Best head torch 2024: hands-free illumination on the trail

Discover the best head torch for brighter paths when you're hiking, running, camping or exploring in the dark

Best head torch 2024: Quick links

Best head torch: headlamps for running, hiking, camping and fishing

(Image credit: BioLite)

00. Top 3↴
01. Best overall: Petzl Swift RL 2
02. Best battery life: BioLite HeadLamp 750
03. Best budget: Lifesystems Intensity 300
04. Best for running: Petzl Iko Core
05. Best for mountaineering: Black Diamond Storm 400
06. Best for emergencies: Black Diamond Flare
07. Best for adventuring: Alpkit Prism
08. Best for trail running: Exposure Verso MK2
09. Best mid-range: Ledlenser NEO9R 
10. How to choose
11. How we test
12. FAQ

Prepare to illuminate your outdoor adventures with our roundup of the best head torches. Whether you're a nocturnal ninja prowling the trails or just a humble dog walker navigating the pre-dawn hours, a trusty head torch is your beacon of light in the darkness.

The best torches (the handheld variety) have their place, but when you need your hands free for important tasks like setting up camp or sifting through your backpack for that elusive snack, a head torch is your shining knight, illuminating the path ahead without cramping your style.

From late-night garage tinkering to early-morning dog walks, these versatile tools are the unsung heroes of outdoor gear. Lightweight, well-balanced, and with enough lumens to make a lighthouse jealous, our top picks will have you lighting up the night like a pro.

But before you embark on your quest for the perfect head torch, remember to shine a light on some best practices for buying online. Check customer reviews, compare features, and make sure to choose a torch that suits your specific needs – whether it's for trail running, night fishing, or just finding your way to the fridge during a midnight snack attack. Now, grab your torch, and let's light up the night together!

The Top 3

Best head torches to buy right now

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Best overall

Petzl Swift RL 2 reviewT3 Best Buy badge

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

1. Petzl Swift RL 2

Best head torch overall


Max brightness: 1,100 lumens
Burn time: up to 100 hours (Standard Lighting)
Battery: rechargeable and swappable
Weight: 100g

Reasons to buy

Amazing light output
Updated Reactive Lighting works well while conserving battery life
Lightweight and comfortable to wear
USB-C charging plus removable batteries

Reasons to avoid

Exposed charging port feels like a liability

The Petzl Swift RL 2 represents a significant upgrade from its predecessor, boasting enhancements that enhance both performance and usability. The most notable improvement is the increase in maximum light output, now reaching an impressive 1,100 lumens compared to the previous model's 900 lumens.

Better still, the Reactive Lighting technology has been refined to provide more consistent and efficient illumination. It automatically adjusts the light output based on ambient conditions and user activity, optimising battery life while ensuring optimal visibility at all times. There is also a red light mode that adds versatility, allowing you to preserve night vision and avoid disturbing others in camp settings.

Practical design enhancements have also been made to improve usability and convenience. The switch mechanism has been updated for easier operation, while the transition to USB-C charging offers faster and more efficient charging capabilities. The headlamp features a comfortable and adjustable headband design, ensuring a secure and ergonomic fit for extended wear.

Constructed with durability in mind, the Petzl Swift RL 2 maintains a robust build with an ingress protection rating of four (IPX4), making it resilient against outdoor elements. With its combination of advanced technology, practical design features, and reliable performance, the Petzl Swift RL 2 emerges as an exceptional choice for outdoor enthusiasts seeking dependable illumination in challenging conditions.

Read our full Petzl Swift RL 2 review.

Also consider: the headlamp's predecessor, the Petzl Swift RL, has an impressive 900-lumen output backed by solid performance. It offers 2 hours of 550-lumen light on standard settings and also features a reactive mode for adjusting brightness automatically. 

Best battery life

BioLite HeadLamp 750T3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Mark Mayne)
Best head torch for battery life


Max lumens: 750
Burn time: 150 hours on LOW, 7 hours on HIGH
Battery: Rechargeable
Weight: 150g / 5.3 oz (with battery)

Reasons to buy

Comfortable and stable
Incredibly bright
Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

Rechargeable only

If you need a head torch that'll keep going for hours on end and can deliver a dazzling beam of light on demand, the BioLite HeadLamp 750 is an absolute must. It can kick out a whopping 750 lumens when you really need it, but you're more likely to keep it set to 500, which it can maintain for seven hours of impressive illumination.

It has eight light modes that you can switch between at the tap of a well-positioned button, including a red LED for tactical operations, and it fits beautifully and comfortably whether you're wearing it straight on your head or over a beanie or helmet. We particularly like how the battery pack is situated around the back so as to distribute weight evenly.

In all, the BioLite HeadLamp 750 is a solid high-end head torch that's easy to operate and good to wear for hours on end. It's rechargeable only, so you can't keep spare batteries on hand. However, you can take a separate battery pack with you in case you run out of juice. It offers a good balance of power and burns time, and whatever your preferred night-time activity, this is a solid contender that won't let you down.

Read our full BioLite HeadLamp 750 review.

Best budget

Lifesystems Intensity 300 Head Torch

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

3. Lifesystems Intensity 300 LED Head Torch

Best budget head torch


Max lumens: 300
Burn time: Up to 38 hours on lower settings
Battery: Rechargeable
Weight: 95g / 3.3 oz

Reasons to buy

6 lighting modes
Adjustable beam angle
Relatively lightweight
Simple to use

Reasons to avoid

No red light on the rear
No lock
No replaceable battery option
All the weight is at the front

The Lifesystems Intensity 300 head torch offers affordability and functionality for outdoor adventures. With a three-bulb design and lithium-ion battery, it provides up to 38 hours of use on lower settings.

The simple single-button operation includes various light modes, including a red LED option for night vision preservation. Waterproof and adjustable, it's suitable for hiking, camping, and even kayaking.

While lacking advanced features like battery versatility and a lock function, its accessible price point and reliable performance make it ideal for occasional outdoor enthusiasts and school-age campers.

The Intensity 300's lightweight design and decent brightness offer practicality without excessive power, ensuring a reliable companion for nighttime excursions.

Read our full Lifesystems Intensity 300 LED Head Torch review.

Best for running

Petzl Iko Core head torchT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Mark Mayne)
Best head torch for running


Max lumens: 500
Burn time: Standard: 9h, Max power 2h 30 (max burn time 100h)
Battery: Rechargeable battery or 3x AAA
Weight: 79g

Reasons to buy

Extremely bright
Ingenious, lightweight design
Flexible battery options

Reasons to avoid

Bulky when folded

The lightweight Petzl Iko Core headlamp is an excellent choice for trail runners and hikers. It is one of the brightest head torches around, and its clever design makes it ideal for high-energy activities. The elastic tension strap thread keeps everything securely in place while you're on your way.

Rather than having the batteries and light in one place, the weight is distributed differently here. The heavier battery pack sits neatly on the back of the head while the LEDs are almost flush with the forehead. It's very comfortable to wear and will fit most heads (but not a helmet).

The design may look a little odd, but it sure does pack a punch. Using the Li-Ion power pack, you can boost brightness up to a blinding 500 lumens. The mid-setting is 100 lumens, offering a 45-meter beam for up to around 9hrs 30mins. There's a micro-USB port to enable you to charge it, or you can swap the rechargeable battery for 3x AAA if you prefer.

Read our full Petzl Iko Core head torch review.

Best mountaineering

Black Diamond Storm 400 head torchT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Black Diamond)

5. Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp

Best head torch for mountaineering


Max lumens: 400
Burn time: 150 hours (Low), 5 hours (High)
Battery: 4 x AAA (included)
Weight: 120g / 4.2oz with batteries

Reasons to buy

Fully water- and dustproof
Multiple lumen levels
Tap to dim or brighten
Remembers your last brightness setting

Reasons to avoid

No USB recharge option

The Black Diamond Storm 400 headlamp has a host of excellent all-rounder features, some of which make it ideal for mountaineering. Firstly, a big, glove-friendly button and a nice broad head strap make 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 dust-proof and almost fully water sealed. A solid 400 lumens is enough to light up the ridge ahead, and at only 120g (4.2oz), it won’t slow you down either. There's a range of colours and patterns to choose from.

Best for emergencies

Black Diamond FlareT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Mark Mayne)
Best head torch for emergencies


Max lumens: 40
Burn time: 5-10.5 hrs (depending on mode)
Battery: two Lithium CR2032 batteries
Weight: 27g

Reasons to buy

Robust and waterproof
Extremely lightweight
Simple but effective

Reasons to avoid

Not the brightest
Battery not rechargeable

A bit of an outlier in this guide, the Black Diamond Flare is designed for emergencies. To that end, it's extremely lightweight yet robust and will withstand 30 minutes of full immersion in water up to 1m, as well as being dustproof. You use the knurled aluminium ring surrounding the bulbs to switch between lighting modes, a hinged backplate gives the lens 180 degrees of movement, and the bungee can be attached to pretty much anything you want. While the main beam is fairly underpowered, this torch does offer an ‘SOS’ setting that could be invaluable in a genuine emergency.

Read our full Black Diamond Flare review.

Best for adventuring

Alpkit Prism HeadlampT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Alpkit)

7. Alpkit Prism

Best head torch for adventuring


Max lumens: 400 (Boost mode)
Burn time: 14 hours (Low), 10 hours (Medium), 7 hours (8Hz flashing), 3 hours (Boost), 10 seconds (Burst)
Battery: USB rechargeable
Weight: 145g / 5.1oz

Reasons to buy

Five lighting modes
Easy single-button operation
USB rechargeable head torch

Reasons to avoid

May not hold charge well

Alpkit has been refining its 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.

Best for trail running

Exposure Verso Mk2 Head TorchT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Exposure)

8. Exposure Verso Mk2

Best head lamp for trail running


Max lumens: 250
Burn time: 1-1.5 hours (without support cell)
Battery: USB charge
Weight: 41g / 1.4oz

Reasons to buy

Petite and lightweight
Comes with support cell

Reasons to avoid

Support cell adds weight

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 (4.2oz) – 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. 

One of the best head torches 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.

Best mid-range

Ledlenser NEO9R head torchT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Lenser)

9. Ledlenser NEO9R

Best mid-range head lamp


Max lumens: 90
Burn time: 100 hours (Blink), 40 hours (Low), 10 hours (High)
Battery: 3 x AAA alkaline or 3 x NiMH rechargeable
Weight: 54g / 1.9oz (excluding batteries)

Reasons to buy

For visibility in street-lit areas
Four different light modes

Reasons to avoid

Not particularly bright

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 Ledlenser NEO9R 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.

How to choose the best head torch for you

When making your choice, as well as lumens you'll also want to consider size and weight. Bigger isn't always better when it comes to the best head torches, especially for high-energy pursuits. A big weight on your head gets annoying fast, and carting a heavy head torch around on a summer’s day hike, just for a few minutes' use when darkness falls, is a waste of pack weight.

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.

If you're looking for more general-purpose torches, we also have dedicated guides to the best torch overall and the best camping lantern.

How we test the best head torches

Testing head torches involves assessing various factors to ensure their performance, reliability, and suitability for different outdoor activities.

Evaluating brightness is crucial, which includes testing different light modes and assessing the maximum lumen output to determine brightness levels for various environments, such as trail running at night or camping in the dark.

Battery life is a significant aspect, too, and testing it involves running the head torch on different settings for extended periods to gauge how long it lasts on a single charge. If possible, this includes assessing the duration of each light mode and how the battery performs over time, especially in colder conditions, which can affect battery life.

We test comfort and fit by wearing the head torch for extended periods to assess its comfort, weight distribution, and adjustability of the headband. This includes evaluating how well it stays in place during movement and whether it causes any discomfort or pressure points.

Durability and weather resistance are evaluated by exposing the head torch to various conditions, including rain, snow, and mud. Usability and features are assessed by testing functions such as beam adjustment, ease of switching between light modes, and any additional features like red light mode or strobe settings.


How many lumens should a head torch be?

The ideal number of lumens for a head torch depends on various factors such as the intended use, environment, and personal preference.

For activities like camping, hiking, or running, a head torch with around 150 to 300 lumens is sufficient for providing adequate illumination in most situations. 

For more demanding tasks like trail running or mountaineering in low-light conditions, a head torch with higher lumens (around 300 to 500 lumens) may be preferred to ensure better visibility and safety.

It's essential to consider the specific requirements of your outdoor activities and choose a head torch with an appropriate lumen output that meets your needs.

Factors like beam distance, battery life, and beam type (flood or spot) should also be taken into account when selecting a head torch.

Is it a headlamp or head torch?

Both terms, "headlamp" and "head torch," refer to the same type of hands-free portable light source worn on the head. The choice between "headlamp" and "head torch" may vary depending on regional preferences or personal preference. In general, "headlamp" is commonly used in North America, while "head torch" is more common in British English and other English-speaking countries. Regardless of the term used, they serve the same purpose and function.

Are tactical torches legal in UK?

Tactical torches are generally legal in the UK as long as they comply with regulations regarding beam strength and use. However, some models with very high lumens may be restricted or classified as offensive weapons if intended for use in certain circumstances. It's advisable to check local laws and regulations before purchasing or using a tactical torch in the UK.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.

With contributions from