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What’s the best headlamp for 2021?

A reliable headlamp is a useful multi-purpose tool you can use in various situations, from outdoor activities to home repair. Unlike traditional flashlights, headlamps eliminate the need to use your hands, giving you more freedom during tasks. 

Headlamps are available in numerous sizes, styles and power sources to suit your needs. Top headlamps, like the PETZL Actik Core, are lightweight, powerful and sport a variety of convenient features. 

What to know before you buy a headlamp

Headlamp uses

While there isn’t an absolute limit to the practical use of a headlamp, here are a few of the most popular services:

  • Hiking and camping
  • Nighttime running and walking
  • Cycling
  • Spelunking 
  • Car maintenance and repair
  • Home repair
  • Working on hobbies
  • Reading at night
  • As a backup emergency light

Lumen rating

Its lumen rating determines the total brightness of your headlamp. Headlamp lumens can range from approximately 15 to 1000 or more. 

Lower lumen ratings, up to 100, are ideal for camping in a tent at night or for situations where you don’t necessarily need an intense beam of light. 

Headlamps with lumen ratings up to 300 are great mid-range options that work well for nighttime hiking, walking in dark areas and working on home repairs. 

Models with a max lumen rating greater than 300 will offer superior brightness, which can be helpful for cyclists or those who need a larger field of vision. However, the higher the lumens, the more energy your headlamp will use, often decreasing battery life. 


The beam type and beam distance will also play a role in the total brightness you can achieve. Many headlamps feature different beam settings, which include flood and spotlights. 

Floodlights offer a broader and less focused lighting area, which is best for up-close work. Spotlights provide a narrower beam of light that is better for seeing long distances. Most headlamps will state their maximum beam distance. 

Power source

The two primary power sources for headlamps are rechargeable batteries and disposable batteries (lithium or alkaline). You can easily use a USB charger for rechargeable batteries, which will save you money in the long run. Headlamps that run on disposable batteries will require you to replace the batteries, so you will need to carry spares. 

What to look for in a quality headlamp

Light modes

Having a variety of light and brightness settings can come in handy for different situations. Low, medium and high beam settings are standard on many headlamp models. Still, some options will also include a red light setting, which produces less of a blinding effect for others, and strobe effects for emergency signaling. 


Having adjustable light settings is essential, but the ability to reposition the headlamps is also critical, as it allows you to adjust the beam angle to your precise needs. 


Many people use their headlamps outdoors in a wide range of weather and temperature conditions. Choosing a headlamp with both impact resistance and water resistance will ensure that your light won’t quit when you need it most.

Weight and comfort 

Considering that you’ll be wearing this piece of equipment for prolonged periods occasionally, both weight and comfortability are crucial. Runners and hikers will benefit from a lightweight headlamp, so it doesn’t weigh them down. Make sure the strap isn’t too abrasive or uncomfortable when positioned around your head. 

How much you can expect to spend on a headlamp

You can find a decent headlamp for under $30, but most will cost somewhere $35-$120.

Headlamp FAQ

How long do headlamp batteries last?

A. While there is no exact battery lifespan that applies to all headlamps, many models will state their max burn time. Headlamps used on low settings will generally have a much longer burn time than when used at their max settings for extended periods. 

Will sweating while wearing my headlamp damage it?

A. In most cases, no. A majority of headlamps can withstand some moisture. If you know you’ll be doing intense exercise with your headlamp, look for a water-resistant model, ideally with an IPX rating of 4 or higher. 

What’s the best headlamp to buy?

Top headlamp

PETZL Actik Core Headlamp

PETZL Actik Core Headlamp

What you need to know: This is a durable, long-lasting headlight with a rechargeable battery and 350-lumen brightness. 

What you’ll love: It features several different light modes and a reflective band for extra visibility. 

What you should consider: Using the max brightness setting can quickly drain the battery.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry 

Top headlamp for the money

Black Diamond Astro 175 Headlamp

Black Diamond Astro 175 Headlamp

What you need to know: The Astro 175 Headlamp is a budget-friendly option that is perfect for on-the-go adventurers. 

What you’ll love: The 175 lumens are powered by a trio of AAA batteries, and the comfortable head strap is fully adjustable. 

What you should consider: There are not as many settings as some people would like.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

BioLite 330 Headlamp 

BioLite 330 Headlamp 

What you need to know: BioLite has created a sturdy and comfortable headlamp that won’t slide around on your head. 

What you’ll love: With up to 40 hours of burn time per charge, and high lumen output, this option will have you prepared for any situation. 

What you should consider: It is not fully waterproof.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Matthew Young writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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