The best headlamps of 2023 (we tested!)
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Some of the contenders we tested:
With so many nice headlamps on the market to choose from, searching for the best headlamp for you, can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. There are many headlamps to choose from, with Amazon and the best buy guides pitching the most popular models, but popularity doesn’t make a headlamp good (Definitely check out our list of the best flashlights you can get on Amazon). 1Lumen is here to help point you toward the best headlamp for you!
Which Headlamp Should You Choose?
A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Headlamps you can buy
“Which headlamp should I choose?” This is a question we’re frequently being asked. There are a lot of headlamps on the market, and it’s difficult to know which ones are worth your money and which ones aren’t. To help answer your question, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to the best headlamps we reviewed.
Don’t trust me? Just check out one of our hundreds of reviews! The headlamps featured in this guide have all been through our extensive testing protocols.
Best budget headlamp
The market is full of cheap headlamps, and it’s tempting to buy one based on price or performance claims. But, unfortunately, these are usually junky, cheaply made, and poor performing. This is why we never recommend buying cheap headlamps from Amazon or Aliexpress just based on their specifications. You usually get what you pay for, which isn’t much, lol. However, there are still great budget headlamps out there with great features for cheap. Here’s one we can highly recommend for no more than $40.
|A LOT of headlamp for the price||No moonlight mode (below 1 lumen)|
|Comfortable head strap||Buying local is more expensive than directly from Sofirn|
|Good range of included accessories||No magnetic tailcap|
|Low voltage protection (to protect the battery)|
The HS40 is Sofirn’s new headlamp, which will eventually replace the older, but still great, SP40 (check out our review of the SP40 here: Sofirn SP40). While the HS40 retains all the features that made the SP40 a great headlamp, the HS40 includes some very nice upgrades including 2 amp USB type C charging, a nice output boost to 2000 Lumens from the Luminus SST40, a 2-position pocket clip, and a new user interface featuring stepless ramping in addition to stepped ramping.
Although it’s still missing a magnetic tailcap (which would make it very useful as a worklight), the HS40 is a very solid headlamp for under $40.00. For more details, check out our Sofirn HS40 review.
Best best lightweight headlamp
A lightweight headlamp is worth its weight in gold, well, maybe not real gold. A lightweight headlamp is great for when using it for extended periods of time, and won’t cause trouble from using it. The best lightweight headlamps typically weigh no more than two ounces (excluding the headband).
The weight of your headlamp doesn’t affect your battery life, but the lighter the headlamp, the smaller the battery.. is common. So, if you’re looking for a headlamp that will last for many hours on max output, you’ll need to look for something that’s using a lithium-ion 18650 or 21700 battery, but that adds a considerate amount of weight.
You should also consider the size of the headband of the headlamp. The best headlamps have adjustable headbands that you can tighten or loosen to get the best fit. But fortunately, that’s about every good quality headlamp on the market these days. Small, lightweight headlamps can still be plenty bright and just as useful as their larger counterparts.
Fenix HM50R v2
|Plenty bright, see the performance graph||Battery capacity is low (that’s why it’s so lightweight)|
|Smooth beam||Zigzag output pattern (which is hard to notice in person though)|
|Includes a lithium-ion rechargeable battery||–|
|Includes red light||–|
|Max beam distance over 100 meters/yards||–|
|Can also be used without a head strap|
From all the flashlights and headlamps we reviewed, there was only a handful that we can call lightweight. 1 of them is the Fenix HM50R v2, a tiny ultra-lightweight headlamp with 700 lumens (we measured 706 lumens at turn-on).
If you are looking for a lightweight headlamp, you know that battery life is going to suck. At least, it’s going to suck when you compare it to bigger headlamps with bigger batteries. You probably are looking for a featherweight headlamp because you only need it briefly. If so, the Fenix HM50R v2 might be what you are looking for.
If you want the brightest headlamp with the longest runtimes, sorry, but you won’t find one under 5 ounces (or about 150 grams) including the headband. In that case, check out our other recommended headlamps in this article.
Not that the Fenix’s runtimes are bad, not at all. But they aren’t at high output. The lowest mode can run for more than 38 hours… at an output of roughly 10 lumens. So yes, that’s a great runtime, albeit at low output.
All in all, definitely check out our Fenix HM50R V2 review, even if you’re slightly interested.
Use the following code to get 20% off your first purchase at Fenixlighting: 1Lumen20
Best (rechargeable) headlamps for camping
When looking for the best headlamps for camping, you’ll want to consider a couple of different things. First, you’ll want to consider the type of camping you’ll be doing. Because you’ll need to know the battery life of the headlamp. Most camping headlamps you get at Walmart & the like, don’t show how many lumens it can sustain for a longer period of time. That’s why we do all the runtime tests in our reviews.
Depending on the type of camping you’ll be doing, you may want a headlamp that uses an 18650 or a 21700 battery. Once again, the higher capacity of the battery, the longer the battery life is, and the higher output it can sustain. So skip all the 3AAA headlamps you see on Amazon if you want max output and max battery life.
Armytek Wizard C2 PRO MAX
|2 different UI menus||Need to get used to UI|
|Very bright||Mostly wide beam (no throw)|
|Very smooth beam|
|A high-capacity battery is included|
|Magnetic charging (more waterproof)|
|100+ meters/yards of throw distance in Turbo 2|
|The lowest output mode can run for weeks|
|Includes many accessories for biking, hiking, and more|
I admit I wasn’t a big fan of the UI at first, but it grew on me while reviewing it. The Advanced menu is really cool, but at first, it may not make too much sense. You basically have 3 solid output menus in 1. Meaning, you have a specific Firefly mode group with 3 outputs. You have the Main mode group with 3 outputs, and then you have Turbo mode group with 2 outputs. You can switch between them if you know how the UI works. If you don’t read our review (or the manual) it may be a bit complicated.
Oh, and if you like strobe, you even get a special group for that one as well.
In terms of output, Armytek claims 4,000 lumens as the highest output (in Turbo 2), but I wasn’t able to achieve that. My copy got just under 3500 lumens at turn on.
With a 5,000mAh battery, you can get runtimes of up to a couple of days in Firefly modes. I already measured almost 24 hours in Main mode 2… so yeah, you’ll be good for many days in FireFly modes, for sure. Great headlamp for camping and hiking.
BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro
|Very comfortable and adjustable headband||UI needs some work|
|Great quality with a great finish||Still uses Micro USB|
|Regulated output, so the brightness is stable||Could be a bit brighter|
|Flood light is High CRI|
|Nicks favorite headlamp|
This is directly taken from the Biolite 800 PRO headlamp review.
Bioilite wasn’t a name I associated with headlamps, but apparently they know how to make some nice ones. The 800 Pro really does round out an already impressive portfolio of great headlamps and outdoor gear for BioLite. In my time with the 800 Pro, I found it to be every bit as good as my usual go-to Cyansky HS6R and cheap (but great) modded Slonik D10. There’s a lot I like about the 800 Pro. Aside from being a high quality, well-made item, it has one of the most comfortable headbands…ever. It’s also very to wear thanks to the stupidly easy-to-adjust headband.
The headlamp also has excellent performance in runtime and output. There are a lot of pro-level features here, some not found on other headlamps. Being able to switch between fully regulated and constant brightness modes is a big advantage when you need constant brightness.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the BioLite 800 Pro. It’s a very smartly-designed, high quality, and great-performing headlamp. It would be right at home fixing pipes under the sink, going on a quick trip through the Ape Caves or an evening stretch on the Duckabush or Dosewallips Trail. With some UI improvements and refining, I think the 800 Pro could represent the best of the best in headlamp form and functionality on the market. As-is, I think it’s worth a look if you want a pro-grade headlamp.
|Solid build quality||Requires long 18650 batterie|
|Simple UI||Included battery is only 2600 mAh|
|High CRI warm white flood LED and high output spot LED||Didn’t reach factory lumen claims|
|Dual red auxiliary LEDs|
|Efficient, regulated driver for consistent output|
|Comfortable to wear|
|IP68 ingress protection rating|
|Integrated (fast) USB type C charging|
The HS6R is Cyansky’s entry into the headlamp market, and it’s a fantastic first effort. Combining throw/flood light sources is nothing new in a headlamp, but the HS6R does a great job implementing them. A Luminus SST40 LED provides a bright, nicely throwy beam for the spot optic and a (surprisingly throwy) Luminus SST20 warm white high CRI LED for the beaded flood optic, rounded out by dual red auxiliary LEDs. Cyansky really bumped the useful-meter pretty high with the combination of throw, flood, and red light sources. The user interface is also simple to use featuring dual buttons which can control the flood, throw, and auxiliary LEDs separately. The HS6R is a quality and solidly-built headlamp with a comfortable headband that would happily work in all weather conditions. Overall, this a great general-purpose headlamp, and with a higher capacity battery (downside is you must use longer, button top or protected 18650s), would be perfect for camping trips.
For more information on the HS6R, check out our detailed review here: https://1lumen.com/review/cyansky-hs6r . Or buy at 1 of the following stores:
The Best Headlamps for Hiking
The best headlamps for hiking are the ones that you can use in all types of weather, have multiple output modes, and long battery life. A headlamp with larger buttons (for changing modes etc) is ideal for use in inclement weather. Next, you’ll want to consider the beam or width of light produced by the headlamp. The wider the beam of light produced, the more area in front of you will be illuminated and the safer you will probably feel. If the beam is too tight, you may miss obstacles to your sides, or your eyes may start to feel sore. Plus, it is great for various lighting conditions since your eyes don’t need to keep adjusting. If you’ll be hiking primarily at night, also consider a warmer temperature LED. That means a lower CCT (4000K or lower) instead of a blueish white beam (5000K+). Another great choice would be 2 light sources, with 1 for close up, and 1 for farther away. But in that case I’d recommend having a regular flashlight with you as well.
For the best versatile headlamp, the one with a wider beam that produces about 500 lumens or more is ideal. You don’t really need thousands of lumens while hiking. That’s another story for riding a bike. At higher speeds, you want to know what’s coming up.
The aforementioned Armytek Wizard C2 PRO MAX is also a great contender.
Great headlamp for backpacking
Olight Perun 2
|Max output of 2,500 lumens (we measured 2,700)||Proprietary charging|
|Great sustained outputs (Medium straight for 19 hours)||Only 1 LED option available (no warm white etc)|
|Beam distance up to 183 meters / 200 yards||Little bit big (due to the battery type)|
|Easy to use UI|
|Lowest output is 5 lumen, great for night vision|
|Great for a backpacking trip|
|Great build quality|
Check out the full Olight Perun 2 review.
Olight is in the grand scheme of options usually a safe bet. They make great flashlights with very good regulated drivers. That means that they stay at a higher output throughout their battery life than most of their competitors.
The Perun 2 is yet another great Olight. Below are some parts taken from our review. If you want to know all the details check out our full review here: https://1lumen.com/review/olight-perun-2/
Overall, the headband configuration works well as long as you’re comfortable with right-angle lights where the LED is positioned on one end of the light vs being centered. Right-angle lights tend to work better for medium to far-distance tasks. Like every Olight I’ve ever held, the Perun 2 feels really solid and well built. The machining is very clean and everything feels thought out and well executed. Good attention to quality.
The Perun 2 has a proprietary magnetic charging port on the tail. This model uses the MCC3 charging cable which is capable of up to 2 amps.
If you get the light at Olightstore, don’t forget to use our unique coupon: 1lumen for an extra 10% off.
Best headlamp for running and jogging
Like any runner, you’ve probably cursed the darkness at least once. If you run at night, chances are you are running through dark streets, parking lots, or even forests. You don’t want just any random headlamp, you want the best. And besides safety issues, you want something comfortable, lightweight, and with great battery life. Of course, the battery life depends on the distance you run. You also want a headlamp with a secure head strap so it stays put while running.
We reviewed many brands, including Olight, Nitecore, Thrunite, and many, many more. We don’t particularly focus on jogging lights, but from all of the ones we reviewed, below you can find our recommendation.
|Warm & cool white light||Output is quite a bit lower than bigger headlamps|
|2 light options: wide and spot||The hinges of the battery door are relatively weak|
|Can be used with 2 types of batteries||–|
|Great combination of lightweight and battery life||–|
|The lithium battery has a built-in USB-C port for charging||–|
|Nice for jogging, running, or night hike.||–|
I kind of fell in love with this headlamp. It’s so small and lightweight, that it’s not cumbersome to use, unlike some of the larger headlamps that will grow your neck muscles. Nitecore made a proprietary 1300mAh battery that helps to keep the weight down, specifically for the UT27, but you can also use 3AAA batteries if you want to. That’s great, even for long trail runs, or backpacking trip.
Battery life and output are great for the size of this headlamp, considering that it’s only 73 grams (2.59 ounces) including the battery and head strap together. That’s amazingly light for what you get.
We measured the output at 564 lumens in turbo mode, and 442 lumens in spot mode. And that’s another great feature of this headlamp, namely 2 beam options; 1 for spot (throw) and 1 for wide (flood). Both beams use a different emitter, namely a warm white for throw, and a cool white LED for flood.
And that’s why this is the lightest running headlamp on the list.
Want to know more details? Check out our Nitecore UT27 review. Or buy the flashlight at one of the following stores:
Wrapping Up: The Best overall Headlamps
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for the best headlamps, you have to consider your needs. Why do you need a headlamp? What type of camping will you be doing? How long will you use it? Do you need to charge batteries on the go? Can you take spare batteries? What are the weather conditions? What are the activities you’ll be doing?
So, it depends on what headlamp you need.
What Makes a Good Headlamp?
Although some flashlights can do double-duty as a headlamp (like the FireFlies PL47), a dedicated headlamp is more than a flashlight you can strap to your head or clip to your baseball cap. They’re purpose-built for specific applications and use-cases, and come in all shapes, sizes, and output levels. Here’s the short list on what to look for when shopping for a headlamp.
Size: This is probably the most important factor when choosing a headlamp. A big, heavy, high output headlamp with a 21700 battery or multiple 18650 batteries probably isn’t going to be one you’d take on a jog or run. A lighter headlamp with a built-in battery that’s more portable would be a better choice here.That bigger, heavier headlamp might be a better choice for camping or extended outdoor activities due to the higher output and longer runtimes a big battery (or batteries) can provide.
Output: How much light do you need? A very bright headlamp will be good for lighting up large areas at longer distances, but for most tasks, you won’t need 2,000 or 4,000 lumens. For general purpose tasks, 400 to 600 lumens is perfectly adequate. Some headlamps also run on AAA alkaline batteries, and while this can be great, we recommend using high quality NiMH batteries in headlamps that use AAA batteries. You will get better performance and less risk of leaks, since alkaline batteries can leak and ruin your headlamp.
Comfort: This is the second most important point to consider. Is the strap comfortable and easy to adjust? An uncomfortable headlamp with a poor headband is tiresome and fatiguing to use. Headlamp bands come in two styles: The single band like the Cyansky HS6R, or the single band with a third over-the-head strap like the Sofirn SP40. The single band design is meant for smaller, lighter headlamps that won’t pull the band down over the user’s forehead during use. For larger headlamps, or headlamps that will be used during vigorous activities like hiking, search and rescue, or other tasks, the headband with the over-the-head strap is a better choice since it holds the headlamp more securely and works better with helmets and hardhats.
Any other factors we should take into consideration when you choose a headlamp?
Some other factors to consider when choosing a headlamp are the type. Headlamps come in two basic form factors: L-shaped and T-shaped. L-shaped headlamps have a single reflector or optic mounted at a 90-degree angle to the battery tube like the Olight Perun 2, and Sofirn SP40. This design often features a magnetic tailcap for added versatility and can be used as a worklight, flashlight, or headlamp. L-shaped headlamps usually have higher output and more throw, but at the expense of size and weight. The other type is the T-shaped headlamp. This type positions the reflector or optic in front of the battery tube. The Cyansky HS6R is an example. This configuration allows for more natural light distribution since the light is being projected directly in front of the user, rather than off to the side like an L-shaped headlamp. These headlamps tend to be more compact and lightweight, but can still provide very good output.
How many lumens should a headlamp have?
How much light do you need? A very bright headlamp (or flashlight) will be good for lighting up large areas at longer distances, but for most tasks, you won’t need a bright light with 2,000 or 4,000 lumens. For general purpose tasks, 400 to 600 lumens is perfectly adequate. Some headlamps also run on AAA alkaline batteries, and while this can be great, we recommend using high quality NiMH batteries in headlamps that use AAA batteries. You will get better performance and less risk of leaks, since alkaline batteries can leak and ruin your headlamp.