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.
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.
Our Team’s Pick of the Best Head Torches for Hiking
Here’s our selection. All of these head torches have been tested by our crew for their brightness, battery life, functionality and reliability. Price, durability and sustainability were also part of the equation. We used them on fastpacking trips through the Welsh mountains, on weekend wild camps and on weeks-long backpacking trips and these are the standouts.
Best Overall Head Torch: Silva Free 1200 S
Best Head Torch for Ultralight Hikers: Petzl Bindi
Best Bright Head Torch for High-Performance Use: Nitecore HC65
- Best Head Torch for Battery Life: Princeton Tec Remix 450 LED
I’ve been reviewing gear professionally for over 10 years now, mainly looking at equipment and clothing for hiking, backpacking and trail running. In that time, I’ve been a jury member for some of the biggest gear awards in the outdoor industry, including the ISPO Awards, the OIA Awards and the Scandinavian Outdoor Awards and I’ve written for numerous outdoor magazines. My hobbies are linked to my career; I’m always outside in the hills. More specifically, I love long distance hiking and I dabble in a bit of ultra running and fastpacking too.
How We Tested Them
I tested all of the head torches in this list and also looked at numerous others that didn’t make the cut. I’ll admit that I come at things with the perspective of a long-distance hiker so, for me, the battery life and weight of each head torch always commands my attention but I also assess brightness, water resistance, functionality, durability and comfort and stability. I didn’t follow a set format for my testing and instead, each of these head torches joined me for a different trip outdoors – or, in most cases, on multiple trips. The Petzl Bindi, for instance, joined me on a 500-mile run across Wales, the Nitecore HC65 comes on my evening dog walks and I was out testing the Princeton and Silva Free head torches in the Cairngorms during Storm Babet – that was a wet, windy and cold few days!
Best Overall Head Torch for Hiking
Silva Free 1200 S
Brightness: 1200 lumens
Key attributes: Modular system, excellent wireless head lamp
The Free 1200 S sits in the broad ‘Free’ family of head torches from Silva and within this there are loads of components that you can add on to each head torch. These include spare batteries, GoPro mounts, bulbs of varying brightness and even cords that let you link up your bulb to a battery that’s stowed in your jacket pocket. So essentially, it’s a kind of customisable head torch.
The headband alone is impressive. It feels very stable – even when you’re running downhill – and it’s fuss-free. By that, we mean that all of the wires are hidden away within the headband, so there’s nothing that’s dangling or there to be snagged.
We tested out the 1200 bulb and were impressed. This has an incredibly powerful beam of 1200 lumens. It also has three different light settings and comes with Silva’s Intelligent Light technology. This is a double light beam that gives you the combination of a long reach spotlight and a close flood-light together. The purpose of this is that it helps to reduce tunnel vision and creates a faded natural light at the edges.
Not only can you have a red light on the front of the head torch but on the back too. This provides night time safety on roads or when you’re leading the way for other runners or walkers. You can have this fully off, flashing or on continuously.
Ultimately, this is a massively impressive head torch series and we were blown away by its capabilities. To some the extra components might be more fuss than is needed, but for those who spend a lot of time out hiking or running, often in gloomy or fully dark conditions, those extra components are worth exploring.
12000 lumen bulb / light distance of 150m / max, med, minimum settings / USB-C Li-ion battery / spotlight and flood light mix / IPX5.
Selected for our Outdoor 100 23/24. Read our full Silva Free 1200 S review.
|BUY NOW: SILVASWEDEN.UK|