The best rechargeable headlamps of 2022

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If you spend your nights hiking, camping, or fishing, you know how valuable good visibility is, and you want as little distraction as possible. This is why headlamps are so extremely handy. They let you keep your eyes on the task at hand while also giving you enough light to see where you’re going.

But not all headlamps are created equal. Lol. The best headlamps have everything you need and nothing you don’t. They’re usually bright, with a great beam, water-resistant, and have a long-lasting battery. But how important is it to charge the headlamp while you’re on the road? After testing a variety of models, we’ve identified the top rechargeable headlamps for you. Read on to learn more about our top picks.

Oh, if you didn’t know yet.. We reviewed hundreds of flashlights and headlamps, so please check out the review of the recommended headlamp for more details. We link to them in the description.

To see the list of headlamps we reviewed, check here: https://1lumen.com/tag/headlamps/

The best Micro USB rechargeable headlamps

After Mini USB came Micro USB. And for many years, flashlight manufacturers were using Micro USB connectors for charging. And since there are still so many headlamps around with Micro USB, we listed a few of them.

Keep in mind, that Micro-USB plugs have several disadvantages compared to USB-C. So, if you want to be future-proof, scroll down to the headlamps we reviewed using USB-C.

And if you want to increase the waterproofness of the headlamp, also check out the magnetic charging solutions below. Since they don’t need to cover any USB ports, water is less likely to enter.

Micro USB headlamp with 18350 battery

Armytek Elf C1

Armytek ELF C1 with headband
Armytek ELF C1 full runtime graph
PRO:CON:
Plenty bright with 966 lumens at turn onBattery capacity is low (that’s why it’s so lightweight)
Smooth and even beamMicro USB port
Easy to use User Interface
Includes a lithium-ion 18350 battery with 900mAh
Firefly mode could last for many days or weeks
Can also be used without the headband

Armytek is well known for making durable flashlights with good drivers. Their tactical lights have been around for over a decade and I’m sure they last that long too. Unlike most other manufacturers they don’t seem to be chasing lumens that only last a few seconds. Instead, they’ve been gradually refining their series.

Armytek has an Elf C1 (this one) and Armytek Elf C2: the C1 fits a 18350 cell and C2 fits a 18650 cell. Many of them also come in “white” and “warm” too. I picked the warm version, sacrificing just a few lumens for subjectively nicer beam quality.

The tailcap includes a magnet that easily holds the weight of the flashlight in any direction, and it has a lanyard attachment as well, so you can use it as a normal flashlight.

Previous versions of the Elf range came with a CREE XP-L emitter but Armytek has switched to using a Samsung LH351D. This gives a few more lumens and a higher CRI.

And to top it off: Armytek supplies the light with a 18350 cell but you can easily swap in your own as there’s nothing proprietary going on. Unfortunately, charging is done via Micro USB instead of USB-C, but its charge current still goes up to 0.5A, which is just fine of a 900mAh battery.

Don’t forget to check out our Armytek Elf C1 headlamp.

Micro USB headlamp with 18650 battery

Sofirn SP40

Sofirn SP40 holding
accessories
PROS:CONS:
A LOT of headlamp for the priceNo moonlight mode (output below 1 lm)
Nice and comfy head bandMicro USB charging
Easy to understand user interface
A great number of included accessories
Low voltage protection (to protect the battery)
Works on 18650 and 18350 lithium batteries

Looking for more detailed info? Runtime graphs, and more? Read our Sofirn SP40 review.

As with all the Sofirn lights I’ve used, the build quality is quite good. Sofirn has opted for a functional rather than elegant design, and in this case, it suits the light very well. For the price, it has a few great features, that you normally only find on more expensive headlamps.

Heatsink fins on the rear of the head help to draw the heat away from the emitter, so they keep the light stay cool. It also has an inbuilt Micro-USB port for charging, which is kind of a con, but for the price, it belongs on this list.

And with the shorter battery tube, you can even use 18350 batteries. That makes the light an even better value for the money. It should make a great headlamp for work.

Best best USB-C rechargeable headlamps

USB-C isn’t only used for computers, laptops, and smartphones, it’s now also used for charging headlamps.

USB-C uses reversible connectors so it can be plugged in in either direction. This makes it so much better than Micro USB, which uses a very small connector and is only 1 directional.

One of the biggest advantages of using USB-C is the power delivery. An old-fashioned USB port can only deliver up to 15 watts of power. With USB C, this is 100 watts. This means that a headlamp can charge much faster. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers that use USB-C connectors make use of this type of charging. In those cases, the battery still charges at normal speed, just like a Micro USB cable with 5volts and 2Amps.

USB-C headlamp with 18650 battery:

Nitecore HC65 v2

Nitecore HC65v2 on hat
Nitecore HC65 v2 runtime chart for 3 hours
PRO:CON:
Normal beam and High CRI LEDNeed to get used to the user interface
Includes 18650 batteryThe USB port cover is a little tricky to screw back
USB-C charging (NO PD)The switch can be a bit difficult to find with gloves
Red light available for extra safety
Max beam distance over 180 meters/yards
Battery voltage indicator

Nitecore has a nice lineup of headlamps and flashlights, including some L-shape (right angle) headlamps, and T-shape headlamps like this. The HC65 v2 is a headlamp with 1,750-lumen output that was easily achievable at turn on. After 30 seconds it’s still at 1716 lumens, but after 20 minutes, it’s down to 620 lumens. This is quite normal for a headlamp.

The total runtime in Turbo mode is 2 hours and 5 minutes, but the light will continue running for 2 more hours at low output. And the lowest mode runs for 31 hours and 29 minutes at roughly 54 minutes. That’s quite a performance.

Charging can be done with a USB-A to USB-C cable, and USB-C to USB-C cable. Unfortunately, the Nitecore doesn’t use PD charging, so there are no speed benefits by using USB-C to USB-C.

It’s a good all-around headlamp, and probably even a good headlamp for hunting, because of the red LED.

Want to know more? Check out our full review of the Nitecore HC65 v2.

Best headlamps with magnetic charging

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 they 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 a 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 at Amazon if you want max output and max battery life.

Standard 21700 battery

Armytek Wizard C2 PRO MAX

armytek wizard on helmet
runtime test
PRO:CON:
It has 2 different UIsThe user interface is a little difficult to understand at first
Very bright: about 3500 lumens at turn onBeam is very wide, and doesn’t reach too far
Very smooth beam because of the honeycomb optics
A high capacity 21700 battery is included
100+ meters / yards of throw distance in Turbo 2
Magnetic charging
Includes many accessories

I wasn’t a big fan of the UI at first, but after using it for a while, it grew on me. The Advanced mode menu is really cool, if you understand how it works, lol. It gives you 3 output menus. You get a Firefly mode group with 3 outputs, a Main mode group with 3 outputs, and a Turbo mode group with 2 outputs. Our review explains how to switch between them because it’s cool… if you know how to use it.

Oh, and if you like strobe, you even get a special group for that one as well.

We tested the Armytek at 3,500 lumens, which is about 500 lumens less than Armytek claims. It’s still extremely bright for a headlamp, albeit for a few minutes.

With the included battery, you get runtimes of up to a couple of days in Firefly modes. I measured Main mode 2 at almost 24 hours. Firefly modes should give you days of light, if not weeks.

Want to know more? Check out our in-depth review of the Armytek Wizard C2 PRO MAX.

Proprietary 21700 battery

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 were 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 for charging the included ORB-217C40A battery. The good news is that the Perun 2 also accepts non-Olight cells, but will lack the built-in charging feature. Also, they should be protected long batteries, because unprotected are too short.

If you get the light at Olightstore, don’t forget to use our unique coupon 1lumen for an extra 10% off.

Wrapping Up: What’s important

Charge speed:

Some of the things that you need to consider are the charge speed and the total time of charging. The smaller the battery, the faster the battery can be full. But that’s not always the case.

In some cases, the charge speed is purposely reduced to be softer on the battery. A safe charge speed is usually at 50%-100% of the capacity of the battery. For example: if the battery is 1000mAh, it’s safe to charge at 500mA, up to 1000mA. It’s still preferred to go for 50% (or .5C in charging terms) over 100% (1C in charging terms) charge speed.

A lithium-ion battery’s life is shortened by charging it at high speeds (read above 100% of the capacity).

Micro USB can usually provide a charge current of up to 2Amps, with a few exceptions. USB-C to USB-C can often provide higher charge speeds, which will reduce the charging time drastically. So, if you are using high capacity batteries, this could be something important.

In my opinion, it’s more important to have a spare battery at hand than fast charging.

Battery type:

The higher capacity of the battery, the longer the battery life. But bigger batteries come with a disadvantage: weight.

Here’s a quick overview of the highest capacity per battery type that are currently available. BTW if you see any batteries with a higher capacity than the following, they are fake.

NiMH rechargeable batteries:

  • AA battery: 2500mAh
  • AAA battery: 950mAh

Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries:

  • 16340 battery: 850mAh
  • 14500 battery: 1100mAh
  • 18350 battery: 1400mAh
  • 18650 battery: 3500mAh
  • 21700 battery: 5100mAh

There are also other battery types like 26650 and 26800, but those are rarely if ever, used in headlamps.

You can see from the list, that a headlamp with a 21700 battery can have about 3 times the capacity of a 18350 headlamp, or 5 times a 14500 type headlamp. So the bigger the battery, the higher the capacity.

It’s also important to note, that the smaller the battery, the lower current it can provide. Because capacity is not equal to power. High discharge batteries can provide more current at the same time, and therefore make the headlamp brighter. But the highest discharge batteries are usually not the ones with the most capacity. So if you look for the highest output rechargeable headlamp, you better look for the type of battery the manufacturer provides. If they don’t provide one, you pick one of the best batteries for flashlights you can get.

In most cases, however, flashlight manufacturers provide a good quality cell with the headlamp. Nitecore, Olight, Fenix, and Armytek are manufacturers who provide high-quality batteries with a good combination of capacity and discharge characteristics.

Proprietary battery vs standard battery

Some manufacturers include a proprietary battery with their headlamps, just like camera manufacturers do with their cameras.

When you ask them why, they usually respond with the following: safety, warranty, and guaranteed performance.

Having a proprietary battery has some benefits and some disadvantages at the same time. So, before you dive and buy a headlamp with a proprietary battery, read this:

Benefits:

  • Guaranteed performance by manufacturer
  • Ensure compatibility
  • Usually includes reverse polarity protection; can only be loaded correctly to turn the light on, and not damage the light
  • Often are high-quality cells
  • Have built-in protection for overcharge and over-discharge

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive than standard batteries
  • Restricted to use with only a certain number of headlamps of the same brand
  • Can (usually) not be used with other brand headlamps

Who makes the brightest rechargeable headlamp?

Lupine makes some of the brightest rechargeable headlamps on the market. We made a list of the brightest headlamps on the market, so check that out.

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