Many people love headlamp flashlights (or just headlamps as they are widely called), and they have strong opinions about which are the best. These flashlights are widely used in outdoor activities, from adventurous ones like caving, to jogging, hiking, and bicycling, to just walking the dog after dark. You might want one for camping, RVing, or for times when the electricity goes out. Sure, any flashlight is a help at those times, but hands-free can be very useful.
I discovered these flashlights many years ago, when my husband Kelly made himself a Halloween costume with one, but it was much clunkier than the cool LED headlamp flashlights that exist now… Just recently, I rediscovered these things when I wrote an article on this site about good flashlight gifts. I was surprised by the large numbers of strong opinions about the best headlamp flashlights, and my curiosity was piqued. If you are in a hurry, here is a great low-cost one, and here is a very highly ranked all-purpose one.
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How to Choose the Best Headlamp Flashlight for Your Needs
Here are some factors to consider:
- How large an area it illuminates
- Convenience of turning it on and off
- Whether it has a lock function to keep it from accidentally being turned on in a bag
- Convenience of putting it on and off your head
- Water resistant or waterproof?
- How long between charges, partly related to how many brightness settings it has
- How long is the warranty?
As usual, I roamed around the web looking for information. (I was a librarian and some tendencies seem to be ingrained forever.) Here is an article at the outdoor store REI titled Headlamps: How to Choose. One point I picked up from it is that there is something called regulated output, where a flashlight will have about as much light from start to finish on its batteries and then will go dim very, very quickly. People often like the steadiness of the brightness, but having to put in new batteries when it’s dark is less fun.
Headlamp Flashlights: Rechargeable or Not?
If you expect to be using one of these flashlights outside in cold weather, one that takes rechargeable NiMH batteries may operate better in the cold. But these don’t hold their charge as well as regular alkaline ones, so you might want both kinds of batteries, and a headlamp flashlight that uses both, with you.
Rechargeables are good for the environment, but they do take more attention to keeping them charged. If you are used to them, fine. If not, I’d suggest getting something that works on alkalines and on stocking up on alkalines. This is the better arrangement if the electricity is out, as well.
One versatile headlamp flashlight that can use both NiMH and alkaline batteries is the Black Diamond ReVolt, in several colors. It has a power meter so you can see how you are doing on power. (I noticed other sellers charging a good bit more on another page.) More on the Black Diamond brand in a moment.
What People Say are the Best Headlamp Flashlights
Well, people are opinionated about everything, and these devices really bring out loyalties! Here is a link to the best-selling headlamps on Amazon.com, updated every hour. Of course, best selling may mean that some cheap headlamp flashlights may be near the top of the list but not necessarily the best choices for various reasons. Still, this is one good place to start. I did that a little but I mainly surfed the web for other reviews.
One site that I trust is called the Wirecutter, and they do long product examinations. They recommendedthe Black Diamond Spot and when I came across it elsewhere as well, it looked like a top pick. (Off the subject: they link on that page to their article about fake reviews on Amazon with some really useful tips. I used one tip to eliminate a product from this article.)
And here is an article by someone who bought the Spot because of the Wirecutter review and used it for a year and a half. He has interesting things to say about using a headlamp vs a flashlight.
Outdoorgearlab is another site with reviews based on extensive testing, and here is their best headlamp review page, with several tabs and lengthy reviews. They make recommendations for various needs, for example the Petzl Tikkina is their budget suggestion.
Black Diamond Headlamp Flashlights
The Black Diamond company is focused on outdoor activities. Since they started out in 1957, they have expanded into a variety of devices, such as these.
Black Diamond Spot 2016 Headlamp – a top pick by many people around the web
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp — another popular one
Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp — meant for runners, it contains rechargeable battery and comes with a charger and USB cable,
There are other Black Diamond headlamps and that’s a link to all of them at Amazon.
Petzl Headlamp Flashlights
The Petzl company turned up many times as I looked around the web. Here are three of their offerings:
Tikka XP, praised for reliability.
Nao 575 Lumens offers reactive lighting so the bulb goes brighter or dimmer depending on the amount of light around you. (This is a much more expensive unit.)
And here is a link toa list of all the Petzl headlamps.
While there are other companies that make good headlamps, I’ll stop with these two leaders.
My Top 2 Picks in Headlamp Flashlights