Best Headtorches For Hiking 2019 | Top 9 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Headtorches For Hiking 2019 | Top 9

We've selected 9 headtorches, all currently on the market, that have impressed our test team the most

The best headtorches will strike the right balance between battery life (or burn time) and brightness, and will also need to meet other considerations like reach, water and dust proofing, comfort, usability and of course, price.

Whether you’re fiddling about with ropes in an effort to bail off your climb, taking a compass bearing as you navigate yourself back to your tent, or just getting settled down in your tent for the night – the value of headtorches, (or headlamps, as our U.S. friends call them) cannot be underestimated – especially when the summer solstice has passed and the nights start to draw in.

“…it always seems to be the case that you always need your headtorch most when you’ve conveniently left it at home.”

Whilst we understand that everyone packs differently, we find it best practice to carry two separate headtorches: a small, lightweight ‘emergency’ headtorch and a slightly heavier weight workhorse. The compact emergency one is usually stored out of the way in say, the personal items section of our lid and is only reached for when your main headtorch has run out of juice.

Our main headtorch is generally a beefed up version of its smaller counterpart, usually carrying more weight, but with that; greater battery life, brighter lumen output and possibly a reactive beam. These features are usually the extent of the features headtorches carry – after all, their sole purpose is to provide as much lighting as possible, for as long as possible.

What Are The Best Headtorches?

Here’s are the features and aspects to consider when buying a headtorch…

Brightness: The most obvious feature of a headtorch. How many lumens (measurement of brightness) does the headtorch in question emit? They’re there to provide lighting in dark situations, after all. The brightness of a headtorch will inevitably influence both the battery life and weight – as it takes more batteries to power a bright beam for long periods. Lumen ratings can be as low as 50 or reaching over 1000. Between 200-300 tends to signify a headtorch that will balance brightness and battery life well.

Beam Width and Distance: The width and distance of the beam are a big factor. Many brands now have models that allow you to select between a wider (and less focused) beam, or a focused beam (but narrower). It’s a great feature to be able to change the width and distance of the beam to suit different environments.

Reactive Lighting: Reactive lighting is a fairly modern addition to headtorches. It it essentially the ability to adjust the brightness of the torch’s beam based on how light or dark the surroundings are – similar to that of your smartphone screen adjusting its brightness based on the surrounding light. Whilst it is of course battery-efficient to run your headtorch on its lowest power settings, reactive lighting allows you to get the most out of the surroundings whilst using only the power that’s required.

Battery Life: Burn time is obviously a big deal, particularly when you’re going without power for multiple days, or you know that you’ll need to consistently use the headtorch on high power for long periods – night navigation comes to mind. Standard headtorches on their highest output will only normally last maybe 2-3 hours, whereas on their lowest setting they might run for over 100 hours. We’re now starting to see some headtorches that are able to offer up an impressive balance between high lumen output alongside impressive battery life.

Rechargeable or Replaceable Batteries: The choice between a rechargeable lithium-ion battery or AA or AAA batteries is something to consider. An alkaline powered headtorch will go through a lot of batteries in its lifetime, and consequently, you’ll be leaving behind a fairly hefty footprint on the environment. Integrated lithium ion batteries are an economical – and environmentally friendlier option. A single lithium-ion battery could avoid the use of up to 900 batteries from entering the landfill.

Don’t write off headtorches with replaceable batteries though, because there’s always the option of using rechargeable AA or AAA batteries. It’s worth checking out the GP Xplor PHR15 which not only uses rechargeable batteries but has an integrated USB port so you can plug in power up using a portable power bank.

Other Features: The weight of the headtorch will be of particular interest for runners or fast-and-light hikers. Some people may also look for a red light mode which helps to preserve night vision and will stop you from winding up the entire refuge with your early-morning alpine start. Finally, other things to consider are the waterproof and dustproof ratings (measured IP and IPX ratings) and any easily accessible dimming modes – if you’re using the headtorch in winter, consider whether you’ll be able to the modes while wearing gloves or with cold hands.

Top 9 Best Headtorches: On Test

  • Petzl Bindi – Best Headtorch For Walking
  • Lifesystems Intensity 105 – Best Value Headtorch For Walking
  • Black Diamond Spot 325 –
  • Biolite Headlamp 330
  • GP Xplor PHR15
  • Alpkit Gamma III
  • Petzl Actik Core
  • Coleman CXS+ 300
  • Black Diamond Iota

BEST BUY: Petzl Bindi

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £53
Weight: 35g
Lumen Range: 6-, 100- and 200-lumens.

This is a great headtorch for people who like to travel light, and it’s also a handy option as your backup. Pack it in the bottom of your rucksack and you’re probably going to forget you’ve even brought it out with you, until you find yourself desperately in need of a light source, with your main torch out of juice. The Bindi comes in at the extremely low weight of 35g and has an impressively compact size but, with a full beam of 200 lumens there’s still a good power to it. The strap is just a thin bit of bungee, but it holds surprisingly well, it’s comfortable and is easy to adjust. There are also reflective strips embedded within it to make you more visible to others. The lithium-Ion is non-replaceable and is charged via a micro-USB port.

Full Specifications

200 lumen brightness / reflective thread on headband / lithium-Ion 680 mAh battery / rechargeable via micro USB port / charge indicator / lighting modes: proximity, movement and distance / lock functions to avoid accidentally turning it on / IPX4 splash resistant.

Read our full Petzl Bindi Review

Black Diamond Spot 325

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £40
Weight: 86g
Lumen Range: 325-,160- and 6-lumens.

Black Diamond are one of the go-to brands when considering a headtorch purchase, we’ve certainly been impressed with their offerings in recent years and the Spot 325 is no different.

The Spot collection was initially launched in 2017 with a 200-lumen model, it then got an update to 300 lumens in 2018 before seeing a complete overhaul for 2019, becoming what we see here. This overhaul hasn’t just involved an increase in power, they’ve also reduced the size of the entire unit, added a new mode selector, and updated the LED.

Power modes on this are able to be changed through the simple press of the main button on the top of the headtorch, whilst a smaller button located on the side allows for switching between the lens mode settings, including; dimming, strobe, red night-vision and lock modes.

With three AAA batteries the Spot 325 is able to offer 200 hours of power on the lowest (8 lumens) power mode and four hours of charge on the higher (325 lumens) mode. A feature we were big fans of on the Spot 325 was the IPX8 waterproof rating. This means that you’ll be able to submerge it 1 metre underwater for up to 30 minutes and it’ll keep powering on – not bad.

Full Specifications

PowerTap transitioning between full and dimmed power / low-profile design / three AAA batteries, included / brightness memory – turn the light on and off at a chosen brightness / full strength in proximity and distance modes / dimming / strobe / red night-vision / lock mode / IPX8 waterproof.

Biolite Headlamp 330

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £50
Weight: 69g
Lumen Range: 330-, 230- and 100-lumens.

Biolite have managed to pack in a significant punch to this headtorch, all in an impressively light weight and sleek build. Topping off the impressive design is a decent battery life of 40 hours on the low setting and 3 hours and 30 minutes on the high setting. At £50, this torch does come at the pricer end of the scale though.

Full Specifications

On, off and lock Button / flood Lens / spot Lens / articulating front bezel / moisture-wicking fabric / recharge via micro-USB / reflective Strip / battery indicator LEDs.

GP Xplor PHR15

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £35
Weight: 110g
Lumen Range: 300-, 150- and 5-lumens.

The GP Xplor PHR15 doesn’t necessarily have the highest of lumen ratings out there compared to some of the other headtorches featured in this roundup, but it does carry some handy features that makes it a reliable workhorse.

It comes with three rechargeable AAA batteries and these are charged up via a micro-USB port located on the headtorch – just plug it in and it’ll start recharging.

The headtorch itself is rated to 300 lumens, offering a range of 157 metres on the highest setting. With just a single function button at the top, you’re able to cycle through the different brightnesses of 300-, 150- and 5-lumens. On the low setting you’ll get a maximum run time of 69 hours and on the 300-lumen setting you’ll get 5 hours.

Full Specifications

300-, 150- and 5-lumens / IPX6 waterproofing / three rechargeable AAA batteries that come included and charged ready to go / micro USB port on the headtorch.

Read our full GP Xplor PHR15 review

Alpkit Gamma III

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £25
Weight: 140g
Lumen Range: 180- or 70-lumens.

The Alpkit Gamma III has more than meets the eye.

It’s able to offer up to 120 lumens of power through its main light located front and centre of the headtorch. Surrounding this main LED are three more smaller 5mm LEDs that offer green light, red light and a white lower power mode. Coming packed with a rear-mounted red light and secure, yet compact design, you can tell that this headtorch has been designed for runners who won’t let a dark evening spoil their training.

Full Specifications

180 lm of illumination / green, red and white LEDs / rear red caution light / water resistant / detachable and adjustable over-head strap / pivotal head unit / 3-year guarantee.

Read our full Alpkit Gamma III review

Lifesystems Intensity 105

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £20
Weight: 41g
Lumen Range: 105-, 42- or 6-lumens.

An impressively lightweight and good value headtorch from Lifesystems that’s a very handy option for lightweight hikers and runners as either a main light or back-up. Whilst the 105 lumens isn’t the brightness within this test, it will offer a handy battery life of 4.5 hours burn time on that setting, and 21  on the 6-lumen one. Not bad for just £20.

This features an in-built rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is juiced up via a micro-USB cable.

Full Specifications

Up to 105 lumens brightness / 6 lighting modes: high, medium, low, red light on, flashing and SOS flashing / adjustable beam angle / water resistant plastic body / adjustable head strap / rechargeable lithium-ion battery / power and charging indicators / USB charger lead included / up to 21 hours battery life / recharges in 2.5 hours.

Read our full Lifesystems Intensity 105 review

Petzl Actik Core

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £50
Weight: 82g
Lumen Range: 450-, 100- and 6-lumens.

Another hybrid concept that can take either removable batteries or Petzl’s own rechargeable lithium-ion ‘core’ battery unit.

It’s able to pump out a whopping 450-lumens for 2 hours. We can’t really think of many situations where you’re going to need 450-lumens of power, so it’s worth mentioning that the Actik Core also has a much more retina-friendly setting of 100 lumens, able to last a practical 12 hours.

Full Specifications

Flood or mixed beam patterns / proximity or distance vision brightness levels / red lighting / reflective headband / core battery charges via micro USB / works with three standard batteries / single button for quick and easy selection of brightness / lock function.

Read our full Petzl Actik Core review

 

Coleman CXS+ 300

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £55
Weight: 121g
Lumen Range: 300- or 20-lumens.

The Coleman CXS may look like a fairly standard headtorch at first glance, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that it comes with some handy lighting modes and features that make it one of the most usable options in this roundup.

It’s light settings range from a 300-lumen full beam that reaches 50 metres, to a 20-lumen beam for when battery saving is a priority.

To cycle through these power modes you just need to swipe your hand in front of the lamp – a useful feature if you’re wearing thick gloves. To make sure the power is fully preserved when the headtorch isn’t in use, there’s a quick twist-lock that completely disconnects the battery. We’ve all, at some point, opened our packs to find our torch has been accidentally turned on, and this completely removes that risk. A nice touch.

Full Specifications

300 or 20 lumens (high/low) / 50 or 5 meters (high/low) / 2.5 or 55 hours (high/low) / low, medium, high or extra bright / lithium ion rechargeable batteries / USB included / IPX4 splash resistant.

Read our full Coleman CXS+ 300 review

Black Diamond Iota

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £37
Weight: 56g
Lumen Range: 150-lumens.

The Black Diamond Iota isn’t the brightest headtorch on the market, but it’s certainly high-powered enough to be useful and it’s tiny size and light weight means it’s perfect for sticking in your backpack as a just-in-case option – you’re simply not going to notice the tiny size, or compact weight of 56g in your pack, or on your head for that matter.

Unlike Black Diamond’s Spot headtorch which is also featured in this round-up, this has an in-built lithium ion rechargeable battery with a micro-USB port rather than AAAs.

Full Specifications

150 lumens / lithium ion rechargeable battery / 3-hour USB charge time / full strength, dimming and strobe / PowerTap transitioning between full and dimmed power / IPX4 splash resistant.

Read our full Black Diamond Iota review

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