Q:

Which Headlamp Should I Buy?

Jun 17, 2014
Outside
Outside Magazine
A:

While you can find headlamps that cost less than $20, you’re likely better served by jumping up to the $40 range.

The extra investment will get you a sturdier light that will last longer and work better than its cheap counterparts—and it won’t fail suddenly in the field. So without further ado, here are four of the best mid-range headlamps I’ve tested:

Petzl Tikka + ($40)

  Photo: Joe Jackson

The Tikka + has various modes to control the range and brightness of the light, although switching between these settings wasn’t very intuitive. The headlamp also has a burly strap, and I appreciated the swath of moisture-wicking fabric on the forehead during high-intensity activities.

Battery type: Three AAA Batteries Brightest output: 140 lumens Weight: 3 ounces

Bright Medic Bonfire 2.0 ($30)

  Photo: Joe Jackson

Battery type: Three AAA Batteries Brightest output: 300 Lumens Weight: 4 ounces 

The Bright Medic Bonfire 2.0 is the heaviest headlamp on this list, but it’s also the most comfortable thanks to its large two-strap headband. The biggest bonus? The Bright Medic is more than twice as bright as any of the other lights I reviewed here. If you need 300 lumens directed in a focused beam and you don’t want to spend more than $100, this is the headlamp for you.

LED Lenser SEO 3 ($39)

  Photo: Joe Jackson

With the SEO 3, you can swivel the light bulb independently of the battery pack, letting you direct the beam where you need it. The button used to toggle through the headlamp’s three modes—bright, a bit dimmer, and strobe—was too small to work with gloves, but was easy to use with bare hands. The plastic carabineer clip let me attach the light onto backpacks or tent poles, and proved quite sturdy in the field.

Battery type: Three AAA Batteries Brightest output: 90 lumens Weight: 3.4 ounces 

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp ($40)

  Photo: Joe Jackson

The Spot was the most feature-rich headlamp in this category. To dim the light, all I had to do was hold down the power button. If the light’s already at its dimmest setting, holding the power button down lets you brighten the beam in the same way. You can also click the button to toggle through various settings—red light or strobe. But the Spot’s coolest feature is the PowerTap technology that offers on-the-fly light adjustment—all you have to do is tap the headlamp’s housing lightly with a gloved or bare hand to dim or brighten the beam.

Battery type: Three AAA Batteries Brightest output: 130 lumens Weight: 3.3 ounces

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