The best headlamps (we tested!)

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Some of the contenders we tested:

With so many headlamps on the market to choose from, searching for the best headlamp can feel like searching for a needle in a stack of needles. There are a lot of headlamps to choose from out there, with Amazon and the best buy guides pitching the most popular models, but popularity doesn’t make a headlamp good (check out our review of the most popular flashlight sold on Amazon). 1Lumen is here to help point you towards the best headlamp for you.

Which Headlamp Should You Choose?

A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Headlamps you can buy

When it comes to headlamps, there are plenty of options available. Our question to you today is “Which headlamp should you choose?” This isn’t a question we ask often, but it’s 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 are worth skipping. To help answer this question, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to the best headlamps. Since we reviewed a couple hundred flashlights and headlamps, we know a thing or 2 about this topic.

Don’t trust me? Read one of our 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. You usually get what you pay for, which isn’t much. However, there are great budget headlamps out there with a lot of features for cheap. Here are a few we recommend for no more than $40.

Sofirn HS40

Sofirn SP40 holding
accessories
PROS:Cons:
A LOT of headlamp for the priceNo moonlight mode (below 1 lumen)
Comfortable head strapBuying local is more expensive than directly at Sofirn
Good range of included accessoriesNo magnetic tailcap
Low voltage protection (to protect the battery)
Only 104 grams with an 18650 battery inserted

The Sofirn HS40 is new for 2022 and 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, 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

Best best lightweight headlamp

A lightweight headlamp is worth its weight in gold, well, maybe not gold, but keeping a headlamp as light as possible is really important because a lightweight headlamp is great for when using it for extended periods of time, and won’t cause trouble from wearing it for too long. The best lightweight headlamps typically weigh no more than two ounces (excluding the headband).

The weight of your headlamp doesn’t affect the battery life, but lightweight headlamps tend to have smaller batteries. 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 18650 or 21700 battery, which adds 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. Small, lightweight headlamps these days can be very bright and just as useful as their larger counterparts.

Fenix HM50R v2

Fenix HM50R v2 in hand
Fenix HM50R v2 runtime 1 hour
PRO:CON:
Plenty brightBattery capacity is low (that’s why it’s so lightweight)
Smooth beamZigzag output pattern (which is hard to notice in person)
Includes a lithium-ion rechargeable battery
Red light available for extra safety
Max beam distance over 100 meters/yards
Can also be used without 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. But 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 about 10 lumens. So yes, that’s a great runtime, albeit at a low output.

All in all, definitely check out our Fenix HM50R V2 review, even if you’re slightly interested.

Best 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

armytek wizard on helmet
runtime test
PRO:CON:
2 different UI menusNeed to get used to UI
Very brightMostly 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.

Cyansky HS6R

Cyansky HS6R on head
Cyansky HS6R runtime
PRO:CON:
Solid build qualityRequires long 18650 batterie
Simple UIIncluded battery is only 2600 mAh
High CRI warm white flood LED and high output spot LEDDidn’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

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.

Olight Perun 2

Olight Perun 2 attached to cap
Olight Perun 2 runtime high
PRO:CON:
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 yardsLittle bit big (due to the battery type)
Easy to use UI
Great build quality

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. Think about it: If you run at night, chances are you are running through dark streets, parking lots, or even forests. You don’t want just any headlamp, you want the best. Besides the safety issue, you want something comfortable, lightweight, and with great battery life. Of course, battery life depends on the distance you run, and many can run for a very long time.. 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.

Nitecore UT27

Nitecore UT27 attached to 1lumen cap
Nitecore UT27 runtime test
PRO:CON:
Warm & cool white LEDOutput is lower than bigger headlamps
2 beam options: wide and spotThe 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, hiking and running

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 built 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.

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. 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 for flood.

Want to know more details? Check out our Nitecore UT27 review.

Wrapping Up: The Best Headlamps

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for the best headlamps, you have to consider your needs. What type of camping will you be doing? How long will you use it? Do you need to charge batteries? What are the weather conditions? What are the activities?

The best headlamp for you?

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?

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 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.

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