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The 10 Best Headlamps for Camping
Picture this. You’ve been delayed on your way to your beloved annual camping trip. You pull into your campsite well after sunset and are faced with the prospect of setting up your tent in the dark.
If you’ve ever been in that situation – and there are few campers who haven’t – then you already understand the importance of a good headlamp. Of course, they’re also good for finding the privy after one too many cocktails by the campfire.
Fortunately, there are a lot of great camping headlamps out there, and some of the best ones are surprisingly affordable. We’ve gone ahead and picked out some of our favorites. So let there be light, and be sure to consider one of these 10 best headlamps for your next camping trip!
1. Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp
Black Diamond has a loyal following, and hikers and climbers have been relying on the Spot 350 for years. It’s a beloved headlamp and for good reason. It’s durable and reliable, offers a great burn time, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
The Black Diamond Spot 350 runs on three AAA batteries, which give you an impressive 200 hours of burn on low, or up to three hours and 45 minutes on high. It has six settings, including strobe and night vision red. The brightest mode puts out a luminous 350 Lumens (hence the name).
The newest generation of the Black Diamond Spot 350 headlamp features several improvements, including a more compact design and an improved multifaceted optical lens. The stretchy headband is comfy and adjustable.
There can be a bit of a learning curve to clicking through the various modes, but the Spot 350 does have a memory feature that reverts to the most recent setting after being turned off. It’s not, strictly speaking, waterproof, but it continues to shine in wet conditions.
2. Ledlenser MH11 Rechargeable Bluetooth Headlamp
The Ledleser name is synonymous with quality, high-end headlamps, and the MH11 model is one of the toughest, brightest, and most reliable headlamps you can get. The fact that it’s rechargeable is icing on the cake.
Ledlenser headlamps are prized by folks who pursue activities like cave diving when having reliable light is, you know… really important. But they’re also great for finding your way to the outhouse without bumping into a tree.
The MH11 has four modes, from a gentle 10 lumens on low to a brilliant 1,000 lumens on boost mode, making it the brightest light on our list. It has an innovative mounting system that makes it easy to take on and off but holds tight to your noggin without the risk of coming loose.
You can create personalized light settings and set a timer remotely via your smartphone thanks to the Ledlenser MH11’s Bluetooth connectivity. It runs on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and has an IP54 waterproof rating.
3. Petzl Tikkian Headlamp
One of the great things about headlamps is that you can always find a simple, basic model at an affordable price. That’s essentially what the Petzl Tikkina Headlamp is: basic, no-frills, and perfectly suitable for all your campground adventures.
The Petzl Tikkina Headlamp has three brightness levels, with a maximum output of 250 lumens. It’ll run for 120 hours on low (two hours on high) and takes three AAA batteries. The Tikkina is also compatible with Petzl 1250 mAh CORE rechargeable batteries.
Part of why this headlamp is so affordable is its simplicity. It doesn’t have a strobe function or red light mode, but a lot of campers don’t need them, and wouldn’t use those functions if they had them.
The headband looks and feels a little cheap, but it’s perfectly comfortable, as well as fully removable and machine-washable. For an affordable, easy-to-use headlamp with simple features and a long burn time, the Petzl Tikkina is hard to beat.
4. Vitchelo V800
Another entry into the simple-and-affordable category, the Vitchelo V800 is an all-around solid headlamp. It puts out 168 lumens on high and has an IPX6 waterproof rating (good in rain and snow, but try to avoid dunking it completely underwater).
What makes Vichelo stand out is that it’s one of the most comfortable headlamps you can get. The V800 has a soft pad on the back of the battery compartment to cushion your forehead, and the band is comfortable and easy to adjust.
The whole package is lightweight and comfortable, and one can easily adjust the angle of light from straight ahead to 45 degrees downward. It takes three AAA batteries and gives you 120 hours of light on low. It also has red LED and flashing S.O.S. modes.
5. Fenix HM50R Rechargeable Headlamp
The Fenix HM50R Rechargeable Headlamp is a tough, reliable option for illumination in harsh conditions. It has an aircraft-grade aluminum body and tough silicone headband. The HM50R fares well in cold climates, making it a popular choice among climbers and winter hikers.
The headlamp runs on a single 16340 700mAh rechargeable battery, which is included. It also comes with a USB charging cable for the battery and has four brightness levels (no strobe) ranging from four to 500 lumens.
The Fenix HM50R Rechargeable Headlamp has a lifetime warranty against defects and an impressive five-year free repair guarantee that covers damage from normal use. But this thing is rugged and waterproof, so you probably won’t need it.
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5. BioLite Headlamp 330
The Biolite Headlamp 330 is an ultra-lightweight and reliable headlamp for those who like to travel light and don’t want their headlamp getting in the way. It has a slim profile and moisture-wicking fabric for comfort. One of its big selling points is its “bounce-free fit.”
To be honest, I can’t think of a time when I’ve had a problem with any headlamp bouncing around on my forehead (maybe if you’re a runner?). That being said, the BioLite 330 is certainly comfortable, and it’s light enough that you can honestly forget you’re even wearing it.
The headlamp has a USB rechargeable battery that runs up to 40 hours on low (3.5 hours on high). It has three brightness levels plus red light and strobe and puts out a maximum of 330 lumens.
7. Knog Bilby 400 Headlamp
With its futuristic design, the Knog Bilby 400 Headlamp is built for comfort as well as functionality. It features a unique design with five strategically placed LEDs to angle and focus the light the way you want. The band is Medical-grade silicone with an easy-adjustment toggle.
True to its name, the Bilby 400 Headlamp puts out a bright 400 lumens on high. The soft, two-lumen low setting is great for reading in your tent. It also has one of the best battery lives in the biz, running up to five hours at full power, and it’s rechargeable.
The Knog Bilby 400 has an IPX6 waterproof rating, allowing it to keep on shining through any downpour. It has an integrated USB port for charging and a comfortable, snug fit that stays put without feeling too constricting.
8. Petzl Actik CORE Headlamp
With an intuitive design and impressive 450 lumen output on its highest setting, the Petzl Actik CORE Headlamp is a reliable choice to light your way in the woods. It has three brightness levels and two beam patterns, with performance lighting that doesn’t dim as the battery depletes.
This can be a double-edged sword though, the downside being that the burn time is middling at best – 130 hours on low, two hours on high. But hey, it’s rechargeable, so the runtime is a minor issue as long as you have a place to plug it in.
The Petzl Actik CORE headlamp has an IPX4 waterproof rating, which will hold up just fine in the rain (try not to drop it in the lake though). This lamp also has the versatility of running on alkaline AAAs as well as various types of rechargeable batteries.
9. Coast HL7 Focusing
The Coast HL7 Focusing Headlamp has an innovative design so seemingly obvious that one wonders why more headlamps don’t use it. Instead of clicking back and forth between settings, the light has a circular dial that one turns to adjust the brightness. Simple as that!
The simple functionality of that design makes the Coast HL7 stand out from the crowd. But it’s also a great headlamp in other respects, with a comfortable headband and a powerful 305 lumen beam that travels up to 400 feet.
Where the HL7 Focusing Headlamp falls short is in its battery usage. It runs on three AAA batteries and gets a paltry 70 hours of burn on its lowest setting. The batteries are also contained in a somewhat clunky battery back that rests on the back of one’s head.
10. Princeton Tec Headlamp
With its dimmable LEDs that offer the precise light output for any situation, the Princeton Tec Headlamp is great for up-close tasks as well as long-range lighting. It takes three AAA batteries and throws 300 lumens on high.
Overall, the Princeton Tec Headlamp is a handy, versatile light that holds up well in many situations. It has a good-not-great IPX4 waterproof rating and a multipurpose mount that allows it to double as a bike light should the need arise.
One does get the sense that the materials used to make this light are a little cheaper than some of its peers – in fairness, it is quite affordable – but its adaptability makes it a great choice for camping. It also offers pretty solid battery life (155 hours on low).
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Camping Headlamp FAQs
First and foremost, headlamps offer hands-free lighting, which is immeasurably valuable when you’re performing tasks that require some dexterity in the dark (consider the difficulty of pitching a tent after nightfall). A headlamp offers illumination while camping, hiking, climbing, and other outdoor activities in which the use of your hands is crucial.
Brightness (measured in lumens) is an important characteristic to take into consideration when choosing a camping headlamp. If you’re camping in a developed campground, anything over 100 lumens will probably be more than sufficient. But if you’re in a more remote wilderness setting, you may need something brighter.
Other important features include battery life, burn time, and what type of batteries it uses. Weight and comfort are important too. Be sure to also consider the number of light levels the headlamp offers, as well as the availability of a blinking/strobe mode and red light for night vision.
Good headlamps for camping don’t have to be expensive. A lot of the best headlamps on the market cost between $30 and $60, but if you’re looking for something simple and straightforward with no unnecessary features or frills, you can find one for under $20.