Best head torches 2019: headlamps for running, hiking, camping and fishing

Whether you want a head torch for running or to find your way around the campsite at night, these headlamps are unbeatable

Best head torches 2019: headlamps for running, hiking, camping and fishing
(Image credit: Exposure)

When it comes to exercising or adventuring outdoors, there are many pieces of kit you’ll need to invest in, including the best head torch for your chosen activity. Head torches, also known as headlamps, are ideal for running, for use during night fishing, and for finding your way around a dark cave. 

Head torches are a godsend for camping too, as you can use one to illuminate your way to the toilet block at 3am. You don’t even have to wear it on your head – just carry it. Headlamps are also an essential bit of outdoors gear for caving and mountaineering, helping you to see your surroundings clearly, even if it’s pitch black.

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to the best head torches, especially for high-energy pursuits such as running, hiking or even cycling (though the jury’s out on whether headlamps are a good idea for cycling anyway). Why do we say that? Well, a big weight on your head gets annoying fast. 

For hiking too, carting a heavy head torch around on a summer’s day just for a few minute’s use when darkness falls is a waste of pack weight. That said, a decent beam is vital for night-time navigation, especially at speed, so a head torch that pumps out 200+ lumens is essential for any genuine night-time running and rambling. 

Best head torches 2019: headlamps for running, hiking, camping and fishing

(Image credit: Robbie Shone)

Choosing the best head torch for you

Inevitably, extra features increase the weight of any headlamp, so be realistic about your needs and the overall burn time you actually need. Fortunately, modern LED technology has pretty much levelled the playing field, so AAA-powered head torches usually show pretty similar performance figures. 

Moving up into rechargeable batteries will give you lumens for longer, but at the cost of having to find a wall outlet once battery life starts to fade. This is a particular issue if you’re planning on running or adventuring in winter or at high-altitudes, as cold discharges batteries fast.

The best head torches to buy now

(Image credit: Petzl)

1. Petzl Duo S Headlamp

The best headlamp for caving

Specifications
Lumen: 1,100 (Boost), 700 (Rapid movement), 450 (Distance vision), 330 (Movement), 180 (Proximity), 80 (Ambient)
Burn time: 23 hours (Ambient), 12.5 hours (Proximity), 6 hours (Movement), 4.5 hours (Distance), 3.5 hours (Rapid)
Battery: Rechargeable
Weight: 370g
Reasons to buy
+Super-powerful output+Five individual light modes+Anti-glare function
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

Caving is a serious business, especially when it comes to lighting. One mis-step or wrong move could cost you or your caving team mates dearly, so above all other outdoors activities, you need to pick the very best head torch you can find for caving. And that comes in the form of the Petzl Duo S.

Knocking out an astonishing 1,100 lumens of power in Boost mode, this stunning Petzl head torch is IP67 rated. You can immerse it in fresh water down to a 1m depth for up to 30 minutes.

It does weigh 370g including the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, so you will certainly know when you’re wearing this headlamp, but it has far too many killer features to let us worry about the weight…

For example, the Petzl Duo S head torch features a ‘Face2Face’ function, which automatically senses when another caver is approaching and dims the light. That prevents the other person from being dazzled by the immense lumen output of this headlamp for caving.

The large buttons are easy to use even if you’re wearing gloves, and the headlamp automatically locks to avoid switching on accidentally in your pack. The headband is detachable for washing, and the battery switches to reserve mode when the battery is on its last legs (20 lumens for 45 minutes).

Best head torches: Silva Headlamp Trail Runner 4 Ultra

(Image credit: Silva)

2. Silva Headlamp Trail Runner 4 Ultra

This head torch for runners is lightweight yet powerful

Specifications
Lumen: 350 (Max), 150 (Med), 50 (Min)
Burn time (AAA battery): 60-90 hours (Min), 20-40 hours (Med), 10-25 hours (Max)
Burn time (USB battery): 14-18 hours (Min), 5-10 hours (Med), 2-5 hours (Max)
Battery: Rechargeable
Weight: 49g (lamp), 72g, 84g (with battery)
Reasons to buy
+Light on front and rear+Visible up to 65m
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

When you’re running through the woods, investing in a head torch that enables you to see into the distance is a very good thing indeed. In the case of the Silva Headlamp Trail Runner 4 Ultra, that’s 65m into the distance. 

The front light dishes out 250 lumens, and runs for up to 36 hours in maximum power mode. That’s a decent lumen output for longer trail runs, or for running in winter. There are multiple light modes too, which you can tailor to suit the environment you’re running in, from wooded areas to mountain paths.

Attach the additional red safety light to the headband and you’ll be visible on the trail to those behind you (we’re thinking of off-road cyclists and dog walkers). 

The 2.4Ah battery is rechargeable, but you also get a 3xAAA battery pack in case of emergencies. This should see you right for both short and longer trail runs.

(Image credit: Alpkit)

3. Alpkit Prism Headlamp

Best headlamp for adventuring

Specifications
Lumen: 400 (Boost), 250 (High) 120 (Medium), 80 (Low)
Burn time: 14 hours (Low), 10 hours (Medium), 7 hours (8Hz flashing), 3 hours (Boost), 10 seconds (Burst)
Battery: USB rechargeable
Weight: 145g
Reasons to buy
+Five lighting modes+Easy single-button operation
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

Alpkit have been refining their head torches for years, but this is one of the most robust, engineered from aluminium with a host of durable features.

Dust-proof, drop-proof to two metres and water-proof to one metre, the Prism’s Li-ion rechargeable battery can juice up from any micro USB input, and pumps out a 400 lumen beam in boost mode. 

It also boasts one-button easy operation, and has a 180-degree tilt to direct the light beam where you need it most. With a burn time of between 3–14 hours between charges, there’s plenty of time to take on the trails and parks and be home in time for tea and biscuits.

(Image credit: Exposure)

4. Exposure Verso Mk2 Head Torch

The best head torch for off-road runners

Specifications
Lumen: 250
Burn time: 1-1.5 hours (without support cell)
Battery: USB charge
Weight: 41g
Reasons to buy
+Petite and lightweight+Comes with support cell
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

This durable and lightweight head torch for runners is suitable for both suburban and cross-country running, due to its three level power metre and multi-programmable beam pattern.

On full beam, with a single battery, this running head torch will last an hour (more than enough time to power through some miles). Attach its support cell and you can extend that to around three hours use. 

The only issue with adding the support cell is the weight increases to 121g – still light by head torch standards, but it’s enough for you to feel the difference. The dimmer the brightness, the longer the battery power, so suburban runners will benefit from longer time periods without charging. 

Our best head torch for runners, the Exposure Verso packs in four different light modes enabling you to tailor the light to your running requirements. You can also opt for one of two brightness modes dependent on your surroundings. 

For the price, this head torch certainly packs in a lot of technical features, making it a great investment for regular runners.

(Image credit: Petzl)

5. Petzl Tikkina

The best head torch for beginner runners on a budget

Specifications
Lumen: 150
Burn time: 220 hours
Battery: 3 x AAA (included) or Petzl CORE USB rechargeable unit
Weight: 85g
Reasons to buy
+Long burn time+Tiltable head lamp position
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

If you’re squeezing your runs in at night or early in the morning, you may need a helping hand illuminating the path ahead. The Petzl Tikkina is popular among new and established runners alike because it’s simple to use and offers a long burn time - up to 220 hours. 

It’s a hybrid head torch, which means it can be used with AAA batteries or with a Petzl CORE USB rechargeable unit. The headband itself can be detached for washing, and the head torch has a low profile on the forehead.

It comes in a range of colours and is super-cheap, thanks to regular discounting which often sees it drop to around £12 or lower. For beginner runners, this headlamp is ideal. 

(Image credit: Black Diamond)

6. Black Diamond Storm 375 Headlamp

The best head torch for mountaineering

Specifications
Lumen: 375 (High), 160 (Medium), 8 (Low)
Burn time: 150 hours (Low), 10 hours (Medium), 5 hours (High)
Battery: 4 x AAA (included)
Weight: 120g
Reasons to buy
+Fully water- and dustproof+Multiple lumen levels+Can be immersed to 1m for 30 minutes
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

The Black Diamond Storm 375 headlamp has a host of excellent all-rounder features, but several in particular that makes it ideal for mountaineering. Firstly, a big, glove-friendly button, and a nice broad head strap, making it easy to loop over a helmet in the dark. 

Brightness Memory means one touch will trigger the last brightness setting (no spooling through modes here). Low-power peripheral white lighting is ideal for close-sight work like re-racking gear.

A lock button means that it won’t have been accidentally switched on inside your rucksack all day, and an IPX67 means it’s a dust- and waterproof head torch. A solid 375 lumens is enough to light up the ridge ahead, and at only 120g it won’t slow you down.

(Image credit: Coleman)

7. Coleman BatteryGuard 250L Headlamp

Best head torch for hiking

Specifications
Lumen: 250
Burn time: 200 hours
Battery: 3 x AAA batteries
Weight: 105.5g (excluding batteries)
Reasons to buy
+Great burn time+Rotatable head
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

The Coleman BatteryGuard 250L headlamp has an ingenious trick up its sleeve… A sliding contact physically disconnects the batteries when not in use, so they don’t gradually discharge, then leak onto something important. 

Particularly useful when used as a hiking torch, the Coleman  outputs a decent 250 lumens yet only weighs 105.5g. It runs on 3 x AAA batteries, so no worries about scrambling around to find a power charger when you’re camping out in the wilds for weeks on end. 

(Image credit: Lenser)

8. LED Lenser Neo LED Head Torch

A lightweight and low-level beam option for suburban runs

Specifications
Lumen: 90 (High), 20 (Low), 20 (Blink)
Burn time: 100 hours (Blink), 40 hours (Low), 10 hours (High)
Battery: 3 x AAA alkaline or 3 x NiMH rechargeable
Weight: 54g (excluding batteries)
Reasons to buy
+For visibility in street-lit areas+Four different light modes
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

If you run in suburban areas, it’s more of a case of helping you to be seen and providing light in areas where street lighting is low, which is why this LED Lenser head torch is perfect. There are four light modes too, including White blink and Red blink.

It’s cheap and cheerful, yes, but the battery life is decent if you use it on one of the lowest power settings. While it isn’t super-bright, even on high mode, it’s lightweight, which is great if you’re looking to forget that you’re wearing a headlight on your head.

(Image credit: Lifesystems)

9. Lifesystems Intensity 230 LED Head Torch

Best headlamp for camping and walking at night

Specifications
Lumen: 230
Burn time: 110 hours
Battery: USB
Weight: 90g
Reasons to buy
+Huge battery life+Adjustable head strap
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

The Lifesystems Intensity 230 headlamp is a keenly priced pocket sunbeam that boasts seven individual lighting modes with SOS flashing, an adjustable beam angle and an impressive 110-hour battery life! 

With a CREE XPG3 S2 LED pumping out a maximum of 230 lumens, you’ll easily navigate the most treacherous campsite, while a red light mode saves your night vision during the small hours and helps you find your way around a darkened tent

The USB rechargeable lithium ion battery has both power and charging indicators, which is a nice touch. For such a small price tag, and considering it weighs a mere 90 grams, this is a solid, if non-technical, best head torch for camping.

Suffice to say, it’s also superb for walking at night along any trails, paths or streets where you want much more visibility on where you’re going. Handy to grab during a power cut too (providing you know where you’ve stashed it).

(Image credit: Petzl)

10. Petzl e+LITE Classic Headlamp

The best headlamp for backpacking

Specifications
Lumen: 50 (Max), 15 (Standard), 2 (Proximity, Strobe)
Burn time: 12 hours (Standard), 9 hours (Max), 15 hours (Proximity)
Battery: 2 lithium CR2032 batteries (included)
Weight: 26g
Reasons to buy
+Waterproof design+Incredibly lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

All of these head torches will easily do double-duty as a backpacking light, but the Petzl eLite is a worthy inclusion because it’s one of the smallest and lightest around. The bad news? A mere 50-lumen output, tricky-to-source lithium CR2032 batteries and tiny controls.

The good news? It doubles as an emergency light with strobe effect to help rescue parties find you in the dark. The Petzl e+LITE weighs a miniscule 26g, but packs in white, red and strobe lighting modes, IPX7 waterproofing, button lock, and even an emergency whistle.

A decent and very lightweight option for the minimalist backpacker.