15 Best Headlamps 2018 | April Buyer’s Guide | Headlamps101

Best Headlamps 2018 Guide to help people choose the best headlamp after thorough research.

Do You Want One of the World’s 15 Best Headlamps for Work? Running? Hiking? Caving? Cycling?
You need the crucial details about the headlamp you’re buying because you want the best possible for your budget. WE GET IT! Inside this 2018 Headlamp Buyer’s Guide we have heaps of details and links to full reviews of the 15 best headlamps we tested here at our facility.

So you are in the RIGHT PLACE. Let’s Get Started!

[Last Updated: 31 March 2018]

15 BEST HEADLAMPS of 2018

Like every year, we looked at the top criteria to figure out which are the best headlamps for you in all activities in 2018. We have headlamps from ONLY the top headlamp makers in the world. We use headlamps daily as we look for wildlife in the rainforest, so we needed to test a few anyway to see what was best. Now we’ve tested over 20 headlamps and we share the results below.

Headlamp Index (click one)

2017 Headlamp Comparison Chart for 12 Headlamps
See Our 15 Best Headlamps in a Comparison Chart (click) >

 

 


1. OLight H2R Nova Cool White | BEST Headlamp 2018!

OLight H2R Nova Cool White Headlamp with 18650 Battery.
#1 Headlamp 2018 – OLIGHT H2R Nova “Cool White” option headlamp. This is the only headlamp 95% of you reading, need. Really – it’s covers almost everything. Have a look!

Last year, our number one recommended headlamp was out of reach for 99% of readers. Not too many people are going to spend $430 on a headlamp. We did, we bought 2! But, we need them. In 2018 we tested a new headlamp we think is the ultimate for 95% of readers. Really, this OLight H2R headlamp has so many positives and fits so many activities, that we are pretty sure it is the right headlamp for you in 2018. Let’s take a look…

Activities OLight H2R Nova is Great for

  • walking or hiking trails or street
  • running streets or trails (fast or slow)
  • cycling streets or trails (fast or slow)
  • fishing, camping, hunting (though no spot beam)
  • home security – 2,300 lumens effectively blinds someone for a long time
  • wet caves and anything in or near water

Activities OLight H2R Nova Not So Good for

  • I honestly cannot think of anything except you wouldn’t want to take it on an oil platform, it has no safety rating for explosive environments!

OLight H2R PROS

  • 2,300 max lumens for 1 minute and 100 minutes at 750 lumens will satisfy most needs
  • super cheap batteries ($20) if you need more time
  • the Cool White option beam is ultra-white, no orange tint
  • battery life at 600 lumens (high mode) goes for 2.5 hours. Medium is 150 lumens for 10 hours. You could definitely hike safely with 150 lumens.
  • high water resistance at IP X 8 – can fully submerge the H2R Nova as well
  • very lightweight
  • magnetized strap and the bottom of the light is magnetized VERY strong so can hold itself horizontally if sticking to metal!
  • easily removed from strap to carry as a flashlight
  • very strong, durable design – aircraft aluminum
  • very easy operation with 1 button

H2R Nova CONS

  • Unit can get very hot when at 2,300 lumens – you can burn yourself on the metal, or with the light beam itself if too close. Caution is advised.

Find Our #1 Recommended Headlamp – Here


2. Petzl Nao+ Plus | Best Runners Headlamp 2018

Best running headlamp 2017 - Petzl Nao+ Plus
For running and active sports – you cannot beat the Petzl Nao+ Plus 750 lumens light!

Last year this headlamp was #3. This year, #2! We decided that affordability was more important than some other criteria, and this amazing headlamp jumped up a notch.

We sold over 370 of these NAO+ headlamps just at Christmas last year.

This Petzl Nao+ Plus headlamp (E36 AHR 2B) would have been our #1 Recommendation this year, but still, the price (around $200) 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. 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)

Kilian Jornet Petzl Headlamp Spokesperson
Wearing Petzl headlamps since 2010, and on the Petzl Team since 2012 – Kilian Jornet, one of the world’s very best ultra-runners.

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.

There are dozens of climbers and running professionals on the Petzl Team, 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.

Summary

Excellent build quality, beam shape and quality of light combined with Reactive Lighting Technology makes 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

  • Biking – on 3rd or 4th setting will be best results.
  • Caving – recommend you set up the MY PETZL LIGHT application on your phone and custom program the Nao+ to give the max duration of time at the brightest possible output for cave exploration/spelunking. Also recommend you bring spare batteries, and even better – a spare headlamp, caving is dangerous.
  • Camping – perfect for any need.
  • 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 – on 3rd or 4th highest brightness setting – best results.
  • Trekking – Hiking – great for walking
  • Just about anything…

Activities Petzl Nao+ is Not So Good For

  • Sitting on a shelf.

Petzl Nao+ Plus Headlamp PROS

  • 750 lumens available in RLT mode
  • Reactive Lighting Technology saves battery!
  • Lightweight, durable, comfortable, easy-to-use
  • Customizable Lighting Profiles with the smart phone app
  • Round light footprint – evenly lit, bias on center
  • Red Light on Reverse for easy visibility to vehicles (can turn off)
  • Water resistant in very heavy rain
  • Good for almost any activity

Petzl Nao+ Plus CONS

  • Max 750 lumens Only Available in RLT Mode
  • Battery replacements are expensive ($60-80), but really, these are the most reliable 18650 batteries I’ve ever used. Our 2-year old battery has not dropped in power enough that I can even notice.

Find this Petzl Nao+ Plus headlamp – Here


3. Petzl DUO S | Best Expensive Headlamp 2018

Petzl DUO S headlamp for all outdoor activities.
Certainly the best headlamp for most activities if you have around $600 to spend on a headlamp. We don’t even have that much, and we love this light.

The DUO S can be seen as a significant upgrade to the Petzl Ultra Rush – the winner of last years 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 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 from Petzl, designed to be good for any activity (at a price!)
  • 1100 lumens for 5 seconds burst – wish it was on-demand for as long as possible
  • 700 lumens for 3.5 hours is more light than most people need
  • durable, long-lasting, fast charging battery
  • shockproof, waterproof even with submersion

DUO S CONS

  • ridiculously expensive ($600 USD)
  • unavailable at the moment – ramping up production

 


4. Petzl Ultra Rush | Best Headlamp of 2017, still Amazing

Petzl Ultra Rush Headlamp, the best headlamp 2017.
Stylish, and incredible light beam quality in the Ultra Rush 2017!

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 as sin, 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 best headlamps we can possibly have. This is it for us. It’s also great for Cycling, Long-Distance Running, Trekking, and Camping.

For people who can afford it, this headlamp will be your best friend when you need a light that will absolutely work through all weather and falls. There is no fancy tech on the Ultra Rush. It’s manually controlled. Six bright beams combine to make a perfect light pattern. 760 lumens brighten up any space. The battery lasts a long time!

Petzl Ultra Rush headlamp (E52 H). It is one of the newer technology lights on the market, and Petzl has over a 30-year history of creating original and quality headlamps. If you haven’t yet heard of this brand, you’re about to because they took six out of fifteen spots on this list.

Petzl Ultra Rush beam lighting up python and herpetologist in the field about midnight.
We take the Petzl Ultra Rush headlamps everywhere we go while looking for snakes in Asia. Here’s Alex Gillard with a massive 4-meter long python we found on the side of the road. You can see the focus of the beam is center-biased and bright. Alex is 10 meters away here. This is level 2 of 4 levels of brightness.

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 – use this headlamp because, quite frankly – it just works, and it’s the best there is unless you have Petzl or some other top company custom-make the perfect headlamp for you.

The Price Can Change – see if the price of the Ultra Rush is right for you today >

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.

You probably won’t want to run with it either, at least not fast. Some do anyway because they want the quality of light this headlamp puts out. I read a review from a trail runner who ran his fastest time down the mountain with this headlamp because the light quality is amazing – it’s just heavier than most would prefer.

Ultra Rush Technology

Best Headlamps 2017 Buyer's Guide
Petzl Ultra Rush – won the best headlamp of 2017 for general use – everything from camping to running or cycling flat-out down a rocky mountain trail. Expensive, but unbeatable for some activities.

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. The PDF mentions – “Excellent resistance to falls, impacts, and crushing.” Sounds good, right? I’ll certainly be using my Petzl’s well into 2018.

Summary

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!

See the current price of the Ultra Rush >

Activities the Petzl Ultra Rush Headlamp is Best For

  • Biking – 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 high setting, you’d have 2 hours of very bright 760 lumens!
  • TrekkingHiking – with 2 – 38 hours battery life, you probably won’t need more than this headlamp.
  • Working – construction, boats, farm, heavy industry.

Activities Petzl Ultra Rush is Not So Good For

  • Cave exploration – spelunking – the beam is too tightly centered.
  • Running – it’s 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

  • 6 Super bright LED beams
  • Round light footprint – evenly lit, biased toward center
  • Waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes (minimum)
  • Great battery life for all but the highest setting – which is only 2 hours
  • All manual settings
  • Good for almost any activity

Ultra Rush CONS

  • Not so good for runners – a bit heavy
  • Expensive – but built to last

Find this Petzl Ultra Rush headlamp – Here


5. Petzl Nao (Nao 2) | Best Budget Runners Headlamp

Petzl Nao Headlamp (Nao 2) for runners or other outdoor activities.
Tried and True. The Nao 2 offers reliable performance, bright lights, and for a reasonable cost.

This Nao 2 headlamp is still in our list, and probably will be here next year as well. 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 Headlamp 2016 and in Best of 2017-2018

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 300 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.

Summary

My advice is to just buy the Nao+ because it is brighter, 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, 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 – light and great beam for street or trail running. Used by some top ultra trail runners in the world.
  • Skiing – not fast, but slow skiing – yes!
  • Trekking – Hiking – yes!
  • Almost anything

Activities Petzl Nao Headlamp is Not So Good For

  • Very Fast activities – 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

  • Reactive Lighting Technology saves battery!
  • Lightweight, durable, comfortable, easy-to-use
  • Round light footprint – evenly lit, bias slightly on center
  • Water resistant in heavy rain
  • Good for almost any activity
  • Price is dropping because new model (Nao+ Plus) is available

Petzl Nao CONS

  • Max 575 lumens Only Available in RLT Mode
  • Battery replacements are expensive but are exceptionally reliable.
  • Getting hard to find – we recommend you get the NAO+ Plus 750 lumens light now.

Find this Petzl Nao 2 Headlamp – Here


6. Black Diamond Icon | Most Cool Features 2018

Black Diamond Icon headlamp, 2017 model.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.

Black Diamond Icon headlamp specifications chart for 2017 model.

Last year we reviewed this Black Diamond Icon headlamp with the focus on 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.

Black Diamond Icon Headlamp PROS

  • red, green, blue, and strobe lights – far beyond any other headlamp we’ve reviewed
  • dimming – choose the exact brightness you need
  • power tap – tapping the right side of lamp gently turns high mode on/off
  • 500 lumens is good for all slow activities, and even moderately fast running on trails
  • spotlight or flood beams – great to have a choice
  • 4 AA batteries – some like – can use alkalines or rechargeable Lithium-ion
  • includes strap and cable to take the battery off your head and put on your body – nice!
  • IP67 water resistance and drop resistance is high

Black Diamond Icon CONS

  • limited range of rotation of headlamp unit – few people will need it to point almost straight down, but I do! 🙂
  • no constant brightness – fades over time because not using higher-tech Lithium-ion batteries
  • unbalanced on the head – maybe better to put on the included body strap

Find this Black Diamond Icon Headlamp – Here


7. Petzl MYO | Best Ultra-light Running Headlamp and Great for Kids!

Petzl MYO with 370 lumens is an ultra-light headlamp for running.
This is about the 3rd iteration of the Petzl MYO and it has a lot of fans. Ryan Sandes used this headlamp to run across Nepal, setting a fastest known time recently.

We were blown away recently by a pair of ultra runners traversing over 1000 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

  • walking, running slow on the street or trail
  • camping, fishing, reading a book in a tent
  • kids! perfect for kids, but they’ll be confused by all the options at first

Activities Petzl MYO Not Good For

  • fast activities like cycling or running

Petzl MYO Headlamp PROS

  • super lightweight! Ideal when weight is important
  • 370 boost beam is helpful
  • 170 lumens in this beam shape is good for slow running or trekking
  • choose between constant lighting (beam stays same power) or standard (beam fades, but brighter initially)
  • spotlight or diffuser – easy to change with a flip of the diffuser
  • 3 AA batteries – instant swaps, and can use alkalines or rechargeable Lithium-ion

Petzl MYO CONS

  • too little brightness in general – wish they would make a 600 lumens MYO!

Find this Petzl MYO Headlamp – Here


8. Petzl Actik CORE Headlamp | Best Kids’ Headlamp! Great Ultra-light Running Headlamp

Petzl Actik Core headlamps in red and black styles.
Red and black Petzl Actik Core headlamps – very affordable and ideal short-distance running headlamps.

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 is Best for

  • slow running, trekking, reading a book in a tent
  • kids doing anything they do
  • only headlamp with red light strobe
  • ultra-running across Nepal if you believe Ryan Sandes (we do!)

Activities Petzl Actik Core is Not So Good for

  • very fast activities – not enough light

Petzl Actik Core PROS

  • super lightweight – the lithium-ion battery helps considerably
  • affordable extra batteries
  • constant lighting is great – beam stays same strength for set time
  • great light beam shape and color – perfect for running on street or trail

Actik Core CONS

  • Not built super-tough. The Petzl MYO appears stronger built.

Find this Petzl ACTIK CORE Headlamp – Here


9. Fenix HL60R | Runner-Up Best Running Headlamp

Fenix HL60R headlamp is a great all-around headlamp from a company known for quality headlamps.
The Fenix HL60R has a very powerful beam, is lightweight, and waterproof to 2 meters. With 950 lumens, it’s SUPER bright, when needed.

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.

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 – any speed on high beam
  • Caving – a nice wide flood light!
  • Camping – all uses
  • Running – fast or slow
  • Trekking – Hiking – sure!
  • Almost anything

Activities HL60R is Not So Good For

  • 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

  • 950 lumens max – Super bright! + Red beam
  • Lightweight, durable, comfortable, easy-to-use
  • Great battery life and cheap replaceable 18650s or CR123A
  • Round light footprint – slight center bias
  • Waterproof to 2 meters deep for 30 minutes
  • Good for almost any activity
  • Price is good

Fenix HL60R CONS

  • Max lumens of 950 is only available for 48 minutes
  • on high mode – can shut down to lower brightness when unit is too hot
  • No auto mode or custom profiles

We prefer the #1 headlamp at the top of this list – the OLIGHT H2R Nova >

Find this Fenix HL60R Headlamp  – Here


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.


10. OLIGHT HS2 | Inexpensive, Great Beams

OLight HS2 headlamp and battery pack.
OLight is a company we’ve just found and we like 3 of their headlamps. This one has a nice soft 400 lumen beam that is great for running or other activities.

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.

Activities OLight HS2 is Good for

  • walking, trekking, running road or trail
  • camping, fishing, probably even caving if you don’t require a super-bright light
  • working on car or around the house

Activities HS2 Not So Good for

  • skiing, fast running or cycling

OLight HS2 PROS

  • lightweight
  • lithium-ion battery is long-lasting
  • 400 lumens can be with combination beam – gives nice coverage for nearly anything (slow)
  • dimming – choose an exact brightness level

OLight HS2 CONS

  • not bright enough for very fast activities

Find this OLight H2S Headlamp – Here


11. OLIGHT H25 Wave | Bright, Great Battery

OLIGHT H25 Wave headlamp and waist-pack battery with 800 lumens for camping, running, caving.
A new find in August 2017 – from a friend in the Netherlands. This is the USA made headlamp which is very bright, cheap (compared to Petzl), and seems to be very high quality. Anxious to do a full review of this one!

Lumens Output: 800 max (updated for 2017) for 5 hours.
Weight: 443 grams (15.6 oz.)
Max Beam Distance: 212 meters (696 feet)
Positives: Very bright. Well made. Diffuse 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 NowOLight headlamp inventory available to buy now..

OLight is a 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.

OLight H25 Wave headlamp specifications chart.
The Wave H25 is a high-performance headlamp, with great build quality and a great price.

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 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
  • hiking
  • exploring forest, wildlife tours
  • bicycling
  • cave exploration (spelunking)
  • working on your car or in your home in dark areas

This light is highly recommended, but sometimes hard to find.

Find this OLight H25 Headlamp – Here


12. Coast FL85 | Super-cheap, Bright

Latest 2017 Coast FL85 headlamp with focus beam and 615 lumens brightness.Lumens Output: 615 max (updated for 2017)
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.

Specs chart for Coast FL85 headlamp, this is the latest 2017 edition.

The Coast brand headlamps are from Oregon, USA, and have been around for a few years. I’ve used their 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 for 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.

Find this Coast FL85 Headlamp – Here


13. Coast HL7 Headlamp | Useful Focusing

Coast HL7 Headlamp 2017Lumens Output: 285
Weight: 125 grams (4.4 oz.)
Max Beam Distance: 119 meters (390 feet)
Positives: Balance of unit on head, intuitive controls
Negatives: Battery life

Coast HL7 headlamp specifications chart.

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 – 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.

Find this Coast HL7 Headlamp – Here


14. Fenix HP25R | Cranks 1,000 Lumens

Fenix HP25R headlamp, 2017 model.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!

Fenix HP25R headlamp specifications chart.

We have a number of Fenix lamps mentioned already, but it wouldn’t be right not mentioning the newer 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.

Find this Fenix HP25R Headlamp – Here


15. Energizer Hard Case Rugged Headlamp | Least Expensive Decent Headlamp!

Energizer Hard Case Rugged headlamp with 325 lumens - the most powerful headlamp Energizer makes.
A real surprise. I never thought I’d be featuring an Energizer headlamp here, but it’s a good ultra-low-cost option.

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
  • fishing
  • general car maintenance
  • cheap headlamp for kids

Energizer Hard Case Headlamp PROS

  • good for many activities (not fast running or cycling)
  • super inexpensive

Hard Case Headlamp CONS

  • orange beams we don’t like much
  • beam strength fades with time as batteries weaken – no  constant light brightness

Find this Energizer Hard Case Rugged Headlamp – Here


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 Right for You?

The best way to figure out which headlamp you need as you look to purchase in 2018, 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 a 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

Petzl Ultra Rush flood beam is great for photos at night on low setting.
Petzl Ultra Rush flood beam is great for photos at night on low setting. We trust these headlamps with our LIVES.

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 fades over time.
  • OLight HS2 – 400 lumens for 2.5 hours.

Reactive Lighting?

Do you need really long battery life, and are you willing to sacrifice a light pattern with 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 smart phone 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.

Waterproof Rating

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 a 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 ModelMax. Lumens BrightnessMax Battery Life at # of Lumens3 Activities Headlamp is Best For?Check Price (click to see)

Petzl Ultra Rush
76038 hours at 65 lmnUltra Running; Biking; CampingCheck
price

Petzl Nao+ Plus
75015 hours at 320 lmnAny running; Camping; FishingCheck
price

Petzl Nao 2 (2015 model)
57512 hours at 40 lmnAny running; Camping; FishingCheck
price

Petzl Actik Core
30015 hours at 30 lmnStreet running; Camping; Hiking

Black Diamond Icon
50040 mins at 500 lumensRunning; Hiking; Camping

OLight H25 Wave
80024 hours at 60 lmnCaving; Hiking; HuntingCheck
price

OLight HS2
4002.5 hours at 400 lumens constant lightRunning; Camping; Fishing

Fenix HP25R
1000150 hours at 4 lmnHunting; Camping; HikingCheck
price

Fenix HL60R
950100 hours at 5 lmnHunting; Camping; FishingCheck
price

Black Diamond Icon
500175 hours at 4 lmnCamping; Street Running; Fishing

Coast HL7
28570 hours at 4 lmnCamping; Hiking; FishingCheck
price

Coast FL85
54017 hours at 75 lmnCamping; Hiking; Street RunningCheck
price
OLight H2R Nova23001 minute at 2,300 lumens then 100 minutes at 750 lumens.Running; Cycling; Skiing
Energizer Hard Case Headlamp thumbnailEnergizer Hard Case Rugged3253+ hours at 325 lumensCamping; Fishing; Running
Petzl DUO S11005 seconds at 1100 lumens then 3.5 hours at 700 lumensRunning; Cycling; Skiing
Petzl MYO370 hours at 170 lumens constant lightingRunning; Camping; Fishing

We hope this page helped you choose one of the best headlamps!

Cheers!
Vern Lovic
Headlamps101.com

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