Let There Be Light: The 6 Best Headlamps
There once was a time when the only way you could use a flashlight and keep both your hands free was to cram it into the crook of your neck. While there is no evidence to suggest that this caused untold neck and spine injuries, it certainly was not OSHA approved. Thankfully those days are behind us and now all you need to go into the dark and still use both your opposable thumbs is a great headlamp.
The common misconception is that any decent headlamp will work for any purpose, but this is patently untrue. Spelunkers need a narrower beam for exploring caves while survivalists need a sturdier model that can stand up to adverse weather conditions. Runners need something that will stay in place through every bump in the road while trackers need something that won’t ruin their night vision. Make sure you choose the right lamp for your needs.
LED Lenser H14
Jack of All Trades: The H14 is much more than just a headlamp, it is a lighting system that can go almost anywhere and serve a multitude of purposes. Unsurprisingly they are made by the Leatherman Tool Group, the biggest name in multi-purpose since the Swiss Army. The beam is adjustable so you can get a broad range for night biking or a narrow beam for cave diving. It has three output modes that range from the modest 25 lumens to nearly 200. The mounting bracket attached to the light can easily fit on bike handlebars or clamp on almost anywhere so it can switch from headlamp to work light with the turn of a screw. [Purchase: $75]
Runnin’ Down a Dream: You know what’s more expensive than the Petzl NAO? A twisted or broken ankle. If you like the peacefulness and tranquility of doing a little jogging at night, the Petzl NAO should be your only choice. The cost is a little steeper than some, but if you’ve ever done a little roadwork with a cheaper alternative, the difference will be apparent immediately.
The NAO headlamp uses reactive lighting that uses a sensor to automatically detect ambient light and adjust accordingly. If a cloud suddenly blocks the moon or twilight gives way to pitch blackness, your light won’t fail you and you won’t miss a stride. If you prefer more control, you can even customize your settings to help you avoid night runner’s tunnel vision. The lightweight is easy to adjust to and it won’t hop out of place as you move. Output ranges from 25 to approximately 150 lumens. [Purchase: $149]
Princeton Tec Apex
Thunder Underground: Caving adventures are not for the faint of heart, and these sturdy people need an equally sturdy light to ensure their exploration into the tunnels of the world don’t leave them stranded in the dark. The Apex line is a little heavier than most, so hopefully you don’t need to run from any Morlocks during your subterranean excursions. The reason for the additional heft is the 5 light system that the Apex uses. It has a single primary LED light surrounded by 4 secondary lights to help give you a panoramic view as well as a redundant lighting system that will ensure that even if one light breaks, you will still be able to reach the surface safely. Maximum of 200 lumens. [Purchase: $60]
Black Diamond Spot
Apocalyptic: When the dead rise and you’re trying to get your ragtag group of survivors across town to the mall, this is the headlamp that will make the difference between living to fight another day and becoming zombie chow. It comes with three power settings that can be changed with just a tap to the side of the lamp and includes red LEDs for illumination that won’t hurt your night vision so you can remain battle ready.
The Spot can take a severe beating without breaking, though this makes it one of the heaviest choices out there. It illuminates nearly 250 feet in front of you with 130 lumens so you can see a threat or trouble from a distance. The tap technology is ideal for operation with gloves so it works well in any kind of extreme conditions. The low output gives it the longest battery life of any option. [Purchase: $35]
Industrial Light: If you’ve ever asked yourself what Sam Fisher of Splinter Cell wears on the weekends, this is the answer. It looks like the headgear you would want if you were about to do some serious wet work against an entrenched terrorist camp, but really it is better suited to doing any heavy or detail labor. The headstrap is one of the best and won’t budge while you are under a car or rappelling down the side of a building. It maxes out at 344 lumens, making it bright enough that you can easily clean and reassemble your AR-15 without missing a single grease spot. The simple twist focus on the side can narrow your beam so you can see for nearly 700 feet or broaden it so you can watch for mines at your feet. [Purchase: $68]
Zebralight H600w MKII
Hunter’s Helper: We first looked at Zebralight for their H502 model during our LED flashlight roundup. The H600w model is a little different than that one because it is geared much more toward hunters while the other was for the average home user. It is light enough for hunting down prey if you prefer doing your killing at night while also simple enough to operate that it won’t interfere with your hands whether you prefer a gun or a bow.
The beam gives enough distance to make your shot while it also offers sufficient flood capacity for skinning and cleaning. It is also removable for work that requires a standing or hand-held light. The LED is much warmer than most other headlamp options so it makes following a blood trail significantly simpler. Ranges from less than 1 lumen up to more than 1000 if you choose the right model. [Purchase: $107]