6 Best Backpacking Headlamps of 2020

Last update: Nov 23, 2020

A headlamp is a great tool to bring along on your backpacking trip, especially when you stay outside in the dark as it illuminates objects when you can’t see anything. For such an important safety gear, you need to choose wisely to make the best of your investment.

Here are the best backpacking headlamps you can buy in 2020:

  • Best Overall: Black Diamond Spot Headlamp 300 lumens
  • Best For Wet Condition: PETZL - Tikka Headlamp, 200 Lumens
  • Best For Consistent Performance: PETZL - ACTIK CORE Headlamp 350 Lumens
  • Brightest: Nitecore NU20
  • Ultra-Light: Ledlenser - MH6
  • Best For The Dry Condition: Princeton Tec Sync LED Headlamp
6 Best Backpacking Headlamps
Best Overall
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp 300 lumens
    Best For Wet Condition
    PETZL - Tikka Headlamp, 200 Lumens
      Best For Consistent Performance
      PETZL - ACTIK CORE Headlamp 350 Lumens
        Brightest
        Nitecore NU20
          Ultra-Light
          Ledlenser - MH6
            Best For The Dry Condition
            Princeton Tec Sync LED Headlamp

              Best Overall: Black Diamond Spot Headlamp 300 lumens

              Black Diamond Spot Headlamp 300 lumens
              Black Diamond Spot Headlamp 300 lumens
              9.8Outstanding
              Pros
              • Super-bright and customizable – the brightness of 300lm & 5 lighting modes
              • Durable yet lightweight – waterproof IPX rated & the weight of 90 grams
              • Transition instantly the light between dimmed and full power - innovative PowerTap technology
              • Able to turn on/off at a selected brightness - Brightness Memory
              Cons
              • It has a yellow dot in the middle of the bigger bulb

              The Black Diamond Spot could be anyone’s dream headlamp because it’s fully equipped with everything you might need, whether for long or short ranges.

              It’s affordable, super-bright, lightweight, and waterproof IPX8 rated. There are plenty of lighting modes – lock mode, red night-vision, strobe, dimming, and full-strength (in distance and proximity distances).

              It also has Brightness Memory, which will turn on/off at a chosen brightness.

              Besides, the innovative PowerTap technology allows you to transition the light instant between dimmed and full power.

              Black Diamond Spot Headlamp 300 lumens Specifications

              Weight

              90g

              Lumens

              300lm

              Highlight Features

              the brightness of 300lm & 5 lighting modes

              waterproof IPX rated & the weight of 90 grams

              innovative PowerTap technology

              Brightness Memory

              If you’re an outdoor camper, backpacker, skier, or mountaineer who keeps looking for a reliable lighting solution for darkness, Black Diamond Spot is the best overall option.

              Best For Wet Condition: PETZL - Tikka Headlamp, 200 Lumens

              PETZL - Tikka Headlamp, 200 Lumens
              PETZL - Tikka Headlamp, 200 Lumens
              9.4Outstanding
              Pros
              • Not blind other members in a group - red lighting function
              • Easily recognized in darkness - a phosphorescent reflector
              • Convenient and versatile – powered by both standard batteries or CORE rechargeable battery
              Cons
              • Wish there was a strap added to the top for easy carrying
              • The size adjustments could be better

              Weather is always an unpredictable element for outdoor enthusiasts. But with the PETZL - Tikka Headlamp, you don’t have to worry about it at all.

              This model is designed with weatherproof and water-resistant properties in mind. Meanwhile, the headlamp can be powered by both standard batteries or CORE rechargeable battery if you want. Quite convenient!

              Our testers really liked its red lighting function as it avoids blinding other members in your group.

              Also, there’s a phosphorescent reflector to be highly visible in darkness so you can easily find it out.

              PETZL - Tikka Headlamp, 200 Lumens Specifications

              Weight

              86 grams (3oz)

              Lumens

              200lm

              Highlight Features

              red lighting function

              a phosphorescent reflector

              powered by both standard batteries or CORE rechargeable battery

              Created with enhanced water resistance, the PETZL - Tikka Headlamp is perfect for wet conditions.

              Best For Consistent Performance: PETZL - ACTIK CORE Headlamp 350 Lumens

              PETZL - ACTIK CORE Headlamp 350 Lumens
              PETZL - ACTIK CORE Headlamp 350 Lumens
              9.2Outstanding
              Pros
              • Offer different lighting performance – two beam patterns
              • Super-bright but not blind the others – 350-lumen brightness & red lighting function
              • High value – includes a CORE rechargeable battery in the package
              Cons
              • A bit pricey

              Next up is the PETZL - ACTIK CORE, with ultra-bright 350 lumens and up to 160-hour max autonomy burn time.

              Just like the previous options, it comes with a red lighting function to prevent your headlamp from blinding other members.

              Also, it has two beam patterns (mixed and wide) for various lighting performances.

              What we like the most about this option is it includes a CORE rechargeable battery in the package. But if you’re planning for long-term outdoor trips where direct electricity sources are limited, rest assured, this unit is able to work with standard batteries.

              PETZL - ACTIK CORE Headlamp 350 Lumens Specifications

              Weight

              0.309 pounds

              Lumens

              350lm

              Charging Time

              3 hours

              Highlight Features

              two beam patterns

              350-lumen brightness & red lighting function

              include a CORE rechargeable battery in the package

              In some certain night outdoor activities, the consistent lighting performance of a headlamp is very important. If that’s also what you are looking for, look no further than the PETZL - ACTIK CORE.

              Brightest: Nitecore NU20

              Nitecore NU20
              Nitecore NU20
              9.4Outstanding
              Pros
              • Superbly bright – 360-lumen brightness
              • Customizable and easy to control - 4 lighting modes, two emergency settings, and a practical control button
              • Durable & long-lasting – 100-hour runtime & 500-charging-time lifespan
              • Offer various angle illumination - a tilt-able bracket & a 100-degree full field of view
              Cons
              • It might contemporarily blind your group members – no red lighting
              • A bit tricky to remove the rubber cover for the charging jack
              • Straps are prone to loosen up

              The PETZL - ACTIK CORE kept being the brightest backpacking headlamp in our list until this unit appeared.

              It is incredibly bright, offering 360 lumens at a max distance of 261 feet (equivalent to 87 yards), along with 4 lighting modes, two emergency settings, and a practical control button.

              It utilizes a rechargeable battery for up to 100 hours of constant use, and the lifespan is 500 charging times. Not to say that it is built with a power indicator that will tell you when to recharge.

              Another highlight point is its various angle illumination, including a tilt-able bracket with 52-degree adjustment up and down, and a 100-degree full field of view.

              Nitecore NU20 Specifications

              Weight

              1.66 ounces

              Lumens

              360lm

              Irradiation Range

              87 yards

              Highlight Features

              360-lumen brightness

              4 lighting modes, two emergency settings, and a practical control button

              100-hour runtime & 500-charging-time lifespan

              a tilt-able bracket & a 100-degree full field of view

              While delivering the brightest illumination out of a bunch, the Nitecore NU20 even gives you more.

              Ultra-Light: Ledlenser - MH6

              Ledlenser - MH6
              Ledlenser - MH6
              9.4Outstanding
              Pros
              • Lightweight and comfortable – the weight of 3.28 ounces & ultra-large headband straps
              • Dependable – backed by an industry-leading 7-year guarantee & overheat protection
              • Optimize lighting transmission – patented advanced focus system
              Cons
              • Unclear directions
              • The headband strap is easily stretched out

              “Lightweight” is the biggest strength of Ledlenser - MH6. It weighs just 3.28 ounces but packs a punch and is built to last.

              Buying it, your purchase is under an industry-leading 7-year guarantee. Regardless, it is built to be overheat protection, powerful, and reliable with high performance.

              While offering 200-lumen brightness along with three lighting modes, it is able to last up to 20 hours of continuous operation. The headlamp also boasts a patented advanced focus system that helps optimize illumination transmission.

              Ledlenser - MH6 is also designed with your comfort in mind. It features an ultra-wide headband strap, and this component is detachable and machine-washable.

              Ledlenser - MH6 Specifications

              Weight

              3.28 Ounces

              Lumens

              200lm

              Irradiation Range

              40-120m

              Highlight Features

              weight of 3.28 ounces & ultra-large headband straps

              backed by an industry-leading 7-year guarantee & overheat protection

              patented advanced focus system

              For ultra-long night trips, a lightweight headlamp with wide headband straps is a good choice. Luckily, the Ledlenser - MH6 is specifically designed for that purpose.

              Best For The Dry Condition: Princeton Tec Sync LED Headlamp

              Princeton Tec Sync LED Headlamp
              Princeton Tec Sync LED Headlamp
              9Outstanding
              Pros
              • Afford longer outdoor trips – a max runtime of 144 hours
              • Lightweight – the weight of 3.84 ounces
              • Breathable – pattern webbing headband
              Cons
              • Wish the plastic was beefier

              The Princeton Tec Sync LED Headlamp is not built to be water-resistant, so take note that it’s only used in dry conditions. In turn, the product offers a max runtime of 144 hours, weighs only 3.84 ounces, and is easy to use due to the big dial design.

              If you’re a heavy sweating person, the good news is this headlamp won’t make your forehead damply sweated because it’s made of breathable pattern webbing.

              Last but not least, three standard batteries are included in the package so you can use it right out of the box.

              Princeton Tec Sync LED Headlamp Specifications

              Weight

              3.84 Ounces

              Lumens

              200 Lumens

              Highlight Features

              max runtime of 144 hours

              weight of 3.84 ounces

              pattern webbing headband

              The Princeton Tec Sync LED Headlamp is our favorite choice for dry conditions.

              How To Choose The Best Backpacking Headlamp?

              Weight

              You shouldn’t choose a headlamp that’s heavy because it will be hard to use for a long time and add more weight to your pack. It’s best to opt for a headlamp less than 4 oz.

              Besides, when considering the weight of a headlamp, you should think about the weight of the entire lighting system, including spare batteries or other recharging methods.

              Beam

              First of all, you should always buy a headlamp with a red light setting. The reasons are that this setting offers longer battery life and it doesn’t blind other people when they look at it. Besides, you can also get headlamps with blue and green lights for signaling.

              Secondly, you need to pay attention to the light quality. When browsing different headlamps, you should test the quality by shining them onto a white wall to compare between models.

              Last but not least, look into the beam distance of the headlamp. There are two modes associated with different distances, including floodlight and spotlight.

              The first one is wider but dimmer, suitable for illuminating nearby objects. The second one provides a super-long beam spotlight to illuminate farther objects in the night.

              Lumens

              The lumen rating indicates the total amount of light produced by a bulb or an LED rather than how concentrated the light is.

              Normally, more lumens mean brighter light, but that’s not always the case. In fact, lumens can be misleading, so you should consider this factor as a reference only when choosing a headlamp.

              Durability

              For headlamps, durability is pretty much related to water resistance, which means you need to look at the IP rating. As a rule of thumb, the higher the IP rating, the better.

              For example, IPX4 means the headlamp can endure longer-lasting rain storms while IPX7 means the headlamp can survive being submerged in 30-feet deep water for half an hour. You should get the highest rating possible for durability.

              Battery life

              Battery life is a prominent factor of the headlamp especially if you plan to stay outdoor for long periods of time.

              You shouldn’t go with a headlamp that lasts for under 20 hours. Some high-end products can last for 75 hours, and up to 175 hours. You should look for the longest battery life possible.

              Which Brands Make The Best Backpacking Headlamp?

              Black Diamond

              Starting in 1957, this brand focuses on making the best gear for outdoor activities. Its products are best known for innovative designs.

              Ledlenser

              This brand specializes in LED lighting products. It claims to make the best lights on Earth, delivering the highest quality to you.

              Princeton

              Founded in 1975, this is another renowned brand in lighting equipment. It makes durable and reliable lights that shine bright no matter the circumstance.

              FAQs

              Can I use a headlamp for running?

              Yes, you can use a headlamp to run when it’s dark outside.

              How many lumens do I need in a headlamp?

              In most cases, you should be fine with 100-150 lumens. But in more special environments and uses, you may need up to 300 lumens.

              What are my battery options with a headlamp?

              Headlamps often use AAA or AA batteries. But you should choose the same type of batteries as your other gears, in case you need replacement in the middle of a hike.

              Does backpacking headlamps’ weight matter?

              Yes, it does. If the headlamp is too heavy, it will cause strain on your head and neck when you wear it for a long time.

              How long should your backpacking headlamp last?

              A backpacking headlamp can last from 4 hours to as long as 200 hours, depending on the model and the mode you use.

              Conclusion

              There are a lot of things to consider when you buy a headlamp for your backpacking trips. But through this detailed post, we hope that you will know where to start and what to keep in mind to choose the best backpacking headlamp.


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