Best Head Torches For Hiking 2024 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Head Torches For Hiking 2024

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.

Will testing the Princeton Tec out in the Cairngorms. Photo: Dave Macfarlane

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


The Expert

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

Will testing the Silva Free 1200 in the Cairngorms. Photo: Dave Macfarlane

Price: £180
Weight: 113g
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. 

Full Specifications

1200 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.



Best Head Torch For Ultralight Hikers

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. Quite simply, there aren’t many head torches that are lighter than this and we’ve certainly not found any lightweight options with the performance that this one offers.

From our experience testing this, it’s ideal as that emergency back up or even just as that head torch that accompanies you on quick night time runs or on evening hikes where you want something with you on the off chance that the tail end of your day out gets gloomier than you were expecting.

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. The only downside to this is that we found that after many, many days of use, the pivot eventually became loose making the casing hard to keep from dropping.

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



Best Bright Head Torch for High-Performance Use

Nitecore HC65

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

This is a super tough head torch that impressed us with its capabilities. It gives off very strong special forces vibes aesthetically and in performance. During our tests, it proved to be very bright and powerful and pretty much impossible to break. The downsides we discovered are that the straps are a little fiddly and there are bits and bobs that could be very easy to loose by accident. It’s also not the most intuitive head torch to use.

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



Best Head Torch for Battery Life

Princeton Tec Remix 450 LED

Price: £60
Weight: 83g
Brightness: 450 lumens
Key attributes: simple, long burntime 

This head torch really impressed us with its battery life. It gives a whopping 65 hours of run time and that’s on its highest setting of 450 lumens. We also liked its user-friendliness and simplicity. Operating it is very straightforward with just one large push button that allows the user to cycle through its functions. Said functions include a high beam, medium and low outputs and a red light for preserving night vision.

It only runs off 3 AAA alkaline batteries. Arguably, this means it’s not as user-friendly as a USB-rechargeable head lamp, or a lamp that works with removeable rechargeable battery packs. Still, we found this was lightweight, stable and comfortable and, while it’s not waterproof, it was water resistant enough to withstand heavy rain. 

Full Specifications

450 lumens / runs off 3 x AAA batteries / 4 settings including max, medium and low and red setting / 63 hours max run time / IPX 4 rated. 

Selected for our Outdoor 100 23/24. Read our full Princeton Tec Remix 450 review.




Best of the Rest

Petzl Iko Core

Price: £57.50
Weight: 79g
Best for: Lightweight hikers, technical users
Key attributes:Lightweight, compact, bright and extremely comfortable to wear

The Petzl Iko Core doesn’t look like most other head torches – there’s no bulky light unit at the front, no overhead strap and no chunky elastic headband. Instead, the Airfit headband is an ultra-thin, semi-rigid frame that is contoured to sit comfortably around your head. This design makes for more even weight distribution, aiding overall comfort. Rear adjustment consists of a single elasticated pull cord, which works very effectively with minimal fuss (no more fiddling with strap buckles and the like).

The 500-lumen output comes from an array of 7 LEDs arranged in two rows. The beam of each little LED overlaps to give a consistent bright white circle of light. The Iko has a flood or mixed beam, plus 3 white brightness levels, all operated by a single tap of the small orange button that is located, a little strangely, on the bottom of the LED array. There’s also a coloured battery charge indicator that flashes when the lamp is turned on or off, for checking remaining battery life. You can also press and hold the button to activate a lock function that will prevent accidental operation (useful if it’s stashed in your pack).

It is powered by a rear battery compartment that can take either 3 x standard AAA batteries or Petzl’s own rechargeable 1,250mAh CORE battery pack. The CORE batteries can be removed from the head lamp, so if you have two you can instantly swap out a dead pack for a fresh one. They go from zero to fully charged in about 3 hours via a mini-USB port. They’re also pretty powerful – using the Iko with standard batteries gives you up to 350 lumens, but using the CORE system takes it to 500 lumens.

Full Specifications

500 lumens output / flood or beam lighting modes / 1250 mAh Lithium-Ion CORE rechargeable battery (included) / charging time: 3 hrs / water-resistant (IPX4).

Read our full Petzl Iko Core review.



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 head torch 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. Here, we’ve reviewed the 325 but bear in mind there’s now a newer model called the Spot 400 – that boasts a 400 lumen bulb and they’ve reduced the size of the entire unit, added a new mode selector, and updated the LED.

Power modes on the Spot 325 are able to be changed through the simple press of the main button on the top of the head torch, 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.



Silva Terra Scout XT

OM editor using the Terra Scout H while hiking the Cumbria Way. Photos: Joe Whitmore

Price: £40
Weight: 76g
Best for: Backpacking, wild camping
Key attributes: Recycled plastic materials, hemp headband, rechargeable battery

With the new Terra range, Silva has introduced three new head torches, the Scout X, Scout XT and range-topping Scout H. All use recycled plastic materials and a hemp headband to give a carbon footprint reduction of 90% compared to the previous models.

The three different models have maximum outputs of 300 lumens for the Scout X and 350 lumens for the Scout XT and Scout H. All use Silva’s Hybrid Technology, which means they can be powered either by standard AAA batteries or by Silva’s rechargeable 1.25Ah lithium-ion cell. The Scout H comes with one of these Hybrid batteries as standard, hence its slightly higher price point.

The Scout H is lightweight and comfortable overall, thanks to a soft, wide strap. We found it to be pretty powerful, with dual white LEDs that provide combined spot and flood lighting plus a secondary red LED for night vision use. The max output of the Scout H is a creditable 350 lumens, and Silva’s Intelligent Light technology delivers a good balance of beam spread and penetration. During our tests, we found that the operations are simple and straightforward via one big button on top of the headlamp, but you also get a battery level indicator and that hybrid battery technology. Unlike most others, the rechargeable battery pack has a USB-C port rather than the older micro-USB tech too, enabling faster charging.

Full Specifications

Recycled plastic materials / hemp headband / 350 lumen output / AAA battery and rechargeable 1.25Ah lithium-ion cell compatible /  spot and flood lighting / red LED light / battery level indicator / one button / USB-C port.

Selected for our Green Gear Guide 2023 – Read our full Silva Terra Scout H review.



Biolite Headlamp 330

Price: £60
Weight: 69g
Best for: Multi-activity trips, lightweight hiking
Key attributes: Versatile,  fully-featured, comfortable to wear

The BioLite HeadLamp 330 is ideal for active outdoorsy types who will be wearing a head torch on the move as well as in camp. Although it’s not the most powerful lamp out there, it still puts out a bright, powerful beam and has both flood and spot modes. There’s also a red light option to preserve night vision and provide low impact lighting, as well as a white strobe SOS mode. 

It also has a USB rechargeable 900mAh lithium ion battery (positioned at the rear of the lamp), a comfy headband that integrates the electronics without the need for loads of wiring, and a projection beam of up to 75 metres.

You should get 3.5 hours of light on high mode and 40 hours on low. That 330-lumen headline refers to total lumens (230 Lm spot and 100 Lm flood), and you can only have one or the other of the LED modes activated at any time.

Read our full BioLite HeadLamp 330 head torch review. 

Full Specifications

White flood and spot modes / red light option / white strobe SOS mode / USB rechargeable 900 mAh lithium ion battery / 69g / integrated electronics in the headband / 3.5 hours of light on high mode / 40 hours of light on low mode / 330-lumen / beams up to 75m / supports  pass-thru charging / 



Nathan Neutron Fire RX

Price: $55
Weight: 95g
Best for: Road and trail running
Key attributes: Lightweight, low-profile and compact, packing plenty of punch for its size

US brand Nathan’s Neutron Fire RX running headlamp has been designed specifically with road and trail runners in mind. It has a 360-degree reflective headband and a 160-lumen light output (or up to 200 lumens in ‘sprint’ mode) with five different lighting options, plus an unusual side strobe function that can illuminate in red, green or blue.

The compact, lightweight design has a low-profile light unit and a slimline headband to minimise weight and bulk in use. With a max burn time of 25+ hours, it’s suitable for even the longest late-evening runs but is also a great grab-and-go headlamp for shorter sessions.

With a 160-lumen output on ‘high’ setting and a crisp white light beam, it’ll serve most trail and fell runners well too. If you need even more illumination, you can switch to a 200-lumen ‘sprint’ mode, which gives you a short boost of high intensity white light. If you’re into fastpacking or ultralight backpacking, you might also be attracted by this headlamp’s low weight and small pack size. We actually found it serves well as that head torch that you carry as a back up for emergencies.

During out tests, this wasn’t a standout performer, but it did the job and the price isn’t bad.

Full Specifications

White LED spotlight with 5 lighting modes (low/medium/high/sprint/strobe), plus side strobes with Red, Green, & Blue light options / 200 lumens burst, 160 lumens high / IPX4 waterproofing / rechargeable Lithium Ion battery pack / rechargeable via micro USB port.

Read our full Nathan Neutron Fire RX review



How to Choose a Head Torch for Hiking

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.

One of Biolite’s head torches during our tests.

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.

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