Best LED Headlamps

Updated May 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

26 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
156 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best LED headlamps

Last Updated May 2019

Headlamps allow you to illuminate directly in front of you while keeping your hands free, making them the perfect tool for outdoor sports or repairs in tricky places. Most modern headlamps use long-lasting LEDs, which provide excellent light and use bulbs that are unlikely to expire any time soon.

The right LED headlamp for you depends on the task at hand or when you will use it most. Running requires a lightweight and comfortable model that can illuminate longer distances. A headlamp for hiking should have excellent battery life and should be sufficiently water resistant. The brightness of a headlamp determines the distance of the beam and how strong it is in foggy or humid weather. Some models have different brightness modes, which can help you to adjust your vision in dark environments since you may not always want the brightest light possible. The brightness of LEDs is measured in lumens, which indicates the overall light output. Brighter isn’t always better, especially if you are using your headlamp in a very dark environment.

An LED headlamp can serve as your backup light or your primary light source, and it’s also a good tool to keep around for emergencies. Models can vary greatly in their design and features, but our buying guide will help you make an informed decision and find the right headlamp for your needs.

LED headlamps can be useful for hunting, spelunking, skiing, kayaking, and many more outdoor activities often done at night.

Key considerations

Lumens

Rather than watts, the brightness of LEDs are measured in lumens, which indicates the total light output of the LEDs. Most headlamps will have somewhere between 200 and 300 lumens, which should be sufficient for most tasks. The brightest LED headlamps offer up to 1,000 lumens or more. While a brighter headlamp may be a tool you need for foggy conditions, this also means the batteries will drain faster.

A brighter LED does not necessarily have farther reach, as some LEDs have a wider beam that distributes the light over a large area. A more focused beam is better suited to tasks like hiking or running, when long-range visibility is a must.

Many manufacturers list the maximum beam distance, which may be as high as 600 feet or more.

Battery life

Take the manufacturer’s claims with a grain of salt. An LED may technically offer over 100 hours of runtime, but it will grow dimmer as its energy depletes. To ensure you purchase an LED headlamp with sufficient power, read to get an idea of the actual amount of time the LED provides decent light.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some headlamps can be detached from the straps, which allows you to use them like a regular flashlight.

Features

LED headlamps vary in their durability, comfort level, and beam modes. You should consider your specific needs to find a headlamp that checks all the boxes without paying extra for features you won’t use.

Weight

A headlamp should rest comfortably on your head without straining your neck or slipping. It should come as no surprise that activities like rock climbing, running, and hiking require the lightest headlamps possible. More powerful headlamps tend to be heavier, while lower-powered headlamps may weigh 2 ounces or less.

Comfort

In addition to the weight of the lamp itself, the material and adjustability of the straps can determine how comfortably a headlamp rests on your head. The best straps are made of soft elastic that keeps the lamp from sliding around. A hat can mitigate an uncomfortable strap if the strap is large enough to fit over it.

Power source

The more powerful the LED, the more frequently the batteries will need replacing. Most headlamps take AA or AAA batteries or watch batteries.

Some LED headlamps may use a rechargeable battery. This offers the advantage of using your headlamp over long periods without having to purchase batteries, though it does run the risk of running out of power when you are far from an outlet or USB port.

Light modes

Many headlamps feature several different light modes, allowing you to adapt to different situations.

Strobe modes are primarily used for signaling and can be helpful when seeking aid in an emergency.

Low, middle, and high brightness modes allow you to save energy when you don’t need the extra light, or give your headlamp a boost when you need it.

Red light mode allows you to see in the dark without blinding yourself. This may seem counterintuitive — you would think a darker environment calls for more light, but if you use a higher brightness setting, your vision will become limited to the area in the beam’s focus, reducing your peripheral vision. Red light mode allows you to see clearly for a short distance while maintaining peripheral vision.

There are two types of red lights: a white light with a red filter, and true red LEDs. Red LEDs are the best option and cause the least strain on your eyes.

Look for models with a red light button or a way to switch to red light without first turning on a blinding white light.

Beam type

While less expensive LED headlamps may only have one beam option, the best models have focused and flood modes.

Focused mode allows you to illuminate a smaller area, often at a greater distance. This is also a good option when you are trying not to disturb those around you.

Flood mode widens the beam to reach a larger area, often at a shorter distance.

The red light feature of many LED headlamps allows you to see in the dark without blinding yourself or others.

Staff
BestReviews

Durability

Water resistance

Many LED headlamps are water resistant or waterproof. This allows you to safely use your headlamp in light to heavy rain. In some cases, you may even be able to submerge your headlamp for short periods. Be sure to check the maximum depth of waterproof headlamps.

Impact resistance

Also known as drop resistance, impact resistance measures the height from which a headlamp can be dropped and survive the fall. Some manufacturers do not list a specific distance. If toughness is a must-have, look for a headlamp with a specific impact resistance distance.

LED headlamp prices

Inexpensive: Basic LED headlamps for $10 to $30 are a good option for a backup light or simple tasks like navigating a campsite at night. Despite the low price, some headlamps in this range offer 1,000 lumen LEDs. Battery life is often short, however, and they often lack features like beam focusing or different light modes.

Mid-range: Mid-range LED headlamps between $30 to $60 may have rechargeable batteries and often have different light modes and focusable beams.

Expensive: For $60 to $120 are the most durable LED headlamps, designed for tasks like rock climbing, skiing, or spelunking. They often boast high-lumen LEDs with high beam distances. In addition, they may be water resistant or waterproof and are often shock resistant.

EXPERT TIP

Most LED headlamps have highly adjustable elastic straps and can fit a range of head sizes, so fit is rarely an issue.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Some LED headlamps are designed to be compatible with bike helmets, spelunking helmets, or hardhats. These often have a third strap that goes over the top of the helmet to prevent the headlamp from slipping.

  • Try not to look at people while you are wearing your headlamp to avoid blinding them with the light, or look for a headlamp that flips up and down so you can easily redirect the beam without having to fumble for the power button.

  • Familiarize yourself with the buttons before you take your headlamp on a long trek. This is particularly important if you will be in cold weather, as the buttons can be difficult to access with gloves on.

Other products we considered

One of the best deals available is the Everbrite 2-Pack Headlamp, which comes with two 30 lumen LED headlamps. While these are not nearly as bright as most headlamps on the market, they work well for simple tasks like reading at night or navigating a dimly lit basement. Another affordable option that comes with significantly brighter LEDs is the CrazyFire LED Headlamp. With 800 lumen LEDs and a waterproof design, this is a great option for running or hiking. The beam distance is relatively short, but it has a variety of light modes and zoomable beam. For intense outdoor sports like rock climbing, hunting, and skiing, consider the Outdoor Pro Gear LED Headlamp Flashlight. With 1,000 lumen LEDs and a long-range focusable beam, this is a tough headlamp that holds up well in dark and foggy conditions.

The brightness of your LED headlamp is important, but beam distance is often the most important factor.

FAQ

Q. Why are LEDs the bulb of choice for headlamps?
A.
LEDs are lightweight, drop resistant, and energy efficient. In addition, they have far longer lifespans. Even if one bulb does fail, nearly all headlamps use several bulbs.

Q. Can sweat damage the LEDs or the battery pack?
A.
It’s possible, but unlikely. If you are concerned about sweat damaging the electronics, look for a water resistant or waterproof model.

Q. Can rechargeable batteries be used in models that accept AA or AAA batteries?
A.
You should check the manufacturer’s specifications, but in most case rechargeable batteries will work.

The team that worked on this review
  • Alvina
    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Production Assistant
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer
  • Vukan
    Vukan
    Post Production Editor

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey