Best Headlamps for Prepping: Illuminating the Path to Preparedness
In the world of prepping, where self-sufficiency and readiness are of utmost importance, having reliable and efficient gear is crucial. One essential tool for every prepper’s arsenal is a high-quality headlamp. Headlamps offer hands-free illumination, making them invaluable during emergencies, power outages, or when navigating through dark environments. In this article, we will explore the best headlamps for prepping, focusing on performance, durability, and versatility.
- 1. Black Diamond Spot 350
- 2. Petzl Actik Core
- 3. Fenix HM65R
- 4. BioLite HeadLamp 750
- 5. Princeton Tec Remix
- Best Picks
- How We Review Headlamps for Emergencies
- Headlamp Features and Costs
- Power and Rechargeable vs. Disposable Batteries
- Battery Life
- Brightness / Lumens
- Light Modes
- Waterproof Headlamps
- Ease of Use
- Best Headlamps for Emergency Bags and Home Supplies
- The Market’s Choices
- Best Spare or Budget Headlamp Under $25
- Best Budget-Friendly Option: Vitchelo V800
- Best Ultralight or Compact Headlamps for EDC
- Upgrade and Specialty Options
Hands-free headlamps are incredibly useful and essential during emergencies. Whether you need to change a tire or assist someone in the dark, trying to juggle a flashlight while using your hands can be impractical. That’s where headlamps come in handy, allowing you to keep both hands free while illuminating the direction you’re looking at, conserving energy in the process. They are beneficial for various activities such as prepping, hiking, camping, hunting, mechanics, and any hands-on tasks.
If you have to choose just one powered light source for your emergency supplies, a headlamp would be the recommended option. However, it’s ideal to have a combination of powered and unpowered lights of different types, including multiple headlamps, for various scenarios:
- Primary high-quality headlamp: Keep one in your bug out bag and another in your get home bag, ensuring you have a reliable light source wherever you are.
- Secondary or backup headlamps: These can be more affordable options and are suitable for home supplies, everyday carry, or to keep in different locations like cars, boats, sheds, or barns.
- Headlamps complement handheld flashlights, candles, or other fire sources you may have.
Recent advancements in headlamp technology have significantly improved brightness, battery life, and power versatility, offering an excellent return on investment for preppers. One notable development is the ability of affordable headlamps to operate on USB-rechargeable batteries or common AA/AAA disposable batteries. This adaptability is crucial for emergency preparedness, ensuring compatibility with readily available power sources without the need for specialized equipment. With these versatile options available, there’s no need to spend over $25 on a headlamp.
It’s important to note that most headlamp reviews primarily focus on everyday activities like jogging or auto repair, rather than emergency preparedness. Considering the context and specific needs for emergencies is vital when choosing the right headlamp for your requirements.
1. Black Diamond Spot 350
The Black Diamond Spot 350 is a top choice among preppers, with a powerful maximum output of 350 lumens and a beam distance of up to 86 meters. With its IPX8 waterproof rating, it can withstand being submerged in water up to one meter for 30 minutes, making it ideal for various weather conditions. The headlamp features multiple lighting modes, including red night vision, strobe, and dimming, allowing for optimal customization depending on your needs. Its PowerTap technology enables easy transitioning between modes with a simple touch, while the lock mode prevents accidental battery drain.
2. Petzl Actik Core
The Petzl Actik Core headlamp boasts a powerful 450-lumen output and a beam distance of 90 meters. This rechargeable headlamp comes with a CORE battery, which can be conveniently charged via a USB port. Alternatively, it can also run on three AAA batteries, ensuring you have backup power options when needed. The Actik Core offers various lighting modes, including red light and strobe settings, and is IPX4 water-resistant, making it suitable for use in light rain or wet conditions.
3. Fenix HM65R
The Fenix HM65R is designed with durability and versatility in mind, featuring a robust aluminum construction and a maximum output of 1400 lumens. Its dual beam system allows for customized lighting with spot and floodlights that can be used independently or simultaneously. The headlamp is IP68 rated, making it both dustproof and waterproof up to two meters, perfect for more demanding situations. With a rechargeable battery and a runtime of up to 300 hours, the Fenix HM65R ensures you have ample light during prolonged emergencies or expeditions.
4. BioLite HeadLamp 750
The BioLite HeadLamp 750 is an excellent option for those seeking a comfortable and high-performance headlamp. With a maximum output of 750 lumens and a beam distance of 130 meters, this headlamp is perfect for various tasks. Its moisture-wicking fabric and balanced weight distribution make it comfortable for extended periods. The headlamp is rechargeable and features a rear-facing red light for increased visibility. Additionally, the BioLite HeadLamp 750 offers an innovative “Constant Mode” feature that maintains consistent brightness as the battery depletes, ensuring reliable lighting throughout its use.
5. Princeton Tec Remix
The Princeton Tec Remix is a versatile and budget-friendly option, featuring a maximum output of 300 lumens and a beam distance of 73 meters. It offers both white and red LEDs, with various modes for different situations. The headlamp runs on three AAA batteries and has a burn time of up to 150 hours, depending on the mode used. Its IPX4 water resistance rating makes it suitable for light rain and wet conditions.
Best for Most People: Black Diamond ReVolt 350
The recommended primary headlamp to rely on for your bug out and get home bags is the Black Diamond ReVolt 350, priced at $50. This headlamp offers the sought-after battery versatility that preppers value, along with meeting all the important criteria in a well-reviewed package from a reputable company. It provides an impressive brightness of 350 lumens, illuminating objects up to 80 meters away. With a long battery life of up to 200 hours in low mode, it ensures extended use during emergencies. The headlamp features a red light for preserving night vision, spot and flood modes for versatile lighting options, a lockout mode to prevent accidental activation and battery drain, and excellent IPX4 waterproofing for added durability. The Black Diamond ReVolt 350 offers all these features at a competitive price, making it a reliable choice for preppers.
Best Value-for-Money Option: Energizer Vision HD+
For additional headlamps to have in your home supplies or car, especially if you’re on a tight budget, the Energizer Vision HD+ priced at $15 is the best option. While there are many low-quality headlamps available for under $20, the Energizer line has a long-standing reputation and a satisfied customer base. The HD+ model meets the minimum criteria we recommend, including the use of standard batteries, spot and flood modes for versatile lighting, a red light mode for preserving night vision, a brightness of 350 lumens, a battery life of 50 hours, and a lightweight design. The Energizer Vision HD+ provides all these features at an affordable price, making it a reliable choice for those seeking a budget-friendly option.
Most Compact Option: Petzl e+Lite
For a compact and lightweight option suitable for everyday carry or as a spare in your bug out bag, we recommend the Petzl e+Lite priced at $30. Weighing less than an ounce, which is equivalent to a regular BIC lighter, it is incredibly portable. The headlamp features a thin yet comfortable headband and includes a built-in emergency whistle for added convenience. With a brightness of 50 lumens and a battery life of 12 hours, it may not be sufficient for all situations, but it can prove invaluable in emergency scenarios when you’re away from your main supplies. The Petzl e+Lite also offers a red light option, a lockout mode to prevent accidental activation, and an IPX7 waterproof rating for reliable performance in various conditions.
How We Review Headlamps for Emergencies
Our evaluation process focuses on the following criteria, listed in approximate order of importance:
- Power versatility: Can the headlamp accommodate both disposable and rechargeable power sources? Does it use common or uncommon batteries?
- Combination of battery life, brightness, and range: We assess the headlamp’s performance in terms of battery longevity, maximum brightness, and the distance it can illuminate.
- Durability and weatherproofing: We examine the headlamp’s construction to ensure it is durable and capable of withstanding various weather conditions.
- Light modes: We consider whether the headlamp offers spot and flood modes, at least one red light mode, dimming capabilities, and other relevant lighting options.
- Cost: We take into account the price of the headlamp relative to its features and overall quality.
- Ease of use: We evaluate how user-friendly the headlamp is in terms of operation and adjustment.
- Weight: We consider the overall weight of the headlamp, including the batteries.
- Lockout mode: We assess whether the headlamp includes a feature that prevents accidental activation, particularly when stored in emergency bags.
- Stealthiness: We consider features that contribute to the headlamp’s inconspicuousness, such as muted colors and non-reflective head straps.
It is important to note that certain features, such as a hinge or tilt function for directing the light, are considered essential and are expected to be present in the models we evaluate.
In our reporting, we indicate the maximum range achievable on the highest power setting and provide battery life estimates based on the lowest setting. When a headlamp can accommodate both disposable and rechargeable batteries, we provide time estimates based on disposable batteries whenever possible. The weight mentioned includes the batteries.
Headlamp Features and Costs
Headlamp options for personal prepping can generally be categorized into different price tiers:
- Budget ($10-20): Headlamps in this range offer cost-effective options for those on a tight budget.
- Decent mix of budget vs. quality ($20-35): Headlamps in this range strike a balance between affordability and quality, providing reliable performance at a reasonable price point.
- Best sweet spot for most people ($35-60): Headlamps in this price range are considered to offer the best combination of features, durability, and performance, catering to the needs of the majority of users.
- Upgrades and specialty lamps (>$60): Headlamps priced above $60 often provide advanced features, specialized functionalities, or high-end construction for users seeking premium options.
Here are some notable brands in the headlamp market:
- Top brands: Black Diamond, Petzl, Coast, Fenix, SureFire, ZebraLight, Armytek, Nitecore, Olight, Acebeam
- Mid-range brands: Ledlenser, Nite Ize, Princeton Tec, UCO, Nathan, Streamlight
- Budget brands: Energizer, Emergency Essentials, Foxelli, Vitchelo, UltraFire
It’s worth noting that the headlamp market includes various white label and rebranded listings, particularly in the lower price tiers. To ensure quality and reliability, it is recommended to stick to known and reputable brands when selecting a headlamp for your prepping needs.
There are two basic types of headlamps: cap lights and caving/miner lights.
Cap lights are designed to clip onto the brim of a hat or helmet, while caving or miner lights come with a headband strap.
For prepping purposes, we recommend focusing on headlamps with a headband strap rather than cap lights. While cap lights can serve as backup options or for casual use, they are not ideal as primary choices because they rely on the presence of a hat. In emergency situations, it’s important to have flexibility and not be limited by specific accessories. Headband-style headlamps are versatile and can be used with or without a hat, making them more practical and reliable.
Furthermore, headbands add minimal weight and volume, making them convenient to carry. Therefore, there is no compelling reason to avoid headband-style headlamps for prepping purposes.
Power and Rechargeable vs. Disposable Batteries
The majority of consumer headlamps are designed to use AAA disposable batteries, while some utilize AA batteries. Specialized headlamps, such as those used in military or industrial settings, may require less common battery types like CR123.
While hikers may not be concerned about the availability of uncommon batteries as they can easily purchase replacements, it is not an ideal situation for emergency preparedness. Therefore, we disqualify headlamps that do not use AA or AAA batteries.
An increasing number of headlamp models now feature rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. These can either be in the form of individual AAA-style batteries or as a single battery pack similar to those found in smartphones. Some models offer versatility by supporting both disposable and rechargeable batteries.
Recharging is typically done through a micro USB port, which is the same cable and port commonly used for phones, portable power packs, and emergency radios powered by cranking or solar energy.
If a headlamp model can only accommodate one type of battery, we generally prefer normal disposable batteries. This is because disposable batteries retain their charge better when stored for long periods and provide brighter light output for extended periods of time.
Comparing battery life across different headlamp products can be challenging due to various factors. The brightness level of the light significantly affects the battery consumption. Manufacturers often advertise battery life based on the lowest white-light mode, which may not reflect the performance at higher brightness settings.
For example, a headlamp with a maximum brightness of 300 lumens might provide only 2 hours of runtime at that intensity, but it can extend to 200 hours when operating at 10 lumens. It’s important to consider your specific lighting needs and usage patterns when assessing battery life claims.
Brightness / Lumens
Headlamp brightness is commonly measured in lumens, which indicates the intensity of the light output. To provide some context, a standard 60-watt light bulb found in homes typically produces around 600-800 lumens. In the case of headlamps, they generally fall within the following ranges:
- 25-100 lumens: Suitable for basic tasks such as navigating in low-light conditions, like going to the bathroom at night.
- 100-200 lumens: More appropriate for simple outdoor activities that require a bit more illumination, such as tidying up a campsite after dark.
- 200-300 lumens: Ideal for tasks like trail finding or engaging in activities that involve faster movement, such as jogging in low-light environments.
- 300-500 lumens: Provides ample brightness for most outdoor activities and general use.
- >500 lumens: Usually employed for specialized abilities, such as nighttime rock climbing or jobs in the industrial sector.
These ranges serve as a general guideline to help you choose a headlamp that suits your specific needs and desired level of brightness.
Not all headlamps are designed with the same purpose in mind. Some models are specifically tailored to provide a narrow beam of light that extends a significant distance, allowing individuals running on dark forest trails to see what lies ahead. However, the same headlamp may not be as useful when performing tasks around the house during a power outage.
Headlamp modes can vary based on several factors, including:
- Beam Focus: Some headlamps offer adjustable beam focus, allowing users to switch between a narrow, focused spot beam for long-distance illumination and a wide, flood beam for broader coverage over a shorter distance.
- Light Color: Headlamps may offer different color options, most commonly red and white. Red light is often preferred for activities that require up-close work or reading maps, as it helps preserve night vision and minimizes disruption in low-light conditions. White light is generally used for general illumination purposes.
- Light Intensity: Many headlamps feature adjustable brightness settings or dimming capabilities, allowing users to customize the light output according to their needs. This feature helps conserve battery life and provides flexibility in various lighting conditions.
- Lighting Modes: Headlamps can offer different lighting modes, including continuous or constant light, as well as flashing or strobing modes. Flashing modes are sometimes utilized for signaling or emergency situations, with some headlamps even incorporating morse code patterns, such as SOS, for enhanced communication capabilities.
Our preference lies with models that offer a well-balanced combination of spot and flood modes, allowing for adjustable control between the two. Additionally, having a red light mode is highly desirable.
The use of red light is widespread due to its minimal disruption to night vision compared to other colors. It is often depicted in military movies, where soldiers rely on a subtle red glow to read maps or navigate aircraft cockpits.
Red light is helpful for up-close activity, like reading a map or changing a tire. It’s not very useful beyond two meters (six feet). There’s also a tactical advantage to red light: You’re less likely to be spotted by others in situations where you don’t want to be seen, and you’re less likely to blind other people in your party.
It’s important to consider the water resistance of a headlamp, as it is typically exposed to rain, snow, or potential accidents like falling into a puddle. Water resistance is indicated by an IPX rating, which represents the product’s ability to withstand water. Here are the common IPX ratings and their meanings:
- IPX 1: Can withstand dripping water from above for 10 minutes.
- IPX 4: Can handle splashes of water from any direction for five minutes.
- IPX 7: Can be fully submerged under water at a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes.
- IPX 8: Similar to IPX 7 but with additional specifications determined by the manufacturer.
Reputable manufacturers will clearly state the IPX rating of their headlamps, ensuring transparency about the product’s water resistance capabilities. Beware of vague terms like “weather resistant” and look for specific IPX ratings for accurate information.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is an important criterion when evaluating headlamps, especially in emergency situations where simplicity and intuitiveness are crucial. We apply the “10 year old child test” to gauge the user-friendliness of the gear, ensuring that it can be operated by a child without assistance or the need for extensive manuals.
However, there is a tradeoff between ease of use and the number of features a headlamp offers. Simpler controls are often associated with lamps that have fewer functionalities, such as a red night vision mode or a lockout mode to prevent accidental activation and battery drain.
Some popular headlamp models, like the Black Diamond Spot, may be less intuitive compared to their competitors. This can be attributed to the presence of one button versus two buttons or a spinning dial for control.
A common concern is the need to cycle through white light modes to access the red light mode, or vice versa. While we prefer models that allow direct activation and deactivation of the red mode without toggling through the white modes, it is not a dealbreaker. With practice, one can learn to cover the light with one hand while adjusting the button with the other hand.
Best Headlamps for Emergency Bags and Home Supplies
Best for Most People: Black Diamond ReVolt 350
Our recommended choice for the primary headlamp in emergency situations is the Black Diamond ReVolt 350, priced at $50. Black Diamond is a highly reputable brand known for producing top-quality headlamps, including popular models like the ReVolt, Spot, and Storm, which consistently receive positive reviews from outdoor activity-focused publications such as hiking, camping, climbing, and hunting.
The ReVolt offers exceptional versatility as it can be powered by the included micro-USB rechargeable batteries or standard AAA disposables. What sets it apart is that it provides this versatility at a more affordable price compared to its competitors while delivering superior light output, battery life, waterproofing, and features.
Unlike some other headlamps that rely on proprietary rechargeable battery packs like the Petzl CORE, the ReVolt comes with three rechargeable AAA-style batteries, allowing you the option to use third-party rechargeable batteries as well. It’s worth noting that using third-party batteries requires removing a small portion of the battery wrapper to ensure proper electrical contact. This design choice by Black Diamond serves as a safety feature to prevent accidental recharging of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, which can cause damage. While it may seem like an inconvenience, we found it to be a minor issue that can be easily overcome if necessary.
One aspect where Black Diamond lights, including the ReVolt, could be improved is the user interface. With only one button to control multiple features, it can be a bit confusing and may not meet our “10-year-old child without instructions” test. However, this drawback is not significant enough to deter us from selecting the ReVolt as our top choice. In emergency situations, even without explicit instructions, you can navigate through the various functions by pressing or holding the button, relying on a bit of trial and error to figure things out.
Best Budget-Friendly Option: Petzl Actik Core
Best for Durability: Petzl Tactikka+
The Petzl Actik Core, priced at $70, is highly regarded and widely popular. It offers the convenience of both rechargeable and disposable options right out of the box. On the other hand, the Petzl Tactikka+ is priced at $50 and initially uses three AAA disposable batteries, but you have the option to add a $30 aftermarket CORE battery for rechargeability.
In comparison, the Actik Core boasts a lockout feature to prevent accidental activation when stored in your pack. It also provides a brighter maximum setting with 100 lumens and is lighter by 10 grams compared to the Tactikka+. However, the Tactikka+ does offer a slightly longer battery run time and features a non-reflective headband, enhancing stealth capabilities.
Additionally, all the Petzl headlamps featured in this review are compatible with a protective carrying case that can be utilized as a lantern accessory.
The Market’s Choices
Armytek Tiara A1 / Pro: Priced at $65, the Armytek Tiara A1/Pro stands out with its removable torch element, allowing it to be used as a handheld flashlight or placed flat on a surface. While these headlamps are well-built and offer quality light output, we find them to be overpriced for prepping purposes, especially considering the absence of basic features like red light night modes.
Black Diamond ReVolt 350: Available for $50, the Black Diamond ReVolt 350 boasts a lockout mode and a battery life meter. It features a convenient red light mode that can be activated without cycling through the white modes.
Black Diamond Spot 300: Priced at $35, the Black Diamond Spot 300 offers a lockout mode and a battery life meter. Similar to the ReVolt 350, it includes a red light mode that can be easily accessed without cycling through the white modes. Known for its optimal balance between cost, brightness, and battery life, the Spot 300 is often recommended. However, it’s important to consider that these recommendations may not account for emergency situations.
Black Diamond Sprinter: Designed for night runners, the Black Diamond Sprinter prioritizes a rear-facing red light as a taillight and lacks a proximity mode for close-up tasks around the camp. It features a top strap and a rear-facing battery pack for improved balance. While it’s a great option for running purposes, it may not be suitable for prepping scenarios.
Black Diamond Storm: Priced at $55, the Black Diamond Storm provides a lockout mode, battery life meter, and a red light mode with additional blue and green modes that can be activated without cycling through the white modes. However, there are reports of a buzzing sound emitted by the headlamp, and the price-to-weight, brightness, and battery ratios are not as favorable as alternative options. Despite these concerns, the Storm receives positive reviews and is often recognized as a top pick by outdoor-oriented publications, surpassing even its counterpart, the Spot.
Coast FL60: Available for $30, the Coast FL60 features a simple wide-angle flood beam without focus or a red light mode. It’s worth noting that the headband strap is reflective, which may not be ideal for prepping purposes. The FL60 also has a rechargeable version, the FL60R, which offers a higher output of 450 lumens but comes at a significantly higher price of $105. Additionally, it comes with a lifetime warranty. If you prefer a Coast headlamp, the FL75 (brighter) or HL7 (longer life) models are recommended alternatives.
Coast FL75: Priced at $45, the Coast FL75 serves as a decent alternative if rechargeable versatility is not a priority. It offers an impressive price-to-lumen ratio, providing 435 lumens for only $45, while Coast’s reputation for high-quality light output remains intact. The FL75 features an intuitive twist-to-focus light and a red light mode that can be accessed without toggling through the white modes. However, it’s important to consider that the headband strap is reflective. Similar to the FL60, it also comes in a rechargeable version, the 75R, but the high price of $105 may not be justified. It comes with a lifetime warranty.
Coast HL7: Priced at $40, the Coast HL7 is less bright compared to the FL75 but offers a significantly better battery life. It features a hinged light, but there have been complaints from reviewers regarding the hinge breaking. Unfortunately, it does not have a red light mode. The HL models below the HL7 do not provide a focusing beam, which may be a desirable feature. However, the unique dimmer lever for adjusting brightness is a feature that some users may prefer to avoid. The battery pack is positioned on the back strap for weight balance. There is also an HL7R rechargeable version available for $75. It is worth noting that Coast offers a lifetime warranty for their products.
Dewalt DWHT81424: Priced at $22, the Dewalt DWHT81424 is designed to be worn over a hard hat, making it uncomfortable if worn directly on the bare head. It lacks a red light mode and offers basic functionality. Considering its features and performance, it may be overpriced for what it offers.
Fenix HL40R: Available for $60, the Fenix HL40R is a decent headlamp but may not be ideal for preppers as it lacks a rechargeable + disposable battery combination, which can be obtained for the same price in our recommended model.
Fenix HL60R: Priced at $80, the Fenix HL60R delivers a high output of 950 lumens using a micro USB rechargeable battery. However, it relies on 2 CR123A batteries as disposable backups. Although this model has many appealing features, we cannot recommend it for prepping due to the less common CR batteries. For a rechargeable headlamp that also accepts disposable batteries in an emergency, it is preferable to choose models that support the common AA or AAA types.
Ledlenser MH2: The Ledlenser MH2, priced at $20, does not include a red light mode but does offer a lockout mode. It is a basic yet decent model from a reputable mid-tier company, but it may not be enough to justify choosing it over other options.
Ledlenser MH6: Available for $40, the Ledlenser MH6 suffers from frustratingly incomplete information on Ledlenser’s website and product details. It utilizes 3 AAA-style rechargeable batteries, allowing for the use of disposable AAA backups. However, it has poor battery life performance and features a lockout mode. Although the MH6 is comparable to the Black Diamond ReVolt, the latter receives more positive reviews and top choice awards.
Ledlenser MH10: Priced at $100, the Ledlenser MH10 is a USB-rechargeable model that does not support AA/AAA batteries as backup options. Additionally, it is quite heavy, weighing 9.3 oz.
Ledlenser SEO 3: Priced at $35, the Ledlenser SEO 3 is not favored due to its limited color options (bright green or orange) and low price-to-lumens ratio.
Ledlenser SEO 5: Available for $30, the Ledlenser SEO 5 falls short compared to competitors in terms of price, brightness, and battery life ratios.
Nathan Halo Fire: With a price tag of $40, the Nathan Halo Fire is a rechargeable model but lacks compatibility with AA/AAA batteries, resulting in a low battery life. We believe it is overpriced considering what it offers in the context of prepping.
Nathan Neutron Fire: Priced at $30, the Nathan Neutron Fire faces numerous reports of quality and durability issues. Additionally, it has relatively low brightness levels, maxing out at 90 lumens, which is the same as the Ledlenser NEO, but at twice the price. The Neutron Fire RX model, priced at $45, is rechargeable but does not support disposable batteries.
Nite Ize Inova STS: Available for $35, the Nite Ize Inova STS is a commendable headlamp that could have been a strong contender in the under $35 category. However, many reviewers prefer the Black Diamond Spot within this price range. The Inova STS offers a high output of 265 lumens, reaching a distance of 70 meters, or providing a 108-hour life in low mode. It features Swipe-To-Shine (STS) technology, where brightness is controlled by a finger swiping motion instead of traditional push buttons. Although we do not have specific reasons, we have reservations about this technology for prepping gear, as we prefer simple buttons and dials.
Nite Ize Radiant 250: Priced at $30, the Nite Ize Radiant 250 features a hinged light that can pivot a full 90 degrees and includes a red light mode. However, its battery life falls short compared to similar and more affordable options such as the Black Diamond Spot and Petzl Tikkina.
Nite Ize Radiant 250 Rechargeable: Available for $40, the Nite Ize Radiant 250 Rechargeable comes close to being an ideal model. It offers 250 lumens, a range of 92 meters (301 ft), a battery life of 43 hours, and weighs only 3.2 oz. It includes a separate switch for the red light mode and features a battery life indicator. Although rechargeable, it does not support AA/AAA backups.
Petzl Actik: Priced at $50, is a solid headlamp option. It can be powered by 3 AAA batteries or the CORE Hybrid rechargeable battery for an additional $30. It offers a good range of brightness, battery life, and weight. The Actik features a red light and red strobe mode, making it suitable for various situations. It is a close contender and a great overall headlamp.
Petzl Actik Core: Priced at $70, is another top contender. The only downside mentioned is its reflective headband. However, it stands out with its built-in USB plug on the CORE rechargeable battery, eliminating the need for a separate charging cradle.
Petzl Tactikka and Tactikka+: Priced at $30 and $50 respectively, are also solid options. Designed for stealthy activities like hunting, they offer compatibility with Petzl’s Hybrid CORE system, allowing you to switch between disposable and rechargeable batteries. The Tactikka line doesn’t have unnecessary features, but it lacks a lockout mode. The Tactikka+ provides an additional 50 lumens compared to the base model.
Petzl Tikka: Priced at $30, is similar to the Tactikka line but is more geared towards running and hiking needs. It uses 3 AAA batteries and is compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery. It features red light and red strobe modes, as well as a glow-in-the-dark light housing for easy visibility. The Petzl Tikkina, priced at $20, is a cheaper alternative with fewer features.
Princeton Tec Byte Tactical: Priced at $28, offers a more neutral-colored headband, extra battery life, and an additional low red light mode compared to the base Byte model. However, there may be better options available at a similar price point.
Princeton Tec Apex Rechargeable: Priced at $170, is considered too expensive and heavy for its features. It lacks a red light and lockout mode, and it does not have the ability to use disposable batteries.
Princeton Tec EOS: Priced at $45, is a rugged and simple option, but there are better options available above $30. The Tactical model provides lower lumens but longer battery life and incorporates a physical red filter, which may not be preferred by some users.
Princeton Tec Remix series: Priced at $40-50, offers different versions with combinations of white, red, green, and blue LEDs. The right mix could make it suitable for field use, considering factors like range, battery life, and weight. However, the Pro version is disqualified for its use of CR123 batteries, and the Rechargeable version is heavy and lacks night vision capabilities. The Remix Plus uses 4 AAA batteries located on the rear of the headband.
Princeton Tec Quad and Tactical: Priced at $30, offer some nice features such as a battery life indicator. However, the base Quad model lacks a red light and its 78 lumen output is considered low compared to other options above $30. The Tactical version includes colored lens filters but using that method of coloring is disliked.
Princeton Tec Vizz and Vizz Tactical: Priced at $42 and $65 respectively, are worthy headlamp options among the disposable-batteries-only competition. The Vizz offers 420 lumens, a range of 78 meters (255 ft), and a 110-hour battery life on 3 AAA batteries. It weighs 3.2 oz and is IPX7 waterproof. It features a red light mode that can be activated without toggling through white modes, a lockout mode, and a battery life indicator. There have been some reports of quality and battery life issues, but Princeton Tec claims they were fixed in 2018 with an upgrade from 205 to 420 lumens. The Vizz Tactical adds blue, green, and infrared options, but the upgrade may not be worth it. It’s worth noting that older 205-lumen versions of the Vizz may still be available at a lower price, but they are not recommended due to the quality issues.
Streamlight Argo: Priced at $30, is well-reviewed but is designed for throwing light a long distance, sacrificing battery life and flood lights for up-close work.
Streamlight Double Clutch Rechargeable: Priced at $47, is a top contender due to its mix of rechargeable and disposable battery options. However, its lack of a red light prevents it from being the winning choice. It offers a brightness of 125 lumens and a battery life of 18 hours. The large face cap can be twisted to operate the lamp, making it suitable for use with gloves on. It is well-reviewed as a work-oriented headlamp.
Streamlight Enduro Pro: Priced at $25, is the upgraded version of the $15 Enduro. It adds red or green night light modes and improved battery life, although the numbers are still weaker compared to the competition.
Streamlight Septor: Priced at $28, is similar to the Streamlight Trident but with a different arrangement of LEDs for a flood light. It has a higher brightness at 120 lumens compared to the Trident’s 80 lumens but reaches only half the distance. It has a similar weight to the 5.5 oz Trident, which is approximately 40% heavier than its competitors.
Streamlight Twin-Task Rechargeable: Priced at $58, offers a decent brightness of 375 lumens and a range of up to 121 meters (397 ft). However, at its price point, there are better alternatives available that include features like AAA battery backup, lockout mode, and red light, which the Twin-Task lacks.
ZebraLight H53Fw: Priced at $59, is known for making quality products with great light output and battery life. However, their product lines can be complicated, and many affordable models lack features like red light modes and adjustable spot vs. flood white modes. The H53Fw uses a single AA battery and offers a mix of flood and spot modes but does not have a red light option.
Best Spare or Budget Headlamp Under $25
Best Value-for-Money Option: Energizer Vision HD+
In the under-$25 tier, it can be challenging to find high-quality options, as there are many knockoffs and cheap products that aren’t worth purchasing. However, there are a few good options worth considering.
The $15 Energizer Vision HD+ is a solid choice in this price range. Energizer is a reputable company, and this headlamp offers the right features.
The $20 Energizer Vision HD+ Focus is an upgraded version of the previous model. It features dual control buttons, allowing you to turn the red light on and off without toggling through the white lights. It also adds a “focus” feature, allowing you to control the beam’s distance and width.
The $20 Petzl Tikkina is another great option, especially if you plan to use Petzl headlamps as your main gear. It is compatible with Petzl’s $30 Hybrid CORE battery system, allowing you to share the same USB-rechargeable battery pack across different Petzl models. The main drawback of the Tikkina is the lack of red night vision lights, which are offered by the Energizer models and some cheaper alternatives. However, it compensates for that by providing a significantly longer battery life (220 hours) compared to the Vision HD+ models (50 hours) at the expense of lower brightness (150 lumens vs. 250 lumens). This tradeoff can be worthwhile in the spare/budget class.
Best Budget-Friendly Option: Vitchelo V800
Best Compatibility: Petzl Tikkina
Black Diamond Astro: Priced at $30, the Astro from Black Diamond lacks a red light feature. Black Diamond is known for its popularity, particularly in the $30-60 price range. However, when it comes to budget options, the Astro’s sibling, the Spotf, is a better choice from Black Diamond.
Black Diamond Spot: Available at $22, the Black Diamond Spot is a remarkable headlamp with a brightness of 200 lumens. It operates on two AAAs and offers features like a lockout mode, IPX8 waterproof rating, and a red night vision light. These features are absent in the similarly-priced Astro. However, the Petzl Tikkina is a preferable option in this price range.
Energizer Vision HD+: Priced at $15, the Energizer Vision HD+ series consists of various models, starting from the base Vision at $9, up to the Vision Ultra in the $30-40 range. The HD+, HD+ Focus, and Ultra models are worth considering as they provide added features such as IPX4 weather resistance, as well as red, spot, and flood light modes.
Energizer Vision HD+ Focus: With a price tag of $20, the HD+ Focus model by Energizer introduces a focusing feature along with multiple light modes. However, it has received criticism for its cheap plastic focus buttons. Energizer’s top-tier model, the Ultra, offers a higher output of 400 lumens and an additional green light night vision mode. Nevertheless, considering the price and output level, it may be more advisable to opt for well-known outdoor brands like Black Diamond or Petzl.
Foxelli MX20: Although the Foxelli MX20 appears to be a decent budget headlamp, there have been reports of electrical leakage, which can drain the batteries when stored. This drawback makes it unsuitable for prepping needs.
Ledlenser NEO: The Ledlenser NEO is a compact and basic headlamp designed for casual activities like early morning jogging. It is only available in vibrant colors and features a distinct blinking red light on the rear headband.
Petzl Tikkina: Priced at $20, the well-reviewed Petzl Tikkina would have been the winner in its category if it included a red light mode and two separate control buttons, allowing easy access to night vision without toggling through white light modes. Additionally, it is the only affordable headlamp compatible with rechargeable batteries, specifically Petzl’s $30 CORE Hybrid, which is worth considering if you already use CORE Petzls.
Princeton Tec Byte: The Princeton Tec Byte offers a red light mode that can be accessed without toggling through white light modes. It also features a tilting mechanism and a lockout mode. While it seems to be a decent light with essential features in a lightweight design, its overall brightness and battery life struggle to compete with other models in the $20 price range. Furthermore, there have been higher than average reports of quality issues, despite the brand’s overall reputation.
Streamlight Enduro: Priced at $21, the Streamlight Enduro is one of the more affordable options from Streamlight. However, it has received numerous complaints regarding quality and durability issues, particularly concerning the battery compartment.
Streamlight Bandit: The Streamlight Bandit, priced at $23, is a rechargeable headlamp, but it uses an integrated battery that cannot be replaced or swapped with disposable backups. It offers a wide flood beam, which is one of its notable features.
Streamlight Trident: Available at $28 and lacking a red light feature, the Streamlight Trident includes a low battery indicator and a top strap. The Green Trident model incorporates a green LED for night vision, but overall, this product falls short compared to other competitors.
UCO Beta: Priced at $22, UCO’s approach with the Beta headlamp seems to prioritize aesthetics over functionality. The inclusion of an unnecessary wood inlay adds unnecessary weight and compromises essential features like a red light mode. Additionally, the brightness and beam distance of this 3xAAA battery lamp fall short considering its price range of over $25.
Vitchelo V800: With a price tag of $15, the Vitchelo V800 offers a separate red light mode that can be activated independently from the white modes. It features a 45-degree hinge for adjustable positioning. While some reviewers praise its value for the price, others have conflicting opinions. However, it’s important to note that the V800 sacrifices light quality to achieve longer distances, making it less suitable for close-range applications.
Best Ultralight or Compact Headlamps for EDC
Best Overall: Petzl e+Lite
The Petzl Bindi is priced at $45 and offers a rechargeable option with a 50-hour battery life at 5 lumens and 3 hours at 100 lumens. It also includes a red light mode and lockout mode. The Bindi is designed for frequent use and is suitable for those who don’t mind recharging it often.
The Petzl e+Lite is available for $30 and operates on a CR2032 battery. It features a red light mode and lockout mode. Despite its incredibly small size and weight, comparable to a normal BIC lighter, the e+Lite is still considered a viable option due to its other features. While it uses an uncommon battery, Petzl claims that the battery can be stored for up to 10 years before replacement. Additionally, it has an emergency whistle built into the strap.
The Petzl Zipka, priced at $30, stands out with its unique design featuring retractable cables instead of a standard fabric or elastic headband. However, it is worth considering whether the cables are necessary since the lamp portion remains the same size and weight, and regular headbands are not excessively bulky to pack. The Zipka operates on 3 AAA batteries, but it is also compatible with Petzl’s Hybrid CORE rechargeable battery system. Unlike many other models on our list, the Zipka does not have a hinged or tiltable design.
Upgrade and Specialty Options
Flashlight enthusiasts who are extremely dedicated may not be interested in the mainstream models mentioned earlier. However, for most preppers, affordability, ease of purchase, and user-friendliness are important factors that enthusiast-level products often lack.
While we cannot currently provide top choices for upgrade picks without conducting further testing, we can suggest several options for those seeking an exceptionally bright light or specific features, such as a removable battery pack for extended use in extremely cold environments.
One recent trend in headlamps is the introduction of “auto dynamic lighting,” which utilizes sensors to assess the surrounding conditions and automatically adjust the brightness level of the light. This technology is marketed under various names, such as “OptiSense Technology.” However, we believe that this feature is not worth the additional cost, as there are numerous reports indicating its immaturity and failure in adverse weather conditions like snow or rain.
The Black Diamond Icon is a powerful option with 700 lumens, a long battery life of 175 hours, and a range of 100 meters. It is IPX67 waterproof and features a battery life meter, top strap, and removable battery pack for use in severe cold. However, there have been reports of durability issues, although it does come with a 3-year warranty.
The Coast FL85 offers a high-quality output of 615 lumens on 3 AAA batteries. It has a twist-to-focus spot vs. flood beam, a separate button for the red light mode, and a rechargeable version available. However, the rechargeable model is more expensive at $125.
The Ledlenser SEO 7R features the “ambient light detection” feature, which adjusts the brightness automatically. However, if you dislike this trend, it may not be the best choice for you.
The Petzl Reactik series, including the Reactik+ with Bluetooth and app support, may not be suitable for prepping headlamps if you prefer simpler options without additional connectivity features.
The Princeton Tec Apex, Apex Extreme, and Apex Pro are high-output lamps with long battery life. The detachable battery pack is useful in extremely cold environments, but they lack lockout and red light modes.
The Streamlight ProTac HL Rechargeable offers a very bright 1,000 lumens but has limited light modes and reports of quality issues with charging. The use of physical red and flood lenses may not be ideal if you dislike that design.
The SureFire Minimus is a high-quality and rugged option, but it is expensive and may be overkill for most preppers. It uses CR123 batteries and has a detachable red filter, which may not be convenient for everyone.
The ZebraLight H600w Mk IV is a highly regarded headlamp among flashlight enthusiasts, but it may be more complex and expensive than necessary for the majority of preppers, lacking a red light mode and requiring an additional rechargeable battery.
In conclusion, a dependable headlamp is an essential tool for every prepper. The headlamps listed above are some of the best options available, offering a balance of performance, durability, and versatility. Remember to consider factors such as battery life, water resistance, and lighting modes when selecting the ideal headlamp for your prepping needs.