Headlamps are a necessity for outdoors enthusiasts that engage in hiking, mountain biking, caving, backcountry skiing, kayaking, rock climbing and more. They provide safety, functionality and the ultimate convenience of illumination while having both hands free. Today’s best headlamps are lightweight, durable, waterproof and even programmable. We tested six of the best headlamps on the market that will help enrich your mountain adventures.
The Black Diamond Sprinter delivers a rugged, all-conditions lighting system for dynamic activities including trail running, mountain biking or dawn patrols on your favorite Nordic or backcountry ski routes. With 75 lumens, the Sprinter directs an oval beam up to 45 meters down the trail so you can spot ankle-rolling rocks far in advance; it also dims for task lighting and features a strobe mode. Designed to provide constant illumination throughout the battery’s life, Sprinter’s lithium polymer battery lasts up to six hours on maximum burn and up to 42 hours on the lowest setting. The battery charges with a detachable USB port; but plan ahead since it takes five hours to fully charge. A red taillight strobe in the rear with an on/off switch helps alert others to your presence. The Sprinter can be immersed in water down to one meter for 30 minutes, according to Black Diamond, making it ideal for kayaking and canoeing and wearing in rain and snow.
Brunton, based in Riverton, Wyoming, is surrounded by vast tracts of wilderness where it behooves nocturnal travelers to have a strong reliable lighting system. On full power the Glacier 115’s light beam glows at 50 lumens and extends up to 115 meters. Precision dimming and a dispersed lighting mode enable you to fine tune the brightness for task lighting. Glacier 115 includes a green light setting; Brunton found that animals respond better to green lights—ideal for horseback riding—and in close proximity, the green light is less harsh on the eyes of your campmates and saves energy. Power comes from three rechargeable AAA batteries that are charged via a Brunton USB-based power pack or solar panel, and it also runs on non-rechargeable AAA batteries. Glacier 115 will provide 35 hours of burn time on full burn; a battery level/charge indicator keeps you apprised of how much burn time remains. If you get in trouble switch on the International SOS flash mode. Never get caught in Grizzly territory without a powerful light again.
Mammut has produced a practical trail combo with its 60-lumen T-Trail Headlamp + Ambient Light Dry Bag system, optimally suited for backpacking, hiking, night bouldering and working around basecamp. The headlamp’s four LED bulbs channel light up to 30 meters ahead. It’ll burn for 20 hours on max power but you can extend the power for up to 80 hours on low power; the unit is powered by three AAA non-rechargeable batteries. The strobe mode allows the light to blink six times per minute so that it can be left on as an emergency beacon. Weighing only 2.5 ounces you’ll barely notice it on your head while traveling through the woods. Meanwhile, back at camp, the headlamp attaches to the Ambient Light Dry Bag to provide diffused task lighting. Your tent-mates will be thankful that you’re not repeatedly blasting their eyes with the headlamp as you get ready for bed.
Petzl has delivered yet another inventive piece of trail gear. The Tikka XP Core is an easily-programmable headlamp. With the OS by Petzl software you can customize the headlamp’s performance in a variety of ways like adapting lighting intensity or battery life to your specific activity. It only takes a few clicks to make adjustments. Tikka XP Core runs on a Petzl CORE Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable battery with up to 300 charging cycles possible—which equals 900 disposable batteries. CORE charges with a standard USB cable connected to a computer, wall socket, car charger or portable solar panel; but it will also work with three standard AAA batteries. Tikka XP Core, with 60 lumens, projects light up to 58 meters and provides proximity lighting with a wide angle lens. You can choose three white-lighting modes and two red-lighting modes by pressing the push button for two seconds; the last color used remains in memory for the next use. With Tikka XP Core you’re getting a super-techie and highly functional device that’s environmentally friendly and saves you from buying batteries over and over again.
If you’re looking for a fierce and formidable headlamp, then you’ll love the Apex. This baby glows at 200 lumens, shoots a beam of light out to 116 meters and burns for up to 150 hours on lower power settings. The waterproof Apex is designed for more extreme outdoors adventures— specifically rock climbing, mountaineering and caving. It’s definitely overkill for hiking, mountain biking and trail running though it could be useful for hunters to spot game from afar. Apex includes one large Regulated Maxbright LED bulb and four smaller Regulated Ultrabright LEDs so that you can easily toggle between a powerful spot beam and bright flood light. The four Ultrabright LEDs come in red, green or white to suit your personal preference. Princeton Tec’s proprietary heat-sink technology allows the LEDs to burn brighter and longer. The Apex is compatible with alkaline, lithium and rechargeable batteries. At 9.8 ounces you’ll notice it atop your head but having a superlative lighting system while exploring caves makes it worthwhile.
The Snow Peak SnowMiner Headlamp/Lantern fuses headlamp and camping lantern into one lightweight and user-friendly unit. Wear it as a headlamp with 80 lumens of glow when you need its stronger, focused beam that illuminates up to 40 meters and burns for 55 hours; then switch to lantern mode and hang it up with the integrated hook on the headband for softer, diffused lighting wherever you need it. To switch between modes you simply pop the front silicone cap in or out. In dome-light mode, SnowMiner only glows at two lumens, perfect for the interior of a tent. In headlamp mode SnowMiner has high, low and strobe settings to fine-tune your illumination for your specific needs. SnowMiner runs on three AAA batteries and weighs 2.3 ounces. It’s designed so that you can use it even while wearing gloves—making it perfect for pre-dawn skinning into the backcountry. A low battery indicator alerts you when the battery is losing juice. SnowMiner makes it easy to enjoy ambient light in your tent on the mountain.