The 10 Best Headlamps

The technology behind these camp essentials recently got a lot better. Time to upgrade.

Don't worry, these headlamps won't overpower the stars, but they will keep you from bumping into things in the dark. (Daniel Barnes/iStock)
Dramatic Sky

You probably own a headlamp that you’ve camped and hiked with for a decade. That's fine, but it’s time for an upgrade: the newest batch of lights are brighter, lighter, smarter, more efficient, and loaded with handy features. Here are some of our favorites.


Black Diamond Storm ($50)

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(Courtesy of Black Diamond)

The Storm is the perfect example of how far headlamps have come. It’s moderately priced but pumps out 250 lumens from a proximity beam for working in close quarters or a spotlight for when you’re on the trail. We really like the battery meter that shows how much juice you have left in your AAAs. Oh, and it’s fully waterproof.

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Coast FL85 ($70)

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(Courtesy of Coast)

Portland-based Coast makes a bulkier 800-lumen headlamp, but the FL85 hits a nice lumens-to-weight ratio. It offers a bright 540 lumens (via three AAAs) in a rugged eight-ounce package that’s weatherproof and backed by Coast’s lifetime warranty.

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Petzl Reactik+ ($110)

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(Courtesy of Petzl)

The rechargeable Reactik+ delivers 300 lumens in a beam pattern you can customize via the MyPetzl Light app. The headlamp automatically adjusts its beam—making it brighter or dimmer—based on the amount of light it senses around you. Nice, unique touch: you can program it to blink Morse code.

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Petzl Nao+ ($200)

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(Courtesy of Petzl)

This is what you get if you’re looking for the brightest light for serious pursuits. The Nao+ puts out 750 lumens at max power and has a rear rechargeable battery pack with a flashing light. Like the Reactik+, it analyzes the amount of light around you and adjusts accordingly. The beam pattern is also customizable via Petzl’s app.

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Light and Motion Solite 250 EX ($170)

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(Courtesy of Light & Motion)

The Solite is really three lights in one, converting from flashlight to headlamp to bike light depending on the mount you choose. The bulb, powered by a rechargeable battery, puts out 250 lumens.

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Princeton Tec Apex Extreme ($85)

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(Courtesy of Princeton Tec)

Built for cold weather—the energy pack, in an insulated case, can be clipped close to your body to maximize battery life—this light has a long burn time (200 hours) and a 350-lumen output. Plus, keeping the battery pack (eight AAs) in your pocket or strapped to your chest keeps the weight off your head.

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Nite Ize Inova STS ($48)

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(Courtesy of Nite Ize)

Nite Ize is best known for its bike lights, but it also makes stellar trail lights. Take this rechargeable, 280-lumen headlamp with a cool swipe-to-shine interface that works just like your iPhone: slide your finger across the top of the headlamp to turn it on and adjust the brightness.

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Nathan Neutron Fire ($30)

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(Courtesy of Nathan)

Nathan had runners in mind when it designed this 115-lumen headlamp. It’s feathery light at just 3.1 ounces (including two AAA batteries), waterproof, and low profile.

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Black Diamond Astro ($20)

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(Courtesy of Black Diamond)

At $20, the Astro is the same price as a knockoff headlamp but has 150 lumens and is compact enough (just 2.4 ounces) to keep as a backup to your main lamp.

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Petzl e+LITE ($30)

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(Courtesy of Petzl)

This emergency light weighs less than an ounce and still manages to put out 50 lumens. There’s even a whistle in the headband. Make this part of your “oh crap” kit.

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