Best Ultralight Headlamp for Backpacking and Thru-Hiking 2024

Best Ultralight Headlamp for Backpacking

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.

Download the Ultralight Hiking Gear List

Add your name and email to download the Ultralight Hiking Gear List

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Sharing is caring!

This is a gear review about the best headlamps for backpacking in 2024.

Whether you’re looking for a backpacking headlamp for thru-hiking, backpacking, or camping, the ability to see in front of you is imperative. Most hikers will use the headlamp for around camp at night to provide light for cooking, eating, and that night time visit to the bathroom. Many hikers, including the author, have extensively used headlamps for night hiking.

With so many to choose from I narrowed the choice and here is a review of the best headlamps for backpacking.

How We Tested

All the Headlamps in this review have been extensively evaluated and researched by the expert author who has many years of experience in Thru-Hiking, Backpacking, and Hiking. Some of the Headlamps were purchased and some were supplied by the manufacturer. They have been rigorously tested by the author in all kinds of weather. The research, testing, and experience of the author have combined to come up with the lightest headlamps, most waterproof headlamps, and which ones are the brightest headlamps for 2024. Read the Review Policy for further details.

Follow along on Social Media

Best Backpacking Headlamp 2024:

The Best Backpacking Headlamps for [Currentyear] are:

Best Headlamp – Overall

Petzl Actik Core

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

Weight: 3.1 oz / 88 grams
Lumens: 600 Lumens
Battery Type: Rechargeable / 3AAA
> Super Bright 600 Lumens om High Lighting Mode
> Rechargeable battery pack included
> Spot and Flood Light
> Good battery life
> Premium Price
> Only water resistant not waterproof

The Petzl Actik Core is the current rechargeable headlamp that I use and the best headlamp for backpacking on the market at the moment. I loved and used the previous model and recently purchased the new model that has upgraded from 450 lumens to 600 lumens. There is a combination of super bright lighting power with a spot and flood light for good beam distance and a USB rechargeable battery makes this a great choice.

When I used this headlamp I liked the fit on my head and the spread of the beam when hiking.

Although this is not the cheapest backpacking headlamp in this review the cost is representative of what you get for your money. My only wish was that this hiking headlamp was completely waterproof instead of splashproof.

The Petzl Actik Core battery is rechargeable and included in the purchase price of this headlamp. It is very easy to recharge in the field with a battery pack and micro USB. Even without recharging it has good battery life or burn time.

Overall, the Petzl Actik Core is the Best Backpacking Headlamp on the market in 2024.

Compare Prices:

Best Ultralight Headlamp

Nitecore NU25 Headlamp Review

Nitecore NU25 Headlamp Review

Weight: 1.6 oz / 45 grams
Lumens: 400 Lumens
Battery Type: Rechargeable
> Phenomenal customer ratings
> Choose from red or white light
> High CRI light for seeing color
> Impact and water-resistant
> Rechargeable battery
> Premium product at a premium price

The Nitecore NU25 comes in two models. The NU25 with the wide elastic headband and the NU25UL (ultralight) with dual elastic cords that are super narrow making this the lightest headlamp for backpacking and thru-hiking. And with 360 lumens of light, this headlamp is super bright.

This light also offers high-CRI lighting, which basically means that you can more easily identify an object’s color when the light is on it. Something that would normally be very difficult to do in the dark.

The main light has a beam distance of about 70 plus meters in front of you, which is great for night hiking. It’s also impact and water-resistant.

In addition to the main light, there are also 2 other lights to choose from – an auxiliary white light with the high CRI, or an auxiliary red light. The Red light is great for around camp, reading maps at night, or inside huts at night as it helps you to better retain your night vision.

And when attached to the adjustable headband, it still weighs less than 2 ounces, making it very comfortable to wear.

You don’t have to bother with remembering to pack batteries because the headlamp is completely USB rechargeable and it’s compatible with any USB power source so can be charged in the field with a battery pack. Plus there’s a handy low battery power indicator.

When it comes to battery life just be aware that it will not last as long as some other rechargeable headlamps, namely 2 hours and 40 minutes on the high setting but more than 10 hours on the low seting.

Overall, if you are into ultralight thru-hiking and backpacking and want the lightest headlamp which still is bright enough for night hiking then look no further than this one. While I use and prefer the Petzl Actik Core there is no denying the quality and lighter weight of the Nitecore NU25UL. And it is very reasonably priced.

Compare Prices:

Best Headlamp for Hiking

PETZL Tikka Headlamp Review


Weight: 3.4 oz / 96 grams
Lumens: 300 Lumens
Battery Type: 3AAA or Rechargeable
> Water resistant IPX4
> Use AAA or rechargeable batteries
> Very lengthy 5-year guarantee
> The CORE rechargeable battery is sold separately but is very highly recommended

I used the Petzl Tikka headlamp for 6 years as my go-to headlamp when thru-hiking and bicycle touring.

This lightweight headlamp has been with me on the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Te Araroa Trail. It has also been part of my Bicycle Touring Gear List as I cycle from Alaska to Ecuador.

I’m a big fan of this headlamp but over the last couple of years many other manufacturers have improved their products while the plain old Tikka stayed the same. Thats not a bad thing, why fix something that isn’t broken

. There are 3 lighting levels to choose from low, medium, and high. At the high level, it can throw out a very generous 300 lumens, which is bright enough for most situations.

There’s also a red light which can be used instead of the white to help preserve your vision at night. Great for around camp so as not to annoy other campers.

One good thing about this ultralight headlamp is the choice of colors. And the headband features a phosphorescent reflector which can really help you to find it in the dark.

The Petzl Tikka comes with batteries already included but it is better to spend some extra money and get the battery pack called the rechargeable core battery. It charges in about 3 hours and saves spending loads of money on batteries in the long run.

The Petzl Tikka runs up to 120 hours on a full charge but that is on the low light setting. It is a lot less on full power but still enough for a week long hiking trip with lots of battery life to spare.

It’s also very lightweight at just 3.4 oz / 96 grams. It has a water resistance rating of IPX4 which means it is water-resistant but not waterproof. Don’t drop it in the water.

Got to love the 5 years warranty, just in case.

Compare Prices:

Best Waterproof Headlamp

Black Diamond Storm 500 R

Black Diamond Storm 500 R Headlamp

Weight: 3.5 oz / 99 grams
Lumens: 500 Lumens
Battery Type: Rechargeable

> Great battery life of up to 350 hours
> Awesome rechargeable 2400 mAh battery
> Very Waterproof
> A little heavier than some of the other headlamps

For a long time the Black Diamond Storm range of headlamps have been the best waterproof headlamps. The updated Storm headlamps now feature the option of rechargable batteries which have moved them from good headlamps to great rechargeable headlamps.

When it comes to the best headlamp overall there is little to separate the Petzl and the Black Diamond, either is a good choice. While the Storm 500 R has a better beam and longer battery life thanks to the 2400 mAh capacity. It is slightly heavier than the Petzl and more than twice the weight of the Nitecore.

The Storm series of headlamps that also come is a 400 lumens version which is a little less bright but stil suitable for backpacking and camping. And is still the best in class waterproof headlamp with the IPX 67 rating which allows it to be submerged for 30 minutes to a depth of 1 meter. If you are caving, canyoning or hiking in wet environments then this is the best option for you.

Overall, the Black Diamond Storm 500 R is an awesome headlamp best suited to hikers, campers and backpackers wanting a relaible and bright headlamp that is waterproof.

Compare Prices:

Best Flashlight Headlamp

Acebeam H16 Headlamp

Acebeam H16 Headlamp

Weight: 2.5 oz / 71 grams
Lumens: 650 Lumens
Battery Type: Rechargeable or 1xAA
> Ultralight
> Wide spread beam
> Removeable Lamp top turn into a flashlight
> Very Bright 650 lumens
> Water resistant IPX68
> New to market so unknown durability in the long term

I recently found out about the Acebeam H16 headlamp. It is not only a headlamp but the light can be removed from the band and used as a flashlight. Add to that some very impressive specifications and the brand new headlamp could be a winner.

I recently tested this headlamp on series of night hikes and camping trips and was very impressed with how it performed. It has a somewhat unique design that allows the lamp to be removed from the band to be used as a flashlight. While it is a little fiddly to remove and put back onto the band it add another layer of functionality that all the other headlamps in this review cannnot match.

The Acebeam H16 is very bright with 650 lumens on the high setting which will last for only 1 hour and 45 minutes and can penetrate up to 86 meters thanks to the super wide spread of the beam. When I tested this for a long period I found the lamp to get quite a bit hotter than some of the other models in this review. Not a bad thing, it is testiment to just how bright it is. On the lower setting of 100 lumens or 30 lumens it is a much more functional beam and has super long battery life.

Its water resistance rating comes in at an impressive IPX68, making this the most waterproof headlamp in this review, even more so than the Black Diamond Storm. And it comes in at a good price, making it competitive as a budget headlamp.

It comes with an impressive rechargeable 950 mAh battery and can also use 1 x AA battery if you choose. There is also a comfortable headband with a strip of non slip silicone and reflective strips to assist with being seen during the night.

Overall, there is so much to like about this Acebeam H16 Headlamp. It is the most waterproof headlamp, has a super bright 650 lumens lamp, and is one of the lightest headlamps in this review. A great option but why is it not ranked higher? It is brand new to the market and I would like to keep testing it for a couple more months to test the reliability. Not unlike the situation that faced Nitecore a couple of years ago where it took a while for people to trust the quality of the brand. I the next year or so I suspect the Acebeam H16 could be the best ultralight headlamp!

Compare Prices:

Brightest Headlamp

Acebeam H50 Headlamp

Weight: 5 oz / 143 grams
Lumens: 2000 Lumens
Battery Type: Rechargeable
> Max brightness 2000 lumens
> Good battery life
> Very solid and durable design
> Spot beam and flood beam up to 141 meters
> IPX68 waterproof and dustproof
> 2000 lumens is too much for most people
> A little heavy at 5 oz

After being super impressed with the Acebeam H16 I decided to try one of the brightest headlamps in the world being the Acebeam H50. With 2000 lumens of light it is so bright that if you shined this into someones eyes at night they would not be able to see much for a while. Great if an intruder comes to your camp in the middle of the night.

When I tested this headlamp I liked how solid it is. Made with ultralight metal and the same high quality band as the H16 mentioned above. I also noticed that it did feel a bit heavier than all the other headlamos at 5 oz / 143 grams. This is to be expected for a 2000 lumens headlamp that has a high capacity 3100 mAh battery which has the highest charge of any on this review.

It comes with 3 lamps that offer spotlight and floodlight beams, and all three lamps can be used at the same time for a super bright beam distance of 141 meters.

For people who venture into wet canyons or caves, this headlamp is waterproof to 2 meters with a IPX8 rating.

Overall, the Acebeam H50 is one the brightest headlamp available. With 2000 lumens of light it is super bright, and if that is not enough for you it there is a 4000 lumens model. With a good blend of being lightweight, super bright and good battery life, this is the brightest headlamp for 2024.

Compare Prices:

More Headlamps to consider

Fenix HM50R V2.0 Rechargeable Headlamp

Fenix HM50R V2.0 Rechargeable Headlamp Review

Weight: 2.7 oz / 78 grams
Lumens: 700 Lumens
Battery Type: Rechargeable
> IPX67 waterproof to 2 meters and dustproof
> Beam distance of 115 meters / 377 feet
> White and red light
> Up to 42 hours burn time on low setting
> Premium product at a premium price
> A bit heavier than the other headlamps due to the extra battery

The Fenix HM50R V2.0 Rechargeable Headlamp has a very long beam distance of 115 meters / 377 feet when used in Turbo Mode. The Turbo Mode pumps out 700 lumens and lasts for one hour. When the mode is switched to low it will last 42 hours. So a combination of a good rechargeable battery and a strong beam with high lumens make this a good choice.

It is also housed in a watertight compartment sealed by an o ring and has an IPX68 rating.

Overall, the Fenix HM50R V2.0 Rechargeable Headlamp has a very good beam distance for anyone heading out at night that may need it. It is also completely waterproof to 2 meters.

Compare Prices:

PETZL Bindi Review

Petzl Bindi review

Weight: 1.2 oz / 35 grams
Lumens: 200
Battery Type: Rechargeable
> Ultra-compact and lightweight
> 3 different white light settings and a red light
> Rechargeable battery
> Can also be worn around the neck
> 3-year guarantee
> 200 lumens of light
> Not cheap

This is the best ultralight headlamp for thru-hiking or backpacking. This is a super lightweight headlamp.

The Petzl Bindi weighs 1.2oz (35grams). Not only is it super lightweight but the strap is also ventilated, and comfortable and it wicks away sweat.

The white light it provides comes with three settings: Proximity for a focused beam up close, Distance for a wider, more diffuse beam, and Movement, for a medium setting.

The white light can also be tilted, which means you can wear it around your neck rather than on your head if you prefer.

It also boasts a red light mode too, which is perfect for not disturbing people and for preserving your vision at night.

It’s 100% rechargeable and comes with its own micro USB cable for charging. And when you’re ready to store it away you can lock it up to prevent damage.

It comes with a 3-year warranty.

This is the good ultralight headlamp for thru-hiking 2024.

Compare Prices:

Petzl e+lite

Petzl e+lite review

Weight: 0.9 oz / 26 grams
Lumens: 40
Battery Type: 2 lithium CR2032 batteries

> Ultralight
> Compact
> IPX 7 waterproof
> Not very bright

The Petzl e+lite is a minimalist headlamp that is an ultralight and very small headlamp. It has a very low 40 lumens output that is good enough for emergency use or for someone who wants the lightest headlamp only. The light output is not enough for hiking and really only good enough for close up things around camp or reading.

Overall, this is a minimalist headlamp for emergency use only, but having said that it weighs very little and could be easily thrown into any backpack or emergency kit in the car or at home.

Compare Prices:

The author testing the best headlamps for backpacking at sunset in nature
Testing the best headlamps for backpacking

Other Worthy Considerations

Here are some of the Headlamps that are not in this review but are still super awesome. Some are being reviewed at the moment and will be added to the list above very soon.

  • Black Diamond Astro 300 – The Black Diamond Astro 300 is a good budget headlamp for those on a tight budget.
  • Black Diamond Spot 400 – The Black Diamond Spot 400 has great battery life and as with all Black Diamond headlamps, there is no rechargeable option.

Headlamp Comparison Table

BrandWeightLumensWaterproofBatery LifeBeam Length Max
PETZL Actik Core3.1 oz600IPX4 (splashproof)High: 2 hrs.; medium: 7 hrs.; low: 100 hrs.115m
Nitecore NU25UL1.6400IP66 (waterproof)High: 2.75 hrs.; medium: 4.75 hrs.; low: 10.25 hrs.70m
PETZL Tikka3.4 oz350IPX4 (splashproof)High: 2 hrs.; medium: 12 hrs.; low: 110 hrs.70m
Black Diamond Storm 500 R3.5 oz500IPX67 (waterproof)High: 7 hrs.; medium: 19 hrs.; low: 350 hrs.120m
Acebeam H162.5650IPX68 (waterproof)High: 1.75 hrs.; medium: 8 hrs.; low: 58 hrs.86m
Acebeam H505 oz2000IPX68 (waterproof)High: 4 hrs.; medium: 30 hrs.; low: 16 days.141m
Fenix HM50R V2.02.75 oz700IPX68 (waterproof)High: 1 hrs.; medium: 8 hrs.; low: 42 hrs.115m
PETZL Bindi1.2 oz200IPX4 (splashproof)High: 2 hrs.; medium: 3 hrs.; low: 23 hrs.36m
Petzl e+lite0.9 oz40IPX67 (waterproof)High: 70 hrs.Battery Life
Source: Manufacturers


The are several features that you should look for in a good headlamp, such as:

  • Light Output and Brightness
  • Lighting Modes
  • Comfort
  • Headband Material
  • Weight
  • Waterproofness – IP Rating
  • Battery

Light Output and Brightness

Light output is measured in lumens, and the greater the number of lumens, the further you will be able to see in front of you (in white light).

But it’s important to note that the number of lumens does not necessarily describe how bright the light is going to be. You also need to consider how focused the light is. A strongly focused beam looks far brighter than a more diffuse beam.

You might decide that at times you will want a wide beam of light, and other times want a more focused beam. In which case you should look for a headlamp with an adjustable beam.

You may also like the sound of a beam that you can swivel so that it points forward as you walk, or points downward as you check out a map or GPS device. But these sorts of headlamps aren’t always as lightweight.

Best Headlamps for Backpacking. Hiking through the Desert at nighttime using a bright hiking headlamp

Lighting Modes

There are 4 main lighting modes for headlamps that are used for hiking and backpacking:


The spotlight is the main light used when hiking at night time. It allows you to see far into the distance.


The floodlight feature is a nice wide beam that is best suited for all closeup things in the tent or while cooking


Many hiking headlamps have a Red Light Feature which can be used to allow the hiker to still be able to use their night vision. This feature is great around camp or while star-watching at night. Also, it tends not to annoy others as much as the bright white light.


The strobe lighting mode is a handy feature that most of us hope we never need to use in an emergency. The pulsing strobe light will make things a little easier for search and rescue to locate lost or injured hikers.

Testing the flood beam and spot beam of backpacking headlamps
A good wide beam is usually better than a spot beam when backpacking

Comfort: Headband Size and Material

Ideally, you want your headlamp to be so lightweight and comfortable that you could even forget you’re wearing it and have your hands free. That’s a given.

But you also need to think about the size. Headlamps are mainly aimed at adults which is understandable. But even adults can differ in head size. The best kids headlamps usually have a smaller headband and are usually made with bright colors.

So if in any doubt about size and fitting, it’s best to get a headlamp with an adjustable strap. Especially if you intend to take turns on wearing it.

And for comfort, it’s best to get a headlamp that will feel secure, such as an elastic one, but won’t chafe your skin.

The Petzl Actik Core being used by a man to demonstrate how comfortable the headband is
The Petzl Actik Core is super comfortable


Lightweight headlamps are preferable to a heavy headlamp. All of the headlamps in this review are suitable for hiking, backpacking or thru hiking.

A camping headlamp doesn’t need to be ultralight but anyone heading off on a multi-month thru-hike might want to look at the weight as a primary feature.

Waterproofness – IP Rating

A headlamp is something that is primarily used outdoors, so having some form of weather resistance is important.

The international standard used to measure weather resistance is known as the IPX rating. For electronics, in this case headlamps, we will look at the base standard of IPX 4, IPX 7 and IPX 8.

IPX 4 Rating

The IPX 4 rating for headlamps refers to something that is splash resistant, shock resistant, and dust proof. Essentially all the headlamps on this list is rated to at least this level and can withstand rain and snow.

IPX 7 Rating

The IPX 7 Rating has a higher level of weather resistance. Essentially it is waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

IPX 8 Rating

The IPX 8 Rating is even more waterproof than IPX 7 as it can be rated deeper than 1 meter of water.

Splashproof and waterproof Headlamps for Thru Hiking being tested
Headlamps should be at least splash proof


You can either get yourself a headlamp with rechargeable batteries, or one that takes non-rechargeable batteries.

Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Batteries

Apologies if you feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but it’s important so I’ll say it. If you go for a lithium ion rechargeable battery in your headlamp, you should look into how long the battery lasts, also known as burn time on a full charge before you buy. Most are USB rechargeable lithium batteries so can be topped up on the trail via a backpacking battery power bank.

AAA batteries

But if you know you aren’t going to be able to charge it up, perhaps on a camping trip, then you may decide it will be easier to work with a headlamp that takes AA or AAA batteries. One big advantage of AAA batteries is that they are available anywhere in the world.

testing 3 types of rechargeable batteries for headlamps
Rechargeable batteries are the best option for headlamps

Follow along on Social Media


The Best Hiking Headlamps of 2024 are:

Another one of the Best Backpacking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many lumens are good for headlamps?

Most of the time, 100 to 150 lumens is enough for most kinds of activity.
But, if you’re trying to find your way back to someplace in the middle of the night, then you would be better off with something twice as bright, at about 300 lumens.
You can get brighter if you prefer.

Best Headlamps for Backpacking

BikeHikeSafari Gear Review Process

The author, Brad McCartney from BikeHikeSafari is a small independent adventurer and outdoor gear tester who owns and runs

BikeHikeSafari is not part of a large blog network and is proudly independent. All reviews on this site are independent and honest gear reviews of outdoor products by the author.

The author, Brad McCartney is a very experienced triple crown thru-hiker, adventurer, and bike tourer having spent 1000s of nights sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag (Read more). He was a manager of an outdoor retail store and is very experienced in what is important when using and testing gear for reviews like this.

BikeHikeSafari will never receive any money for reviews and they do not accept sponsored reviews on this website. All the comments about the gear reviews are from the author based on his years of experience. Hope this independent review was helpful for you.

Sharing is caring!

Photo of author
About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

Download the Ultralight Hiking Gear List

Add your name and email to download the Ultralight Hiking Gear List

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.