15 Best Headlamps of 2019

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 gear for your budget. WE GET IT! Inside this 2019 Headlamp Buyer’s Guide we have heaps of helpful details.

OK, you’re in the RIGHT PLACE. Let’s Get Started!

[Last Updated: 12 October 2019]

Best Headlamps of 2019 | 15 Choices

Like every year, in 2019 we looked at the top criteria to figure out which are the best headlamps for you in all activities. We have headlamps from ONLY the top headlamp makers in the world – like PETZL. We are experts in rainforest herpetology and we have used headlamps daily for a decade as we look for wildlife in the forests. We have comprehensively tested more than 30 headlamps. Results below.

Our Top Recommended Headlamps


Best Overall Headlamp 2019: OLight H2R Nova Cool White

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 Petzl Ultra Rush headlamp. We did, we bought 2! But, we need them. In 2018 we first 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 2019. Let’s take a look…

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 covers almost everything. Have a look!
Full Review here.

Activities OLight H2R Nova is Great for

  • Walking/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.
  • Home Security: 2,300 lumens effectively blinds people.
  • Water Activities: Wet caves and anything in or near water

Activities OLight H2R Nova Not Great for

  • I honestly can’t think of anything the H2R isn’t good for except you wouldn’t want to take it on an oil platform, it has no safety rating for explosive environments.

OLight H2R Pros

  • Super-bright Turbo: 2,300 Max Lumens for 1-minute.
  • Cheap Batteries: Just $20 each adds 2-hours of use.
  • Ultra-white Light: Perfect color-balance, with no orange tint.
  • Long Battery Life: At 600 lumens (high mode) light is strong for 2.5 hours. Medium is 150 lumens for 10 hours. You could definitely hike safely with 150 lumens.
  • High Water Resistance: Rated at IP X 8, you can fully submerge the H2R Nova in water for brief periods.
  • Very Lightweight: Weighs less than 90% of our headlamps.
  • Magnetized Strap and Light: Can hold horizontally by sticking to a metal surface.
  • Flashlight: Easily held as a flashlight when separated from strap.
  • Strong: Durable design, made of aircraft aluminum.
  • One-Button Operation: All functions with short and long button clicks.

H2R Nova Cons

  • Hot: Unit can get VERY HOT. At 2,300 lumens you can burn yourself on the metal, or with the light beam itself if too close. Caution is advised.

We have already sold 648 OLight H2R’s in 2019. 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

Best running headlamp 2017 - Petzl Nao+ Plus
For running and active sports – you cannot beat the Petzl Nao+ Plus 750 lumens light! Programmable custom light profiles from your mobile app.

Last year this headlamp was #2. This year, #2! We decided that affordability was more important than some other criteria, and this amazing and flexible headlamp remains #2 for 2019.

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)

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.

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.

Summary

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

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 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…

Full Review here.

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

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, 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.

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 – 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. ­čÖü

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

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.

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!

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. ­čÖé

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

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 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 2016 and in Best of 2017-2019

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.

Summary

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

Black Diamond Icon headlamp 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.

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.

Full Review here.

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.

To see a full review of the Black Diamond Icon headlamp, click here.

If the Black Diamond ICON meets your needs, check price and availability here.


Best Ultra-light Headlamp: Petzl MYO

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 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

  • Walking.
  • Running.
  • 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

Petzl Actik Core headlamps in red and black with 450 lumens power.
Brand new in Summer 2019. The Actik Core 450 lumens headlamp. Ideal for most activities. And CHEAP. 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 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

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 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.
  • Anything.

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

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.

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

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 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:┬áMandatory battery waist pack – cannot wear on the┬áhead.

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.

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 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.
  • Fishing.
  • Exploring the forest while hiking.
  • Cycling.
  • 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

Buy link for latest Coast FL85 headlamp with focus beam and 615 lumens brightness.

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.

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

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

Coast HL7 Headlamp 2017-2019

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

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 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

Buy link for Fenix HP25R headlamp, early 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 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.

amazon.com


Best Tough and Cheap Headlamp: Energizer Hard Case Rugged

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, 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 in 2019, 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

Petzl Ultra Rush flood beam found this big reticulated python for Alex on a herping trip.
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:


Reactive Lighting?

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.

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 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 ModelMax. Lumens BrightnessMax Battery Life at # of Lumens3 Activities Headlamp is Best For?Check Price (click to see)
Petzl Ultra Rush headlamp thumb image.
Petzl Ultra Rush
76038 hours at 65 lmnUltra Running; Biking; CampingCheck
price
Petzl Nao+ Plus headlamp thumb image.
Petzl Nao+ Plus
75015 hours at 320 lmnAny running; Camping; FishingCheck
price
Petzl Nao  headlamp thumb image.
Petzl Nao 2 (2015 model)
57512 hours at 40 lmnAny running; Camping; FishingCheck
price
Petzl Actik Core headlamp thumb image.35015 hours at 30 lmnStreet running; Camping; HikingCheck Price
Petzl Tikka RXP thumb image.
Black Diamond Icon
50040 mins at 500 lumensRunning; Hiking; CampingNot avail.
OLight h25 Wave headlamp thumb image.
OLight H25 Wave
80024 hours at 60 lmnCaving; Hiking; HuntingCheck
price
OLight h25 Wave headlamp buy link.
Fenix HP25 headlamp thumb image.
OLight HS2
4002.5 hours at 400 lumens constant lightRunning; Camping; FishingNot avail.
Fenix HP25R headlamp thumb image.
Fenix HP25R
1000150 hours at 4 lmnHunting; Camping; HikingCheck
price
Fenix HP25R headlamp image buy link.
Fenix HL60R headlamp thumb image.
Fenix HL60R
950100 hours at 5 lmnHunting; Camping; FishingCheck
price
Black Diamond Icon headlamp thumb image.
Black Diamond Icon
500175 hours at 4 lmnCamping; Street Running; FishingCheck Price
Coast HL7 headlamp thumb image.
Coast HL7
28570 hours at 4 lmnCamping; Hiking; FishingCheck
price
Coast HL7 headlamp image buy link.
Coast FL85 headlamp thumb image.
Coast FL85
54017 hours at 75 lmnCamping; Hiking; Street RunningCheck
price
Coast FL85 headlamp image buy link.
OLight H2R Nova23001 minute at 2,300 lumens then 100 minutes at 750 lumens.Running; Cycling; SkiingCheck Price
Energizer Hard Case Headlamp thumbnailEnergizer Hard Case Rugged3253+ hours at 325 lumensCamping; Fishing; RunningCheck Price
Petzl DUO S11005 seconds at 1100 lumens then 3.5 hours at 700 lumensRunning; Cycling; SkiingNot avail.
Petzl MYO370 hours at 170 lumens constant lightingRunning; 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!

Cheers!
Vern L.
Headlamps101.com

(Headlamps101 is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and we receive a commission on purchases made through some links on this page. The price you pay is not affected at all by whether you buy through our links or direct from Amazon.)

┬ęVern Lovic. All rights reserved.

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