The Best Camping Headlamps to Light Up Your Camping Trail
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Portable lighting has come a long way since the days when our ancestors carried torches, and miners descended into the depths with oil lamps strapped to their heads. Today, LED-powered headlamps are the only way to go, whether you’re looking for a good headlamp for camping or need one for a caving expedition. Joggers and dog walkers can enjoy new, lightweight models as well.
With hundreds of headlamps flooding the market, the best camping headlamps can be challenging to find. For this review, our team chose four of the best LED camping headlights and decided to put them through the wringer. After spending a few weeks with these headlamps, an overwhelming choice for the best camping headlamp became apparent, although things weren’t nearly as clear-cut with the rest of the pack.
The Best Camping Headlamps
The Black Diamond Storm was a headlamp I was excited to use, especially given its wide array of lighting modes. At 350 lumens, I had no trouble illuminating the terrain or inspecting PEX in my basement with the QuadPower or DoublePower LEDs, even if getting to the advanced features on this headlamp can be tricky.
A power button on top of the housing is the primary means of control on this headlamp, which fires it up and allows you to cycle through modes. It took a few minutes to figure out how to access the Red, Green, and Blue beams, so keep the instructions handy when you’re starting out. Those additional modes come in handy, whether you’re looking for game in the woods or just need to read a map in the dark.
While an extra button would have made life easier, this headlamp isn’t impossible to master. You will want to commit the manual to memory before heading out on a trek, however. On the plus side, I loved the Power Tap feature on the side of the headlamp, which allows you to quickly dim this camping leadlight without having to cycle through modes.
While the Black Diamond Storm 350 could be easier to use, I found it extremely comfortable. You can adjust the angle of the beam down a few clicks with a bracket on the front, and there are two sliders on the side that tighten or loosen the band. I had no trouble making adjustments while in motion or one-handed without loosening the band.
With a weight of 3.9 ounces, its light, but you can definitely tell it’s on your head as considering it’s powered by four AAA batteries. It feels sturdy and has IP67 certification so it can withstand more wear and tear than the other headlamps I tested. It lived up to the hype with water-resistance after sitting in my aquarium for quite some time, and the battery life was a pleasant surprise as well.
This headlamp was introduced in 2018 before the new standards. We were able to get close to 4.5 hours of burn time at maximum power after spending some time tinkering with settings and testing various modes. Low-light performance was excellent as well at around 41 hours in our tests. For general or mixed usage, you’ll have plenty of power, and the design keeps the batteries warm for cold weather operation.
This headlamp may be too heavy to use as a running light for some, but it’s perfect for camping and other outdoor activities where a rugged, bright headlamp is required. The colored LEDs are extremely useful as well, along with the strobe function, which could help you get out of a hairy situation in the woods. Tap to dim is also handy to keep you from blinding people on a trail.
The biggest issue I encountered was the one-button control scheme given the number of modes, but it’s not hard to use by any means – you just need to get the hang of it. Overall, we feel it’s the best headlamp for camping or the outdoors in general, especially when you factor in the IPX67 certification.
- Lumens: 350
- IPX Rating: IP67
- Batteries: 4 AAA
- Weight: 3.9 ounces
- Burn Time: 5 to 40 hours
- Beam Distance: 85 meters
Billed as a No-Bounce headlamp, the BioLite 330 is a lightweight system that’s ideal for camping or running. It was one of the lighter camping headlights I tested as well, with a weight of 2.4 ounces. Unlike our other picks, the BioLite 330 headlamp has a rechargeable battery system, so you can say goodbye to packing batteries for your next outdoor excursion.
As this is a USB-based system, the design is a bit different. A hidden wire runs through the band to the battery pack on the back. A plug keeps dust and debris out of the charging port, although the BioLite 330 is not waterproof, just water-resistant. While the IPX4 rating is fine for general use outdoors, and the band is moisture-wicking, you can’t remove or wash it properly because of the design.
That’s a downer, but not a deal-breaker, and it’s common with headlamps of this nature. The band was comfortable on my average-sized head after 4 – 6 hours. It’s flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of head sizes as well, with a set of sliders on each side of the band. The headlamp did not bounce, nor slip during a brief jog, and the lamp has four levels of articulation.
All the standard modes are present with this headlamp, so you can use the proximity or spot light together or separately. It has a one-button control system, which is easy to use as there aren’t too many modes to cycle through. A quick click can active the Red LED light or strobe, while a lock function keeps it from accidentally turning on in your pack.
There aren’t as many modes on the BioLite 330 as you’ll find with other headlamps, but you don’t necessarily need them if you’re mainly using this light in a tent or to find your way around the campsite. Burn time was as advertised, as I was able to get right around 3.5 hours of power on high, so you can expect close to 40 hours on low courtesy of the 900mAh rechargeable battery.
When it comes to the beams, it doesn’t disappoint and matches the box specs, although it’s a step behind the Storm in that regard. The spot was bright and cut a path in the darkness ahead of us; it just doesn’t have quite the distance compared to a few of our other test models, including the Storm and the Coast HL7.
The BioLite 330 is an interesting choice for camping and performed admirably in all of our tests. If you prefer running over walking on a trail, you’ll be thrilled with the weight and no-bounce design on this headlamp. It has enough modes to keep most campers happy, and the Red LED will help keep your night vision intact.
A common complaint with this headlamp is the size of the power button, which did make things a little difficult with gloves on. It’s also a bit expensive for what it brings to the table in the power department compared to similar models, although it can recharge quickly in around 2.5 hours.
- Lumens: 330
- IPX Rating: IPX4
- Batteries: USB recharging
- Weight: 2.4 ounces
- Burn Time: 5 to 40 hours
- Beam Distance: 75 meters
Not every headlamp needs to have a dozen modes to help you find a trail in the dark or light up your tent at night. That’s the appeal of systems like the HL7, an affordable camping headlamp produced by Coast.
Firing up the Coast HL7 305 is as easy as installing three AAA batteries and hitting the switch. Unlike some models, the batteries slide into a sealed pod on the back of this headlamp. The battery pack is half plastic with a rubber cover that pops off for battery access. It’s an interesting approach and provides a tight seal, although it’s not waterproof.
With a hat on, this headlamp wasn’t bothersome, but sans hat, it became noticeable after a few hours as it tips the scales at 4.4 ounces. It wasn’t uncomfortable, just not as streamlined considering there is a wire snakes down one side of the band that connects the lights and batteries. The sizing clips are both on the left-hand side, which also makes this one a little more difficult to tighten up on the fly.
I found the HL7 very easy to use as there are only a handful of simple controls to deal with. The large power button is on top of the lamp housing, which features the company’s Pure-Beam twist focusing system. It allows you to adjust the beam from a proximity to spot mode quickly, without having to press the power button. On the downside, there’s a separate control for that.
When you want to adjust the power, a lever on top of the battery pack handles that. Again, it takes some getting used to if you’re partial to forward-facing controls, but it gets the job done. This camping headlamp is hinged, with three levels of articulation. It is just as easy to operate as well with gloves on or barehanded.
This headlamp is IPX4 certified so it can withstand rain while the lamp housing and lens cover are impact resistant. I actually dropped the Coast 305 hard enough to make me cringe during testing, but the light stayed on and was no worse for the wear when recovered at the bottom of a hill. You can remove the band as well, like the rest of the camping headlights on our list, aside from the BioLite.
Coast’s Pure-Beam twist focusing system has a range of 16 to 127 meters and proved it could cover a lot of ground during testing. Burn time on this older headlamp can be misleading if you go by the box. I was able to squeeze close to 2.5 hours out of this one at full power and was around 30 hours in low power mode when the light began to flicker and dim.
The Coast HL7 305 doesn’t have the bells & whistles found on the Diamond Storm or BioLite’s headlamp, but it was one of the easiest headlamps I tested and used next to the Princeton Tec REMIX. The Pure-Beam system was a breeze to use, and it is quite rugged despite the IPX4 tag. If any parts on this headlamp do happen to fail like the tilting mechanism or switch, the company will replace or repair the unit for a $5.00 shipping fee.
On the downside, it is bulky and heavier than other headlamps, so it’s not something you’ll want to jog in. It also ranks behind the other camping headlamps we reviewed when it comes to battery life, so you’ll want to have some extra batteries on hand for extended camping trips. There is a rechargeable variant of this headlamp available with Twist Focus as well in the Coast HL7R, although it’s rated at 240 lumens.
- Lumens: 305
- IPX Rating: IPX4
- Batteries: 3 AAA
- Weight: 4.4 ounces
- Burn Time: 2.5 to 35 hours
- Beam Distance: 127 meters
Out of the four headlamps we tested, the Princeton Tec Remix is a contender for the easiest headlamp to use. There is only one button to control the four LED lights on this lamp, which includes a Maxbright LED along with 3 Ultrabright LEDs. While it takes 3 AAA batteries to power the Tec Remix up, it only weighs a little more than the BioLite 330 at 2.9 ounces.
Whether you’re hiking, reading in a tent, or taking your four-legged friend out for a walk, this headlamp won’t weigh you down. I found it comfortable to wear for an extended length of time and experienced no pinching or discomfort. It wasn’t quite as easy to adjust as the BioLite, although you can easily remove the band from the Remix.
The barrel-shaped lens housing allows for a wide degree of articulation on this headlamp. It locks in 5 positions up or down, which is a nice touch, and the batteries slide into a cap on the end. It has an IPX4 rating, so it can handle a bit of rain, and I love the fact you can wash the band as needed. Gear is known to get grimy in the great outdoors.
It doesn’t feel very sturdy, however, and you’ll need both hands to adjust the Remix. The battery door is my biggest concern with this unit, as it was difficult to access and felt like it would snap off in my hands. While it didn’t in the few weeks I spend using the headlamp, other users have had problems with the door, so there’s a chance it may not outlive the lamp.
There are four modes on this headlamp, with high and low for the proximity and spot modes, although there are no color LEDs on this particular configuration. With a rating of 300 lumens, it’s bright and performs as advertised. It was a little lacking when it came to lighting up a trail when pitted against the Storm, but worked well for general usage outdoors, around the house, and in the garage.
Burn time for this model is listed at between 40 to 150 hours depending on whether you’re in spot or flood mode. As you might suspect, that didn’t pan out in our live tests. A more reasonable range is 4 to 30 hours based on my testing. Like the Coastal HL7, this headlamp started to dim well before the battery ran dry. Beam strength was solid, although it’s not quite as capable as our top two contenders.
While I really wanted to love this lightweight camping headlamp, the battery door could definitely be an issue down the line. The excellent warranty helps in that regard, although I needed two hands to adjust the angle of the beam, whereas other models didn’t require as much pressure.
While the battery compartment and battery life is a bit of a drag, it’s hard to argue with the price and performance of this LED camping headlamp if you want something affordable and simple to use. The Princeton Tec Remix is available in several configurations and comes with a 5-year guarantee.
- Lumens: 330
- IPX Rating: IPX4
- Batteries: 3 AAA
- Weight: 2.9 ounces
- Burn Time: 4 to 40 hours
- Beam Distance: 45 meters
After spending a few weeks with these camping headlamps, and running them through a similar set of tests, it became clear that one headlamp stood out. That would be the Black Diamond Storm 350, our choice for the best camping headlamp. It packs quite the punch for the price.
Again, the biggest issue I had with the Storm was the learning curve, so it’s not something you’ll want to buy and toss in your pack on the way to a campsite. Once you have some experience under your belt, switching modes becomes more natural and it’s also the only lamp on our list that’s completely waterproof.
The second-best option for campers is the BioLite 330. It’s easier to control out of the box, is rechargeable, and has several useful modes, including a Red LED and Strobe. The lightweight no-bounce design is something you’ll be thankful for during activities outdoors. The power button could cause issues if you have large hands or need to use it with gloves, however.
How to find the Best Camping Headlamp
While it can be tempting to scoop up a highly rated headlamp with a nice price tag, it can also be a huge mistake. The best camping headlamp needs to meet your needs in the lighting department but should be easy to use as comfortable as well.
Specifications are usually the first place consumers turn, but they aren’t always accurate or up to date, so what’s on the box may not be entirely accurate. It’s something we encountered in our burn test, although the new ANSI/PLATO FL 1 2019 Standard aims to even the playing field. With that in mind, here are a few areas to focus on when shopping for a good headlamp for camping.
Burn time is arguably the most significant factor to consider on a headlamp aside comfort. Burn time refers to runtime or battery life and gives you an idea of how long your lamp will last while you’re out in the wilderness. Running out of juice in the middle of a trek can be disastrous, and you have to take the specifications on the box with a grain of salt unless it meets the new FL 1 standard.
The mode you are using will obviously have a drastic effect on the burn time, so think about if you’ll use the spot or proximity mode more before being bowled over by battery life. How many bulbs are in use is also a factor with burn time, and you have to consider whether you want a system with replaceable batteries or a camping headlight with USB charging. That’s become a popular feature but can raise the cost of the headlamp.
Even the best camping headlamp won’t be of much use if it’s uncomfortable on your head. Unfortunately, it’s also one of those things that’s hard to gauge until you actually wear a headlamp for a few hours. Will you wear the headlamp with a hat? That can make a difference, and while the bands are adjustable, an errant slider can trigger a pressure point and ruin your day.
If the headlamp has a removable band, you may be able to fix that issue, but that’s not an option with some models. Weight can so be a concern with comfort during extended use, but shouldn’t be an issue with a well-designed headlamp.
If you just need a good headlamp to use in your basement, durability isn’t a significant concern, but things are different outdoors. The best camping headlamp needs to be able to withstand Mother Nature to a degree or a tumble on the trail.
Construction plays a large part with durability, but the IP or Ingress Protection rating tells you how resistant your headlamp will be against the elements. The first number represents solids, while the second deals with water. A headlamp with an IP67 rating means it’s dust-tight and can handle up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes according to their standards.
Features help separate the best from the rest in the gadget world, and that equates to modes with camping headlamps. A good headlight for camping will have two modes with spot, for distance, and proximity for anything up closer or areas you want to flood with light. Normally, you can dim both of these modes, if you don’t need them at full strength, but that feature is hit or miss when you’re dealing with colors.
A Green LED is ideal for hunters and fisherman as they can attract game, and won’t scare them away. Blue LEDs are popular in crime labs, but also useful in the woods when fog is present. Strobe mode is handy if you get yourself into a jam, although Red LEDs are arguably the most popular option. If you want to keep your night vision intact or find your way through the campsite without disturbing anyone, look for a headlamp with a Red LED.
Ease of Use
Flashlights and headlamps share a lot in common. Both are excellent choices for camping, although a headlamp will leave your hands free. Unfortunately, not every headlamp is easy to use, which is one of the biggest complaints we’ve seen from consumers. It’s also something I experienced firsthand with a few of our review units.
Prepare for a relatively steep learning curve if you have your heart set on a camping headlamp with a half-dozen modes. Consider gloved usage as well, along with the size of any buttons and headlamp articulation. That’s a standard feature on camping headlights but may require two hands if the mechanism is stiff.
This tricky technical specification may not quite as important as you think unless you need an incredibly bright camping headlamp. Every headlamp will have a lumen count, and the higher the number, the brighter the light. In our research and testing, we found that headlamps in the 300-lumen range are quite capable outdoors.
With that in mind, you don’t need 300 lumens to read a book in your tent or find firewood. A brighter bulb will also require more power, which means you may get less burn time depending on the batteries. If the manufacturer adds more battery power, you’ll have to deal with more weight and bulk.