Headlamps were once used almost exclusively by miners toiling away in subterranean caverns because they could keep their hands free. Eventually, mountaineers picked up on a headlamp’s usefulness and climbers started employing them while they climbed above the tree line. Now, just about everyone that works or plays after dark uses one. Here are a few things to consider when picking one out for your adventures.

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Always having the brightest light possible isn’t ideal. For some of the tasks you use a headlamp for, like tying on a fishing lure before sunrise, low output is best. Look for a headlamp that has three or four brightness levels so you can handle whatever you’re doing, whether that’s unhooking a fish or navigating the lake. Moreover, look for a light with a low moonlight mode in case you need to rummage around camp without waking anyone up.


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Red or green light lets your eyes recover in the dark faster and doesn’t affect your night-adjusted vision as adversely as white light. Choose a headlamp that has colored LED settings so you can get back to enjoying the dark of the night sooner. As a bonus, colored light modes typically prolong battery life.


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When purchasing a headlamp, you typically need to choose between a long run time and a high output. Go with the lowest output you can get away with to maximize battery life and make smart use of the output selector switch. That said, batteries always run out at the worst possible time, so keep some spares handy.

If you like being outside, you’re going to eventually deal with some nasty weather. Choose a headlamp with some degree of water resistance so the first rainstorm it encounters won’t be its last. Most headlamps on the market will have some degree of weatherproofing but check with the manufacturer’s specifications to be sure.