Hiking and backpacking are great to get away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life and just enjoy nature. You need nothing more than the pack on your back, and a light to see your surroundings. We love hiking and backpacking. But you still need to look at night, and while a regular flashlight is handy to have, a headlamp is always your best bet. Lanterns can be messy as they need fuel and a torch can drop in the dark while you are out in the bush. Well, do what you need to do. If you lose that light and it goes out, well good luck finding your flashlight before dawn.
Headlamps are now the best options for the hiker and backpacker, and they are so packed with various features that there is one out there for everyone!
So what are the options we need in a headlamp for a backpacker/hiker? Let’s go down the list of the most important, shall we?
This is the most important feature for any headlamp. Will the battery die if you are out in the bush for over two hours? Do you need to take spare batteries with you? A headlamp needs to work for a long time before you have to replace and charge your batteries. If you are heading to remote locations, check out headlamps that can switch out the batteries with spares as power banks or solar chargers can get heavy. You should seek a headlamp with an average battery life of 10 to 15 hours.
The great news is that many headlamps will adapt according to ambient light sources around you, giving you a more optimized burn time and a longer battery life. If you prefer continuous lighting, you may experience a quicker drain on the batteries. But constant lighting can offer the most steady and brightest beam for your use.
Beam distance and Brightness
When looking at your next headlamp, consider the range and the brightness of your beam. You should check out lamps that have a beam distance of 100 meters and at least 300 Lumens of power. Less power may not light up the trail enough for you on a night.
More, a mixed light headlamp will be your best bet on the trail, as it will light an area better than with just a flood or spotlight alone. Several lamps that will fit this bill and several models even include red light options to help you keep your night vision while on the trail or in a camp.
The best lamp is useless if it can’t take a beating. You will need at least a rating of IPX6 which means a hard rainstorm will not affect the lamp, will survive a drop of at least one meter, and is dustproof. The higher the IPX rating, the more rugged the headlamp. IPX8 means that the headlamp will survive a dunking in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
Just because a headlamp is lighter doesn’t mean it’s better. But when you are hiking for hours with a full pack of gear, you may want the light on your head to be as light as possible. Too much weight or an uneven distribution of the load can hurt your neck, head and cause overall discomfort while backpacking. The last thing you want is your body aching from the lamp on your head being ill weighted. I might pitch mine in the nearest river if that happened! Aim for something around 200 to 250 grams as the optimal weight and look for a battery pack that will attach either to the back of the head or your waist.
This should be at the tail end of your list. There are lamps on the market right now that comes with neat features to help improve battery life, etc. Many headlamps are now “smart” meaning they have apps available to customize your lamp to your activities and needs. Red light allows for night vision, and lock features will keep your device turned off in transit to prevent battery drain.
Now we have discussed the items you should look for in the perfect headset, let’s move on to our top five picks for the ideal backpacking headlamp. These headlamps are in no particular order, and you should choose based on the features you need the most.
PETZL REACTIK +
The Reactik + is one of my favorite headlamps. With its lighter weight and REACTIVE lighting, this little lamp packs a punch with its 300 Lumens of power. REACTIVE lighting changes according to the ambient light around you, which makes for longer run time and less eye strain. With the added feature of the Bluetooth® technology, you can set the lamp to your lighting specifications and burn time needed. It is rechargeable, and battery packs are available to swap in as needed.
PETZL Ultra Rush
The PETZL Ultra Rush is heavier than I care for in a headlamp, but if you are looking for one of the most powerful constant light headlamps for backpacking, this is it.
It is super powerful with a battery life of up to eight hours. But what it lacks in battery life, it makes up for in a light. With its six LED lights, it will punch through the darkest night and throw a beam of up to 760 Lumens over 170 meters. The constant light will make sure that the light will stay at the same level of brightness from beginning to the end.
Black Diamond Icon
This lamp from Black Diamond is another lamp that is on the heavy side, so it’s not for minimalist backpackers. The Icon makes up for the weight of being nearly indestructible. Waterproof, dustproof and drop proof, it throws a beam of up to 760 Lumens over a wide field. The Icon boasts three types of night vision: Blue, green and red to cover an entire spectrum of visual needs. If night vision is what you are looking for, Black Diamond’s Icon is perfect.
PETZL NAO 575
Petzl keeps appearing on this list because their lamps are amazing. The Nao 575 is lightweight, easy to use and comes packed with features such as Bluetooth® capability. With a 750 Lumens lamp and REACTIVE lighting, this lamp will keep going for hours on end. My favorite feature on this ultralight lamp is the rear red light which allows other people and vehicles to see you on the trail. I am a lover of safety features and this little add on the best feature of this lamp.
Another simple to use the rechargeable device, the FENIX HL60R can last up to 100 hours on a single charge of its battery. It is lightweight at 121 grams and has a unique aluminum alloy casing that gives it an insane IPX8 rating. It is submergible in up to 2 meters of water and is perfect for all types of weather, making it a fantastic choice for winter backpackers.
So there you have it, five options of headlamps for every backpacker or hiker out there at every price point, and with different features. Get out there and enjoy your adventuring!