A hiking headlamp is a perfect piece of kit when trail running at dusk, setting up a tent late at night, or hiking in low-light conditions.

Headlamps are long-lasting, energy-efficient, and rely on LEDs as a rugged light source.

Hiking Headlamp

Here are six of the factors that help tell the difference in the headlamps:

Beam Type

  • Wide: A wide (also referred to as a flood beam type) beam is a practical option for hiking activities that relate to up-close work, as well as general duties. A wide beam isn’t designed to provide a light source that travels a great distance.
  • Narrow: A narrow (also called a focused or spot beam) gives access to long-distance viewing. Use the narrow beam type to navigate the hiking trail in low-light conditions.
  • Adjustable: An adjustable hiking headlamp with a combination of wide and narrow beam is the most flexible option and usable in a variety of situations.


Hiking headlights can include a variety of brightness modes or levels. Most lamps include 3-5 modes:

  • Flash: Flash (also referred to as strobe) is effective at providing multiple flash rates – slow, medium, and fast, which are effective at drawing attention in the event of an emergency situation.
  • Low-light: Low is useful in a variety of situations and great for walking on the easy rated trails in low-light conditions.
  • Mid-light: Mid light is an extra setting on some models to give more options.
  • High-light: Use the maximum output for situations that demand the brightest light possible.
  • Boost: A boost mode gives short-term (10-15 seconds) of high intense light but this will drain the batteries quickly if used often.


A major requirement of a headlamp or other light source is the ability to direct light to a particular area.

Headlights are rated on the distance a light travels. This rating is usually calculated in meters. Use the lumens rating to determine the source brightness of a lamp.

The distance helps to identify how far it travels while still having enough strength to illuminate the chosen object.


Lumens relates to the total quality of the light output. Headlights with a low lumens count are certain to use less energy compared to the lights with a high lumens rating.

A headlight with a high lumens count provides the brightest light source. But the ability to direct and focus the light beam can have an impact on the quality of the light emitted.

Run Time

The run time calculation is based on the ability to still provide a useable light source up to a distance of approx two meters.


A purpose-made hiking headlamp has a weight limit in the region of 7-9-oz (including batteries). Most of the headlamps have a similar design weight and size – although the high-end models are very powerful and lightweight.

Plus, certain headlamps come with an extra battery pack, which will of course add weight.

Use the headlamps that match the outdoor activity. Some are more intended for climbing and not general hiking adventures.

What add-on features

Many of the hiking headlamps come with a choice of features to increase the level of functionality.

A standard extra of the hiking or outdoor specific models is water resistance. A headlight used on the trail must be able to handle a certain degree of moisture from snow or rainfall. The most reliable lamps can even handle short-term immersion.