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Best Backpacking Headlamp

Best Headlamp for Thru Hiking

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This is a gear review about the best headlamps for backpacking in 2023 by BikeHikeSafari.

Whether you’re looking for a backpacking headlamp for thru-hiking, backpacking, or cycling, the ability to see in front of you is imperative. With so many to choose from I narrowed the choice and here is a review of the best headlamps for backpacking.

Best Headlamp for Backpacking 2023:

The Best Backpacking Headlamps for [Currentyear] are:

Best Headlamp – Overall

Petzl Actik Core Review

Petzl Actik Core Headlamo Review

Weight: 2.6 oz / 75 grams
Lumens: 450 Lumens
Battery Type: Rechargeable / 3AAA
> Super Bright 450 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 headlamp that I use and the best headlamp for backpacking on the market at the moment. A combination of super bright lighting power with a spot and flood light for good beam distance and a USB rechargeable battery make this a great choice.

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 2023.

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Best Lightweight Headlamp

Nitecore NU25 Headlamp Review

Nitecore NU25 Headlamp Review

Weight: 1 oz / 28 grams
Lumens: 360 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

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 80 plus yards in front of you, which is great for night hiking.

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.

It’s also impact and water-resistant.

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Best Headlamp for Hiking

PETZL Tikka Headlamp Review


Weight: 2.9 oz / 82 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. 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 82 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.

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Best Budget Headlamp

Foxelli Headlamp Review

Weight: 3.3 oz / 94 grams (inc batteries)
Lumens:165 Lumens
Battery Type: 3AAA
> Bestseller with online retailers
> Wide range of color options
> 3 light settings
> Best Budget Headlamp
> Water resistant IPX5
> Might not be as durable as one of the name brands

This is the cheapest headlamp in this review but cheap does not equal crap. Despite the price, this budget headlamp works well at a fraction of the cost of the name brands. Want the best budget headlamp? Keep reading.

First up, this headlamp comes in several different color options, including some rather bold and funky designs.

There are 3 brightness settings, low, medium, and high. and on high it’s super bright and can light up to 50 meters of beam distance. It also has a red light to preserve your night vision, and an SOS mode, which is exactly what you want in an emergency.

Its water resistance rating comes in at a very nice IPX5. It can take a splash of water but not be submerged in water.

It takes three batteries, which come included in the box, so you can start using it as soon as the box arrives. The batteries can power it for a full 45 hours when on the low setting.

Great Lifetime warranty and 100% money-back guarantee.

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Best Tactical Headlamp



Weight: 2.9 oz / 82 grams
Lumens: 300 Lumens
Battery Type: 3AAA or Rechargeable
> Choose from red or white light
> 5-year guarantee
> Cool camo or dull colors
> The CORE rechargeable battery is sold separately

Another popular headlamp from Petzl. If you’re looking for stealth in your headlamp, then this would be the one to go for.

Essentially the only difference between the Tikka and the Tactikka is the choice of color, camo, matt black, or desert.

If you are hiking, fishing, or hunting at night then the red light and dull colors might be a better choice. And the bright reflective headband on the Tikka is replaced with the dull non reflective colors on the Tactikka..

When you need more than the red light there are 3 light settings, low, medium, high, and a strobe setting. The high setting puts out three hundred lumens.

Just like the Petzl Tikka, the Tactikka includes 3 batteries but get the CORE rechargeable battery. It charges quickly and has more than enough battery life for a week-long trip in the backcountry.

Petzl has a great 5 years warranty. This is the best tactical Headlamp for fishing and hunting.

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Best Headlamp for Kids

GearLight S500 LED Headlamp Review

Weight: 3 oz / 85 grams (inc Batteries)
Lumens: 200 Lumens
Battery Type: 3AAA
> Light can pivot 45 degrees
> Includes red & strobe lighting
> Works in the rain and snow
> Great price
> Batteries are not included, but at this price, it’s not a big deal.

Another ridiculously cheap budget headlamp that is worth a look.

I can see why it’s so popular. It has a lot going for it. It has very high water resistance, and not only will it continue to work in the rain, but it will even work in the snow! It’s also shock resistant so it can take a drop.

There are 7 different lighting modes, including red to preserve your night vision, and strobe light for emergencies.

The lightweight strap is very comfortable and can be adjusted to fit adults and children. This is one of the best headlamps for kids.

These headlamps are very affordable price. In fact, you can buy these in a pack of two, and it will still cost less than one higher-end headlamp. These are the best budget headlamps for kids.

They run on 3 AAA batteries, which are very easy to get hold of. And on a full charge, it has a battery life of around 45 hours of burn time on the low setting. The battery life shortens to 3 hours on the highest setting.

Comes with a 1-year warranty which is not as good as all the other lightweight headlamps in this review.

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Best Super Bright Headlamp

SLONIK 1000 Lumen Rechargeable Headlamp

Weight: 4.1 oz / 116 grams
Lumens: 1000 Lumens
Battery Type: Rechargeable
> Max brightness 1000 lumens!
> Swivels 90 degrees
> Includes hooks for hard hat
> Several levels of brightness
> 2-year warranty
> IPX8 waterproof and dustproof
> 1000 lumens is too much for backpacking

This is the brightest headlamp for backpacking in this review. It is a very bright 1000 lumens of light which can give up to 60 ft / 18 m of bright beam distance.

For most people this is overkill but I like it. Cavers will like the helmet hooks and people on a budget will like the cost.

For people who venture into wet canyons, this is one of the best headlamps for canyoning as it is waterproof with a IPX8 rating.

The Slonik headlamp has several settings including 100, 75, 50, 25, 10, and 5 %. It also swivels up to 90 degrees.

There is a lithium ion rechargeable battery that takes 2 hours to reach a full charge, and then it can run for up to 8 hours in low mode or 3.5 hours in the brightest mode. Considering the power of the lighting it has good battery life. It comes with a 2-year warranty.

Overall, this is one of the best headlamps of 2023.

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Best Headlamp Beam Distance

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
> Headlamp doesn’t swivel
> 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.

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Best Waterproof Headlamp

Black Diamond Storm 400 Review

Black Diamond Storm 400 Review

Weight: 4.2 oz / 119 grams
Lumens: 400 Lumens
Battery Type: 4AAA
> IPX67 waterproof and dustproof
> Has adjustable brightness
> White, red, blue & green light
> 5 hour battery life on the high setting
> Headlamp doesn’t swivel
> Premium product at a premium price
> A bit heavier than the other headlamps due to the extra battery

The Black Diamond Storm 400 is the best waterproof headlamp in 2023. With an IPX67 rating that means it is waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes and completely waterproof.

It also has one of the best light beams as it comes with both a wide and narrow beam.

Most headlamps offer red light in addition to white light, but this also offers the choice of green or blue light. I can see the advantage of blue light, which is a great color for nighttime but I’m not so sure I will use green very often. The Black Diamond Headlamp also has a strobe light if you need a bright light in an emergency.

The Black Diamond Storm uses 4 AAA batteries which is more than most of the other headlamps that use 3. This makes it heavier at 4.2 oz / 119 grams. The extra battery increases the battery life of the headlamp to 5 hours in the high mode.

The Black Diamond Storm 400 is the best waterproof headlamp for backpacking 2023 with a very long run time.

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Best Thru Hiking Headlamp

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

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 best ultralight headlamp for thru-hiking 2023.

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Best Minimalist Headlamp

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.

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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 Spot 350 – The Black Diamond Spot 350 is super bright and has great battery life but like all Black Diamond there is no rechargeable option.
  • Black Diamond Spot 400 – The Black Diamond Spot 400 has great battery life and as with all Black Diamond there is no rechargeable option.
  • Black Diamond Spot Lite 200 – The Black Diamond Spot Lite 200 is a great option for an ultralight headlamp for backpacking.
  • Petzl Tikkina – The Petzl Tikkina is a good lightweight and simple headlamp with a 250 lumens of lighting.
  • Knog Bilby 400 – The Knog Bilby 400 has a unique design that is rechargeable via a USB port, waterproof, and built into a silicone strap. Review coming soon.
Best Headlamps for Backpacking. Hiking through the Desert at nighttime using a bright hiking headlamp

Headlamp Buyer’s Guide

As promised, here’s your buying guide.

I would say that any one of the Hiking Headlamps I’ve shown you would be an excellent choice.

Just scan through the pros and cons in the reviews and you’ll be sure to find one that best meets your needs.


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.

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.

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.


A lightweight headlamp is 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.


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 rechargeable lithium-ion 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 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.


The Best Hiking Headlamps of 2023 are:

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many lumens are good 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.

What headlamps do the military use?

If you’re looking for a tactical headlamp, then I recommend the number pick the PETZL, TACTIKKA Stealth Headlamp with 300 Lumens…
As the name suggests, it’s a great headlamp to have at hand when stealth is required, perhaps while hunting or fishing. And it’s quite unique with its hybrid setup, which means you can use it with regular batteries if the rechargeable battery runs out of charge.

What is the best headlamp on the market?

Here are THE best backpacking headlamps on the market.
> Best Overall Backpacking Headlamp is the Petzl Actik Core 450
> The Best ultralight headlamp is the PETZL Bindi.
> The Best Waterproof Headlamp is the Black Diamond Storm.
>The Best Budget Headlamp for backpacking is the Nitecore NU25 (rechargable) and the Foxelli Headlamp (AAA Batteries)
>The Best Rechargeable Headlamp is the Petzl Actik Core 450 and Petzl Bindi followed by the Petzl Tikka with the added CORE rechargeable battery then the Nitecore NU25 (rechargable)
> The Best Super Bright Headlamp is the SLONIK 1000

Best Headlamps for Backpacking

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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.

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