Why headlamps? In a word (or three), hands-free lighting. Strap a headlamp around your forehead and you've got both hands available to paddle a kayak, grasp trekking poles, tend the campfire, even rummage around the attic or peer into the depths of your automobile's engine.
No longer simply a flashlight strapped to a helmet, today's headlamps are compact and comfortable, and feature illumination choices, beam variances and a range of battery life and light strength.
But comparing all this technical data can be confusing. Some pursuits beg for specific lighting needs from a headlamp. To help you decide which headlamp is the best for your adventures, we've written this short primer to help you make the best choice for your adventure.
1. Choose among four main styles of headlamps: those with traditional incandescent bulbs, those with brighter gas-enhanced incandescent bulbs, those with plastic LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, and hybrid styles which feature a lighting combination of incandescent and LED bulbs.
2. If you're an ounce-counting backpacker, consider the new ultralight LED models which have allowed headlamps to become lighter and more compact than ever (some weigh less than two ounces—with batteries!).
3. Consider a gas-enhanced ultra bright Halogen or Xenon bulb-variety or a Super LED (S-LED) if your plans include route-finding or climbing. Refer to our spec charts to see how much brighter these premium lights are than general purpose models.
4. If budget is a concern, traditional incandescent bulb models are more affordable, yet slightly less durable. However, you may find that the increased battery life and longer lasting bulbs of LED models may make a more economical choice in the long run.
5. While most headlamps are water-resistant, choose a true waterproof model for kayaking and canoeing, rafting, or hiking in snowy or rainy weather.
6. A headlamp with three adjustable straps instead of one band offers maximum versatility, allowing you to wear the lamp on your bare head, over a hat or even a helmet.