If there’s one thing you can count on when you’re camping, eventually it’s going to get dark. Flashlights, lanterns and campfires are perfectly fine solutions, but if you ask us, a headlamp brings together the best of all the worlds. Slip on a headlamp and instantly get hands-free lighting that travels with you and can be directed to illuminate your entire field of view.
It doesn’t take a lot to sell most campers on why a headlamp is a necessity rather than a luxury, but like most tools, a few tips will help you get the most from your camping headlamp. After all, not all headlamps are created equal! Keep reading for five tips you can use to pick out the best headlamp for camping, hiking, and backpacking.
#1 Keep your headlamp lightweight
A few ounces here and there don’t really make much of a difference for handheld flashlights, but when it comes to an accessory you’ll be wearing on your head like a headlamp, every ounce matters. There’s always going to be a balancing act between weight and performance, but there are a few things you can look out for to maximize your comfort.
- For general use around the campsite and tent, opt for a USB rechargeable headlamp with a built-in li-ion battery like the NU25 or NU32. These headlamps are designed to straddle the line between running and jogging and outdoor adventures like camping and offer a super lightweight body that you can comfortably wear for hours on end.
- If your headlamp does have removable batteries, look for options that minimize the impact of the weight. This means having a top strap to balance the weight on your head like the HC65, or for multi-battery headlamps, a separate battery pack that shifts the entire load to your hip or backpack like the HC70.
#2 Look for a red LED headlamp
Get the most out of your headlamp when you pick one that includes a secondary red light option. Why red lights? The different wavelength is difficult for animal eyes to detect so you won’t spook animals or attract mosquitoes and insects. Red also helps preserve night vision which means you can use it after your eyes have adjusted to the darkness and won’t worry about blurry glare spots that a white light creates.
#3 Use removable batteries for extended usage
If you’re going to be on the trails for long treks, consider a headlamp that uses removable batteries to extend the overall runtime. For headlamps like the HC33 that do not include a built-in charging port, this makes it easy to drop in a fresh 18650 and continue on your way. You’ll add some weight when you carry extra batteries, so plan ahead carefully. You can also conserve battery life by avoiding running your headlamp on the highest modes unless it’s truly necessary. We’ve found that 100-200 lumens of light is plenty for the vast majority of uses.
#4 Pair your rechargeable headlamp with a power bank or solar panel
If your headlamp is USB rechargeable like the NU32 and HC65, add a power bank or solar panel to really get the most runtime out of your gear. Charge your batteries during the day with a solar panel or use the pass-through power option on headlamps like the NU25 with a power bank at night to keep your headlamp running long after the internal battery is depleted.
#5 Low modes reign in small spaces
Sharing a tent with others? Look for a headlamp that either defaults to low mode or can memorize the previously used brightness. As awesome as a 1000 lumen or 1800 lumen headlamp can be for wide open spaces, turning a headlamp that bright on in a tent is just asking for glare spots. With an ultralow mode default or memory mode, getting up in the middle of the night will minimize disturbances for your tentmate.
Find the Best Camping Headlamp for You
Compare camping headlamps below to find exactly what you need for your next adventure.
|Model||LED||Brightness||Throw||Weight||Battery||Built-in Charging?||Secondary Outputs?|
|HA23||CREE XP-G2-S3||250 lumens||61 yards||1.49 oz||2 x AA||No||No|
|NU20||CREE XP-G2-S3||360 lumens||87 yards||1.66 oz||Built-in 600mAh li-ion||Yes||No|
|NU25||CREE XP-G2-S3||360 lumens||88 yards||0.99 oz||Built-in 610mAh li-ion||Yes||High CRI, Red|
|NU32||CREE XP-G3-S3||550 lumens||136 yards||3.51 oz||Built-in 1800mAh li-ion||Yes||High CRI, Red|
|HC33||CREE XHP35 HD||1800 lumens||204 yards||1.81 oz||1x 18650 (>8A)||No||No|
|HC65||CREE XM-L2 U2||1000 lumens||120 yards||2.21 oz||1x 18650||Yes||High CRI, Red|