4 Features You Need in Your Next Headlamp

Headlamps have all but replaced flashlights in the field, but not all headlamps are alike

man wearing headlamp
LED headlamps are bright, lightweight, and efficient.Black Diamond

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.

Light Output Levels

Black Diamond headlamp
A headlamp with different brightness settings will serve you better than one that’s bright all the time.Black Diamond

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.

Foxelli headlamp
A headlamp with red or green color settings is easier on your eyes in the dark than bright white.Foxelli

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.

MsForce LED Headlamp
Use the lowest power setting possible to preserve battery life.MsForce

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.

Cobiz headlamp
Get a headlamp that’s waterproof just in case you drop it in a river or you’re in the middle of a storm.Cobiz

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.