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Best LED Headlamp: Let Technology Lead You through the Dark

Best Led Headlamp
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Have you ever found yourself camping in the middle of the night, with the campfire still not ready and your old battery powered lantern dying out on you? Old headlamps or cheap knock-offs have a very low battery life and can transform any camping trip into a late-night disaster. But if you decide to buy the best LED headlamp, this problem will become a thing of the past.

A contemporary LED lamp is not only another ordinary device. A good one has several other features as well that go from SOS signaling to infrared eco-lighting. On top of that, your next LED lamp has to be reliable enough so you can take it with you in nature. So what do you have to keep in mind, when choosing one?

Leds in Headlamp

That is why we created a list of what we consider highly important factors when buying a reliable headlamp. In this short guide, we will discuss what makes an LED lamp a good one and we are going to show them side by side based on objective criteria. All of the lamps that we list here are leading in one category or another and they might just be the one you are looking for.

Our Top Picks

ProductBattery LifeRechargeableWater ResistancePrice
GRDE Zoomable LED HeadlampUp to 15 hoursYesIP65Check price on Amazon
Luxolite LED HeadlampUp to 30 hoursNoIPX6Check price on Amazon
Energizer Vision HD+ LED HeadlampUp to 50 hoursNoIPX4Check price on Amazon
CrazyFire LED HeadlampUp to 10 hoursNoIP50Check price on Amazon
Black Diamond Spot LED HeadlampUp to 200 hoursNoIPX8Check price on Amazon
Zukvye Cree LED HeadlampUp to 20 hoursNoIPX4Check price on Amazon
Fox Outfitters Firefly LED HeadlampUp to 100 hoursNoIPX6Check price on Amazon
UCO X120 LED HeadlampUp to 130 hoursYesIPX4Check price on Amazon
LuminoLite Cree LED HeadlampUp to 135 hoursNoIPX6Check price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

LED-based technology had a huge effect on the quality of lanterns, dramatically improving both the battery life and the light output. There are thousands of manufacturers squeezing in more and more features into these lamps and while some of them are truly marvelous, others are simply duds. That’s why we’ve decided to create this list of things to consider before buying and help you with your decision.

Battery Life

When talking about battery life you have to be really careful. Obviously, manufacturers want to present their gadgets in the best possible light so they will always give you the most optimistic, factory standard estimate.

When you see incredible estimates (some might boast about 500 hours+ of battery life) it probably means that it is simply a marketing spin. Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t manufacturers who are better at energy management than others.

Headlamp Battery Time

Depending on the settings you are using, an average LED torch can last you anywhere from 10 hours to 200 on a set of AAA batteries. The very high-end promises usually talk about the lowest brightness while the lower ones take into consideration the utilization at full power or simply an average use scenario.

Luminous Flux

Every time you buy a lamp or a bulb you will find the oft-mentioned “lumen” capacity. This is nothing more than the quantity of visible light emitted by the bulb itself. This is also a very important factor to take into consideration when buying a headlamp.

Headlamp Lumens

Some manufacturers will count the capacity of all bulbs being on at once, while others will write the power per bulb. But the general rule of thumb for most people is that anything above 100 lumens is good enough for hiking, while under 100 is usually reserved for average urban tasks.

LED Lifetime

Lifespan estimations come in a large variety and manufacturers might have a large margin of error for them. Most modern LED bulbs are usually rated in the vicinity of 50,000 hours (that is fifty thousand) so chances are that these headlamps will watch you get old before burning out.

Led Lifetime

There are some producers (like the oft-mentioned CREE) that promise even more, up to 100,000 hours or beyond, but keep in mind that these are estimated based on tests made on thousands of units, so chances are that they could last you far less. Even so, if a manufacturer lists anything under the 50,000 mark, it usually means that they don’t use the highest quality bulbs.

Built-in Functions

Most people overlook the importance of built-in functions, as they only want a strong portable light source. But some of them could come in handy even in everyday situations.

These functionalities can be as basic as pre-coded SOS signaling, medium-powered white light or red light based stroboscope. They can use only one LED or all of them combined. How many of them will you need, is up to you, but having more options to choose from is usually a good thing.

Headlamp with Red Light

How will you control these settings? Are they operated by one or two power buttons or maybe just by using a dimmer? It mostly boils down to personal preferences, though you might want to watch out for highly unintuitive settings.

Water Resistance

Water resistance is not always a must, but most definitely a welcomed feature. Luckily for us, this is mostly a standardized addition to most headlamps. But just how water resistant something is, might make a night and day difference between lamps.

For example, something with an IPX1 rating protects the headlamp from dripping water, but it won’t survive a fall in the river.

Headlamp Water Resistance

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the IPX8 classification, that will let you submerge the lamp up to 3 meters of water for as much time as you want, and it will continue to function without issues.

Battery type

This is another categorization that often comes down to personal preference or simply availability. Most LED lamps work with either a fixed number of AA or AAA batteries or with a built-in proprietary Li-ion battery.

Batteries

The old battery approach might be a bit more practical, while the more budget-friendly option is usually the one with the built-in battery. Considering most battery cycles, we would still prioritize the charging capacity when choosing a lamp.

Ergonomics

No matter how good the LED bulb is, if it is uncomfortable to wear, a headlamp will become somewhat pointless. There are several things to look out for in this category and most notably for how many straps the lamp has.

Two or three straps convey more stability, while one strap usually means that the setup is easier and the wearing might be more comfortable. Also, take into consideration how many hardpoints a strap has (for longer wearing) and how much it weights.

Headlamp Ergonomics

Now that we have seen what are the capabilities you should take into consideration when searching for a good LED headlamp, let’s see the actual list that we compiled. We would consider these as pretty good options and we hope that everyone from joggers to cavers will find something that fits their needs.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Without further ado, here are the headlamps that we thought might satisfy most of your needs.

GRDE Zoomable LED Headlamp

Price: Approx. $25GRDE Zoomable LED Headlamp

Weight: 12.8 ounces

Dimensions: 6 x 4.8 x 3 inches

Light output: 1800 lumens

Specific features: 100,000-hour lifespan, wall charging, low, high and strobe modes, zoom lens, two battery capacity

Best use: Backup lamp for power outages, hiking, fishing

If light power is your primary concern, then the GRDE Zoomable LED Headlamp could be a pretty good option. Being able to output at 1800 lumens means that there are few situations where this lamp cannot provide good lighting conditions.

The possibility to adjust the zoom on the main lens is a good way to set the light beam’s size and shape, without having to go through several pre-set cycles on a button-based control panel. The hanging degree of the lamp is adjustable and the sturdy head strap will keep it in place in a comfortable manner.

The LED’s also have a 100,000-hour lifespan and this is coupled with the possibility to recharge the batteries while they are inside the headset. The only downside is the relatively short battery life. With great light output, the batteries unsurprisingly last overall a shorter period of time than for other similar models.

Even so, this torch might be a good choice for budget-oriented buyers who want a reliable long-term investment.

PROS:

  • Very bright output
  • Good build quality
  • Easy to use
  • Charging functionality included
  • Long lifespan
 CONS:

  • Fairly short battery life
  • Build quality comes with a natural heaviness

Related: With a 15,000 mAh capacity and a solar charger to boot, the F-Dorla Solar Charger could be a good option if you want to be certain that you won’t remain without juice. This external battery pack also has a small flashlight on its side, so even if you want to charge your professional LED headlamp in pitch dark, you will have enough visibility to finish this task.

Check the price on Amazon

Luxolite LED Headlamp

Price: Approx. $18Luxolite LED Headlamp

Weight: 2.4 ounces

Dimensions: 2.4 x 1.9 x 1.6 inches

Light output: 168 lumens

Specific features: 50,000-hour lifespan, white and red light, high, medium, low, SOS flashing, steady and strobe modes

Best use: Jogging, car and home repairs, urban exploration, hiking

Sometimes you might need a light and reliable torch for all those times the electrical grid fails. In this case, the Luxolite LED Headlamp might be a decent option. Luxolite is a somewhat new player in the LED lamp industry, but their first model might even impress you.

Even if it needs three batteries to operate, the weight of lamp is still fairly low, meaning that it will be comfortable to wear. The singular, adjustable headband makes this one a good option for those electrical emergencies when all you need is a good spotlight.

The light output is pretty strong, especially if you plan to use it in urban areas, and the highly-durable CREEE LEDs will guarantee a fairly long lifespan. The plastic casing it comes in might make it look like a less than stellar product, but the material guarantees its lightweight.

Oh, and if you will need to use it to quickly change a tire, don’t worry, as the headlamp is water resistant, so a good splash by mother nature will not result in its dismissal.

PROS:

  • Light and bright for the price range
  • Easy to use
  • The headband can be adjusted in a second
  • Good quality LEDs
 CONS:

  • The build quality is not the best
  • Battery life could be better

Related: Having a larger amount of batteries for a trip is a good idea and buying a pack of AmazonBasics AAA Performance Alkaline Batteries is a decent way to make sure you do. This pack of batteries have a shelf life of five years. So don’t worry, if you can’t use them up this year, they will be perfectly fine for a couple more.

Check the price on Amazon

Energizer Vision HD+ LED Headlamp

Price: Approx. $21Energizer LED Flashlight

Weight: 4 ounces

Dimensions: 1.5 x 5 x 3 inches

Light output: 80 lumens

Specific features: White and red light, white spot, white flood and red night vision modes, light setting memory recall, three battery capacity (AAA – included)

Best use: Backup lamp for power outages, light hiking, urban exploration, car and home repairs

When it comes to well-known brands in the battery and LED business, Energizer most definitely appears on the list. Their Energizer Vision HD+ LED Headlamp is a strong contender when it comes to battery efficiency and practicality, and you will quickly notice that it is far more than a product tie-in.

The first thing that stands out is the work that went into making this one of the easiest to use headlamp, with three basic but to the point light modes, and the possibility to recall the last setting from memory. This means that you won’t have to re-adjust the selected mode the next time you turn it on.

Another positive aspect is the durability of it. Even if it might seem like a mostly urban-oriented device, the headlamp is surprisingly sturdy and the water resistance it boasts is not there just for attention-grabbing.

All of this coupled with a surprisingly powerful light output and reliable battery life makes this product one to look out for if you are on the market for a small-form and sturdy headlamp.

PROS:

  • Very compact
  • High build quality
  • Reliable battery life
  • To the point functions
 CONS:

  • Might not be enough for serious adventurers
  • Head strap could be better

Related: For every LED headlamp that doesn’t have a charging option, it might be a good idea to have a set of backup batteries. You could go with the same manufacturer and purchase a pack of Energizer AAA Batteries. It contains 24 pieces and has a shelf-life of 10 years, so even if you forget them in a dusty storage room, they will still be good when they are actually needed.

Check the price on Amazon

CrazyFire LED Headlamp

Price: Approx. $13CrazyFire LED Headlamp

Weight: 7 ounces

Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 2.1 inches

Light Output: 800 lumens

Specific features: High, low and strobe modes, zoom lens, fisheye capacity, highly adjustable headband

Best use: Urban exploration, jogging, backup lamp for power outages

What do you get when you compare caving class requirements and a very attractive price tag? The CrazyFire LED Headlamp of course.

The three-part adjustable strap will make it easy for it to be set on pretty much anyone’s head or even most helmets. The LED lamp is also powerful, coming in at 800 lumens, and fully degree adjustable, fisheye lens will help you adjust the light for it to be usable in most settings.

The zoomable segment will help you change the lamp’s output from spotlight to floodlight in a jiffy, and the fact that it is also waterproof will make this one usable even for fishing trips or disaster relief.

One of its downsides comes in the form of its weight (coming in on the heavier side of the list), but looking at the sturdy aluminum body it shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Then there is also the issue of a somewhat short battery life. This can be remedied with a pack of batteries.

PROS:

  • Several good light settings
  • Good headband
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Zoom quality
 CONS:

  • Short battery life
  • Somewhat heavy

Related: If you are already looking to buy a pack of batteries for this headlamp, why not futureproof it and go with a Nitecore D4 Battery Charger? Not only you will have a good charger that is compatible with over a dozen battery types, it also comes bundled with four rechargeable NiMH AA batteries as well. It also comes with an integrated LCD screen that will keep you up to date on the charging status.

Check the price on Amazon

Black Diamond Spot LED Headlamp

Price: Approx. $35Black Diamond Spot LED Headlamp

Weight: 3.2 ounces

Dimensions: 8.3 x 8.4 x 6.4 inches

Light output: 200 lumens

Specific features: One triple power, one single power white and one single power red LED, proximity and strobe modes

Best use: Hiking, fishing, hunting, light caving, backup lamp for power outages

There is a reason why the hiking community likes the Black Diamond brand, and the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp is a good showcase for the qualities the company is known for.

The first thing that stands out is its battery life. Having a very energy friendly low consumption mode this headlamp can last you up to 200 hours on a single charge. You will also know how much battery life there is left thanks to the handy three-level power meter.

But if you want a powerful light source, this lamp has you covered, with a maximum power of 200 lumens it will make night camping almost as easy as a daytime activity.

While some torches struggle with the time they need to properly transition between light settings, the Spot has the proprietary Power Tap Technology, that allows fast light transitions from the lowest to the highest setting.

Because of the proprietary power management mode that it uses it might seem weird that some lower light settings consume energy at a faster rate than those that seem brighter (especially when the white and red LED’s are used in tandem) but this is a small quirk in an otherwise strong product.

PROS:

  • Great battery life
  • Practical presets
  • Compact and sturdy
  • Comfortable headband
  • Good battery life indicator
 CONS:

  • It has a somewhat confusing energy management system
  • Somewhat pricier than similar products

Related: The Petzl Crochlamp S Headlamp Clips is a nice solution if you wish to clip the headlamp on a thick-edged helmet. They are made of highly durable materials and can bend to most any size. They have a far higher reliability than using Velcro or duct tape yet at a surprisingly similar price range. If you are into caving, this could be a real game changer if you combine it with a good headlamp.

Check the price on Amazon

Zukvye Cree LED Headlamp

Price: Approx. $8Zukvye Cree LED Headlamp

Weight: 2.6 ounces

Dimensions: 3 x 2.3 x 2.8 inches

Light output: 150 lumens

Specific features: White and red light, ultra-bright, low-bright, strobe-bright, ultra-red-bright

Best use: Urban exploration, jogging, car and home repairs

If budget-consciousness is your game, then it’s hard to find a better option than Zukvye Cree LED Headlamp. Coming in at the price of an average battery pack, this headlamp is a good choice for anyone who is looking for a jogging torch.

The lamp has five light modes that will cover most needs, and it also comes with both white and red CREE XPE LED bulbs. Combined they can output up to 150 lumens, and light any dark patch or room when needed.

The lamp uses four AAA batteries, and is somewhat power hungry, managing to squeeze out twenty hours of battery life before the light source starts to fade in a fairly rapid manner.

The headband is highly adjustable and comfortable to wear. The manner the lamp is attached to it means that the lamp itself is also adjustable up to a sixty-degree angle, something that will come as a nice bonus for night joggers and bikers.

PROS:

  • Very budget friendly
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Strong LED bulbs
  • Fairly high number of settings
 CONS:

  • Low battery life
  • Build quality is not the best
  • The elastic band might not last long

Related: Jogging can be a fun and healthy activity, and The Rocky Peak Reflective Vest will make you far more visible on dimly lit roads. If you need a headlamp to jog at night, chances are that these are roads that are not well lit, so a reflective vest with ultra-high visibility will keep you safe, by helping you to become a highly visible point for the upcoming traffic.

Check the price on Amazon

Fox Outfitters Firefly LED Headlamp

Price: Approx. $20Fox Outfitters Firefly LED Headlamp

Weight: 1.6 ounces

Dimensions: 1.3 x 2.2 x 1.3 inches

Light output: 115 lumens

Specific features: White and red light, high, middle, low, red-high, strobe and SOS modes, constantly glowing battery case, 2 battery capacity (AAA- included)

Best use: Hiking, fishing, urban exploration, backup lamp

Fishing often requires a wide angle beam, and this is the specialty of Fox Outfitters Firefly LED Headlamp. With its super-wide angle beam, you will have a great visibility all around you, something that is especially handy if you find yourself on a small boat.

The battery life is also impressive. With only two AAA batteries, this headlamp can resist up to 100 hours, a lifespan that will more than likely get shorter if you opt for its full 115-lumen capacity. This is achieved using high-quality CREE LEDs.

Its IPX6 water resistance standard is also a good feature for fishers, so even if you find yourself accidentally dropping the headlamp into a lake or stream, it should continue to work if you manage to retrieve it fast.

The six light modes it covers give you all kind of options that are typical for LED headlamps from low-power consumption white light to red-light-based night vision mode, so your eyesight will adjust faster to the artificial light conditions.

One more benefit of this lamp is the headband. It can be adjusted pretty quickly to any size and it seems that the materials that are used are of a pretty high quality. A nice addition to an already good LED torch.

PROS:

  • Good price
  • Great battery life
  • Sturdy build quality
  • High number of settings
  • Good red CREE LED
 CONS:

  • Power wise it’s on the lower end
  • IPX7 would have been welcome for a perfect fishing lamp

Related: A low-weight headlamp is good for a helmet that lacks an integrated headlamp clip if you also get a Petzl Crochlamp Clip. This clip is a valuable accessory for thin-edged helmets, as it allows headlamps to be properly installed. Coming in a pack of four pieces you will be able to utilize them on a set of helmets or keep the rest for a later date.

Check the price on Amazon

UCO X120 X-Act Fit LED Headlamp

Price: Approx. $50UCO X120 X-Act Fit LED Headlamp

Weight: 3.2 ounces

Dimensions: 2.3 x 1.3 x 1.8 inches

Light output: 120 lumens

Specific features: X-act Fit adjustment, CREE XP-E LED bulb, hard point free strap, special Li-ion battery or three battery capacity (AAA – included)

Best use: Hiking, fishing, hunting, caving, urban exploration, backup lamp for power outages

Sturdy build quality, good battery life, and comfortable straps are what characterize the UCO X120 X-Act Fit. On top of this, anyone who wishes to buy one can choose between a AAA battery operated model or a rechargeable Li-ion one.

The headlamp uses the highly-reliable CREE XP-E series LED bulbs, that can squeeze out up to 120 lumens of light. The light is adjusted by a dial, and can quickly transition between the settings it has. The transition time is fast, especially when going from a flood light to a spotlight.

The batteries can last up to 130 hours, regardless which model you choose and it is also highly weather resistant with its IPX4 rating.

From an ergonomic point of view, the team at UCO did not skimp on anything. The headband comes with an X-Act Fit system. Using this, you can adjust the band’s length on a millimeter level. Its proprietary hinge has absolutely no hard points, making this one of the more comfortable headlamps out on the market.

PROS:

  • Good build quality
  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Strong LED performance
  • Good battery life
  • Possibility to choose between AAA or custom Li-ion model
 CONS:

  • A bit pricey
  • The “retro” design might not be for everyone

Related: Buying a pack of MagicFiber Cleaning Cloths might be a good idea for a high-end LED headlamp. Smudges can have a negative effect on the light quality, and with this set of cleaning cloths, you will have a good tool at your disposal to maintain the lens in top-notch form. The pack also comes with six pieces, so it will last you a while and you can also use them to clean your glasses or other valuable electronics.

Check the price on Amazon

LuminoLite CREE LED Headlamp

Price: Approx. $11LuminoLite CREE LED Headlamp

Weight: 2.6 ounces

Dimensions: 2.3 x 1.4 x 1.7 inches

Light output: 160 lumens

Specific features: White and red light, full, dim, strobe, constant and SOS modes, adjustable beam angles, three battery capacity (AAA – included)

Best use: Urban exploration, car and home repairs

In case you are looking for a one-size-fits-all solution LED headlamp for your home, the LuminoLite CREE LED Headlamp might just fit your bill.

The headlamp has a surprisingly powerful 160-lumen capacity and it operates both white and red LEDs. The five lighting modes will have you covered in most situations you will need this lamp, from changing a car tire in the middle of the night to searching for the fuse box in the basement.

For the jogger in you, the headlamp can also be tilted up to 45 degrees, and the IPX6 water resistance will make it sure that a nasty summer rain won’t break your newly purchased toy. The weight also makes this a comfortable choice and the batteries will actually let this one work for a surprisingly long time.

If there is anything negative that one could say about this product, it would be about its build quality. Unfortunately, the strap holders are immobile pieces of plastic, and it might not last as much as some other models.

PROS:

  • Good mode selection
  • Strong LEDs
  • Water resistant
  • Good battery life
  • Good price
 CONS:

  • Build quality is fairly low
  • The headband could be more comfortable

Related: You can always transform your headlamp into a handy bicycle lamp, by simply purchasing a pack of Ezyoutdoor Rubber Strap. This is an almost universal lamp holder that you can install on most bicycle handles. The pack comes with five pieces, so even if the rubber wears out with time, you will still have a replacement at hand.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

When searching for a good LED headlamp, it might come as a surprise just how many models there are and what a large selection of categories exist. On top of that, there are also so many brands that you would have serious issues to count them all. But with this article, I think we managed to provide you a good “big picture” view of the market and quality choices it offers.

LED Headlamp

Now you know what you should look out for in a good headlamp and you also have several models at your fingertips, if you want to make sure that even with little research, you will still be able to buy a reliable LED torch that won’t die on you during its first use.

As we mentioned, this is a pretty large market and a quality product can hide in the most unusual parts of the internet. So if you think that we missed one that should be on this list, please feel free to write us about it in the comment section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.