What makes a good headlamp? There are a few key features of a headlamp that you should be looking out for. Identify why you need it, what you’ll need it for, and what about headlamps matters the most to you. It’s not as simple as you would think, but I’m here to help you make the choice easier!
First of all, why do you want to buy a headlamp? Clearly, headlamps have some advantages over flashlights, lanterns, or your smartphone light. First of all, it’s hands-free. To be able to have control over a light while having your hands free is a major advantage. This is nice when you’re cooking outside in the dark or climbing. Simply around the campsite where you can turn your head and the light goes with it is super helpful.
Second, beam distance is an asset. Some of the more expensive headlamps will provide you with an impressive beam distance similar to that of a spotlight. This is helpful on those poorly marked trails that might take you back to your car or campsite.
Finally, consider the structure of a headlamp. It’s compact, lightweight and durable. They can fit in your book bag or pocket and generally weigh less than a few ounces. And if you’re not afraid of spending a few extra bucks, you can get a really high quality headlamp that will even be water resistant. Some are good in storms and others can handle up to one meter of water. If you plan on going hiking where the weather is unpredictable, this may appeal to you.
When you’re picking the right light for you, think about how it can help you when things go wrong. For example, if you’re looking for something to help you find your way around the campsite, a cheaper light will do. However, if you’re looking for something that’ll take you through challenging terrain in the dark, a more expensive headlamp will be worth it.
Again, a huge advantage is being able to use your hands at the same time. For example, if you’re caught out in the middle of nowhere and a friend of yours gets injured, it’ll help for you to have both your hands and a focused light at the same time. Instead of trying to figure out how to get a light on the affected area so you could tend to it, save time by having a good headlamp that could make all the difference. It may even save your friend a nasty infection. Overall, you’ll be more prepared to handle bad weather, cold temperatures, finding trails, injuries, and broken equipment.
Now, consider the types of headlamps. No, they’re not all the same. In-fact, there are many types that are all different.
- Floodlights cast a very wide beam at dim settings. This is good if you want to see things nearby in a wide range. These situations might include preparing meals, finding things in a tent or reading. With the dimmest settings, you may even avoid blinding those around you every time you turn your head which can quickly become a problem.
- If you want a headlamp that will cast a good beam of light across a distance, the spotlight headlamp is the way to go. These are typically more expensive, but some good quality ones will shine across an entire football field length! If you need to see trail markings far ahead, this is awesome!
- Red light. LED redlight headlamps can come in handy. They last a long time in terms of battery life, and they help you see at a great distance. Furthermore, they’re convenient in an emergency situation. Sometimes they can even blink red if you need emergency help. A lot of people will actually use them to preserve night vision. This is really helpful for star gazing to help your eyes adjust. Even some hunters find these to be helpful as to not spook the animals.
- More expensive headlamps are waterproof. If you plan on going out into the water or out in the rain, a waterproof headlamp is priceless.
Now that you’re narrowing down your search, think about performance. Every product differs in performance according to lumens, hours, and range. Lumens vary with manufacturer. It’s a measurement obtained from an integrating sphere which measures the total light energy emitted from a device. It doesn’t tell you if the product is useful or not, but it tells you how intense the light is. However, just because it’s high on the scale doesn’t mean it’s better. Sometimes, the ones with the higher lumens can have poor quality beam patterns.
Beam range is another important performance quality. It relates to the brightness of the light and the ability of the lens to focus this light. They will tell you the exact distance on the product, and you just need to choose according to your needs. If you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere at night, beam distance is important. You need to see far ahead to avoid getting more lost. But, if you’re just using it for short range activities, this may not be an important parameter to you.
Finally, hours of light is generally important to everyone. Unless you’re okay with bringing heavy packs of batteries as a backup, it’s helpful to know about how long your light will last on a pair of batteries. Look for the Black Diamond Icon during your search for a headlamp if you want something that’ll last all night on the highest setting. It’ll be a life saver if you need it to operate all night long. Other lights will allow you light all night long if you keep it on low. Cheaper ones won’t provide you much light for extended periods of time. But, if you’re just staying near your vehicle with backup batteries, this might not be such an issue for you.
Everyone looks for something different in a headlamp based on their needs. If you’re a runner needing something that you can just strap on and go, a long rang durable light with good battery life may be ideal. On the other hand, if you’re traveling remotely, you may not care so much about battery life, and short range light may be acceptable. Or, if you’re a climber looking for something light to bring along, the biggest issue may be weight. If that’s the case, you’ll want to invest in something lightweight while ignoring a lot of the other details. Luckily, there’s a headlamp out there for everyone!