Camping & Hiking Tech

6 Best Backpacking Headlamps of 2018

The 6 best backpacking headlamps of 2018

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The 6 best backpacking headlamps of 2018

We put 6 of one of the best backpacking headlamps by way of months of experiments and real-world testing.

In any case that our prime decide is the Petzl ACTIK CORE. It was probably the most versatile headlamp we examined. It’s brilliant, light-weight, and intuitive to function. Plus it may be used with both the included USB rechargeable battery pack or normal AAA batteries.

The Petzl TIKKINA is our finances decide. At $19.99 retail as of this writing, it’s a strong, dependable mild for anybody who needs a easy, cheap headlamp.

Learn on for our full evaluations and for purchasing recommendation on deciphering headlamp specs to seek out the one which’s proper in your wants.

Petzl ACTIK COREThis mild ticked all of our bins for options and specs, and was our prime all-around decide.

The ACTIK CORE had all of the options and settings we would have liked — together with a highlight (low, medium, and shiny), a pink mild, and a pink strobe — whereas nonetheless being intuitive to make use of.

We appreciated that it may be used with Petzl’s included rechargeable battery pack or with normal AAA batteries. The emergency whistle and reflective headband have been additionally welcome options.

Of the rechargeable headlamps, the ACTIK CORE lasted the longest in our runtime checks. It additionally maintained a persistently brighter mild than another headlamp for 120 minutes, earlier than dropping to a decrease mode.

No headlamp is ideal, and there have been a couple of drawbacks with this mild. The shortage of a locking function was a bit of a bummer, although we by no means had points with it by accident turning on in our packs.

Additionally, in our water resistance checks, a couple of small droplets made their method inside of the casing. Nevertheless, the design of the casing directed the water away from the batteries.

Based mostly on these outcomes it appears attainable that with extended publicity to rain the batteries might get moist and issues might come up. Nonetheless, it did rank among the many prime of the pack in water resistance.

The opposite massive disadvantage is the worth tag. At $69.95, it’s the priciest headlamp we examined. Whereas we actually appreciated the options and the sunshine high quality, the light-weight plastic feels low cost for the worth.

Regardless, the beam high quality, brightness, and runtime mixed with this headlamp’s spectacular versatility make it our favourite for something from backpacking to path operating to cooking dinner round camp.

Product Specs

  • MSRP: $69.95
  • Max mild output: 350 lumens
  • Max beam distance: 95 m
  • Battery: CORE USB rechargeable battery (included) or three AAA
  • Weight: three.2 oz
  • IP score: IPX4

Nitecore NU25At just one.9oz, the Nitecore NU25 is the most effective headlamp for ultralight backpackers who don’t need to sacrifice efficiency.

It’s a lot shiny for the whole lot you want, and was additionally one of probably the most intuitive lights to make use of. One button cycles by means of the white lights and a second button cycles by means of the purple lights.

We have been additionally impressed with this mild’s ruggedness. It feels strong regardless of its mild weight, and it was the highest performer in our water resistance check (tied with the Petzl e+LITE).

The NU25’s beam distance fell brief of the ACTIK CORE, and its 360-lumen “turbo” mode can solely be activated for 30 seconds at a time. Its 190-lumen “high” setting is greater than satisfactory for many duties, although.

It was additionally the one headlamp we examined that didn’t have detachable batteries, limiting its usefulness for backpackers who don’t sometimes carry a transportable battery pack or photo voltaic charger.

General, the NU25 is a wonderful choice for its weight and worth. It’s our suggestion for ultralight backpackers in search of an excellent rechargeable headlamp.

Product Specs

  • MSRP: $36.95
  • Max mild output: 360 lumens
  • Max beam distance: 81 m
  • Battery: Constructed-in USB rechargeable battery
  • Weight: 1.9 oz
  • IP score: IP66

Petzl TIKKINAThe Petzl TIKKINA is a powerful mild for simply $19.95. It’s light-weight, easy, and many shiny for all however probably the most demanding makes use of.

The TIKKINA’s lone button merely cycles via low, medium, excessive, and strobe settings, making it one of the simplest headlamps to function.

It’s not the brightest mild, however its 150-lumen excessive beam casts greater than sufficient mild for night time mountaineering.

We have been slightly disenchanted that it doesn’t have pink mild or strobe features. Pink mild is sweet for nighttime use as a result of it doesn’t hassle our eyes the best way white mild does, and a few hikers discover it to be an essential function.

The TIKKINA additionally didn’t maintain up very nicely in our water resistance check. A few minute into the check, we might see that water was leaking in beneath the clear plastic entrance. Once we opened up the battery compartment, there have been giant drops of water on the battery connectors and all through the compartment.

It doesn’t do nice at protecting water out, however the TIKKINA is straightforward, vibrant, light-weight, and reasonably priced. So long as you keep away from getting it too moist, it’s an excellent all-around backpacking headlamp for the worth.

Product Specs

  • MSRP: $19.95
  • Max mild output: 150 lumens
  • Max beam distance: 55 m
  • Battery: three AAA or CORE USB rechargeable battery (bought individually)
  • Weight: three oz
  • IP score: IPX4

Petzl e+LITEIt wasn’t a prime decide, however this ultralight headlamp continues to be fairly superior.

The e+LITE’s dispersed floodlight beam made it good to be used round camp. Its 50-lumen max setting was on the dim aspect for lively duties like route discovering, although.

It additionally held out exceptionally properly towards water, incomes a 10/10 score in our water resistance check.

As an alternative of a button, this mild makes use of a change that rotates by means of all of the settings. Generally, we appreciated the simplicity of this, though at occasions it was straightforward to overshoot the setting we needed.

For minimalist, ultralight backpackers who don’t anticipate to have very in depth lighting wants, we might see this being a go-to headlamp. Most different customers will discover it only a bit too restricted for common use, however a superb backup in a pinch.

The Petzl e+LITE compared to a quarter

The Petzl e+LITE is impressively tiny.

Lengthy-Time period Check Notes

99Boulders proprietor and editor Alex Beale has been utilizing the Petzl e+LITE as his private backpacking headlamp for over a yr.

Its largest benefit, he says, is its weight. On his kitchen scale it clocks in at a mere zero.95 oz, or 27 grams. It’s really ultralight.

The primary disadvantage is it isn’t very brilliant. Alex says on backpacking journeys it’s shiny sufficient for regular camp chores however too dim for his style relating to night time mountaineering. He additionally prefers a brighter headlamp for automotive tenting.

Over his yr of utilizing the e+LITE he hasn’t had any sturdiness points with it and expects it to final for years to return. It’s a minor inconvenience that it makes use of CR2032 batteries as a result of they’re not the most typical, so he recommends stocking up on replacements prematurely.

Alex says he’d advocate the e+LITE to hardcore ultralight hikers who primarily want a headlamp for typical camp chores akin to prepping dinner, washing dishes, and filtering water.

If you would like a light-weight that may also be used for night time climbing or automotive tenting he as an alternative recommends a brighter headlamp or a superb backpacking flashlight.

Product Specs

  • MSRP: $29.95
  • Max mild output: 50 lumens
  • Max beam distance: 10 m
  • Battery: 2 CR2032 batteries
  • Weight: zero.95 oz
  • IP score: IPX7

Evaluations of the two Different Backpacking Headlamps We Examined

Black Diamond ReVolt

Black Diamond ReVoltThough it didn’t win any awards, the Black Diamond ReVolt is a strong mild, albeit with a number of drawbacks.

Once we say strong, we imply strong. Of all of the lights we examined, this one felt the burliest and most sturdy. At three.5 ouncesit was additionally the heaviest headlamp we examined.

We liked the quantity of management over the precise brightness and focus of the beam. The ReVolt additionally has a spectacular floodlight setting which casts a large, clear beam almost 180 levels.

The power to modify on the wide-angle beam on the sunshine’s highest setting is superior, too, particularly for path discovering functions.

Nevertheless, all these options come at a price: the ReVolt was by far probably the most difficult headlamp to make use of. It took one of our testers the longest to determine find out how to use all of the features on this mild, and he rated it because the least user-friendly.

In our opinion the ReVolt and Spot even have the bottom beam high quality of the lot. They every have a yellow spot within the center and discoloration on the outer edges (see pictures within the testing part under).

We have been additionally just a little disillusioned with how this mild (and the Spot) handles water, since Black Diamond payments it at waterproof.

Once we opened the battery compartment after our water resistance check, we noticed droplets of water on the batteries and across the edges of the battery compartment. The ACTIK CORE and e+LITE, regardless of decrease IP scores, had a lot much less water across the battery compartment.

Though the sunshine continued to work when absolutely submerged, the batteries and battery compartment aren’t watertight. As soon as we dried all the things out, the sunshine had no points that we observed.

We additionally assume it’s value noting that the ReVolt provides out 300 lumens with alkaline batteries, whereas the included rechargeable NiMH batteries solely offer you 175 lumens on the max setting. That is clear on the included directions, however can be straightforward to overlook in the event you’re shopping for the ReVolt on-line.

Product Specs

  • MSRP: $59.95
  • Max mild output: 300 lumens
  • Max beam distance: 80 m
  • Battery: USB rechargeable battery (included) or three AAA
  • Weight: three.5 oz
  • IP score: IPX8

Black Diamond Spot

Black Diamond SpotBecause the Spot could be very comparable in perform to the ReVolt, most of what we stated above applies right here.

The floodlight and the minute management over brightness are nice, however we noticed the identical yellow spots within the beam, and located the only button management complicated to function.

Its 200 lumens have been a lot vibrant, and it did nice in our runtime check, staying vibrant for nicely over 20 hours.

Apparently, about 20 minutes into our runtime check, the Spot shut itself off. There isn’t any automated shut-off function that we’re conscious of, and nothing touched or disturbed the headlamp in the course of the check.

We suspect a unfastened battery connection, because the center of the sunshine’s three AAA batteries is extraordinarily unfastened and sometimes falls out as quickly because the battery cowl is opened. We didn’t have another reliability points with the Spot, although, so we’re prepared to write down this off as a fluke.

As with the ReVolt, our water resistance check confirmed that the battery compartment received moist inside seconds of being submerged. The sunshine did proceed to work underwater, and had no issues after it was dried out.

Black Diamond payments the Spot and the ReVolt as waterproof, however, as our exams confirmed, that undoubtedly doesn’t imply they’re watertight.

Product Specs

  • MSRP: $39.95
  • Max mild output: 300 lumens
  • Max beam distance: 80 m
  • Battery: three AAA
  • Weight: three.1 oz
  • IP score: IPX8


Listed here are the most effective backpacking headlamps:

  • Petzl ACTIK CORE
  • Nitecore NU25
  • Petzl TIKKINA
  • Petzl e+LITE
  • Black Diamond ReVolt
  • Black Diamond Spot

How you can Select the Best Backpacking Headlamp for Your Wants

Varieties of Backpacking Headlamps

Ultralight: These can weigh as little as 1 ounce, and are perfect for minimalist and ultralight backpackers. Their mild weight and small measurement additionally makes them a sensible choice for backup or emergency lights. The sunshine weight often includes sacrificing brightness or options.

Ultrabright: These are typically the precise reverse of ultralight. They’re heavier, typically outright cumbersome, and are sometimes designed with individuals who have excessive lighting wants, akin to cavers or mountaineers.

Technical: These aren’t fairly as intense as high-lumen, ultrabright varieties, however they arrive with a quantity of particular options catered to sure makes use of. They could offer you a excessive degree of customization to go well with numerous duties, or have particular varieties of mild beam catered to technical makes use of reminiscent of climbing or path operating.

All-purpose: Easier and cheaper than any of the specialised headlamps above, these lights aren’t tremendous vibrant or tremendous feature-heavy, however are good for something from looking round your shed to hanging out round camp.


Lumens are sort of an enormous deal within the headlamp world, however they are often deceptive. Extra lumens aren’t essentially higher.

Lumens are merely a measure of the full mild output. What they don’t inform you is how targeted that mild is, how high- or low-quality it’s, or how lengthy it is going to final.

We’ve discovered that lights with comparable marketed lumens could be drastically totally different in phrases of how shiny the beam truly seems.

Most actions don’t require as many lumens as you assume. 300-lumen beams are good for those who’re on the lookout for a distant path marker or making an attempt to see what’s watching you from behind the timber. For climbing and for many duties round camp, 150 is greater than satisfactory.

Beam Distance

Beam distance is the utmost distance at which a sure degree of mild could be detected. In different phrases, how nicely targeted are all these lumens?

Lumens and beam distance are each measured with model new batteries within the headlamp. Each degrade in a short time. That signifies that, until you plan to vary your batteries each few hours, you’ll need to select a light-weight that exceeds the lumens and beam distance you assume you’ll want.

Beam High quality

The standard of the beam of mild is a bit more subjective and arduous to measure, however it could actually make an enormous distinction in usability. How clear and crisp is the sunshine? How tightly targeted is the highlight? Are there artifacts or discoloration affecting any elements of the beam?

Beam Modes

Floodlights present dimmer illumination to a wider space. This mode is right for close-up duties, like studying or administering first assist.

Spotlights focus mild right into a extra highly effective beam that reaches a a lot farther distance. That is the setting you need for climbing at night time, or scoping out that noise outdoors your tent. Most headlamps have spotlights with a number of totally different brightness ranges.

Pink mild retains your night time imaginative and prescient intact. It’s excellent for stargazing or rummaging round with out waking up your tentmates.

Strobes are an essential emergency function. Headlamps can have both white or purple strobes. Strobe mode conserves power and could be seen from fairly a distance.


Additionally typically referred to as “burn time or “usable light,” runtime is how lengthy the sunshine features at every setting.

Take said runtimes with an enormous grain of salt — totally different producers measure them in another way. Know that the beam distance additionally shortly degrades to a fraction of its claimed distance.

IP Scores

IP scores are a world normal for classifying the levels of safety towards each solids and liquids in electrical enclosures.

The primary digit tells you ways protected the merchandise is towards solids comparable to mud (changed by an X if it’s not examined). The second digit tells you ways protected the merchandise is towards liquids.

For many backpackers, a score of IPX4 is enough. This implies the headlamp has been examined to perform in splashing water, similar to climbing throughout a rainstorm. You’ll nonetheless in all probability should let the sunshine dry out afterwards.

Don’t confuse a excessive IP score with a headlamp being waterproof. In almost all of the lights we examined, some water made its method into the battery compartment.

Additionally, needless to say these scores are based mostly on room-temperature recent water. Ice chilly, muddy lake water or scorching water might trigger extra quick injury.


The headlamps we examined ranged from zero.9 ouncesto three.5 oz, measured with batteries and headband. There are undoubtedly heavier headlamps on the market, however with so many nice, vibrant, fully-featured choices for lower than four oz, we don’t see any level so as to add extra weight to your pack than essential.

We advocate considering of weight in phrases of your lighting system, not simply the headlamp itself. Until you’re going on an overnighter, you’ll need to pack spare batteries or some sort of recharging technique, all of which issue into your lighting system’s complete weight.

We additionally advocate focusing extra on options, sturdiness, and reliability first, and weight second, because the weight distinction is pretty minimal amongst high-quality headlamps.

How We Examined

Runtime Check

We gave every headlamp a full cost or a brand new set of batteries, and positioned them on excessive in a darkish room. We took a photograph each 10 minutes for 10 hours and in contrast runtimes and brightness ranges over time.

Right here’s a time lapse of the check. From left to proper: Black Diamond ReVolt, Nitecore NU25, Petzl TIKKINA, Petzl ACTIK CORE, Black Diamond Spot, Petzl e+LITE

Notice: the Spot turned itself off after about 20 minutes. We turned it again on on the 40-minute mark.

Water Resistance Check

All of the headlamps we examined have been rated at the very least IPX4, which suggests they need to have the ability to stand up to water spraying or splashing from almost any path.

We used a sprig bottle to spritz the headlamps from about 2 ft away for two minutes. Then we checked to see if any water had gotten into the battery compartment and gave them a score from 1 (no water safety in any respect) to 10 (appears watertight).

The Spot and ReVolt are the one lights rated to be absolutely submerged in water (IPX8), so we went one step additional with these lights and submerged them, on excessive setting, in a bowl of water.

We might instantly see air effervescent up from them and located that each battery compartments had flooded inside seconds, although the sunshine by no means wavered. After we dried out the compartments and batteries, each lights labored with none obvious points.

Usability Check

We gave every headlamp to a tester who had not used them earlier than and requested him to carry out the next features: flip it on excessive, flip it on low, flip it on purple (if the sunshine had one), and switch it off.

We timed how lengthy it took to cycle via these settings, and requested him to offer the headlamp a usability score from 1 (hardest to make use of) to 10 (best to make use of).

Beam High quality

We shined every setting of every mild onto a white wall to look at beam high quality, shade, and artifacts.

From left to proper: Petzl ACTIK CORE, Nitecore NU25, Black Diamond ReVolt

From left to proper: Black Diamond Spot, Petzl TIKKINA, Petzl e+LITE

An in depth up of the Black Diamond ReVolt’s beam, displaying the yellow spot within the center. Notice: the horizontal strains are artifacts of the digital camera.

Area Testing

We used these headlamps throughout tenting and backpacking journeys alongside the California Coast, within the desert southwest, and in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.

We additionally made positive to dedicate time with every headlamp to nighttime mountaineering and trying close-up duties comparable to cooking or establishing camp.