Best Headtorches For Hiking 2021 | The Brightest And Best Lamps To Light Up The Trail - Outdoors Magic

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Best Headtorches For Hiking 2021 | The Brightest And Best Lamps To Light Up The Trail

Our test team have picked out the leading head torches on the market for hikers and hillwalkers

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

Whether you’re getting an early Alpine start to reach a mountain summit as the sun rises, heading out on a night hike or just settling down in your tent for the night – the value of head torches (or head lamps, as our U.S. friends call them) cannot be underestimated – especially when the days get shorter and the dark 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 head torches: a small, lightweight ‘emergency’ head torch and a slightly tougher, heavier workhorse. The compact emergency option is usually stored out of the way in say, the personal items section of a rucksack lid and is only reached for when your main head torch has run out of juice.

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

What Are The Best Head Torches?

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

Brightness: The most obvious feature of a head torch. How many lumens (measurement of brightness) does the head torch in question emit? They’re there to provide lighting in dark situations, after all. The brightness of a head torch 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 head torch 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 head torches. It is 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 head torch 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 head torch on high power for long periods – night navigation comes to mind. Standard head torches 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 head torches 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 head torch 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 head torches with replaceable batteries though, because there’s always the option of using rechargeable AA or AAA batteries. It’s worth checking out models like the GP Xplor PHR15, which not only uses rechargeable batteries but has an integrated USB port so you can plug in and power up using a portable power bank.

Other Features: The weight of the head torch will be of particular interest for ultralighters. Some people may also look for a red light mode, which helps to preserve night vision and will stop you from annoying everybody else in a bothy or mountain hut with your early-morning alpine start. Finally, other things to consider are the waterproof and dustproof ratings (IP ratings) and any easily accessible dimming modes – if you’re using the head torch in winter, consider whether you’ll be able to switch the modes and operate the buttons while wearing gloves or with cold hands.

Top 10 Best Head Torches: On Test

  • Petzl Bindi – Best Head Torch For Walking
  • Nitecore HC65
  • Black Diamond Spot 325 –
  • Biolite Headlamp 330
  • GP Xplor PHR15
  • Alpkit Gamma III
  • Petzl Swift SL
  • LEDLenser MH3
  • Black Diamond Iota
  • Edelrid Novalite

 

BEST BUY: Petzl Bindi

Price: £53
Weight: 35g
Best for: Lightweight hiking, emergency use
Key attributes: Superlight, compact, rechargeable via USB

This is a great head torch 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 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


Get the latest price at:
petzl.com

 

Black Diamond Spot 325

Price: £40
Weight: 86g
Best for: Wet-weather hiking and hillwalking
Key attributes: Highly water-resistant

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.

Read our full Black Diamond Spot 325 review.

Shop for Black Diamond head torches at:
webtogs.com


 

Biolite Headlamp 330

Price: £50
Weight: 69g
Best for: Lightweight hiking, emergency use
Key attributes: Superlight, solid battery life

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 pricier end of the scale though.

Full Specifications

On, off and lock button / flood lens / spot lens / articulating front bezel / moisture-wicking fabric / rechargeable via micro-USB / reflective strip / battery indicator LEDs.

Read our full Biolite Headlamp 330 review.

Get the latest price at:
biolitenergy.com


 

GP Xplor PHR15

Price: £35
Weight: 110g
Best for: All-round outdoor use
Key attributes: Reliable, versatile power options

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 / rechargeable via micro USB port.

Read our full GP Xplor PHR15 review

Get the latest price at:
uk.gpbatteries.com


 

 

Alpkit Gamma III

Price: £25
Weight: 140g
Best for: Trail and road running
Key attributes: Array of different light modes, rear red light for running

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.

Get the latest price at:
alpkit.com


 

Nitecore HC65

Price: £76.95
Weight: 122g
Best for: Challenge hikers, technical users
Key attributes: Extremely bright, durable, functional

With a housing made from an aero-grade anodised aluminium alloy, this thing is basically as tough as head torches come. It’s also rated at IPX8 in terms of waterproofness, which means it’s submersible to 2 metres.

It has an extremely bright main beam, boasting an output of up to 1000 lumens and a beam distance of 110m. It cycles through five levels of brightness, plus strobe, SOS, beacon or red light functions. These are all cycled through via one glove-friendly button that is fully pressed, half pressed, held or double clicked to cycle between all the various settings.

The maximum runtime you’ll get is up to a whopping 800 hours – though that’ll be on its lower, most economical setting. On its highest setting, you’d be likely to get around 2 hours and 45 minutes of runtime off a fully charged battery. Usefully, the battery supplied by Nitecore can be charged while in the head torch via a built-in Intelligent Micro-USB. To do this you just need to unscrew the cap (being careful not to lose it) and plug in the cable.

Full Specifications

Up to 1000 lumens brightness / turbo, high, mid, low and ultra low brightness settings / strobe, SOS, beacon or red light modes / adjustable beam angle / waterproof IPX8 aluminium body / adjustable head strap / rechargeable lithium-ion battery / power and charging indicators / USB charger lead included / up to 800 hours battery life (at ultra-low output)

Read our full Nitecore HC65 review

Get the latest price at:
nitecore.co.uk


 

Petzl Swift RL

Price: £97
Weight: 100g
Best for: Lightweight hikers, technical users
Key attributes: Bright, lightweight, reactive light mode

The Swift RL is a fine example of an ultra-bright head torch coming in a lightweight, extremely convenient, body. An impressive 900 lumens from a 100g item will definitely appeal to the backpackers out there who like keeping things fast and light (light in more ways than one).

This headtorch’s key feature is Petzl’s ‘Reactive Lighting’ technology. The light sensor automatically adjusts brightness and beam pattern depending on the current level of light in the environment. This optimises battery usage and keeps the head torch going for longer. Of course, you can also switch to a ‘Standard Lighting’ mode.

The Swift RL is home to a Lithium-Ion 2350 mAh battery, something that can be recharged via the type B micro USB port. You can also keep an eye on this via the product’s battery charge indicator.

It’s intuitive to use too, with a single button that controls ‘On / Off’, the various lighting modes, brightness and the lock function.

Full Specifications

900 lumens output / reactive or standard lighting modes / 2350 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery (included) / charging time: 6 hrs / water-resistant (IPX4).

Read our full Petzl Swift RL review.

Get the latest prices on Petzl head torches at:
petzl.com

 

LEDLenser MH3

Price: £35
Weight: 190g
Best for: All-round outdoor use, including cycling and running
Key attributes: Functional, effective, good value

Whether you’re a wild camper or a night time trail runner, this torch screams functionality and versatility from the hilltops. You can wear it on your head or chest, which means the number of evening activities you can do with it is greatly increased. It is powered by a single AA battery (included), and with a low battery indicator to keep you up to speed, the LedLenser MH3 delivers up to 200 lumens. This light can be focused with a simple, intuitive, twist of the lamp. It can also be tilted within a 60° angle, meaning you can adjust it to sort your situation. It has a maximum light distance of 130 metres and an optimum light distance of 40 metres. The head torch has a maximum burn time of 35 hours, with the lowest settings activated, and a minimum burn time of 4.5 hours.

Full Specifications

200 lumens max output / 130 metres max beam range / 35 hours max burn time / focusing beam / adjustable beam angle / uses 1 x AA battery / IPX4 splash resistant.

Read our full LEDLenser MH3 review.

Get the latest price at:
ledlenser.com


 

Black Diamond Iota

Price: £37
Weight: 56g
Best for: Ultralight hikers, emergency use
Key attributes: Lightweight, compact, reachargeable via micro-USB.

The Black Diamond Iota isn’t the brightest head torch 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 head torch 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.

Get the latest prices on Black Diamond head torches at:
webtogs.com


Edelrid Novalite

Price: £30
Weight: 70g
Best for: Emergency or back-up use
Key attributes: Functional, effective, good value

Edelrid’s best known for climbing hardware, but it also sells a small range of head torches including the compact Novalite. We’d say this is one of those head torches that’s perfect as a stand-by option rather than your prime mover – it’s the one you keep in your bag just in case your Plan A torch runs out or fails on you.

Complete with a single AA battery, it weighs in at 70 grams, which isn’t super light, but certainly won’t slow you down.

The light has a single central LED with a claimed 134 lumen spot beam plus a pair of peripheral lower-powered bulbs churning out 31 lumens for close-up work around camp and so on. Otherwise there are few frills: a simple light head with secure angle adjustment, a top-mounted switch that cycles through high, middle, ‘eco’ and SOS modes on the main beam and a simple but functional elasticated headband.

Full Specifications

134 lumens of illumination / choice of three brightness levels and SOS strobe mode / runs of 1 AA / burns 8-35 hours / IPX6 water resistant / adjustable light head angle / elastic headband.

Read our full Edelrid Novalite review.

Get the latest price at:
edelrid.com

 

 

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