2020 Headlamp Reviews - 8,784 Headlamps Sold.

10 Best Headlamps of 2020

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

[Last Updated: 15 February 2020]

3,000+ Hours Rainforest Testing – Trust Us

  • We own all the headlamps you see here and many more.
  • We know which headlamps have the best features.
  • Our recommendations are revised yearly to take into account new headlamps.
  • We are unbiased, choosing the best based on our own and our coworker’s preferences.
  • We answer questions anytime – just write and ask!

We’ve spent many hours in the tropical rainforest at night hiking and looking for wildlife like king cobras, pit vipers, bats, lizards and tons of other wildlife. We have used every headlamp we review here. See ThailandSnakes.com for some wildlife we’ve found with these headlamps.

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.)

Headlamp Selection Criteria

  • Brands making quality headlamps for 10+ years.
  • Well made, durable, with some level of water resistance.
  • No catastrophic failure while in the rainforest.
  • CREE bulbs with over 350 lumens rating.
  • Best performance on criteria when compared to other headlamps.
  • Convenient USB charging or store-bought battery option.
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Best Headlamps of 2020 Guide

Overall Best Headlamp

1. Petzl SWIFT RL

Front of the new 2020 Petzl Swift RL headlamp.

MAX LUMENS: 900

WEIGHT: 100 grams (3.5 oz.)

MSRP: $129.99

REPLACEMENT BATTERY COST: $59.95

BATTERY LIFE: 2 hours at 550 lumens on max standard mode; 2.5 hours at 900 lumens on max Reactive Lighting mode.

BATTERY TYPE: Lithium-ion USB rechargeable. AAA rechargeable or NiCad.

PROS: Ultralight, very bright, reasonable price, Reactive Lighting, long battery life, double strap in the back, perfect for nearly any activity, steady light brightness.

CONS: Two batteries necessary for long runs.

WHY BUY? Petzl’s newest and most useful headlamp promises to be a best-seller for many reasons. Ultralight and bright with good battery life makes this ideal for most people’s uses – camping, running, hiking, fishing, and working around the house.

The price is competitive, and the water resistance and USB charging makes this one of the most useful lights every made. This SWIFT RL will be our top-selling headlamp in 2020. 3 Colors – orange, blue, black.

More Info

See at Amazon.
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Second Best Overall Headlamp 2020

OLight H2R Nova Cool White

OLight H2R Nova Cool White option headlamp, our top choice for headlamps under $100.
Our top choice for headlamps under $100.

MAX LUMENS: 2,300 lm. burst for up to 1 minute; 550 lm. regular high mode for up to 110 minutes.

WEIGHT: 100 grams (3.5 oz.)

MSRP: $99.95

REPLACEMENT BATTERY COST: $30

BATTERY LIFE: 110 minutes at 550 lumens on max, 45 days of 1-lumen emergency light.

BATTERY TYPE: 18650 proprietary NiCad battery with USB charger.

PROS: The OLight H2R NOVA is ultra-lightweight, rugged, highly waterproof, super-bright, long-lasting battery options, magnetic base, perfect for nearly any activity, excellent emergency options including strobe.

CONS: A proprietary battery that must be inserted backward may trick you up a bit!

WHY BUY? This H2R NOVA ultralight headlamp has a couple of great features you may not be able to live without. The 2,300-lumen burst of light is handy for scaring dogs away. The magnetic base is very handy while working indoors or out. Perfect for camping, hiking, fishing, camping, and around the house jobs. The quality of build is strong and durable, and the price is right.

More Info

See at Amazon.
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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.

MAX LUMENS: 750 Lumens in auto-mode; 530 lumens in standard mode.

WEIGHT: 185 grams (6.5 oz.)

MSRP: $179.99

REPLACEMENT BATTERY COST: $60

BATTERY LIFE: 1.5 Hours on 530 lumens max; 6.5 hours on Reactive Lighting max.

BATTERY TYPE: Proprietary Petzl Lithium-Ion battery with USB charging.

PROS: Best light beam coverage for running, red strobe, Reactive Lighting extends battery, programmable BlueTooth option.

CONS: Price is a bit high, but it IS the best headlamp out there for runners.

WHY BUY? If you’re a runner who is out at night racing or training, the Petzl NAO+ Plus headlamp is the best for you for a number of reasons including battery life and programmable BlueTooth profiles. Red strobe on battery pack keeps you safe as you run. Comfortable and lightweight with long battery life.

More Info

See at Amazon
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2nd Best Runner’s 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.

MAX LUMENS: 450

WEIGHT: 75 grams ( oz.)

MSRP: $79.95

REPLACEMENT BATTERY COST: $30 or store-bought AAA batteries.

BATTERY LIFE: 2 hours at 450 lumens on max.

BATTERY TYPE: Proprietary Lithium-ion or AAA batteries (NiCad or Lithium-ion).

PROS: Ultralight, easy to operate, red strobe, bright enough for most activities, red beam (2 lumens for 60 hours) and red strobe (400 hours).

CONS: Long charging time of 3 hours.

WHY BUY? The Petzl ACTIK CORE headlamps are ultralight and inexpensive, ideal for almost any activity and simple to operate. The light is pure white and great for reading, running, hiking, fishing, and really just about anything you might be doing outside at night.

See at Amazon.
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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 $500 to spend on a headlamp. We don’t even have that much, and we love this light.

MAX LUMENS: 1,100 lumens for 5-second burst; 700 lumens for 3.5 hours.

WEIGHT: 370 grams (13 oz.)

MSRP: $479

REPLACEMENT BATTERY COST: $160

BATTERY LIFE: 10-second burst of 1,100 lumens and 3.5 hours at 700 lumens.

BATTERY TYPE: ACCU, ACCU 2, ACCU 4, proprietary Lithium-ion.

PROS: Shockproof, waterproof, auto-dim won’t blind friends, very bright, flood and spotlight beams, long battery life, fast charging, good for almost any activity, ACCU 4 battery option doubles battery life, body harness and helmet accessory options.

CONS: Pricey, and a bit on the heavy side – better for slow activities.

WHY BUY? If working with others in a close environment – underground, in a cave, in a factory, the auto-dimming capability is worth it alone. Petzl makes the best headlamps in the world in our opinion. This Petzl DUO S headlamp is rugged and has exceptional features and possibilities.

More Info

See at Amazon
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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!

MAX LUMENS: 760 lumens for 2 hours.

WEIGHT: 370 grams (13 oz.)

MSRP: $429.95

REPLACEMENT BATTERY COST: $129.95

BATTERY LIFE: 2.5 hours at 760 lumens on max; 38 hours at 65 lumens on low.

BATTERY TYPE: ACCU 2, ACCU 4 proprietary Lithium-ion.

PROS: Perfect color-balanced white light for wildlife expeditions, very bright, long battery life and ACCU 4 battery option doubles life, waterproof, fast charging, rugged, optional accessories for helmet, and harness.

CONS: Discontinued model, Petzl DUO S is recommended.

WHY BUY? We have two of these Ultra Rush headlamps and we couldn’t be happier with them. It is the perfect wildlife headlamp because the light balance and spread of the beams is perfect. A very long-lasting battery, fast charging, and waterproof and shockproof durability means we’ll be using ours for many years.

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 my headlamp beam is center-biased and bright. Alex is 10 meters away here. This is level 2 of 4 levels of brightness.

More Info

Click link below to see our recommended upgrade (DUO S) for the Petzl Ultra Rush because it was recently discontinued…

See at Amazon.
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Best Cool Features Headlamp

Black Diamond Icon

Black Diamond Icon headlamp, 2018 model.

MAX LUMENS: 500

WEIGHT: 300 grams (10.6 oz.) with batteries.

MSRP: $79.96

BATTERY LIFE: 20-30 minutes at 500 lumens before batteries start fading.

BATTERY TYPE: Four AA – store-bought Ni-Cad or rechargeables.

PROS: Multiple colored-lights some may find useful for stealth while hunting or fishing, easy battery options, dimming, exceptional waterproofing.

CONS: Not well balanced on head, light swivel doesn’t point straight down, light brightness fades with weakening batteries – not ideal.

WHY BUY? Many people like the Black Diamond brand, and have been buying the lights for decades. This Black Diamond Icon light features a handy touch-dimming section on the right side of the headlamp. Multiple colored lights including blue, green, and red. Easy battery options – AA rechargeables or store-bought.

More Info

See at Amazon.

Best Budget 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.

MAX LUMENS: 370

WEIGHT: 170 grams (6 oz.)

MSRP: $109.95

BATTERY LIFE: Less than 1 hour at 280 lumens max; 13 hours at 60 lumens on low.

BATTERY TYPE: Three AA batteries, rechargeable or storebought.

PROS: Lightweight, choice of a focused beam or flood beam, easy battery options.

CONS: High setting of 370 lumens is just a burst, beams dim as batteries lose charge.

WHY BUY?

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 and reliable MYO.

See at Amazon.
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2nd Best Budget 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.

MAX LUMENS: 950

WEIGHT: 121 grams (4.1 oz.)

MSRP: $79.95

REPLACEMENT BATTERY COST: $15

BATTERY LIFE: 48 minutes at 950 lumens on high, 100 hours at 1 lumen on red beam emergency setting.

BATTERY TYPE: One 18650 or two CR123A. Please use Fenix batteries, they seem better than other brands.

PROS: Ultralight, easy to operate, red and white strobe, bright enough for most activities, waterproof to 2-meters submerged.

CONS: Slightly orange-tinted color balance, gets warmer than we’d like in hot climates.

WHY BUY? The Fenix HL60R is a tried and trusted headlamp that has been around for half-a-dozen years. It is ideal for almost any activity and simple to operate. This headlamp is bright enough for almost any activity – reading, running, hiking, fishing, and really just about anything you might be doing outside at night.

More Info

See at Amazon.
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3rd Best Budget 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.

MAX LUMENS: 400

WEIGHT: 121 grams (4.1 oz.)

MSRP: $79.95

REPLACEMENT BATTERY COST: Not replaceable.

BATTERY LIFE:

BATTERY TYPE: Proprietary Lithium-ion.

PROS: Ultralight, easy to operate, touch dimmer on the right side of strap, USB charging, excellent battery meeter, comes with case and comfortable strap.

CONS: Cannot replace battery.

WHY BUY? This OLight HS2 is a smart-looking headlamp with 400 lumens that is good for many activities. The dimming switch is nice, as is the side-mounted power and brightness control button. Comes with a handy case.

NOTE – the HS2 is very rarely found online anymore. We recommend the huge upgrade and better overall headlamp choice – OLight H2R found HERE.

More Info

See the OLight H2R upgrade at Amazon below.

See at Amazon.
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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 2020, 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 HL60R. If you will be reading at night in your tent, or want a tent light, you can be fine with the Petzl Actik Core, MYO, or Black Diamond Icon.

The Petzl 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 DUO S – 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.

Reactive Lighting?

Do you need 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:

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+ 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 battery life.
  • 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 DUO S – IP 67 – very waterproof, submersible, and shock-proof.
  • Petzl NAO+ Plus– IP X4. One proprietary rechargeable lithium-ion 18650 battery.
  • Petzl Ultra Rush and Black Diamond Icon – IP 67. One meter deep for 30 minutes.
  • Fenix HL60R – IP 8. Two meters deep for 30 minutes.

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.)

©Vern Lovic. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “10 Best Headlamps of 2020

  • December 17, 2019 at 4:09 pm
    Permalink

    Hello
    Learned a lot about headlamps but didn’t find any recommendations specific to indoor reading .
    Many hotels have low wattage Especially Europe & I like to read a bit before sleep.
    I have a 16 day trip through South Africa which includes 3 nights on a train & I ‘invision’ lousy lighting.
    I appreciate any recommendations.
    Thanks,
    Jon

    Reply
    • December 29, 2019 at 10:46 am
      Permalink

      The very affordable Petzl Reactik 350 lumens headlamp have a low beam that is good for reading.

      Reply

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