The Best Headlamp

The Best Headlamp

Our pick

Black Diamond Spot 325

Black Diamond Spot 325

The best headlamp

An easy-to-use, bright-enough option with long-lasting battery life and reliable performance, year after year.

Buying Options

$40 from Amazon
$40 from Black Diamond
$40 from Backcountry

For digging through a closet or taking the occasional car-camping trip, the newly updated Black Diamond Spot 325 gives you what you need: a bright beam, easy-to-navigate buttons, and a long-lasting battery life of more than 12 hours. The Spot has been at the top of our list since 2012, and the updated 325 model gives us the same features we’ve always loved and a few key improvements: It has 25 more lumens than the old model, and its new top buttons are much more intuitive to use than the single button on the older models. The headlamp also comes with a Brightness Memory mode, which means it can revert back to its previous setting whenever you turn it on. The Spot 325 offers both red-light and strobe options; it locks; its PowerTap technology lets you instantly transition the headlamp from full power to dimmed with one touch; and it weighs a decently lightweight 8 ounces. Although there are headlamps out there with brighter, higher-quality beams, none give you quite this level of performance and reliability at such a low price.

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Budget pick

Vitchelo V800

Vitchelo V800

Cheap but reliable

Though not quite as bright as some other lamps we tested, this headlamp is nonetheless a comfortable, simple-to-navigate option for around-the-house use at a fraction of its competitors’ prices.

Buying Options

$15 from Amazon

The Vitchelo V800 remains a good, low-cost choice: It’s easy to toggle between the red- and white-light settings (thanks to two separate buttons), and we liked the comfortable head strap. That said, we wished the light were brighter (it’s only 168 lumens) and we wanted a longer battery life, like that of the Spot 325. The V800 also has fewer features overall, and lacks the memory and locking modes we liked in our top pick. That said, this headlamp performed as well as competitors that were many times its price. If you need a low-cost headlamp for completing around-the-house chores, taking your dog on evening walks, or stepping out into the yard at night, this is a good option.

Also great

Petzl Actik Core

Petzl Actik Core

A rechargeable option

A bright light with the highest beam quality that stays charged for days—whether you charge it with a USB or AAA batteries—makes this perfect for backpacking trips.

Buying Options

$70 from Amazon

For backpackers, outdoor adventurers, and anyone who needs a headlamp with a variety of charging options (both USB and battery), the Petzl Actik Core is the best choice. We tested two rechargeable headlamps in 2019 (and we’ve evaluated nine others for previous iterations of this guide), and we think this is the light best suited for adventures in the outdoors: It’s durable, easy to use, and weighs under 3 ounces. Its 450-lumen light quality was also the brightest of the bunch, and it had the best optical quality, too. Another perk: The Actik Core recharges easily and quickly, which is great if you want to juice up the light on your way to the trail. Rechargeable devices can be more convenient if you’re someone who travels with a battery pack; you accumulate somewhat less battery waste over time, and the charge lasts for more than 16 hours. Plus, the Actik Core is versatile: If you don’t have a USB source handy, you can run the headlamp on three AAA batteries. Some things we liked less were the missing flood feature (which is helpful for camping) and a lower-than-expected weatherproof rating.

Also great

Black Diamond Sprinter

Black Diamond Sprinter

For runners

A head-and-taillight-laden headlamp that’s lightweight, comfortable, and secure, but the lights still aren’t as bright as we wanted them to be.

Buying Options

$60* from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $80.

After years of testing, we still haven’t found a running headlamp (a lamp with a head strap or harness, plus a taillight, that won’t bounce off when you run) that’s lightweight, secure, and bright. But the Black Diamond Sprinter still sits in our best-in-class spot, at least until something better comes along. The Sprinter’s front light is 200 lumens, which means it isn’t incredibly bright—we kept wishing for more trail illumination during our long runs. You’ll also need to charge the headlamp every few days, according to the manual, though we used it for 13+ hours during testing without any problems. The Sprinter notched a few wins over the other models we tested, too: The comfortable and easily adjustable strap keeps the lamp secured to your head while you run; it weighs only 3.7 ounces, so it doesn’t feel heavy as you’re trotting along; and its rear blinker is an important safety component. The only feature missing is a lockout mode to keep the light from turning on in your bag during the day.

Also great

Black Diamond Wiz

Black Diamond Wiz

For kids

Rainbow lights make this kids headlamp fun to play with during camping trips or backyard adventures.

Buying Options

$20 from Backcountry
Buy from Amazon

It was the fancy light feature, which shines in all the colors of the rainbow, that really sold us on the Black Diamond Wiz, which also turns itself off at the two-hour mark in case your kid forgets to turn it off themselves. The control mechanism on the Wiz is a bit complicated, but we don’t think kids will mind clicking through the rainbow colors as they figure out which setting to choose. Compared with the other kids models we tested, all of which offered only red and white lights, we think this headlamp is both the right price and more fun to use. Although its light is only 30 lumens, we think that’s good enough for most kids (plus they won’t be able to blind each other—or you—with the light).

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Black Diamond Spot 325

Black Diamond Spot 325

The best headlamp

An easy-to-use, bright-enough option with long-lasting battery life and reliable performance, year after year.

Buying Options

$40 from Amazon
$40 from Black Diamond
$40 from Backcountry

Budget pick

Vitchelo V800

Vitchelo V800

Cheap but reliable

Though not quite as bright as some other lamps we tested, this headlamp is nonetheless a comfortable, simple-to-navigate option for around-the-house use at a fraction of its competitors’ prices.

Buying Options

$15 from Amazon

Also great

Petzl Actik Core

Petzl Actik Core

A rechargeable option

A bright light with the highest beam quality that stays charged for days—whether you charge it with a USB or AAA batteries—makes this perfect for backpacking trips.

Buying Options

$70 from Amazon

Also great

Black Diamond Sprinter

Black Diamond Sprinter

For runners

A head-and-taillight-laden headlamp that’s lightweight, comfortable, and secure, but the lights still aren’t as bright as we wanted them to be.

Buying Options

$60* from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $80.

Also great

Black Diamond Wiz

Black Diamond Wiz

For kids

Rainbow lights make this kids headlamp fun to play with during camping trips or backyard adventures.

Buying Options

$20 from Backcountry
Buy from Amazon

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter

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