The Light Stuff

Don't let the dark of winter slow you down. We tested two dozen next-gen lights to bring you the six best and brightest.

   

1. Mila PLS 100
BEST FOR NIGHT SKIING, SNOWSHOEING, ORIENTEERING
This Swedish-made lamp is as close as you'll get to strapping a stadium light to your forehead. The oversized 300-lumen halogen bulb projects a brilliant, daylight-like flood up to 100 feet, perfect for nocturnal ski laps or route finding when full-field visibility is key. But power comes with a price. The huge reflector is easy to squash, the battery pack weighs 1.4 pounds, and it dies after just 2.5 hours on high. $329; 1.8 lbs with nickel-metal hydride battery; milausa.com

2. eGear Focus Control
BEST FOR ROAD RUNNING
Night runners, take heart.With a snug, bounce-proof strap, comfortable band, and rear-facing, blinking red safety light, this lightweight lamp is perfect for after-hours mileage. The 85-lumen Focus Control can be micro-adjusted on the fly for slow nighttime jogs (a crisp-edged square spotlight) or faster-paced runs (a wide, fuzzy flood). Technical trails call for more illumination, however, and the batteries burn out after 16 hours on high. $55; 5.1 oz with three AA's; essentialgear.com

3. Princeton Tec Fuel
BEST FOR CAMPING, TRAVEL, BACKUP
For a pint-size lamp, the Fuel packs quite a punch. At 35 lumens, it's not the brightest, but it casts just enough light for basic hiking, cooking, and map reading. That's more impressive once you factor in that this minimalist lamp weighs less than three slices of bread, is cheaper than a tank of gas, and is so compact that it virtually disappears in a pocket. Bummer: Lack of a focused-beam mode means it's good only for close-at-hand tasks. $25; 2.8 oz with three AAA's; princetontec.com

4. Petzl Ultra Belt
BEST FOR NIGHT CYCLING, ADVENTURE RACING
Calling the Ultra a headlamp is like calling a tiger a cat. Mounted to a bike helmet or strapped to your head, this six-LED, 350-lumen light cannon projects 200 feet, enough for full-tilt trail running or riding tech-nical singletrack after dusk. The nine-ounce rechargeable battery, which is worn in a pack or on an optional harness, stores enough juice for four hours on high—impressive for a mega-light—and 34 hours on low. Beware of sticker shock. $500; 1.1 lbs with lithium-ion battery; petzlusa.com

5. Black Diamond Icon
BEST FOR CAMPING, EXPEDITIONS
The hyper-efficient Icon lasts a whopping 85 hours on high, producing a tightly focused, 80-lumen beam and softer flood that offer just enough light for basic night hiking and camp tasks. A battery-level meter lets you know how much juice you've got left, so you'll never be caught with a dwindling glow halfway down the trail. The only trade-off for all that long-lasting battery life is a beam that's not quite bright enough for activities like trail running. $65; 6.6 oz with three AA's; bdel.com

6. Surefire Saint
BEST FOR TRAIL RUNNING
The Saint is like a Civic with a Dodge Ram's engine under the hood—by far the most powerful compact headlamp we've seen. It floods every nook and cranny in a 60-foot radius with 100 lumens of even, white light for up to six hours. The aluminum casing makes it more rugged than most plastic lights, and although it's slightly heavier, it's still surprisingly comfortable and stable. The drawback? For a compact headlamp, it ain't cheap. $185; 8.7 oz with two AA's, 9 oz with three lithium-ion 123A's; surefire.com

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