[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.
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.
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.
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.