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Best Headlamps for Backpacking 2021

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This a backpacking gear review of the best headlamps for backpacking in 2021.

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 chose from I narrowed the choice and here is a review of the best headlamps for backpacking.

Best Backpacking Headlamps 2021:

The Best Backpacking Headlamps for [Currentyear] are:


Lightweight Headlamps Review


Best Backpacking Headlamp Overall

Petzl Actik Core

Pros:
> Massive 450 Lumens
> Rechargeable battery
> Good battery life
Cons:
> Premium Price
> Only water resistant not waterproof

This is the current headlamp that I use and the best backpacking headlamp on the market at the moment. A combination of super bright lighting power and a 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.

The rechargeable battery is included in the purchase price of this headlamp and is very easy to recharge in the field with a battery pack that almost every hiker carries with them nowadays.

Overall, this is the Best Backpacking Headlamp in the market in 2021.

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Nitecore NU25 Headlamp Review

Pros:
> Phenomenal customer ratings
> Choose from red or white light
> High CRI light for seeing color
> Impact and water resistant
> Rechargeable battery
Cons:
> Premium product at a premium price

With 360 lumens of light this headlamp is superbright.

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 throws light out to 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 help 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 rechargeable and it’s compatible with any USB power source. Plus there’s a handy low battery power indicator.

It’s also impact and water resistant.

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PETZL Tikka Headlamp Review

Pros:
> 300 lumens
> Water resistant IPX4
> Use AAA or rechargeable batteries
> Very lengthy 5-year guarantee
Cons:
> The CORE rechargeable battery is sold separately but 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. 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 night vision. 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 3 AAA batteries already included but it is better to spend some extra money and get the battery pack called the CORE rechargeable battery. It charges in about 3 hours and saves spending loads of money on batteries in the long run. Just get the CORE rechargeable battery!

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 to spare.

It’s also very lightweight at just 82 grams. It has water resistance rating of IPX4 which means it is water resistant but not waterproof. Don’t drop it in water.

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

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Foxelli Headlamp Flashlight

Pros:
> Bestseller with online retailers
> Wide range of color options
> 3 light settings
> Best Budget Headlamp
> Water resistant IPX5
Cons:
> 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 the distance ahead for up to 50 meters. It also has a red light to preserve your night vision, and an SOS mode, which is exactly what you want in an emergency.

It’s 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 AAA 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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PETZL TACTIKKA Review

Pros:
> Choose from red or white light
> Use AAA or rechargeable batteries
> 5-year guarantee
> Cool camo or dull colors
Cons:
> 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 refective 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 and high and a strobe setting. The high setting puts out 300 lumens.

We love that it comes with 3 AAA batteries already included, which means you can start using it the day the box arrives. And it comes with mounting accessories so you can attach the headlamp to a helmet.

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

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

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GearLight S500 LED Headlamp Review

Pros:
> Light can pivot 45 degrees
> Includes red & strobe lighting
> Works in the rain and snow
> Great price
> Best Headlamp for children
Cons:
> Batteries not included, but at this price it’s not a big deal.
1 year warranty

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. Did I mention 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 run time of around 45 hours on the low setting. This 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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SLONIK 1000 Lumen Rechargeable CREE LED Headlamp

Pros:
> Max brightness 1000 lumens!
> Swivels 90 degrees
> Includes hooks for hard hat
> Several levels of brightness
> 2-year warranty
> IPX8 waterproof and dustproof
Cons:
> 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.

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 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.

It comes with a 2-year warranty.

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Black Diamond Storm 400 Review

Pros:
> IPX67 waterproof and dustproof
> Has adjustable brightness
> White, red, blue & green light
> 5 hours of use on the high setting
Cons:
> 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 2021. 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 the green very often. It also has a strobe light if needed 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 4oz (110grams). The extra battery increases the life of the headlamp to 5 hours in the high mode.

The Black Diamond Storm 400 is the best waterproof headlamp for backpacking 2021.

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PETZL Bindi Review

Pros:
> Ultra compact and lightweight
> 3 different white light settings and a red light
> Rechargeable battery
> Can also be worn around neck
> 3-year guarantee
Cons:
> 200 lumens of light
Expensive

This is the best ultralight headlamp for thru hikers or backpackers that want a super lightweight headlamp.

The Petzl Bindi weighs 1.2oz (35grams). Not only is it super lightweight but the strap is also ventilated, 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 night vision.

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 2021.

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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 great battery life but like all Black Diamond there is no rechargeable option.
  • Knog Bilby 400 – The Knog Bilby 400 has a unique design that is rechargeable via a USB port, is waterproof and built into a silicone strap. Review coming soon.

Lightweight Headlamps Buyer’s Guide

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

As promised, here’s your buying guide.

I would say that any one of the Lightweight 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.


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.

We also talk about lumens in our FAQ section later on.


Comfort: Headband Size, Weight and Material

Ideally, you want your headlamp to be so lightweight and comfortable that you could even forget you’re wearing it. 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.


Battery

You can either get yourself a rechargeable headlamp, or one that takes 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 headlamp, you should look into how long the battery lasts on a full charge before you buy.

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. That way you can easily pack spares.


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 we would hands down recommend our 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

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

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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 Sydney, Australia.

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