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The Best Headlamp for Outdoors and Survival

man standing in woods with backpack and headlamp on head

When outfitting a bug out bag, an EDC setup, or even a car glovebox, there is nothing more important than ensuring that you have adequate light. Despite this, light sources are one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of any tactical gear list.

Without light, other tasks become essentially impossible. Flashlights are the common solution, and they certainly have their place. However, many tasks require full dexterity with your hands. For these situations, a survival headlamp is an invaluable resource.

Below is a list of our products being discussed here:

Last update on 2021-09-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Headlamp Reviews

DanForce USB Rechargeable LED Head Lamp

The DanForce is an excellent example of a product that comes very close to perfection but features some surprising oversights. If you prioritize brightness, the DanForce is a unit you should strongly consider. It is rated at almost 1,100 lumens, giving it a truly impressive ability to vanquish the night.

DanForce Headlamp. USB Rechargeable LED Head Lamp. Ultra Bright CREE 1080 Lumen Headlamp Flashlight + Red Light. HeadLamps for Adults, Camping, Outdoors & Hard Hat Light. Zoomable IPX54 Headlight

Another nice inclusion in this model is the red-light mode. Unlike regular light, red-tinted light does not deplete your night vision. Using red light is a technique that has long been used by sailors to read charts without hampering their ability to see otherwise. This is a great feature for camping and a feature that a lot of other companies sadly overlook. One of the largest drawbacks of the DanForce is that it is only water-resistant, not waterproof. They claim it will withstand most moisture and dust intrusion, but a higher level of moisture resistance would have been nice to see. Another sub-optimal aspect of the DanForce is its battery life.

At maximum brightness, the battery is depleted in around four hours. While not a terrible lifespan, it is far from the longest available. Luckily, the DanForce has three different light levels, and it does last longer on lower brightness settings. The relatively short battery life is somewhat surprising given the overall size of the unit.

Mounted at the back of the three-piece strap lies the USB rechargeable battery pack. The weight is well balanced, but this is one of the heavier units reviewed. Overall, the brightness and features are top-notch, but there are also drawbacks to consider.

PROS

  • Brightness
  • Comfort

CONS

  • Weight
  • Battery life
  • Not truly waterproof

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Cobiz Headlamp Flashlight USB Rechargeable

The Cobiz is a package that demonstrates why attention to detail is so crucial in product design. The Cobiz has plenty of superlative features, but also maintains a strict eye towards practicality. In terms of best-in-class performance, you will be hard-pressed to find a brighter lamp. 

Outputting over 6,000 lumens, wearing this head lamp made it easier to forget that it was nighttime. Another key advantage of this model is its fully waterproof certification. Cobiz claims that the unit will withstand even prolonged submersion, which is a fantastic resource for anyone who may work in damp environments. As a bonus, waterproof units also tend to demonstrate a much higher level of dust protection.

The battery life of the Cobiz is not class-leading, but it is more than adequate. Testing showed that the battery tended to maintain maximum brightness for around 4 hours, and significantly longer on lower settings. Given the amount of light this unit can output, coupled with its convenient USB recharging, this is a wholly acceptable result. The Cobiz also features a zoomable lens, an unfortunately oft-overlooked feature. This proved to be one of the most wide-ranging lenses, allowing the light beam to vary between a 180-degree flood lamp to a highly concentrated spot-lamp.

The only notable drawback of the Cobiz is that it is a somewhat heavy lamp, so it may not be ideal for anyone sensitive to having weight on their head. However, given the otherwise stellar performance of this unit, this minor drawback can be easily forgiven.

PROS

  • Incredible brightness
  • Fully waterproof

CONS

  • Slightly heavy
  • Controls take some effort to push

Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp Flashlight

Compared to the other units we have looked at, the Foxelli is a different category of head lamp. While many units seek to maximize brightness or feature count at all costs, the Foxelli instead tries to fulfill a more specific niche. While the Foxelli is far from the brightest light available, its thoughtful design makes it a fantastic option for camping or other light-duty uses.

Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp Flashlight - Super Bright LED Head Lamp for Running, Camping & Work, Lightweight & Comfortable Head Light for Adults & Kids

This model outputs a comparatively paltry 160 lumens, which is a mere fraction of the market leaders. But the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of situations simply don’t require the stadium-light intensity of the larger lamps. For taking a casual hike or working around a dim campsite, the output of the Foxelli is more than sufficient.

The party trick of this lamp is that it traded brightness for battery life. While the energy-demanding LED units of the competition can drain their batteries in under 5 hours, the Foxelli will last an impressive 30 hours on a single USB charge. Thus, you will likely not even have to recharge this unit during a typical outing. This convenience more than makes up for the dimmer output.

Another important advantage of this model is its size. While many of the larger units can quickly become bulky or cumbersome when worn for extended periods, the Foxelli is comparatively tiny. It is easy to forget you are wearing it until you need some extra light. This comfort makes this option the best backpacking headlamp. The Foxelli is not the end-all solution for all situations. But for the right user, it is the perfect option.

PROS

  • Incredible battery life
  • Very light
  • Extremely affordable

CONS

  • Dim
  • Not as durable as some models

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Black Diamond Spot 325

Among the competition, the Black Diamond Spot 325 feels rather anachronistic. This is not to say it is a bad model, but it lacks many of the features that many consider standard in the market today. Before we discuss what the Black Diamond lacks, let’s discuss what it has. This model includes a red light feature that makes it a great option for low-light night use. While not wholly uncommon, this is still a feature that is surprisingly absent in many models.

Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp, Black, One Size

Further, the Black Diamond has variable brightness settings, variable focus, and is a very compact and light unit. Unfortunately, the list of exclusions is fairly long. The largest oversight is that this model is not rechargeable. Instead, the operation requires 2 AAA batteries that only provide 8 hours of battery life. This creates an inconvenient and expensive situation. Regarding the expense, that is another drawback of the Black Diamond.

Despite its relatively paltry feature set, it is the most expensive unit here. The light output of the Black Diamond is a sufficient but not impressive 325 lumens. This is enough for camping or hiking, but more serious tasks may leave you wishing for more light. For camping, the durable case and waterproof design are welcome additions, but may not be enough to overcome the oversights.

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof

CONS

  • Not rechargeable 
  • Not very bright 
  • Expensive

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Nitecore HC60 1000 Lumen USB Rechargeable

Different lamps emphasize different features. Some strive to be lightweight, while some maximize brightness. Here, the primary draw is simple: battery life. The NiteCore HC60 has every feature you would reasonably expect from a unit at this price point.

Nitecore HC60 1000 Lumen USB Rechargeable LED Headlamp, 3400 mAh Rechargeable Battery Plus LumenTac Adapters (White Light)

It has a very nice 1,000-lumen output at maximum brightness, it is USB rechargeable, the beam is adjustable and dimmable, and it is waterproof up to one meter of depth. But beyond all of these nice-but-standard features lies the battery life. In “eco” mode, the battery of this unit will last a staggering 680 hours. That is almost a month of solid use.

Admittedly, achieving that degree of battery life requires running the unit in its lowest setting, which outputs only 1 lumen. However, in many cases, it is better to have any light over none. Past the battery life, the Nitecore is a beautifully built lamp. It is very light for its size and extremely comfortable to wear.

The care and quality that went into building this unit are apparent. Even the best headlamp in the world is useless without a charged battery, and that makes the Nitecore and its seemingly infinite battery life a hard proposition to ignore.

PROS

  • Battery life is staggering
  • Very well-featured
  • Waterproof

CONS

  • Somewhat expensive

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Let’s Take a Look at What Makes the Best Headlamp? 

While any light is better than none, there are still a lot of factors that separate a great head lamp from just an adequate one. Various factors, including rechargeability, battery life, comfort options, and intensity adjustment can transform an average head lamp into a truly indispensable component of your camping or survival setup.

Here are some of the most important aspects to consider when trying to find the best headlamps:

Rechargeability

In the modern days of USB-powered ubiquity, one may assume that every head-mounted light on the market would be rechargeable. Sadly, this is not yet the case. There are still a surprising number of models on the market that still need to be fed a steady stream of expensive AA batteries. This is not only expensive but a frustrating inconvenience. Thus, rechargeability is a must-have feature when looking for the best led headlamp.

A related aspect to consider is whether or not recharging requires a proprietary cord. Some models use a cord that is specific to the unit, meaning that you must always keep the dedicated cord on hand if the lamp is to be of any use. The best models use a standard micro or Type C USB port, allowing you to use a common cell phone charger.

Last update on 2021-09-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Comfort of the Strap

Depending on the task at hand, your trusty lamp may end up on your head for hours on end. Thus, comfort should be a high priority. When buying online, the aspect of comfort can be hard to evaluate given that you normally are not able to try units on before purchase. However, there are still methods to evaluate how comfortable a lamp will be.

Our testing has shown that models that incorporate an over-the-head strap in addition to the around-the-head band tend to reduce pressure points, resulting in a more comfortable long-term wearing experience. Further, look for a model with an adjustable strap, rather than simply being elastic. Often, the fit of the elastic straps is less than ideal, making them irritating during prolonged use.

Battery Life

Even if a lamp is rechargeable, the utility can still be limited if the battery life is insufficient for long uses. Whether you are camping, repairing a car, or going on a hike, you need to find a lamp with endurance to match your own. Luckily, LED technology has progressed at an incredible rate in recent years, allowing a staggering amount of light to be produced while consuming very low amounts of power.

Despite these increases in efficiency, the best led headlamps certainly have more battery life than the less-desirable models. Look for a unit that can last at least eight hours to ensure that you will not be left in the dark. Even longer durations are available and can reduce the inconvenience of frequent recharging.

Maximum Brightness Output

Likely, the first criteria you consider when shopping for an LED headlamp is the maximum brightness. Brightness is measured using a unit called the lumen. A lumen is a standardized measurement that is roughly equal to the light emitted by one small candle.

The maximum brightness of headlamps varies widely, but the top lamps typically emit over 1,000 lumens. This amount of light is equivalent to the amount produced by an 80-watt flood lamp. Some models have light outputs that are significantly greater, but there is a diminishing return after a certain point. Thus, do not put too much focus on this factor. Anything over 1,000 lumens should be sufficient for almost any foreseeable use.

Brightness Adjustability

Given that the obvious focus of an LED headlamp is on the maximum brightness, it may seem odd to mention reducing the brightness as a feature. However, arguably the most important feature for a lamp to have is the ability to turn the brightness down.

There are numerous reasons why having a dimmer light is beneficial. During hiking, for example, bright lights can become a distraction and even frighten nature. While camping, having too bright of a light can be disrespectful to your fellow campers.

If you are working on a project with another person, having too much brightness increases the potential of blinding them. Brightness also impacts battery life. While being able to emulate the sun is a nice feature to have available, it is not always necessary. Thus, being able to turn down the brightness level to conserve battery life is another key benefit.

Some lamps have a dial to adjust the level, while others simply use the power switch as a means of toggling between modes. The best headlamps have at least three brightness levels to allow maximum versatility.

Adjustable Focal Point

This is admittedly a slightly more niche feature, but many lamps incorporate an adjustment to change the focal point of the light. This allows the user to change the light from a wide-spread floodlight mode to a more pointed spotlight setting.

This adjustability can add a lot of versatility to your light. While hiking, for example, a broader beam is typically preferable. In contrast, working on a car or reading a book by the campfire calls for a more focused beam.

Water Proof or Resistant?

In many ways, the entire purpose of a rechargeable headlamp is to prepare you for the unexpected. And whether you like it or not, the unexpected often includes a lot of moisture. If you are trudging through the mud or caught in a rainstorm, the last thing you want to have to worry about is whether your light source is up to the task. Thus, finding a unit that can withstand moisture is an indispensable feature. Moisture protection typically comes in two forms: waterproof and water-resistant.

The former designation indicates a model that is capable of being submerged underwater for at least a short period. In contrast, water-resistant units will withstand the occasional rain or splash but are not designed to be submerged. The specification you require will depend on your specific needs, but the best headlamps tend to feature complete waterproof protection.

Now that we have discussed the features you need to look for why don’t you go ahead and make your purchase of the best headlamp.

Conclusion

Different headlamps are designed to fulfill different goals. Some prioritize brightness, while some strive to be lightweight. However, the mark of the best led headlamp is versatility. The best headlamp flashlight will manage to be the right tool for any situation. 

For that, the winner of this roundup is the Nitecore HC60.

While it is a slightly more expensive model, it combines an impressive set of features with always-ready battery life, making it the unit we’d always reach for to toss into our gear. Whether you need a single lumen to read quietly by your tent, or a sun-emulating torch to brighten the night sky, the Nitecore HC60 is a fantastic option.

Nitecore HC60 1000 Lumen USB Rechargeable LED Headlamp, 3400 mAh Rechargeable Battery Plus LumenTac Adapters (White Light)
  • Incredibly bright 1000 lumen maximum output with five brightness levels produced by a CREE XM-L2 U2 LED
  • Impressive light coverage with 100 degree wide beam, 90 degree vertical rotation and a beam distance of 128 yards
  • Super convenient with built-in USB recharging port and included 3400 mAh rechargeable battery - Offers a runtime of a solid hour in Turbo and up to 680 hours in ultralow
  • Extremely lightweight, weighing less than 5 oz. with battery installed and easy to use with single-button operation and integrated power indicator hidden inside
  • Comes with an included Nitecore brand 3400 mAh rechargeable battery as well as a USB charging cable and LumenTac adapter

Last update on 2021-09-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Matthew Russo
Hey, my name is Matt, an avid outdoorsman, prepper and action taker. If you have found this article informative please feel free to leave a comment below and share it with your friends and family, it would make my day!

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