Whether you're running, cycling, hiking, climbing, or camping, these are the best headlamps to offer hands-free illumination at an affordable price point.

By Gabrielle Porcaro
March 16, 2020
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Headlamps might just be the most underrated piece of gear. Whether you're running after work, hiking to a peak at sunset, or walking around your campsite at night, being able to have hands-free illumination is essential. And if you're on the hunt for the best headlamp, well, it really depends on what you intend to use it for and what features are most important to you. While brightness (lumens) is, of course, critical in your decision, there are other factors to consider, including battery life (read: burn time), comfort and adjustability, water-resistance, durability, safety features, and beam distance—how far a light will reach.

In terms of power source, rechargeable headlamps are more eco-friendly and sustainable—reducing battery waste—however, they can have shorter burn times compared to battery-operated headlamps. So, if you plan to use your headlamp for walking your dog at night, commuting via bike at dusk, or for multi-day backpacking trips, you'll want to consider battery life. You also want to think about the beam distance and how you'll use your headlamp, since, chances are, you'll probably end up utilizing it for other purposes. You might purchase it for running or pre-sunrise climbs, and would need a greater beam distance than if you also plan on wearing it in bed to read while your partner sleeps. (Related: The Best Gear for Running After Dark)

If you're a gear newbie, finding the best headlamp that suits your needs can be tough. To make things easier, check out this guide of eight highly-rated headlamps for running, cycling, hiking, camping, and more that'll never leave you in the dark.

Cobiz Rechargeable Headlamp

AMAZON

Navigate through the darkness—whether camping, fishing, kayaking, or walking your dog—with this waterproof headlamp. The three LED bulbs offer four modes of brightness, including a low, more focused setting, wider medium, and high settings, and a super bright emergency-ready strobe light. Amazon reviewers love how easy it is to charge with a USB cord, as opposed to a less convenient specialized charger, and you really can't beat the under-$40 price tag. (Related: 5 High-Tech Gadgets Perfect for Camping)

Buy It: Cobiz Rechargeable Headlamp, $31, amazon.com

Biolite Headlamp 200

AMAZON

This ultra-lightweight option is comfortable (to the point you might forget that you're wearing it), rechargeable, and still delivers on brightness. It boasts four light modes—white + dim, red + dim, white strobe, and red—and customers rave about how not only does the battery last seemingly forever (it lasts for 3 hours on the highest setting), making it a great pick for camping, but that it also stays in place and won't bounce around for runners.

Buy It: Biolite Headlamp 200, $45, amazon.com

L.L. Bean Trailblazer Sportsman 420 Headlamp

L.L. BEAN

Outdoor adventurers will appreciate this model since the lamp defaults to green light, a feature made to preserve night vision be useful to those looking for wildlife. The waterproof design also allows fishermen, kayakers, and stand up paddle boarders to get it wet for up to 30 minutes without fear that it will be compromised. And while it may be sturdy enough for the rugged outdoors, reviewers noted that it could be used for more low key activities like reading outside and walking the dog, too.

Buy It: LLBean Trailblazer Sportsman 420 Headlamp, $50, llbean.com

Moico 13000 High Lumens

AMAZON

If a brilliant light is what you want, this option with 13,000 lumens has got you covered. With eight LED bulbs, this headlamp offers illumination for up to 300 meters. It also features a red safety taillight, which one customer appreciated having while biking to alert the cars around her. Also great? The head rotates 90 degrees giving you more control of your vision, and it's waterproof in case you get caught in an unexpected shower. (Related: Cute Camping Gear to Make Your Outdoor Adventures Pretty AF)

Buy It: Moico 13000 High Lumens, $18, amazon.com

Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp

AMAZON

While Black Diamond is well-known among climbers, runners—from expert to novice—can shed some light on the pavement with this sleek, all-weather lamp that doesn't chafe or bang your head with every stride. You might not be battling snakes or other nocturnal animals on your jog like this Amazon reviewer, but if you ever do come across anything while wearing this headlamp, you'll be sure to see it. With one super strong LED with 200 lumens and a red taillight, this rechargeable, waterproof tool will keep you safe and comfortable on nighttime runs.

Buy It: Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp, from $64, $80, amazon.com

Princeton Tec Snap Headlamp Kit

AMAZON

This versatile headlamp can be used while hiking or cycling on a dirt road and for when you're poking around your basement. The headlamp easily transitions from a band around your head to one that can snap on to a carabiner mount to use on a bike or clip to your backpack to use as a lantern. One shopper even said: "Love the interchangeable headlamp/flashlight system! The light snaps easily in each piece, stays secure, and is easy to disconnect. So great for camping & traveling!" (Related: Rad Bikes and Cycle Gear to Enhance Your Ride)

Buy It: Princeton Tec Snap Headlamp Kit, $36, amazon.com

UCO Air Headlamp

AMAZON

For those who are more casual headlamp wearers, this is a stylish, no-nonsense option. A secure hook-and-loop closure keeps the bulb snug around your forehead, while an internal rechargeable ion battery (which plugs into a USB port) makes it a breeze to power up. Another key feature reviewers liked is that when you are using it and speaking to someone, the light folds down, so it won't shine in their eyes.

Buy It: UCO Air Headlamp, $29, $35, amazon.com

Petzl Actik Core

AMAZON

Not sure what sort of battery you'd prefer? No problem. This lamp gives you the option of both regular batteries and a rechargeable design, which comes in handy for both shorter runs and bike rides and longer hiking and camping trips. It features a 350-lumen lamp and red lighting to preserve night vision, while preventing blinding others in your group. The reflective headband also keeps you safe on the road, and it's equipped with an emergency whistle for easy rescue while in the backcountry.

Buy It: Petzl Actik Headlamp, $60, $70, amazon.com

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