of the top headlamps made. We’re happy to recommend it for around $100. Depending on where you get it. Black Diamond has been around for a decade, making headlamps with low-power beams. I hope this is the start of some higher strength lights from the company – because we’ll keep putting them on our top 15 lists.
The design of this unit, like all BD’s – is just nothing like OLight or Petzl, but it is still a light that can handle most tasks, and many people love the company. Find it HERE or use the button below.
So far in 2019, we have sold 266 of these Black Diamon Icons.
Black Diamond Icon Headlamp Pros
- Multi-colored Beams: Red, Green, Blue, and strobe lights. A large variety of light that goes far beyond any other headlamp we’ve reviewed.
- Dimming: Choose the exact brightness you need.
- Easy-Touch Access: Power tap the right side of the lamp to turn high mode on/off.
- Brightness: 500 lumens is good for all slow activities, and even moderately fast running on trails.
- Multiple Beams: Both spotlight and flood beams. Great to have a choice.
- Battery Options: 4 AA battery convenience – some like – can use alkalines or rechargeable Lithium-ion.
- Body Strap: Included with the headlamp is a body strap and cable to take the battery off your head and put on your body – nice!
- Water Resistance: IP67 waterproof light with drop-protection.
Black Diamond Icon Cons
- Limited Rotation: Has a limited range of rotation of headlamp unit – few people will need it to point almost straight down.
- Fading Light: There is no constant brightness with this headlamp like other lamps that use lithium-ion batteries. The brightness fades over time.
- Unbalanced: The headlamp doesn’t sit well on the head, it isn’t balanced. Maybe better to put on the included body strap.
If the Black Diamond ICON meets your needs, check price and availability here.
Best Ultra-light Headlamp: Petzl MYO
We were blown away recently by a pair of ultra runners traversing over 1,000 kilometers of mountainous terrain in Nepal in the fastest known time. Which headlamp was one of them wearing? The Petzl MYO. I hadn’t taken this headlamp so seriously in the past, thinking that ultra-runners I saw wearing them in races stateside just couldn’t afford a better headlamp like the Nao+. Apparently, some LOVE the ultra-light MYO.
Activities Petzl MYO Good For
- Camping, fishing, reading a book in a tent.
- Kids. Good for kids, but the button pushes are difficult and they’ll get confused by the options. I do.
Activities Petzl MYO Not Good For
- Fast Activities: Forget cycling or skiing.
Petzl MYO Headlamp Pros
- Lightweight: Very little weight to it. This is ideal when weight is important.
- Bright: Beam is rather focused, so 370 lumens is good for slow running, hiking, camping.
- Diffuser: Great for knocking down the brightness to use in camp, reading a book, etc.
- Power Use Choice: Choose between constant lighting (beam stays same power) or standard (beam fades, but brighter initially).
- Multi-beam: Choose spotlight or diffuser that flips down.
- Battery Options: 3 AA batteries, store-bought or rechargeable Lithium-ion.
Petzl MYO Cons
- Uses: Too little brightness, in general, would be nice to have a brighter version around 500 lumens.
Best Kids Headlamp: Petzl Actik CORE 450
I know, we have two of these. Numbers #7 and #8 are tied. We just can’t choose one for you. Personally, we like the brighter light of the Actik Core – and the lithium-ion battery which gives us a constant lighting brightness. Others prefer the Petzl MYO above. Take your pick! You won’t go wrong. The Actik Core is a bit bright for kids, and as long as you tell them about keeping it away from their eyes – they should be fine.
Activities Petzl Actik Core 450 is Best for
- Running, trekking, reading a book in a tent.
- Doing anything Kids do!
- Good for Ultra Running across Nepal if you believe Ryan Sandes (we do).
Activities Petzl Actik Core 450 is Not Good for
- Fast Activities. Not enough light for faster activities.
Petzl Actik Core Pros
- Weight: Very lightweight. The lithium-ion battery helps considerably.
- Cheap Batteries: Very affordable lithium-ion CORE batteries around $30.
- Constant Brightness: The beam stays strong throughout the burn. No dimming using the lithium-ion battery. Fades with alkaline or rechargeables.
- USB Charging: Works with any micro-USB cord.
- Multi-Beam: One for close activities (reading), one spotlight for far activities. Nice blend.
- Beam Color: White light perfect for finding wildlife at night, or for any other application. I really dislike the orange-tinted headlamp light.
Actik Core Cons
- Durability: Not built super-tough. The Petzl MYO appears stronger built. For the price though? Can’t really beat the Actik Core headlamps.
Best Affordable Running Headlamp: Fenix HL60R
The FX-HL60R headlamp popped up on our radar a couple of times during our search for the top headlamps of 2017. At first, we glanced over it because in the past all Fenix was putting out were bad beam patterns that personally, I had no use for. I was really excited to see this headlamp has a decent beam pattern and power, lightweight, and all for a very reasonable price! The Fenix HL60R is going to be primarily for walkers or runners at night in 2019.
HL60R’s Powerful Beam and Good Battery Life
Though the beam has one shape and doesn’t offer a spotlight or true wide-angle flood beam, many people will love the quality of light the Fenix HL60R puts out. The beam has a small, soft beam biased toward the center and weak light on the sides. The beam footprint is round. Not only that, but the beam can get as bright as 950 lumens for as long as 48 minutes. Now, that’s with the supplied Fenix 18650 battery rated at 2600 mAh.
There’s no reason you can’t buy additional batteries to extend the length of time you have light. For that reason, some people will find the HL60R to be the perfect light for them because it has bright light, moderate to long battery life with extras, and Fenix is a durable brand, though, from China, it is a stable product that has been around for nearly 10 years now.
One problem with this light is that it gets very warm, causing foreheads to sweat. Not ideal for running, though some use it for that.
Activities Fenix HL60R Headlamp is Best For
- Biking. At any speed with the high beam.
- Caving. This headlamp has a nice wide floodlight!
- Camping. All general camping uses.
- Running. Trail or Road (fast/slow)
- Trekking/Hiking: Perfect.
Activities HL60R is Not So Good For
- Hot Activities. Seems to be capable of most anything except hunting! It does get very warm, so if you’re in a hot environment, you’ll want a Petzl lamp for your head.
Fenix HL60R Headlamp Pros
- Bright: 950 lumens maximum brightness is awesome. Plus has a red-beam and strobe.
- High Tech Design: Lightweight, durable, comfortable and easy-to-use.
- Battery Life: Great battery life and easily replaceable batteries (18650s or two CR123A).
- Beam Shape: Round light footprint with slight center bias.
- Water Resistance: Waterproof to 2 meters deep for 30 minutes.
- Multi-Use: Good for almost any activity.
- Low Price: The price is around $75.
Fenix HL60R Cons
- Max Brightness Limit: Max lumens of 950 is only available for 48 minutes.
- Auto Dimming: When on high mode the HL60R will shut down to a lower brightness when the unit becomes too hot. (often)
- Chinese Manufacture: Little support.
The next group of headlamps is affordable and well-built. We are including these because we want to give you some other solid options in case you cannot find the perfect headlamp above.
Best Inexpensive Headlamp: OLight HS2
The HS2 from Olight is one of our favorite headlamps for just about anything. The battery lasts a long time, and the beam color and shape is perfect for almost anything. There are separately controlled flood and spot beams – and the light is ultra-white. It comes with a built-in lithium-ion battery. It’s lightweight, good for running on trail or street.
NOTE – the HS2 is very rarely found online anymore. We recommend the huge upgrade but the better light – OLight H2R found HERE.
Activities OLight HS2 is Good for
- Walking, trekking, running on road or trail.
- Camping, fishing, caving. Not a super-bright light, but the quality of light is nice.
- Working around the house, or on an automobile.
Activities HS2 Not So Good for
- Fast activities.
OLight HS2 Pros
- Weight: Ultra-lightweight with the lithium-ion battery pack.
- Battery Life: The lithium-ion battery is long-lasting.
- Charging: Micro-USB charging.
- Multi-Beam: 400 lumens brightness with a combination beam flood/spot. This gives nice coverage for nearly any slow activity.
- Dimming: Allows you to choose an exact brightness level.
OLight HS2 Cons
- Dim: Not bright enough for very fast activities.
- Charging Time: Take a long time to reach a full battery.
NOTE – The HS2 has become almost impossible to find in 2019. The button below leads to the OLight H2R – a significant upgrade (around the same price).
Best Feature Headlamp: OLight H25 Wave
Lumens Output: 800 max (updated for 2019) for 5 hours.
Weight: 443 grams (15.6 oz.)
Max Beam Distance: 212 meters (696 feet)
Positives: Very bright. Well made. Diffused flood is good for some applications. Cool shut-off with a wave of your hand.
Negatives: Mandatory battery waist pack – cannot wear on the head.
This is a new brand for us, and we are anxious to give it a full review. I’ve used my friend’s Wave H25 headlamp for a night of looking for wildlife in the Thailand rainforest, and it was really good. I am very impressed and so happy to find the brand. They have a number of other headlamps as well, and flashlights (torches). See MORE OF THEM HERE – OLight Headlamps Available Now.
OLight is a Chinese company based out of Georgia, USA. It is refreshing to see a price on these headlamps that is less than the defacto standard – Petzl brand from France. Already, I’m calling OLight headlamps a great alternative because the price is so different for specs that are so similar.
At less than $$ for this headlamp (and sometimes as low as $), this is a remarkable light that appears built to last. It has an aluminum frame for the CREE Beam, power, and infrared sensor on the front of the lamp. It has strong straps and a well-made battery pack. Get this, the battery pack even has an external USB 2.0 charging output port – so you can charge your phone for it in emergencies! Really well thought out.
I’ll have a full shoot-out for this Wave H25 vs. Petzl Ultra Rush in a couple of days. I just need to borrow my friend’s light and put it through the paces. It’s a good deal and worthy of inclusion on our list. The focusing beam works OK, it can be helpful in the case of needing to see further in a spot-beam type spread. Of all the headlamps Coast has, this one is probably the one we’d purchase.
So, to review – the positives are the price; the very bright flood beam; the build quality; battery life; the instant on/off with a swipe of your hand in front of the beam, and the external power jack for USB 2.0 charging capability.
Activities the OLIGHT H25 Wave is Ideal for
- Night running.
- Exploring the forest while hiking.
- Cave exploration (spelunking)
- Working on an automobile or in the garage.
This light is highly recommended, but almost impossible to find.
Best Super-Cheap Headlamp: Coast FL85
Lumens Output: 615 max (updated)
Weight: 128 grams (4.5 oz.)
Max Beam Distance: 183 meters (600 feet)
Positives: Bright enough for nearly all applications and the focusing ring, though gimmicky, works moderately well.
Negatives: Build quality less solidly built than Petzl or Fenix. Battery went quickly in high mode. The lamp gets a bit hot.
The Coast brand headlamps are from Oregon, USA, and have been around for a few years. I’ve used their Coast FL85 headlamp for a test while out in the field and thought it was good enough for average use scenarios. Nothing where you’re going to be putting your life on the line. This is what my mom would buy to keep in the house when the power shuts off.
This is an inexpensive light – it’s a good deal and worthy of inclusion on our list. The focusing beam works OK, it can be helpful in the case of needing to see further in a spot-beam type spread. Of all the headlamps Coast has, this one is probably the one we’d purchase.
The weight is not balanced – all weight is forward, so using this headlamp for running or even jogging is out. Mountain biking? Nope. Something slow and deliberate… yes. Stock up on AAA batteries for this unit, and if you need it for something important, you might be kicking yourself for not buying a more expensive Petzl brand headlamp instead.
Best Focusing Beam Headlamp: Coast HL7
Lumens Output: 285
Weight: 125 grams (4.4 oz.)
Max Beam Distance: 119 meters (390 feet)
Positives: Balance of unit on your head, intuitive controls
Negatives: Battery life
Less bright and yet more balanced and better designed than the Coast FL85 mentioned already, this headlamp is probably the one that most people will buy and be happy with over a couple of years. Unless you need more powerful light beam for something like riding your bike or running or looking for wildlife in the forest, this headlamp will probably suit you fine.
The adjustable beam focus could be helpful for people needing to spot deer or something long-range. The Fenix HP25 above, does it better, but the HP25 is having some availability issues, and you’d be fine buying the Coast HL7 – made in the USA, vs. the Fenix from China.
Battery life is not stellar, and it relies on AAA batteries. If you can deal with that, this headlamp may fit your purposes.
Easiest to Find Headlamp: Fenix HP25R
Lumens Output: 1,000 (burst); 350 (high)
Weight: 278 grams (9.8 oz.)
Max Beam Distance: 187 meters (614 feet)
Positives: Two separate beams – one flood, one spot. Super bright. Many combinations.
Negatives: Heavy, and battery is gone in a puff of smoke!
We have a number of Fenix lamps mentioned already, but it wouldn’t be right not mentioning the newer Fenix HP25r – the successor to the hugely successful HP25. These are made by a Chinese company which crushed the competition for years in the low-end headlamp space. It wasn’t until the last five years that Olight, Coast, and Black Diamond came into the mix. So, Fenix lights are bright, durable, and have some crazy-high lumens ratings. This headlamp cranks 1,000 lumens for 90 minutes. That’s like sunlight. Its high rating is 350 lm, and that makes more sense for a lot of activities. Still, it’s good to know you have the power of the sun on-tap.
Best Tough and Cheap Headlamp: Energizer Hard Case Rugged
It was almost by accident that we found this Energizer headlamp. You may have seen them in the stores, but they always have weak beams of like 200 lumens or lower and half the time they were still using the tungsten bulbs. Now they finally have an LED option that puts out 325 lumens. This Hard Case headlamp has 2 beams – a flood and a spot that are operated by different buttons. The beams are nice – and can even be used for running. The color of the beams is definitely warmer (orange) and not what we prefer, but apparently, they must have done tests to see what consumers wanted, so this might fit you well.
Activities the Energizer Hard Case Rugged is Good for
- Trekking, running slowly.
- Camping, cooking, reading in the tent.
- Fishing from shore or boat.
- General automobile maintenance.
- Children. This is an inexpensive headlamp kids will love.
Energizer Hard Case Headlamp Pros
- Multi-Use: Good for many activities (not fast running or cycling).
- Cost: Inexpensive.
- Two Beams: Blend of light.
Hard Case Headlamp Cons
- Bad Color Balance: Orange-tinted beams we don’t like much.
- Inconsistent Brightness: Beam strength fades with time as batteries weaken – no constant light brightness.
Headlamp Buyer’s Guide Extras
The Technology of Headlamps
Headlamps have changed a lot since the early 1980’s when Ferdnand Petzl was making tungsten headlamps for climbing.
How to Decide Which Headlamp is Best for You?
The best way to figure out which headlamp you need as you look to purchase, is to reverse engineer it. First – figure out what activities you’ll need your light for. Camping? Non-technical trail running? Road running? Skiing? Mountain biking? Spelunking?
Some people need light for many varied uses, and there might not be a headlamp that does EVERYTHING. Which criteria are you willing to compromise on? Battery life is probably a good compromise because you can always buy more batteries. It can get expensive, but if you find a headlamp that does everything you need, but the battery life isn’t up to par – you should probably just bite the bullet and grab an extra battery too.
Beam Type – Quality and Shape of Light
What kind of beams will you need – and how bright – will be the next questions. If you’re hunting, you’ll want a strong center spotlight beam like provided on the Fenix HP25. If you will be reading at night in your tent, or want a tent light, you can be fine with the Petzl Reactik or Reactik+, or the HP25.
The Nao series is best for runners and those who want a light unit with bright light for a long time – hours. If you’re exploring caves, you probably want a Nao+ or Ultra Rush – or two of them to give you redundancy so you’re not stuck without light at some point. If you want a headlamp to strap on your bike occasionally, the Ultra Rush is great for that.
What About the Shape of the Light Pattern?
You may not have even thought about it yet, but the shape of the light cast is one major factor that you’ll need to take into account when choosing your headlamp. The shape you want depends on the activity you’re doing.
For looking for wildlife in the rainforest and on the road, the Nao series or the Ultra Rush works perfectly for me. The beam is bright in the center and gradually gets lighter on the sides. The beams have a nice width to them. Recently we found the OLIGHT H2R Nova – it has a nice beam that is a combination of flood and spot – and it’s ideal for most activities.
Maximum Brightness Levels:
- Olight H2R Nova – 2,300 lumens burst (1 minute) 750 lumens for 100 minutes.
- Fenix HL60R – 950 lumens for 48 minutes. Very tight beam though!
- Petzl Ultra Rush – 760 lumens for 120 minutes or 420 lumens for 300 minutes.
- Petzl Nao+ Plus– 750 lumens on auto-mode (brief) and 430 lumens for 120 minutes.
- Petzl Nao 2 – 575 lumens on auto-mode (brief) and 330 lumens for 100 minutes.
- Black Diamond Icon – 500 lumens that fade over time.
- OLight HS2 – 400 lumens for 2.5 hours.
Do you need a very long battery life, and are you willing to sacrifice a light pattern with a constant brightness level? The Reactive Lighting Technology by Petzl was created to save battery and provide great lighting when you need it. Petzl has definitely succeeded – and their lights with RLT are definitely some of the best on the market. Personally, we feel they are the gold standard by which we judge other headlamps. RLT is not a gimmick, it works for most activities.
Two Headlamps with Reactive Lighting Technology:
- Petzl Nao+ Plus – also includes a smartphone app you can use to program your RLT and standard run mode to optimize highest beam strength for the time you’ll be doing the activity.
- Petzl Nao 2
Batteries – Many Options
If you’re going on an extended trek across mountains in Nepal or the Rockies, you’ll want to have either an excellent solar charger to charge your batteries, or you’ll want to stock up on AA or AAA batteries to provide you ample light over that long time-frame. Here are the battery options for the top headlamps listed above:
- OLight H2R Nova – uses a custom 3000 mAh lithium-ion 18650 battery. Cheap $20 replacements. Highly recommended in every category.
- Petzl Nao 2 – One proprietary rechargeable lithium-ion 18650 battery. Can take optional AAA batteries for emergency lighting (reduced brightness).
- Petzl Nao+ Plus– One proprietary rechargeable lithium-ion 18650 battery. Programmable battery life with the smartphone app. Can get maximum brightness or type of beam for any activity. Quite amazing.
- Petzl Ultra Rush – One proprietary ACCU 2 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack with two 2600 mAh 18650 batteries. Can also upgrade to ACCU 4 for twice the run-time.
- Fenix HL60R – One Fenix 18650 rechargeable battery, or two CR123A store-bought batteries.
- Petzl Actik Core – One CORE 1250 mAh battery, hybrid – can also use AAA batteries.
Headlamps are not really made for underwater use, though of course there are diving lights that can be used for that purpose. Headlamps maximum water resistance is at a depth of around 2 meters for 30 minutes. Any of the headlamps above will do well in the hard rain. Here are the ratings…
- OLight H2R Nova – IP 8 (IP X8) – severe weather, and submersion for a long time.
- Petzl Nao+ Plus– IP X4. One proprietary rechargeable lithium-ion 18650 battery.
- Petzl Ultra Rush – IP 67. One meter deep for 30 minutes.
- Petzl Nao (2) – IP X4. Hard rain splashing for 10 minutes.
- Fenix HL60R – IP 8. Two meters deep for 30 minutes.
|Headlamp Brand and Model||Max. Lumens Brightness||Max Battery Life at # of Lumens||3 Activities Headlamp is Best For?||Check Price (click to see)|
Petzl Ultra Rush
|760||38 hours at 65 lmn||Ultra Running; Biking; Camping||Check
Petzl Nao+ Plus
|750||15 hours at 320 lmn||Any running; Camping; Fishing||Check
Petzl Nao 2 (2015 model)
|575||12 hours at 40 lmn||Any running; Camping; Fishing||Check
|350||15 hours at 30 lmn||Street running; Camping; Hiking||Check Price|
Black Diamond Icon
|500||40 mins at 500 lumens||Running; Hiking; Camping||Not avail.|
OLight H25 Wave
|800||24 hours at 60 lmn||Caving; Hiking; Hunting||Check
|400||2.5 hours at 400 lumens constant light||Running; Camping; Fishing||Not avail.|
|1000||150 hours at 4 lmn||Hunting; Camping; Hiking||Check
|950||100 hours at 5 lmn||Hunting; Camping; Fishing||Check
Black Diamond Icon
|500||175 hours at 4 lmn||Camping; Street Running; Fishing||Check Price|
|285||70 hours at 4 lmn||Camping; Hiking; Fishing||Check
|540||17 hours at 75 lmn||Camping; Hiking; Street Running||Check
|OLight H2R Nova||2300||1 minute at 2,300 lumens then 100 minutes at 750 lumens.||Running; Cycling; Skiing||Check Price|
|Energizer Hard Case Rugged||325||3+ hours at 325 lumens||Camping; Fishing; Running||Check Price|
|Petzl DUO S||1100||5 seconds at 1100 lumens then 3.5 hours at 700 lumens||Running; Cycling; Skiing||Not avail.|
|Petzl MYO||370||hours at 170 lumens constant lighting||Running; Camping; Fishing|
We hope this page helped you choose one of the best headlamps! If you can come up with any other information that would make it easier for you to choose a headlamp for your preferred activities – do let us know!
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