Brightest Headlamp? 2,000+ Lumens is a Scam – Here’s Why

[Page Updated: 1 June 2022]

So many people have been searching our website for the “Brightest Headlamp.” We have answered many emails about bright headlamps, but here it is laid out for you in an easy-to-read format.

Brightest Headlamp – Why It’s a Scam

Spread Out Headlamp Beam

You can’t see anything. You can spread 1,000 lumens (a measure of brightness) across 180° field of view (FOV), or 10° FOV. Guess which one will let you see more clearly? Crazy as it sounds, NEITHER ONE.

If you spread 1,000 lumens out over a wide area, there won’t be enough light in any one area to see much at all. That means a super bright headlamp of 1,000 lumens spread out = worthless. If you focus that much light into a very bright center of only 10°, then the light will be so bright in that spot that you can’t see any details because it’s completely whited-out. Your eyes can’t possibly help you in that case.

So, neither of these headlamps will help you – whether they have the ‘brightest headlamp beam’ or not. You need something in between. you need the beam to be spread out in a wide enough area that it’s helpful. You need a beam that has a shape that helps you see what you need to see. For running, the Petzl Actik Core beams are ideal. They are not round, they are more vertical, and help you see exactly what you’re running into. The Petzl Nao+ and Nao are also very good. The Petzl Ultra Rush is good too, but a bit heavy – get the waist pack for the battery to use as a running headlamp.

Color of Light

The temperature of the light beam affects the user experience dramatically. 1,000 lumens of yellowish ‘too-warm’ light vs 1,000 lumens of white daylight type light – is so different. The yellow beam could be 2,000 lumens and still not be nearly as helpful. Choose a beam with CREE bulbs that gives the brightest white light possible. The Petzl Ultra Rush, Nao+, and Nao all have very white-colored beams compared to Fenix, Black Diamond, or Coast headlamps. Olight Wave is also quite white.

Brightest headlamp by Petzl on high setting. Too bright.
Cheap Headlamp Companies choose any number for their lumens output. These are almost without exclusion Chinese companies with no way to track them down. They put any number of lumens on their products they choose – and you’ll notice, it’s always huge, even numbers… they don’t bother to measure, so they don’t say 2,420 lumens.

They say – 3,000. You can be sure that any company claiming to offer the BRIGHTEST headlamp for anything less than $400 or so, is just a scam. Or, they’re putting in absolute junk parts into their headlamps, and sure, that super-bright headlamp will last for an hour or so before it either burns up, shuts off to cool off, or destroys the bulb.

Please don’t buy something advertised as the brightest head torch for even $200 or less. It’s a scam. 100%. Nobody can make quality headlamps with 2,000+ lumens that will last for that amount of money.

UPDATEACEBEAM’s H30 seems to be OK, as does the NITECORE HC65. They both have well over 1,000 lumens of bright light. See our reviews by clicking the links.

Spotting Airplanes, or Spotting Game?

There’s nothing a 1,000-lumen headlamp with a tight beam can’t do that a 3,000-lumen headlamp with a tight beam can do for hunters. There’s a limit where more lumens doesn’t equal better ability to spot game or do anything else. The limit is your eyes, and what they’re capable of.

One-thousand lumens in a tight beam will show you a deer at 400 meters. If you get a light three times that strong, it won’t enable your eyes to see another 800 meters – your eyes are incapable of picking out a deer at that distance. Brightest headlamp claims mean little.

Eye-fatigue Anyone?

I use a 760 lumen Petzl Ultra Rush headlamp at night in Thailand’s jungle for around 3 hours before my eyes and head hurt from looking at the bright light. How long do you think your eyes are going to last while using a 4,000 lumen light? Not long, I assure you. Moderation is better. And, in almost all cases, the right amount of light is better than the maximum amount of light.

After 800 lumens or so, a headlamp loses its usefulness for many situations. If you want to light up the entire forest or light up a runway for a plane, OK, get a 3,000-lumen headlamp or flashlight. Otherwise, get a light that is going to last, and a light that is going to help you do many things, not just knock birds out of the sky.

Brightest headlamps with most functionality?

ACEBEAM’s H30 and the NITECORE HC65.

7 thoughts on “Brightest Headlamp? 2,000+ Lumens is a Scam – Here’s Why”

  1. High output headlamps are silly due to the purpose but do exist. Take the Acebeam H30 for example, $120 gets you about 4000 lumens from its one XHP 70.2 and a lot of features. But unless you need to light up further than normal distances for a short time 4000 lumens in a headlamp isn’t too justified.

  2. I really agree with the whole part of the cheap headlamp side of things. They dont do the job in any way possible.
    On the otherhand. I disagree about most statements that somewhat conclude that there is no need for much more than 1000-2000 lumens. My ledlenser got a trip to the lab to measure up if 2000 lumens was produced) after i got disappointed by output in endurocycling) and it came close to acclaimed output (xeo 19r). But it is nowhere near enough for me nomatter how i adjust the spread. I bought it to test claims like above since all my lamp-setups produce alot more. It does NOT do the job. I only use it now on some easy runs down when touring up the mountains on skis during wintertime. Not the faster ones in wintertime. For the cycling (when snow aint there to help reflecting) i have to stick to atleast the ledx mamba. Preferably i use its big brother on about 6000 lumens when going gets fast. Not to mention when i train night-time enduro on motorcycle. Then a stack that produces around 10000 graded lumens all together is necessary to be efficient enough for some routes, not always of course.
    This is thoroughly tested by alot of my peers and (give or take 2k lumen) it is actually what some of us are really looking for. So it would be nice to not see claims that 3k only is needed when landing an airplane. Personally i would not trust 3k lumen if i had to to do an unexpected late landing in the mountains with my paraglider. And thats not faster than about 38 km/h without speed applied.
    In conclusion: For some of us a wide And long field of view is mandatory. If i don’t get exactly that i will Really get tired.

    //Living north enough for 4h of daylight during wintertime.

  3. Hi Robin, thanks for writing that great comment. You’re right on. For very fast sports – more lumens spread over a wider area with a very wide flood beam, is ideal. The activities we talk about here on the site are not all that fast. Skiing is fast – we have a couple headlamps with 750-1100 lumens that we recommend for skiing. Still, that may not be enough if you’re going fast!

    Cheers and be careful out there!

  4. Hi there. New to head lamps and looking for one that would be good for walking my dog at night. We live in a wooded area so would like to see as much as possible both ahead and to the side of me if that is possible. With so many reviews I am now totally confused! Thank you.

  5. I know Ellen, it’s overwhelming. If you want something reasonably priced, that will last for years. Get the Petzl Actik headlamp. It’s 450 lumens. Quite bright. You can see to the side. Battery lasts long enough. Lightweight. Comfortable. Works in rain. There’s a link for the Actik 450 on this page – and a lot of information about the headlamp too. ACTIK HEADLAMP

  6. I am looking for the brightest headlamp. That does not use triple a batteries. Otherwise I need something over 700 lumens that will last 10 hours. I may not run it often but I need the high lumen brightness as I do videos in a cave. I need it to reach long distance and be bright. Recommendations? Because I run 4 lamps and its not enough after 1 hour.

  7. The Petzl Duo S has big batteries that can be attached to your waist. They are ACCU4. Double the size of the ACCU2. You will need a few of those to go 10 hours. They’re expensive, but very reliable and give multiple beam options. Other than that, some headlamps with lots of replaceable batteries should work for you. See if you can demo the Petzls. They’ve been making headlamps since the 1970s.

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