If you’re staying out past dark, or even if you didn’t plan on staying out, having a good headlamp in your kit can be the difference between safety and your own version of the Blair Witch Project. Then there’s cooking, gathering firewood, answering Nature’s Call, looking at maps – its fundamental needs are most obvious when you don’t have it. There are a lot of features to consider, and we’ll shed some light on them.
MIKE ST. PIERRE
HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR // CO-FOUNDER + CEO
This is another area not to skimp on. There are 100’s of little lights sold in gear shops, and a fair number are useless. In an effort to push the ultralight idea, people have used uber-light headlamps, keychain lights, mini flashlights, and all kinds of other devices for illumination. I recommend a good headlamp from a reputable company like Petzl or Black Diamond. There are four features I look for: a floodlight, a good long-range beam, a red-light option, and a lockable “on switch” so it doesn’t turn on in your pack.
“WE CAME 1.5 MILES SHORT OF OUR DESTINATION OF FENCE FAULT AS NIGHT CAME OVER US. WE ARE STILL 400′ ABOVE THE RIVER ON TOP OF THE REDWALL. BY HEADLAMP WE DOWNCLIMBED INTO THE TOP OF A SLOT WHERE WE FOUND SOME POTHOLES OF WATER IN ONE OF THE DRAINAGES THAT CUT INTO THE REDWALL LAYER. WE MADE CAMP HERE.” // MIKE ST. PIERRE
The floodlight is great for around camp and for hiking at night on easy trails. The beam or spotlight comes in handy when you have to do a stream or river crossing at night or you are in more technical terrain. The red-light is great for around camp when sitting with a group of people. It’s not as blinding and offensive to others if you blare it into their eyeballs unintentionally. The lock, well, I’ve seen many people run out of batteries on trips because they never know their head lamp was getting turned on in their pack every day.
BETHANY "FIDGIT" HUGHES
THRU HIKER // WORLD TRAVELER // HER-ODYSSEY.ORG
Whatever you choose, look for one with a red-light option, especially if you might use it in a buggy area.
KRYSTIAN "SNAP" REPOLONA
THRU HIKER // PHOTOGRAPHER // @HIKES.CAMERA.ADVENTURE
I choose the NiteCore HC50 (760 Lumens). I’ve used and abused this headlamp since starting the Appalachian Trail in 2016. It’s extremely durable and waterproof being made of metal, and it’s IPX 8 rated. It uses 18650 Lithium batteries which can perform in the extreme cold where alkaline would otherwise cease to function or barely hold a charge. Having 760 lumens is extremely useful for being able to light up a couple hundred feet in front of me. I use this headlamp for light painting scenes during astrophotography. Paired with the NiteCore F1 charging system, I have a 1 oz charger that either allows me to use for power or charge my headlamp 18650 batteries.
NICK "CLICK" REICHARD
THRU HIKER // PHOTOGRAPHER // @NICHOLASREICHARD
I know there are a lot of beloved headlamps out there, but the one I trust the most is the Black Diamond Storm. I love this one because it has a locking feature built in. If you hold down the power button for five seconds, a blue flashing light lets you know that the only way to turn back on the headlamp is to hold it down again for an additional five seconds. That is super important to me as a lot of backpackers I ran into on trail seemed to have the issue that their headlamp would turn on in the middle of the day just by being inside their backpack. It is nice to avoid that issue altogether.
BIKEPACKER // PACKRAFTER // @JESSI_GOES
My go-to headlamp is the Black Diamond REvolt. Strong enough that I can use it for nighttime trail running (important to have good lighting when moving quickly in the dark). Light enough that it doesn’t bounce on my head when I run. It takes regular batteries or re-chargeable, and, best of all, I can easily see when the batteries need replacing.
LIZ "HANDSTAND" KIDDER
THRU HIKER // WORLD TRAVELER // @LIZKIDDER
Black Diamond Spot. 200 lumen, 3.2 oz, takes 3 AAA batteries. I didn’t do much night-hiking, so I mostly just used my headlamp around camp at night. 200 lumens provided plenty of light, and I rarely ever had to change the batteries. It has an awesome lock feature, so it doesn’t get accidentally turned on while stuffed in your pack during the day. Worked great!
EDDIE "OILCAN" BOYD
THRU HIKER // TRIPLE CROWNER // @OC_BOYD
My favorite and only headlamp I have ever used is the Black Diamond Storm. I got one before the Appalachian Trail and still use it to this day.
2012 OUTSIDE MAGAZINE "ADVENTURER OF THE YEAR" // GRAND CANYON EXPERT // @RICHRUDOW
While it’s a headlamp that doesn’t seem to be well known, I'm a huge fan of the Nitecore NU25. The light itself is one ounce and I substituted a women's hairband to keep total weight nice and low. It is two ounces lighter than my Black Diamond, it's very bright, and it has easy to use buttons: one button for red, and one button for white – none of that multi-press crap. It's also USB rechargeable. This is becoming much more useful to me than regular batteries because I usually have a USB battery recharger with me for my phone and/or camera. Additionally, I often have a super light solar panel for long trips. This headlamp charges on either. I think it will fare better in water too, because it's sealed well to keep the internal battery dry. I've been using it about a year and LOVE IT.