[Page updated: 1June 2022]
Petzl is the best headlamp company out of dozens researched.
Our opinion is based on the thousands of professional runners using Petzl headlamps around the world, as well as real-world use in a number of situations like camping, hiking, trail running, fishing, hunting, caving, and even reading a book in your tent.
With any product, you’ll have a variety of manufacturers. When you visit online stores searching for headlamps, you’ll see hundreds of cheap $12 to $50 headlamps which are sourced in China from Alibaba, for 1/3 to 1/2 the price you’re paying. That means the headlamps you see for $20 were bought for about $8. You can go to Alibaba today and see what I’m talking about. Online sellers saw that headlamps were being sold at the rate of thousands per week, and jumped in – selling absolute garbage headlamps for under $50.
There are really four main headlamp manufacturers that are decent.
Best Headlamp Companies
- Petzl – our favorite headlamp manufacturer!
- OLight – our top USA favorite (see their Best Headlamp here), but headlamps are often hard to find.
- Black Diamond – the “Spot” is quite nice
- Fenix – decent and great prices
- Nathan – cannot find them any longer
If you’re not going to buy from one of these companies, the headlamp you buy is almost surely going to be absolute junk. Keep watch in 2022 for more headlamp releases as companies like Petzl typically release in October/November.
Black Diamond was one of the early producers of headlamps, and they are still stuck where they were 10 years ago. Durable headlamps, but designed like a 9-year-old created them. They typically have just one bulb, and only recently upped the lumens to around 500 on some of their headlamps. A large group of people, maybe you included, think Black Diamond is the best manufacturer of headlamps because you never used anything else. You bought it and stuck with it. Fair enough, but let me just reassure you, Petzl headlamps are worlds above Black Diamond lights.
Fenix is a Chinese company who saw the success of Black Diamond and decided to make their own headlamps. They are quite good for a Chinese brand. They use Cree LED bulbs, and the units are tough and waterproof.
The main problem with Fenix is that they typically use just one bulb, and they try to combine a flood and spot into one bulb – which makes the beam quality and shape – unusable for many activities. We have a couple of the Fenix HP25 headlamps, and we’ve been happy enough with them because they have been tough enough for rainforest use for over a year in the heavy rain. The beam shape and quality isn’t great for what we do, or what most people do, but it has a killer spotlight.
Nathan is a sports product manufacturer that makes headlamps that look like they were made for the 1970s. I haven’t seen a modern headlamp come out of the company yet, but many ultrarunners again – still don’t know there is anything better out there, so they’re running around with 150-lumen lights instead of 500 lumens Petzls, as they should be.
Petzl headlamps are the best-of-the-best. The quality, design, beam shape, beam quality, components, and battery life are all stellar. I think of Petzl as the Apple of the headlamp world. Their headlamps are expensive, but you get what you pay for. If you want a very bright light, perfectly shaped beam, amazing quality of light, waterproof, comfortable, long-lasting, and super tough – you’ll buy a Petzl light.
I think about buying a headlamp like I’m buying a survival light. That’s exactly what it might turn out to be. I wouldn’t rely on any of the above companies except Petzl for a light I must rely on for my safety. Paying $150 for top quality Petzl headlamp costs you $12 per month if it completely dies in one year. It won’t, but that’s what you’re paying. If it lasts two years, that’s $6 per month. It’s nothing to spend this amount, and yet people buy junk headlamps a couple of times a year thinking they are saving money. What about saving your mind from worrying whether your headlamp will work in a race or on a training run? A hike? Camping? Skiing?
We include a couple of headlamps on this site, for the sake of variety and because we know that some people just cannot afford to pay $100 plus for a headlamp. I think you cannot afford not to pay that much as a minimum, but I know some people won’t pay it. So, we’ve included a couple of Fenix lights and even one Black Diamond. Would I use them? No. Should you use them? Depends. Do you want to save money, or do you want to use the most reliable brand of headlamps ever?
The choice is always up to you, but you know what the right thing to do is… 😉