11 Best Headlamps for Camping and Hiking

Whether you’re hiking in the dark, night running, or setting up camp after sundown, hands-free light is a must. With a good headlamp for camping and hiking, you can get more done after dark, more easily than ever. 

Our best headlamps review will give you an overview of the pros and cons of different headlamps to help you find the best one for your outdoor adventures.

Best headlamps for camping, backpacking, and hiking

1. Petzl Tikka Headlamp

An all-around great option, the Petzl Tikka Headlamp ticks all the boxes when it comes to lighting up your campsite. It’s light at 85 grams and versatile with 3 white light settings and one red light setting. A single button toggles through settings, which simplifies operation.

The flood beam lights up a wide area, making this a perfect headlamp for setting up your tent in the dark, cooking meals, and even hiking or running at night. With so much going for it and a low price point, the Petzl Tikka Headlamp is a winner when it comes to lighting up your nightlight activities and our pick for the best headlamp for backpacking.

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  • Lumens: 300
  • Beam: Mixed
  • Battery life: Up to 120 hours on lower setting

2. GearLight LED Outdoor Headlamp

The GearLight LED Outdoor Headlamp gives you 7 settings to choose from for any lighting situation. Perfect for use around camp and walking to the latrine, the beam is not quite bright enough for night hikes or trail running in the dark.

Expect more of a narrow beam with a center hot spot as opposed to a wide beam that takes in the whole scene in front of you. But at 3 ounces, it’s nice and lightweight.

The battery life is not as long as others on our list, so make sure you bring along plenty of extra AAA batteries. This is not the headlamp to bring on your backpacking expedition, where you need a longer lasting light. But for car camping, the GearLight LED Outdoor Headlamp is a good, economical option.

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  • Lumens: 200
  • Beam: Narrower beam with center hot spot 
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours on lower setting

3. Princeton Tec Apex LED Headlamp

For truly epic nighttime adventures, the Princeton Tec Apex LED Headlamp is a great buy. With a powerful 550 lumens (and an option for  650 lumens, too) this is one of the brightest headlamps for expeditions on our list, at least for short bursts of activity. Waterproof to 1 meter, you’ll need to open the battery compartment, remove the batteries, and dry it completely after submersing.

It’s a bit heavier than other comparable headlamps, with a battery pack on the back of the strap that holds four AA batteries. You will run the batteries down pretty quickly on high setting, so use that sparingly when doing tasks around camp, and only rely on high beam when you are night hiking, trail running, or doing other activities that require seeing far ahead of you in the dark. 

The Princeton Tec Apex LED Headlamp is made in the USA, with a good warranty program, so if you run into problems, they are easy to work with.

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  • Lumens: 550
  • Beam: Mixed
  • Battery life: Up to 150 hours on lower setting

4. Petzl Tactikka +RGB Stealth Headlamp

The Petzl Tactikka +RGB Stealth Headlamp has a low setting that is perfect for working around camp without blinding your fellow campers – a real hazard when you give kids their own headlamp! But when it’s time to head out on a night hike, just up the setting and you’ll see every root and rock clearly. It also has 3 light colors in addition to white, so you can see what you need to without losing your night vision.

The workmanship is adequate, although the plastic is thin on the battery case and there is no rubber gasket to shield from weather. Even so, for most uses, it holds up well and lights up every time.

Whatever mode you turned of the light in, it will turn on again in that mode, which saves having to toggle through settings each time. The Petzl Tactikka +RGB Stealth Headlamp is lightweight at 100 grams and has a removable headband for washing when you get back from your camping trip, which is a nice bonus.

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  • Lumens: 350 lumens
  • Beam: Mixed
  • Battery life: Up to 160 hours on lower setting

5. Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

The beefy Black Diamond Storm Headlamp holds 4 AAA batteries, which makes it bulkier and heavier than some of the other headlamps on our list. They insert behind the lamp in front, for a front-heavy experience, but the band adjusts well to hold it in place.

If you need a strong light for night hiking or even biking, this best hiking headlamp may be your huckleberry. It has an easy access dimmer switch, which can be finicky, but you can lock the light to avoid accidentally hitting the dimmer while engaged in activities.

The settings can be complicated, but once you have your favorite dialed in, it’ll turn back on in that setting. Plus the red light is bright enough to work in the dark without losing your night vision.

The peripheral vision on the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp isn’t ideal for activities that require a wide view, but the directed spot is great for nighttime running and hiking. Plus it’s one of only 2 waterproof headlamps on our list; to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

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  • Lumens: 400
  • Beam: flood and spot
  • Battery life: Up to

6. BioLite 200 Lumen No-Bounce Rechargeable HeadLamp

The USB rechargeable BioLite 200 Lumen No-Bounce Rechargeable HeadLamp is light and versatile. With both red and white lights, plus strobe in both colors, this is a good safety headlamp for walking or running at night. It may not be the best choice for camping, though.

The headband is comfortable, but it needs adjusting almost every time you put it on, and you can’t detach the light to wash the headband, so once it’s grungy, it stays grungy – and you’d better believe your headlamp will get grungy after a couple of camping trips.

Also, the buttons can be confusing, and you’ll need to toggle through the strobes to get to the setting you want. It will remember your setting when you turn it back on, and there is an easy lock feature so you don’t turn it on accidentally in your pack.

The USB recharging aspect of the BioLite 200 Lumen No-Bounce Rechargeable HeadLamp has us sold, though, since you don’t need to burn through batteries. We highly recommend this best rechargeable headlamp as your backup emergency headlamp at home and in camp even if you have another one for regular use.

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  • Lumens: 200
  • Beam: Primarily spot with minimal flood
  • Battery life: Up to 40 hours on low setting

7. Petzl NAO+ Bluetooth Enabled Headlamp

Pricier than other headlamps out there, the Petzl NAO+ Bluetooth Enabled Headlamp is a niche headlamp for those who need the brightest headlamp for nighttime adventures. If you are backpacking in treacherous terrain in the wee hours, this headlamp is going to save your bacon.

The Bluetooth capability at first seemed like a gimmick, but it actually is helpful, since you can set up your profile ahead of time, then switch easily in the field. For instance “night hiking” vs “around the campsite” so you don’t waste battery and time after you slough off your packs and start setting up camp.

With solid construction and decent battery life for the USB rechargeable battery, especially on the lower settings, the Petzl NAO+ Bluetooth Enabled Headlamp is a substantial investment that pays off for hard core adventurers who need bright light for short periods of time.

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  • Lumens: 750
  • Beam: Flood and spot
  • Battery life: Up to 15 hours on lower setting

8. Energizer Rechargeable LED Headlamp

Simple and inexpensive, the Energizer Rechargeable LED Headlamp will give you about 4 hours of light before it needs to be recharged. Although it has 7 modes, most people will just use the highest and lowest settings depending on your needs for the moment.

Use at the high setting will cause it to run out of juice faster, but if you keep it at a micro USB charging station and plug it in after walking the dog or your evening run, it will be ready for the next day’s outing. For longer trips out in the woods, we recommend a longer lasting headlamp since you can’t count on being able to recharge the Energizer Rechargeable LED Headlamp readily at camp.

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  • Lumens: 400
  • Beam: Spot
  • Battery life: Up to 4 hours

9. Petzl Actik Core Rechargeable Headlamp

Our pick for best rechargeable headlamp, the Petzl Actik Core Rechargeable Headlamp has 3 brightness levels and a red light that can be used as a strobe.

Dependable and durable, this is a high quality investment that can cross over to biking and use with helmets. The rechargeable battery can be swapped out for AAA batteries for longer trips when recharging the Petzl Actik Core Rechargeable Headlamp is not an option.

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  • Lumens: 450
  • Beam: Flood & mixed
  • Battery life: Up to 140 hours on lower setting

10. Fenix HM50R LED Headlamp

Another rechargeable option, the Fenix HM50R LED Headlamp has a micro USB port protected by a screw on cap with a handy button to alert you on how much charge is left.

Don’t expect the light to stay as bright toward the end of its battery life as it is at the beginning. For best results, make sure you bring along extra batteries if you need light for longer than a few hours. The Fenix HM50R LED Headlamp is a fine “around the campsite” headlamp, but I’d recommend an upgrade to Petzl, Black Diamond, or Princeton Tec for night hikes and trail runs.

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  • Lumens: 700
  • Beam: Mixed
  • Battery life: Up to 42 hours

11. NITECORE NU32 LED Rechargeable Headlamp

Our last rechargeable option, the NITECORE NU32 LED Rechargeable Headlamp has a built-in battery, which means if you run out of juice, you can’t just pop in regular batteries in a pinch. Long life at low settings is why this headlamp makes our list, although you’ll need to have access to a recharging station at camp.

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  • Lumens: 550
  • Beam: Mixed
  • Battery life: Up to 330 hours at lower setting:

What to look for in a camping headlamp

Types of headlamps

  • Ultralight is best for backpacking where every ounce counts
  • Ultrabright is best for night hiking and trail running where every lumen counts
  • Technical is best for rock climbing, caving, and other extreme sports
  • All-purpose is good for every normal activity in the dark

Light output (lumens)

  • 150 lumens is enough for camping & walking around at night
  • 300 lumens is enough for night running and fast hiking
  • 600 lumens is enough for biking at night, where things come at you fast
backpacker with headlamp in snowy landscape
Photo by S Migaj from Pexels


  • Floodlight (wide to add peripheral vision)
  • Spotlight (focused for hiking and night work in camp)
  • Red light (protects night vision)
  • Strobe (emergency beacon)
  • Mixed is a combination of two or more beams


  • Rechargeable – try to find one that can be swapped out for regular batteries in a pinch
  • AA – heavier, but tend to last longer and provide a brighter beam
  • AAA – light but not as powerful as AA

Weight and distribution

  • Forehead only with battery behind the lamp
  • Battery pack on the back of your headband, with lamp in front
  • Over-the-head strap adds stability


  • Water resistance is enough for all but the toughest conditions
  • Waterproof headlamps need to be dismantled and dried thoroughly after immersion


There’s a reason that almost half of the top headlamps on our list of favorites are from Petzl. From my days as a rock climber hiking back from the cliff edge in the dark, I learned to trust Petzl – literally trust them with my life. While any of the headlamps we’ve reviewed perform as described, if you are headed out where being able to count on your headlamp may mean life or death, then trustworthiness is vital. Any of the Petzl headlamps are worth the cost, followed closely by Princeton Tec and Black Diamond. 

If you will be near civilization, then any of the others on our list will be a great addition to your camping light bag of tricks, too.

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