When the sun goes down, the fishing can heat up, and if you want to take advantage of the after dark action, you’ll need a headlamp to keep fishing when everyone else is calling it quits. Experienced anglers keep a headlamp in their gear bag when they can leave before dawn or return after dark. Not just any light will survive the rigors of weather and water. A headlamp needs durability as well as easy-to-use controls. In the past few years, manufacturers have improved headlamp designs and performance, and there are plenty of solid products that can get the job done. But with all the options available, it can be hard to separate the duds from the winners. Lucky for you, I burned through a lot of samples to find the best headlamps for fishing, and here are my top picks.
- Best Overall: Black Diamond Storm 400
- Best Rechargeable: Petzl Actik Core
- Brightest: BioLite 750
- Best for Kids: Princeton Tec Bot
- Best Value: Princeton Tec Sync
Best Overall: Black Diamond Storm 400
Why It Made the Cut
With maximum performance and a minimal price, the Black Diamond Storm 400 has the best controls and brightness settings for fishing after dark.
- Weight: 4.2 ounces
- Lumens: 400
- Light Modes: Six
- Easy, single-button operation
- Locking button
- Requires four AAA batteries
When my last headlamp died, I searched Amazon for a new headlamp and discovered the Black Diamond Storm 400. Black Diamond is a respected manufacturer of climbing gear, so I knew the headlamp would perform well. I now own three of these, and I have used them surf fishing, kayak fishing, and for late nights on the boat.
The headband is easy to adjust and fits comfortably. One button controls all the functions, and it features a wide and spot beam. The blue and red lamp settings are perfect for protecting your night vision and won’t blind your buddies. And my favorite feature is the lock out setting that locks the power button so I don’t accidentally turn on the lamp in my bag and burn up the batteries. The only downside is the lamp takes four AAA batteries. But the extra battery adds extra battery life for those times when the sun is long gone and you’re not ready to call it quits.
Best Rechargeable: Petzl Actik Core
Why It Made the Cut
The Petzl Actik Core runs on a rechargeable pack or standard AAA batteries, which means you can recharge it on the go or pack extra batteries when you don’t have access to a power source.
- Weight: 3.5 ounces
- Lumens: 450
- Light Modes: Four
- Power lock button
- IPX4 waterproofing
- Single control button
Rechargeable headlamps are great, unless you forget to charge the battery. That’s why I’m a fan of the Petzl Actik Core. It runs off a rechargeable battery pack or three AAA batteries. Plugging my headlamp into the charger is part of my post-fishing routine, but I keep AAA batteries in my gear bag for emergencies, or when I’m not fishing near a power source.
The Actik Core is perfect for throwing in a tackle box for fishing days that run into the night. It also has a flood light with an adjustable brightness and offers a spotlight and red light. A single control button makes changing modes easy, and the button locks to prevent accidentally turning on the light. Another cool feature of the lamp is that it detaches from the headband and fits on a variety of mounting bases, or you can add a special housing to turn the headlamp into a mini lantern.
Brightest: BioLite 750
Why It Made the Cut
With 750 maximum lumens, the BioLite 750 is the most powerful headlamp in my review.
- Weight: 5.3 ounces
- Lumens: 750
- Light Modes: Eight
- Slim design
- External power source
- Constant lighting
The BioLite 750 is one of the most innovative headlamps for fishing, and it provides maximum power in a slim design. The slim-fit construction integrates electronics into the headband that cuts down on the overall size of the lamp. This streamlined design also prevents the headlamp from bouncing and sliding whenever you’re moving around to rig lines or unhook fish.
But this minimal footprint doesn’t sacrifice any features. It boasts eight light modes, which include dimmable settings and red, white, and strobe modes. To save battery power, the 750-lumen max output is available in a 30-second burst. I use the burst when I need to locate a channel marker or avoid other hazards. When the rechargeable batteries die, you can connect the lamp to an external power source or power bank for endless run time. I wear the BioLite 750 in my fishing kayak or when I’m surf fishing and need maximum performance with minimal weight and bulk. Kayak fishing is rough on gear, but the BioLite 750 can handle any conditions the water throws at it.
Best for Kids: Princeton Tec Bot
Why It Made the Cut
Built for small hands and heads, the Princeton Tec Bot provides grown-up durability for kids.
- Weight: 2.25 ounces
- Lumens: 30
- Light Modes: Three
- Easy operation
- IPX4 Waterproof
- Breakaway headband
- Low-power light
If you’re fishing with kids after dark, they’ll need their own headlamp to have fun and stay safe. Princeton Tec had this in mind when they designed the Bot headlamp for kids. This simple, easy-to-use lamp has a 30-lumen high-power flood and a five-lumen low-power lamp. In addition to a fun-looking robot-themed headband, the Bot has other kid-specific features. First, the headband has a breakaway release clip that opens under pressure, which is easy for kids to remove. And, the battery compartment has a childproof screw-on cap to prevent kids from accessing the two AAA batteries. To ensure the lamp can survive in the hands of kids, an IPX4 waterproof rating and sturdy construction keep the Bot ready for youngster’s night fishing adventures.
Best Value: Princeton Tec Sync
Why It Made the Cut
For less than $30, the Princeton Tec Sync offers basic features for fishing in a comfortable, sturdy headlamp.
- Weight: 2.9 ounces
- Lumens: 300
- Light Modes: Three
- Budget friendly
- Long burn time
- Easy operation
- Only 300 Lumens
Princeton Tec headlamps are available at big box stores for a low price, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready for serious fishing. For only $30, the Princeton Tec Sync offers three light modes, and you can even combine the flood and wide lights for maximum illumination. The lamp only has 300 lumens, but that extends the battery time up to 60 hours with plenty power for up close work. Since the Sync has limited features, it is easy to operate with the large dial that toggles between functions.
Q: What is the brightest headlamp?
The brightest headlamp isn’t necessarily the best headlamp for fishing. But the brightest headlamp in this review is the BioLite 750, which has a blinding 750 lumens. To save battery power, the headlamp burns on the brightest setting for 30-second bursts. The spotlight setting works best for searching out channel markers, docks, and the shoreline when you’re navigating at night. For upclose work, like tying knots, unhooking fish, and digging around in a gear bag, the headlamp has a lower light setting with a wide-angle lens that provides a softer, dispersed light that isn’t overkill.
Q: What is the red light on a headlamp?
In addition to a white spotlight, strobe, and a flood light, several of the headlamps in this review offer red, blue, and green lamps. Unlike white lights, colored lights do not affect your night vision. When I turn on a white lamp, my pupils shrink to adjust to the bright light. When I turn the white light off, it takes several minutes for my pupils to enlarge and see in ambient light. The transition time leaves me blind until my eyes adjust. With a red light, my eyes don’t need to adjust. The red light provides enough illumination to see close objects and keeps me from blinding my friends. I also find that the blue light is brighter than the red lamp and causes fluorescent fishing line to glow in the dark.
Q: How much does a headlamp for fishing cost?
The headlamps in this review range from $20 to $100. The most expensive headlamp in this review has an advanced, low-profile and lightweight body with a super bright lamp. This is probably more tech than most night anglers need. While the best overall headlamp comes in at $75 and offers plenty of features like a dimmable lamp and locking button.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Headlamp for Fishing
A headlamp isn’t just a night light, it’s an essential safety tool. And anglers have high expectations when it comes to reliability, illumination, and ergonomics. Redfish and striped bass are two of my favorite targets, so I spend a lot of time chasing them after dark. I also have a job and a family, and the best time to fish usually happens when everyone else is asleep. I have a half dozen headlamps for all-nighters, early mornings, late evenings, emergencies, and even for the kids. No matter your circumstances, here are some things to consider to help you find the best headlamps for fishing.
A headlamp for fishing usually spends its life crammed in the bottom of a gear bag, banging around a tackle box, taking a beating from wind and rain, or facing harsh saltwater conditions. I need my headlamp charged and ready when the lights go down. While this might seem like a no-brainer, your headlamp needs to have solid waterproofing capabilities. Look for IPX4 waterproofing to protect the batteries and bulb from moisture and corrosion. On the outside, the body and lens should have high-impact plastic that’s capable of a six-foot drop. A headlamp is useless without fresh batteries or a full charge, so headlamps with a battery-level indicator ensure that you know exactly how much juice you have left or if it’s time to recharge.
Ease of Use
The best headlamps should be easy to use with frozen fingers or sweaty hands. Headlamps with a single, intuitive button will allow you to change the settings without looking at the headlamp or running through every setting before you find the right one.
I also look for a headband that’s easy to adjust, whether I’m wearing a wool hat, ball cap, or no hat at all. Also, I often end up changing batteries in the dark. So, I look for an easy-access battery compartment with a grippy latch and intuitive battery placement.
Obviously, a head lamp has to provide adequate light. Most headlamps for fishing use an LED bulb that produces less heat and lasts longer than an incandescent lamp. Headlamps, like other lighting equipment and gear, rate their lamp power in lumens. More lumens equal a brighter light with greater draw on the batteries. For up-close work, like tying knots and unhooking fish, I use a low-power, wide-angle lens to preserve battery. To spot channel markers and obstacles, I switch to a high-power, narrow beam. The best ones also have a dimmable lamp so I can fine-tune my illumination settings based on what I’m doing. To save batteries, I use the lamp on low settings when I’m loading my surf fishing reels in the dark, searching my gear bag, or unhooking a fish.
The best headlamps also offer anglers a variety of lighting options. I like a headlamp with high- and low-power white lamps. A red colored lamp protects my night vision, so I can still see in the dark after I turn off the light. Since my lamp doubles as a safety light, I also need one that features a strobe to signal rescuers.
I spend a lot of weekends fishing. But I also try to sneak onto the water after work at least one day a week, which means I spend a lot of time fishing in the dark. For me, a headlamp isn’t a toy, it’s a tool. To test the best headlamps for fishing, I subjected dozens of them to salt, sand, and rain. From tying rigs and rigging baits to searching for crab pot buoys and entrance markers, the best ones need to perform flawlessly. On the water, I discovered which lamps were easy to control, lasted longest, and cut through the darkness best. My picks all demonstrated reliability, versatility, and intuitive controls. In addition to multiple light modes, locking buttons and battery-level indicators also informed my decisions.
The best headlamps for fishing should be one of the most important pieces of gear in your tackle, especially if you do a lot of night fishing. As such, you don’t want to cut corners when it comes to a bright, dependable headlamp. Any of the options on this list will make an excellent addition to your tackle or gear bag. Personally, I’ve had a lot of success with the Black Diamond Storm 400. So much success, that I have three of them. Whether I’m kayak fishing, surf fishing, or fishing from my center console, the Storm 400 is ready for any of them.