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Top 5 Best Headlamps for Backpacking

What To Look For When Shopping For Headlamps for Camping, Hiking, and Backpacking

A backpacker with a bright headlamp uses it to illuminate him boiling a pot of water outside his tent under the bright stars of the Milky Way

Photo Credit: Woody Kelly


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A headlamp is an essential item that everyone should own - whether you’re an enthusiastic and experienced traveler, or someone who just likes to go camping or hiking once in a while.

A headlamp is the best way to illuminate an area when it's dark, while keeping your hands free for other applications. That's why it is ideal to bring one when going hiking, camping, and on similar adventures - no need to be constantly holding a flashlight once the sun goes down.

Choosing a suitable headlamp for your adventures can be somewhat of a challenge. The market is flooded with so many products that you’ll need to know which features to give precedence to, depending on your adventures of choice.

Here we highlight some of the most important features to look for when shopping for a headlamp, as well as our recommendations for the top 5 headlamps for backpacking. This simple guide will help you find the best headlamp for your next adventure.

A man uses his headlamp to look out over a lake underneath the stars, deep in the middle of the wilderness

Photo Credit: Nick Fisher

Factors To Consider When Buying A Headlamp

Buying a high-quality headlamp with the right features for your needs is no easy feat. You need to do a lot of research and read as many reviews as possible to find out which one suits you best.

Here are some of the main features you need to look for in a headlamp.

Water-Resistance (IP Rating)

Water resistance and IP ratings are vital when choosing a headlamp for your outdoor activities or adventures.

You never know when the weather might turn against you when out in the wilderness, so always be prepared with a headlamp you can use even in bad weather conditions. You don’t want your only source of light to short out if it starts raining during your hike!

Headlamps, like many electronic devices, have their ability to resist water and other sources of damage graded on the IPX scale. The low end of the IPX rating, IP0, means the headlamp is no water resistance at all. IPX8 is at the higher end, which means that the headlamp will work fine in inclement weather, or even for up to 30 minutes when submerged underwater!

A minimum of IPX4 should be sufficient to handle most rain and snow conditions.

Light Output

The light output is another essential feature of any headlamp. It's what people tend to look for first when buying a headlamp for outdoor activities.

Camping, hiking, and many other outdoor activities involve moving along in the darkness, which means that you need to have a very bright light when heading out into the wilderness.

Many headlamps can adjust the brightness by setting the lumens output, ranging from 100 up to 1000 lumens.

A headlamp with a lumens output between 100 and 300 should be enough for basic outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, and backpacking.

Beam Distance

The beam distance is also as crucial as the lumens output - you need to ensure your surrounding area will be sufficiently lit up by the brightness of your headlamp, especially while out hiking, camping, or backpacking.

There is no point in having a bright headlamp if it doesn't brighten up a large enough area for you to see the path ahead!

Some headlamps offer a feature that switches between a concentrated beam designed to illuminate the trail ahead, versus a wider beam that spreads light out which might be better for outdoor applications such as camping and hiking.

Typically, a beam distance of about 360 feet is ideal for hikers, campers, and backpackers.


Weight is also a crucial factor in a headlamp. Hikers, campers, and backpackers usually carry many things on their backs. They want to take only the essentials, as well as any emergency items with them on their adventures.

Since they already have a load on their backs, they are constantly looking for ways to pack lighter to facilitate their movement.The last thing a hiker or backpacker wants is a bulky headlamp taking up room in their pack, let alone fixed on their forehead!

The ideal headlamp weight for a backpacker or hiker ranges between 2 and 4 oz. The lighter, the better because you won't feel its weight on your forehead.


Going on an outdoor adventure means you will be out without essential facilities - such as a steady supply of electricity!

Therefore, you need to consider your headlamp battery options carefully. Going for a headlamp with both rechargeable and AAA battery insertion options is best. That way, you can switch to using disposable batteries in the event your headlamp runs out of charge.

Always remember to keep extra batteries on hand so you can use them with your headlamp whenever required!

Ability To Switch To Low-Light Red Coloring

Headlamps often come equipped with different types of light modes that suit various situations. These light modes include strobe, red light, high (spotlight), and low (floodlight).

When using a headlamp for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and backpacking, it's a good idea to look for one that can switch to low-light red coloring.

Red light uses very little battery, preserves your night vision, and doesn't cause your pupils to dilate at night. Therefore, it's best to switch on the low-light red coloring late at night at your campsite, or whenever your headlamp runs low on power.

Red light also doesn't tend to attract as many insects as white lights do.

a backpackers stands on a crag on a cliffside, using his headlamp to look down into the thick fog at the side of the mountain below

Photo Credit: Isaac Davis

Top 5 Headlamps For Backpacking

Here are our recommendations for the best headlamps for backpacking based on the primary factors of water resistance, light output, batteries, and weight.

an image of the Fenix HL60R Headlamp

Weight: 6.1 oz.

Maximum lumens: 950 (turbo), 400 (high)

Batteries: Rechargeable

The Fenix HL60R headlamp is the ideal headlamp for serious brightness and durability.

The Fenix HL60R is an all-around headlamp suitable for many applications beyond camping and hiking, including search and rescue operations, hunting, and night biking. This headlamp projects a 381-foot beam, which is ideal for such outdoor activities.

The HL60R has an IPX8 waterproof rating that allows it to be submersible in up to 2 feet of water without any reduction in brightness.

This headlamp has five brightness levels, a USB rechargeable battery, a red-light mode, and a streamlined build.

An image of the Black Diamond Spot 400 headlamp

Weight: 2.7 oz.

Maximum lumens: 400

Batteries: AAA / Rechargeable

The Black Diamond Spot 400 is also a great all-around headlamp option with a slim profile that is easy to operate. It comes in two versions; the 400-R with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and the 400, which requires a separate purchase of batteries.

This headlamp is exceptionally lightweight, weighing a mere 2.7 oz. - even with batteries! It has an IPX8 waterproof rating that makes it resistant to any weather issues you may encounter along the trail.

It has a soft proximity LED and red light that is ideal for camping.

An image of the Fenix HM50R headlamp

3. Fenix HM50R ($60)

Weight: 4 oz.

Maximum lumens: 500

Batteries: Rechargeable

The Fenix HM50R is perfect for activities requiring a headlamp built to withstand significant abuse, including alpine climbing, high-altitude mountaineering, and backcountry rescue.

This headlamp is dust- and waterproof, with an IPX8 rating. It can submerge in up to 2 meters of water for as long as 30 minutes.

The Fenix HM50R has a solid aluminum casing, and emanates a powerful beam of 500 lumens. It projects a distance of approximately 260 feet.

It is also easy to toggle between settings, and features a reflective headband for increased visibility.

An image of the Black Diamond Onsight 375 Headlamp

Weight: 4.8 oz.

Maximum lumens: 375

Batteries: Rechargeable / AAA

The Black Diamond Onsight 375 is ideal for activities that involve climbing, such as hiking and mountaineering. It offers highly functional beams in two easy-to-toggle modes.

In climbing mode, a light output of 300 lumens can illuminate the area around you, while in route-finder mode, you get a 375-lumen long-distance beam that is ideal for seeing the route ahead.

The Black Diamond Onsight 375 is also easy to use with simple functionality. You can turn on the lamp with the touch of a button, and tap technology on each side enables you to easily switch between modes.

Its IPX7 waterproof rating makes it fully submersible and totally dustproof. It also offers two battery options, AAA and rechargeable - you have the ability to switch modes in event of emergency.

An image of the Petzl Tikkina Headlamp

Weight: 3 oz.

Maximum lumens: 250

Batteries: AAA/ Rechargeable

The Petzl Tikkina is a low-cost, multi-purpose headlamp that can be used for camping or simply for finding things around the house. Its 250-lumen light output from a single white LED makes it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

The Tikkina also has an IPX4 water resistance rating, which makes it possible to use in bad weather conditions.

This headlamp is ideal for camping or nighttime cooking. It has both rechargeable and AAA battery options, which you can switch according to your purpose and preference.

The Tikkina is a budget option with some handy features and an excellent balance of weight, price, and performance.

A man sits on a Hoodoo in southern Utah, using his headlamp to gaze up at the stars above

Photo Credit: Joshua Gresham

Final Thoughts

When buying a headlamp for outdoor activities, there are quite a lot of elements to keep in mind. These are the best headlamps for backpacking, hiking, and camping based on the above-mentioned important factors.

You can choose the ideal headlamp within your budget range based on the points discussed in this article. Some of the main features you need to consider Finding the right balance when buying a headlamp for backpacking between price, light output, beam distance, and water resistance feature is entirely up to you.


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