How to Choose a Headlamp

How to Choose a HeadlampHeadlamps provide hands-free illumination during the dark hours. Lightweight, adjustable, long lasting and comfortable, a headlamp follows your movement, providing light for diverse outdoor enthusiast activities, such as backpacking, mountain biking and rock climbing. A headlamp's beam can be useful while setting up a tent, reading a book, changing a bike tire, lighting a stove or building a fire. Additionally, having a headlamp readily available in your pack is an important safety measure. Understanding how to choose a headlamp can ensure an appropriate purchase that will be reliable while out in the wilderness.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Select a hiking challenge. Visit to choose a hiking challenge (see Resources). Understand the duration (hour, day, overnight, multi-day), terrain (smooth, rocky, combination) and pack weight (fanny pack, light backpack, heavy load). Determining specific hike needs will assist in choosing a headlamp that is best suited for you.
Step 2
Evaluate headlamp requirements. Understand the specific outdoor environment (backcountry camping versus hiking near populated areas) where you will be hiking. Determine several characteristics about the headlamp that you require: How intensely bright does the light need to shine? How durable do the materials need to be? What length of battery life will you need? How far does the light beam range need to project? How much weight are you willing to carry?
Step 3
Read headlamp reviews. Study consumer research articles, magazines and blogs to determine popular brands and models. Make a list of potential styles that may suit your hiking requirements. Evaluate the features of each headlamp, such as brightness, beam pattern and how tiltable it is. Expect prices to be upwards of $40.
Step 4
Determine an appropriate headlamp battery life. Oftentimes, the length of battery life is directly correlated to the intensity and range of the light beam. If you require long lasting light, choose a style that beams 20 to 30 meters. Additionally, look for a style that has an adjustable setting and focus, to offer a versatile solution.
Step 5
Understand the intensity of headlamp luminosity. Choose a style that offers several ranges of brightness, called "modes." It's good to have options, such as bright, wide-ranging light in the thick of darkness or dim light when batteries are scarce. Additionally, pick a style that offers a "strobe" light setting; This unique feature promotes hiker visibility (an added safety measure).
Step 6
Analyze desired beam pattern. Headlamps can channel light in three focused, specific ways: flood, spot and adjustable. A flood light is a wide beam, best for slow-moving actions; Spot light is a far-reaching, narrow beam more appropriate for quick movements. Adjustable headlamps offer a nice balance with both features.
Step 7
Purchase chosen headlamp. After thorough research, buy a headlamp that suits your needs. Understand the vendor's return policy, should you be dissatisfied with your purchase. Additionally, purchase extra batteries to put in your pack.

Tips & Warnings

Thorough headlamp research will help you choose an appropriate headlamp.
In addition to a headlamp, always bring extra batteries and a flashlight in your pack.
Only use the specified batteries for the headlamp model.

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