Many of us love doing various activities in the nature, including hiking, or passing a route from point to point. But in most cases, we plan our time to finish this activity within the day, before the nightfall. I don’t like such time limits, I don’t like to be urgent while in the nature. I would like independence from time. To achieve this independence, we need some equipment like a tent, a sleeping bag, more food or water, and one very important thing- light for the night. And a favorite light device for many people is the headlamp. So, let’s see the best headlamps for 2021, at a part of our preparation for the darkness in the nature.
Basic facts about the headlamps
Maybe the most important feature of the headlamps is to walk in the dark with free hands. And to ensure the best lighting in front of you, the light source has to be as close to your eyes as possible. That’s why the headlamps are designed for your forehead. You only have to stabilize your headlamp on your head and make it comfortably, then everything else is about the light.
Basically, it seems that you just need some light in the dark and that’s enough. But it’s not that simple. There are various things that you have to consider when you make your headlamp choices, such as brightness, way of charge, type of the lamp (LED or other), durability, and other functions. And of course, the price.
Your best choice depends also on how would you use it. If you just bring it for short walks in the dark, you don’t need to think too much, a cheap headlamp with some basic functions and quality would be enough. But if you want to use it for several days trekking, for caving, or other adventures in the dark, you have to choose a proper one. So, let’s see the important factors that can determine your choice in detail.
The important factors for your headlamp choice
Concerning your headlamp, the most important factors are related to light. And there is much more than just how bright is the light. Let’s see more about it.
When you walk in the dark, usually you want to make everything as bright as possible in front of you. But not always. And high brightness is not always the best. It has its pros and cons. For example, one of the cons is that it makes a too high contrast between light and dark. Your eyes are adjusted like in a room with light, and in the dark, you are like a blind. Another cons is the faster electricity consummation.
But from the other side, high brightness can be very good in some situations and cases, especially when you need to stare at certain details, or when you move at a higher speed in the night (like biking, running, etc.). So, the best solution is headlamps with more brightness options. Brightness is measured by lumens, and the best amount of lumens is somewhere between 150 and 250- at least it is the most often used levels. And concerning the brightness, the best headlamps have more options (modes) for various situations, from 5 to 950 lumens.
However, the brightness is not the only measure for the best lighting, there are more factors.
Types of lighting: spot, flood, colored, strobe
A good headlamp has four lighting modes- spotlight, floodlight, colored light, and strobe light. Most headlamps are also supplied with two or more grades of brightness.
Spotlight is light with a focused beam. Usually, it is with high brightness and is proper for running, biking, or other activities. This mode is also good for watching the details in the dark. Spotlight has also another measure- length of the beam. Again, you don’t always need as long as a possible beam. Some headlamps provide spotlight with two or more levels of brightness because in some cases too bright spotlight is not so proper.
Floodlight is broad-beamed. Usually, its brightness is lower, and it is good for camping and other activities without moving. It just provides softer lighting to the whole area in front of you, and it is enough when you eat, or just when you relax at night and talk with your friends.
Colored light is usually red, but some headlamps provide also green or blue light. The brightness is low, your eye’s pupils don’t adjust, so you can see normally in the dark after turning off the light. Usually, it is used for some night needs to not disturb others, or by hunters to see night animals better.
The strobe light is used for emergencies. This mode is not to give you lighting, but to make you be noticed by others if you need some help.
It is another feature of the good headlamps. It is proper for spotlight mode. Sometimes you would want to look down in front of your feet, but sometimes you would want to look straight forward. So, this function gives you more comfort.
Battery types: rechargeable, AAA or combined
So, there are three types of batteries that are used for headlamps. Again, all they have their pros and cons. Let’s see more about it.
The rechargeable batteries are very comfortable. This is a lithium-ion battery that doesn’t need to be changed. You don’t need to think about how to buy batteries, how many batteries to buy, etc. You just charge it like your mobile phone. But it has its cons. Obviously, it is not proper for a long time trekking, where you can’t find any power source for many days. Yes, you can bring a power bank or solar panel, but this means another weight for your luggage.
AAA is 3 batteries that you have to buy and use until they run out. Then you can just change them with new batteries. If you go on a long trip without any power source, just bring more batteries. But that means more weight. Another problem is that you have to throw the used batteries, and they cause serious pollution.
So, combined batteries are the best. They have a charging battery and a box for AAA batteries. You can always charge the battery wherever you can, and when you can’t find a power source, just use the AAA batteries. But they still have cons too- they are more expensive.
But to decide which one is the best, another important factor is the battery durability.
Battery consumption and durability
How long can you use your battery without recharging? Or how long can you use your AAA batteries? For AAA, you just have to buy better quality batteries (usually more expensive). But how about the recharging battery?
The longer a battery can be used from recharging to recharging, the better is its quality, but also the higher is the price. Usually, the manufacturers write the durability of the battery under certain conditions, but even this is not fixed. First, in real life, you can’t always follow these conditions. And second, even if you follow, again it doesn’t mean the durability will be what you expect.
So, in general, if you want to save power, just use your headlamp wisely. The lower the brightness is, the longer the battery can be used until the next recharge.
That’s about the light and its sources. Let’s see some additional factors.
Your headlamp is an electronic device, and the weather conditions can affect it. The weather factors are two- water and cold. Water can easily damage the headlamps with low water resistance IP, and cold can drain your battery much more quickly. For water protection, there is an IP scale from 0 to 8. The good headlamps’ IP is from IPX4 to 8. If your headlamp’s IP is lower than 4, better hide it from the rain in the night, or just wait in your tent until it stops, or until the morning.
Some headlamps have protection against cold, but it can’t be perfect. So, if you have an opportunity, warm up your headlamp in your pocket, in your sleeping bag, or another warm place.
The lighter, the better. But it doesn’t mean the best. Usually, the heavier headlamps have better protection and more functions and options. And the main factor for the weight is the battery type. The weight of the headlamps varies from 0,9-oz to 13,5-oz.
Some headlamps are designed with a good distribution of the weight on your head, as their batteries are placed on the back of your head. An example is the headlamps with combined batteries, where the AAA battery box is on your nape.
This is how you put the headlamp on your head and feel it comfortable. Some headlamps (usually the lighter ones) just use simple straps around your head. You can just adjust the straps to fit best and to feel comfortable. Other headlamps have an additional strap over your head to make it more stable, and usually, it is for the heavier ones.
That’s the most important about the headlamps. Today, there are various brands and types of headlamps, and now in this article, I tried to present the best of them. Let’s see the 10 best headlamps for 2021.
The 10 best headlamps for 2021
|Headlamp||Best for||Price||Weight||Max Lumen||Batteries||Burn time|
|Black Diamond Icon||Best high-output||$$$||8,3 oz||500||AAA||175h/70h|
|Nitecore NU25||Ultralight with long-life recharging||$||1,8 oz||360||Rechargeable||160h/5h|
|Black Diamond SPOT Lite 160||Best ultralight||$||1,9 oz||160||AAA||60h/2h|
|Black Diamond SPOT 325||Best affordability||$||3 oz||325||ААА||200h/4h|
|Petzl Actic CORE||Best rechargeable||$$||2,8 oz||450||Rechargeable/AAA||130h/2h|
|BioLite Headlamp 200||Best for runners and walkers||$||1,75 oz||200||Rechargeable||40h3h|
|Petzl Tikkina||Best budget-friendly||$||3,03 oz||250||AAA||120h/2h|
|Princeton Tec SNAP||Best multifunctional headlamp||$||3,5 oz||300||AAA||130h/40h|
|BioLite Headlamp 330||Most comfortable||$$||2,4 oz||330||Rechargeable||40h/3,5h|
|Petzl NAO+||Super-powerful, with advanced technology||$$$||6,5 oz||750||Rechargeable||15h/1,5h|
Black Diamond SPOT Lite 160
This is a good headlamp, perfect for its lightweight and its high waterproof feature. As a result, it is a great accessory for those who stay or walk in difficult natural conditions like mountains, canyons, rainforests, and other humid places. You can even use it while swimming underwater. At the same time, it is relatively cheap. Yes, it is not so light (only 160 lumens), but is still great for seeing objects on a short distance.
Pros: First- ultralight and comfortable. Then- waterproof, cheap, with a red light option and locking feature.
Cons: A bit dimmer, burn time of the battery a bit low.
Petzl Actic CORE
This is one of the best headlamps for many kinds of night activities, no matter whether you go hiking, running, or just do some small camping activities. It has high brightness, at the same time the batteries’ burn time is relatively long. But maybe its best feature is its double power source- it comes with a rechargeable battery and with an option for AAA batteries. It makes this headlamp a great choice for long-time trekking- you can go far from the civilization for many days, even weeks, and enjoy its light in the dark.
Pros: Double power source, high brightness, long burning time (although not in every mode), comfortable, various light options.
Cons: A bit expensive, not enough waterproof.
Black Diamond SPOT 325
This headlamp has many of the features of its ultralight „brother” Black Diamond SPOT Lite 160 but is much brighter than it. Its battery burn time is relatively long, and it has a great waterproof feature- again, you can swim with this headlamp underwater. All these features make Black Diamond SPOT 325 one of the best lamps for adventure hikers and climbers, while they hike, swim, or just do their camping activities.
Pros: Bright, long burning time, great waterproof feature, locking feature, cheap.
Cons: Some people may feel a bit uncomfortable, switching between modes is not perfect too.
BioLite Headlamp 200
This headlamp is not the best in some features but is one of the most comfortable choices in the market. It is ultralight, perfectly fitting on your head, at the same time stable. This makes BioLite Headlamp 200 the favorite one for runners and walkers. Although its burn time is low, you can still use it economically for several nights.
Pros: Perfectly comfortable, ultralight, stable, cheap.
Cons: Low burn time, weak waterproof feature.
Petzl Tikkina is one of the easiest headlamps to use. It is simple, comfortable, and not too heavy. The headlamp has only three modes- low, middle, and high brightness, which can be easily changed by a convenient button. At the same time, it is very cheap. It comes with AAA batteries, but for 30 USD you can add a rechargeable battery. Thus, it is a favorite headlamp for people who just want something cheap, easy, and convenient- for hiking or camping.
Pros: Budget-friendly, easy to use, simple.
Cons: Not many options, no red or strobe light, weak waterproof feature.
Best for: The best ultralight headlamp with long-life recharging feature
Weight: 1,8 oz
Max Lumen: 360
Beam distance: 266 ft/81 m
Burn time (high/low): 160h/5h
IP rating: IPX66
This headlamp is excellent for several-days or shorter treks. It is ultralight and comfortable. At the same time, its max brightness mode is very high- 360 lumen. It has also a relatively long burn time (although a bit shorter than listed). Nitecore NU25 comes with 4 brightness modes and a rechargeable battery. Finally, it is cheap.
Pros: Ultralight, bright, long-life recharging, cheap.
Cons: Too wide beam, a bit inconvenient straps.
Princeton Tec SNAP
This is the best thing for Princeton Tec SNAP- it is designed to be multifunctional. For this purpose, it uses a magnet, so it can be attached to different things, not only on the strap on your head. Thus, it can be used even as a bike light. At the same time, it has a long burn time, and in general, it is easy to use.
Pros: Multifunctional, easy to use, long burn time.
Cons: Its light spot is a bit dimmer, with no locking and red light, the waterproof feature not very good.
BioLite Headlamp 330
This is an excellent headlamp, a more powerful version of Bio Lite 220 (above). It is lightweight and comfortable, and its beam is of high quality. Its battery is rechargeable, and it has a red light function too. Yes, it’s not very cheap, and not the best in some functions, but still great for short hikes and other outdoor activities at night.
Pros: Comfortable on the head, with a high-quality beam.
Cons: Short burn time, not so good tilt function.
Now, below I’d like to present two very special headlamps, different than all of the above, offered by the best brands for this accessory- Petzl and Black Diamond.
Petzl NAO+ belongs to higher class headlamps. It is heavier than the traditional ones, but for those who like advanced technology, it has two great features. First- it uses a sensitive beam that can automatically adjust its brightness depending on the object you focus on. And second- it can be connected to a mobile app, where you can watch the current levels of brightness and other measures.
As you can see in the photo, its battery is designed to be on your nape and is connected by a cable to the LED lamp and its technological elements. And since it is a new technology, it is currently still improving. Yes, it is very expensive, but if you are a technology lover, you can decide whether its quality worth the price.
Pros: Advanced technology with sensitive beam and mobile app connection.
Cons: Very expensive, technology still needs some improvement.
Black Diamond Icon
This is another headlamp, belonging to the „heavy artillery”. It provides some of the brightest beams in the headlamp industry, with a long burn time of the battery. Besides, it has a good weatherproof feature. All this makes Black Diamond Icon an iconic and favorite headlamp for the adventure lovers.
Like Petzl NAO+, its battery is on your nape. It is not rechargeable, which can be a disappointment for some people, but if you prepare enough batteries, you can use it for many days of trekking. Unfortunately, it is one of the heaviest headlamps and is very expensive, so you still have to choose between its pros and cons.
Pros: Very bright, long burn time, good weatherproof.
Cons: Expensive and heavy.
As you can see, in 2021 you have great headlamp options. Like every product, there is no „perfect headlamp”, but that’s the charm of the multiple choices and options. Just like there is no „perfect human”. However, there could be a „perfect fit” between you and the headlamp you would like.
Anyway, no matter how would you love your headlamp, I would suggest, if you go to a far place with a clear and clean night sky, far from industrial zones, far from big cities, far from artificial lights, far into the pure nature, find some time to turn off your headlamp and stare into the cosmos! Let your eyes get used to the beautiful night darkness and enjoy the best natural lights of the space- the stars, the Moon, and the Milky Way!
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