Choosing the right headlamp may seem a bit overwhelming with all the options on the market today. Every hardware store, outdoor outfitter and sporting goods shop seem to be selling all kinds of different headlamps. Which one is the right one? Are all headlamps equal or are there better and worse options out there? The answer to those questions is yes and yes. Not every headlamp is created equal. There are very good headlamps and very bad headlamps. You can spend as little as $5 and as much as $500 for a single headlamp. So, how are you supposed to know which one to pick?
Ideally, you want to fit yourself into a comfort area between price, function, value, performance and usability. The first thing you should determine is the activity you are using your headlamp for. If you are just camping, a simpler headlamp may be right for you. If you are biking at night, fishing in the dark, caving, hunting or other more intensive & specific activities, you may want to be a little more selective with your headlamp. Check out this infographic we made below for 7 essential tips to consider when choosing a headlamp. Check out the specs of each headlamp and compare notes between manufacturers. You may be surprised as to what you find out and how different headlamps really are from eachother.
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1. Check Lumen Output
A lumen is defined as “the amount of light emitted from per second in a unit solid angle by a uniform point of one candle intensity” (As per Merriam Webster definition). Each headlamp advertises a certain number of lumens output. The higher the lumens, the brighter and stronger the light should be. Know your activity and determine whether this factor is important to you. If you are just camping, lumens may not be as important to you as someone that is night fishing, or hunting in low light situations.
2. Consider Beam Type and Beam Distance
Headlamps can come with a variety of beam types. For example, flood or spot beams. Also, short and long beam distances. Once you know what you will be using your headlamp for, check the manufacturer specifications for available beam types and distances. If you are moving at fast speeds such as a biker would, you may want to consider a longer beam distance. On the other hand, hunter’s may want the ability to change from a flood style beam to a spotted, targeted beam type.
3. What Is The Battery Life and Power Handling?
Most manufacturers will post the average battery life of their headlamps. Don’t be fooled by some of those high numbers though. Be sure to check the average battery life at both full power and reduced power usage. The numbers can be drastically different. If you are an ultrarunner and could be away for days at a time without an option to replace batteries, a portable recharger can be handy. Also, there are portable solar powered rechargers available for these types of treks. As for power handling, typically there are rechargeable and non-rechargeable options for headlamps.
4. Check Runtime of the Headlamp
There are two factors to consider when looking at runtime. First, there is battery life run time as listed above. Check both the low power and high power average run time of your headlamp. Secondly, you will want to consider the lifetime average runtime of the headlamp. Normally, manufactueres will list how many hours the bulbs are designed to last. These days, they may last many thousands of hours but if you are spending good money on a headlamp, consider this nonetheless.
5. Water Resistance & Waterproof Capability
First of all, once you determine what you are doing, find out whether there will be any water involved. Headlamps can range from completely non water resistant, to water resistant and finally to outright waterproof. Each headlamp manufacturer (at least the reputable ones) should provide an IPX rating that will usually range from IPX4 – IPX8. The higher the number, the more water and dust proof the headlamp will be. If this is important to your activity (like fishing for example), take a look at the IPX rating to determine what is right for you.
6. Size, Dimensions & Weight
Weight matters. On first thought, you may think that a few ounces here and there doesn’t really make a difference. Wait until you get out there and need to put a heavy headlamp on your head for a 12 hour hike. You’d wish you would have gotten something else. Again, determine your activity and then go from there. Running, hiking and anything that may put a headlamp on your head for more than a few hours at a time, try to get something light and comfortable without sacrificing function and features. On the other hand, certain work headlamps may be heavier than your average headlamp for recreational use. These headlamps tend to be designed for a specific purpose and utility, so workers may not be too concerned whether a headlamp is a few ounces heavier than another.
7. Settings, Modes & Features
Each headlamp is different and comes with specific features for different uses. Some things to look for are whether the headlamp can change brightness levels to save on battery and if they have a red or green light mode. These are 2 of the most basic features that I would look for in any headlamp and wouldn’t consider one that didn’t have those options. Additionally, some headlamps can come with battery level indicators, multiple sources of light and fine tuning of the beam types of your bulbs. These are more extensive features butcould be useful depending on what you are doing and where you will be.
For more detailed information feel free to browse around our site. We have compiled a list of our 20 favorite headlamps for a variety of different uses and functions. Feel free to share this infographic and check out our Best Headlamp Ultimate Buyer’s Guide and Top 20 Picks: