Rechargeable headlamps offer hands-free illumination that saves time and hassle compared to swapping in fresh batteries. Many also feature a mode regulation that keeps light levels steady as battery power diminishes.
Look for large mAh capacities to extend battery life on overnight trips. Some headlamps also support magnetic charging, which eliminates a potential failure point (flipping open the charge port cover) and helps a higher charge current. Visit https://jamhz.shop/ to learn more.
Choosing the right headlamp depends on your needs and how often you use it. Whether you’re a trail runner who runs overnight ultramarathons, or you like to backpack and camp, you’ll want to find a headlamp that will last for the length of your trip without needing a recharge or a fresh battery. The most common headlamps on the market feature rechargeable lithium batteries, although there are still some that rely on replaceable AAA or AA batteries. Rechargeable lights tend to be a little more expensive than traditional options, but they’re far more efficient and better for the planet.
Most rechargeable headlamps come with a micro-USB cable for recharging. They can usually be used while charging as well, which is helpful for emergency situations where you need to see a map or signal for help. The best headlamps also include a spare battery or two for backup power on the go.
Some headlamps have a spotlight and floodlight setting to give you the ability to adjust to your environment. The brighter spotlight exposes the surroundings at a farther distance, while the floodlight illuminates the immediate area. Many headlamps require you to manually click between the two settings, but some have adaptive technology that automatically switches between the two based on what’s around you for optimal brightness and to preserve battery life.
Another way to save on energy is by using the red light mode. This conserves battery power by producing a dimmer, wider beam of softer lighting that’s ideal for reading in your tent or star gazing at night. Some headlamps even offer a strobe mode for emergencies or to signal for help.
A few headlamps have a constant brightness option, which is useful in wilderness first-aid situations. It delivers maximum brightness until the battery dies, and then gradually dims for efficiency. Some headlamps allow you to switch from this to a flashing red light for visibility in emergencies.
If you’re a trail runner, the Black Diamond SPOT-R is a USB rechargeable LED headlamp that includes proximity and distance modes, a strobe mode, red night vision mode, and a digital lock to prevent accidental activation. It also features a customizable LED indicator and IP66 water-resistant construction that makes it a good choice for outdoor activities in inclement weather.
Red Light Mode
The red light mode of a headlamp is very handy, especially if you’re camping and need to read in your tent or star gaze without ruining your night vision. It also uses less energy than white light modes, extending your battery life.
Nearly all headlamps feature a red light mode, although it may not be easily accessible. Some use a dedicated button, while others require cycling through settings to find it. This can be frustrating when you just want to turn it on and off, or if you accidentally select the white light which will ruin your night vision.
In general, you’ll want a headlamp that turns on and off with one click, and flicks easily between different settings. It should also have a memory so that it returns to the previous brightness setting when turned off, rather than starting from the highest or lowest. A headlamp with a multicolored LED is particularly useful, as it will allow you to switch between different colored lights to suit your needs.
A good headlamp should offer the ability to select between three different brightness levels for the white light (Low, Medium, and High). You may also find a boost or zoom feature on some models, which emits an extra-intense beam for short periods of time. This isn’t practical for astronomy, but can come in handy when you need to illuminate the inside of a tent or make quick adjustments while setting up or packing up.
There are many different kinds of LED bulbs, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. A warm-colored LED will be more yellow and will provide a more natural color, while a cool-colored LED will give a brighter output. Some headlamps will let you choose which color of LED to operate, while others will automatically switch between warm and cool-colored depending on the environment.
Many headlamps will bundle in a rechargeable lithium-ion power pack with your purchase, and some will even allow you to plug in regular alkaline batteries as an alternative. This isn’t a priority for most people, but it could be helpful if you’re worried about running out of charge on your trip.
The light modes of a rechargeable headlamp can vary from a broad, flood pattern to a sharply focused long distance beam. They can also include a red light for visibility, a strobe mode to signal for help, and even an auto-dim feature that gradually dims the brightness of the lamp to conserve battery power as the ambient light level decreases. A headlamp with multiple light modes is a valuable tool in both camping and hiking.
Most headlamps have a control panel or button sequence for switching between light modes and setting the brightness. Some have more complicated interfaces that allow the user to program preset modes for specific activities or situations. The controls should be well designed and easy to use in the dark. They should be durable and secure enough to withstand the occasional bump or slip.
A headlamp’s rated lumen output gives the user an idea of how bright it will be. Typically, higher output headlamps will have a lower run time than their lower-output counterparts. This is because the additional power used to produce high-output light eats into the battery’s available charge faster. Some headlamps offer a low-power mode that can be used for extended trips, while others will only run at full power for short bursts to provide a quick burst of brightness when needed.
Many rechargeable headlamps use a lithium-ion battery, which can be recharged in-device via USB or at home. However, some headlamps can also accept AAA alkaline batteries to give users the option of using either type of power. This is especially useful for camping and hiking trips where li-ion batteries lose their charge over time.
Some headlamps have a separate compartment for storing spare rechargeable batteries, while others include the battery pack in the headband itself. This reduces the weight of the headlamp, which can be a plus in certain activities. Headlamps that hold four batteries often position the pack on the back of the headband and run a small cable from the pack to the headlamp. This spreads the load across the forehead and can be more comfortable for longer runs. Some headlamps also offer top straps to add stability.
If you want your headlamp to last days on a single charge, look for one that includes a USB-C port. This emerging technology allows for faster charging and is expected to eventually replace USB-A, USB-B, and USB Mini-B ports in most devices.
The majority of headlamps on the market today use LEDs (light-emitting diodes), a powerful, efficient lighting source that uses a fraction of the power of traditional bulbs. But not all LEDs are created equal; the type of LED in your headlamp can have a big impact on its runtime, brightness, and features.
Pushed by the needs of backcountry hikers, climbers, ultra runners, and tradesmen, headlamp manufacturers have developed a variety of smart features to meet their customers’ requirements. For example, some models have sensors that automatically adjust the size of the beam based on ambient light conditions. Others have memory functions that start the headlamp in the last brightness mode used. And some brands, like Petzl and Black Diamond, let you easily change the beam pattern from spotlight to floodlight with a simple twist of the headlamp element.
In addition to a wide range of light modes, most headlamps have auxiliary red and white lights that come in handy for emergency situations or when you need to signal another person. Many also include a flashing or S.O.S. mode. Some even have a red light setting that helps reduce eye strain when reading maps or trail guides.
You’ll also find that the majority of headlamps on the market today have a rechargeable battery and are designed to be used with either alkaline or lithium batteries. Lithium batteries provide a longer runtime and better efficiency in extreme temperatures than standard alkaline batteries of the same size. However, not all headlamps support lithium batteries, so check the user manual before upgrading to lithium.
GearJunkie Editor Sean McCoy is a Hunter, Skier, Runner, and All-Round Outdoorsman with over 20 years of experience putting gear through the ringer. He brings every new headlamp on long runs that stretch past sundown and to hunt camp, where he puts them through rigorous use in a variety of conditions. He evaluates the performance of each headlamp for comfort and functionality, especially its ability to function through a thick pair of gloves.