Have you ever gone camping or hiking at night, and then walked into a big rock and later find yourself lying on the ground after a big fall? I have. Or have you ever knocked a bunch of stuff over in your campsite when it’s dark at night? Well, I have a pretty simple solution – headlights.
LED headlights are relatively inexpensive tools that many campers and hikers use. It is mostly popular among hikers and people who enjoy spelunking, but it is an essential you should have in your camping kit.
Finding the best LED headlight may be a bit difficult because there is so much available on the market, but I’m here to help you out with that.
Reasons Why You Need A Led Headlight
If you’re still a bit skeptical about if you truly need headlights, here are just a few reasons why headlights can be useful.
What’s Type Of Beam That You Need?
In general, there are two beam types for headlights. Which beam type you select will depend on what you will be using your headlight for.
- Flood (wide): floodlights will shine a light on a big area but cannot reach a very long distance. They are useful for general tasks while camping and close-up tasks such as reading.
- Spot (focused/narrow): spotlights will shine a light over long distances. They are best for navigating the trail in the dark.
Some headlamps are adjustable or will have both of these settings available in one product. These are the most versatile and in my opinion, the best to get since you will be able to use it for different tasks and adjust it to your needs without having to buy another headlight.
Luckily, most headlamps will have a variety of different settings already so you won’t have to worry too much.
Performance Specs and What To Look For
You will usually hear three things in relation to headlights:
- Beam distance
- Battery run-time
- (BONUS) Durability
The first three aspects are the key performance specifications on every headlight. I’ve added durability as a bonus to the criteria, to help you decide what exact product you are going to get. These are the four things you need to consider before choosing your headlights, so let’s go through them quickly.
1. Beam Distance
Beam distance depends on the brightness of the light as well as the ability of the lens found in the headlight to focus that light and turn it into a beam. Some products will have a different beam distance for the high-output mode and the low close-up mode.
What you need to look at is the maximum beam distance, which is more useful than looking at the beam distances for all the other light settings. The maximum beam distance will give you an idea of how far forward your headlights can reach.
The thing about beam distance is that it will only really reach the maximum distance for the first few minutes or the first hour of use while the batteries are still fresh. The longer you use your headlights, the more battery will be used and the weaker it will get.
2. Battery Run-Time
Battery run-time is an important aspect to consider because you want your headlight to last the duration of your entire hike or entire camping trip (or whatever you need it for), without having to bring a whole bundle of new and replacement batteries with you.
Battery run-time varies per product. You need to know exactly what you are using it for so you can make a good choice. Will you only be using it on your hike back to your car when it’s already dark out? Or will you be using it for an entire night hike?
Know how long it will take to hike the trail you are choosing and add a bit of allowance to that. Unless you’re willing to pack a lot of extra batteries, a little planning ahead will go a long way.
NOTE: Be aware that companies often over-exaggerate the battery run-time of their products. Just because it says 8 hours, it will probably only be about 4 to 5 hours in reality. So don’t choose headlights based only on battery run-time.
I honestly think that the Lumens of headlights aren’t extremely important, however, it is a term you will hear all the time. The Lumens output of light is a real measurement that is obtained from a special device that is called an “integrating sphere”.
The integrating sphere measures the total light energy that is emitted from a light device in any direction. In other words, it measures the total light output or how bright the light is.
What you need to know is that even if two headlights will have the exact same lumens, the quality of light can still differ greatly. This is because the light quality is affected by other aspects such as the beam width and the quality of the lens in the headlights.
So while it is quite useful to know the total output of light in the headlight, don’t let the Lumens be the sole factor that you will depend on.
As with basically every camping gear you own, durability is an important factor. You want your headlight to be strong, durable, and withstand whatever you throw at it. Well, hopefully, you aren’t planning on throwing it around too much.
Headlights are built to be pretty durable already, but as a bonus, some headlights might even be water-resistant or made of rubber or have some sort of protective case over it. Ideally, you want to get the most durable headlight you can find. But if you’re not planning on using it for climbing or spelunking, you don’t really need a super heavy-duty headlight.
Top 5 Best LED Headlines For Camping Available In The Market
Now that we’ve talked about some of the basics of a headlight, let’s go into the best part – the top five picks of headlights.
#1 Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
This first headlight comes from Black Diamond – a company that makes a lot of different headlights. The Black Diamond Spot Headlamp is a sleek, low-profile designed headlamp with three light settings: triple power LED spotlight, single power LED white light, and single power LED red light, emitting 200 Lumens on maximum settings.
The red night-vision light has a proximity mode and a strobe setting, which you can turn on without having to cycle through the white light mode. The beam distance of this headlamp is around 10 to 80 meters.
It makes use of three AAA batteries with a battery-level meter to indicate remaining battery life. The battery can last around 80 to 200 hours depending on the setting you use.
The Black Diamond Spot is also waterproof up to 1 meter and weighs 3.2oz.
#2 Petzl e+Lite
The Petzl e+LITE is a very small and lightweight headlamp that is best for ultralight camping or backpacking weighing only 26 grams or about 0.9 oz.
The Petzl features 50 Lumens on maximum settings and has both a white and red light that can be used at night or for emergency situations.
It has a beam distance of about 28 meters. The battery is a lithium button-type (CR2032) and the can last around 9 to 12 hours, depending on the usage.
#3 Vitchelo V800
The Vitchelo V800 is a headlamp that is best for casual use. It comes in a number of different colors to match your style: black, blue, green, orange, white, and yellow.
It has both a red and white setting that is accessible with different buttons, which can be very helpful. The headlamp has six levels of lighting to choose from and the beam distance on the high setting reaches about 110 meters through its 168 Lumens.
The right button activates the white light and has four settings: high, medium, low, and strobe. The left button activates the red light and has two settings: solid and strobe light.
It runs on three AAA batteries and can last for around 120 hours. The Vitchelo V800 is also water resistant.
#4 Fenix HP25R
The Fenix HP25R is a headlight for those times you simply need a really, really bright light. With a staggering 1,000 Lumens, this headlamp has a beam distance of 153 meters.
It has a white spotlight and white floodlight with separate controls for both. It also has a red light, which you can access through cycling the floodlight button.
It makes use of one USB rechargeable Li-ion battery or two CR123A batteries – both of which are included in the package. It has a battery run-time of about 1.8 hours.
It comes in a really cool looking black and orange design.
#5 Princeton Tec Apex
Finally, we head to the most expensive headlight on out list – the Princeton Tec Apex. There are a few versions and colors available: black, black with green LED lights, black with red LED lights, olive drab, and orange.
At 275 Lumens or 350 Lumens, The Princeton Tec Apex lasts around 150 hours, depending on usage. Its beam distance on high setting reaches about 100 meters. The LEDs come in your choice of red, green, or white and has four brightness levels and an emergency strobe.
It runs on four AA batteries that can either be alkaline, Lithium, or NiHM rechargeable.This headlamp is heavy though, weighing 9.8oz.
And The Winner Is…
For me, the Fenix HP25R is great simply because it is extremely bright. No other product even comes close to its 1,000 Lumens. If you’re looking for something bright, this is the brightest one you can get.
One of the things I love most about this, however, is the fact that it is rechargeable. Sometimes, headlights can go through a lot of batteries but since this is rechargeable, you won’t have to worry so much. All you have to do is plug it and charge it up before you leave.
While the battery run-time is pretty low, I don’t usually need headlights for longer than 1 hour of continuous use. Besides, if your campsite has electricity, you can recharge it.
Yes, it is quite expensive but the quality of the Fenix is worth the price. If you’ve decided to try it out, let me know in the comments what you think about it! I’d love to hear from you.