When it comes to exercising or adventuring outdoors, remembering to pack one of the best head torches (or headlamps) can be a real life-saver. Head torches, also known as headlamps, are incredibly handy for any kind of camping or campervan trip. They're also a great investment for use as a running torch, as well as a range of other activities, from night fishing to caving and mountaineering.
This is a relatively inexpensive bit of kit that might go overlooked, but remember to buy (and pack!) one of the best headtorches and you'll definitely thank yourself when it comes to finding your way to the toilet block at 3am, or finishing that run without tripping and breaking an ankle.
Read on for our pick of the best head torches around right now. This head torch review focuses on the top options for a range of different uses – including the best running torch, the brightest head torch and more. If you're planning for a trip, you might also want to check out our guides to the best tents, the best hiking boots, and the best hiking backpacks.
How many lumens do I need for a head torch?
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.
What else to look for in the best head torch
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.
The best head torch 2021
BioLite’s latest headlamp, the Biolite HeadLamp 200 is one of the best running head torches around, for a bunch of good reasons. It’s bright, light, comfortable, easily adjusted, and has a decent battery life, all without costing the earth. A broad fabric headband at the front grips heads, hats and helmets alike, while the wide elasticated strap adjusts easily by pulling two glove-friendly sliders (particularly helpful for colder/longer outings). A small reflective panel on the back provides some rear visibility for night running escapades, and the entire lamp unit pivots one-handed, letting you switch from proximity light to distance in seconds.
BioLite's 'no bounce' design does what it says on the tin, and that distance is pretty good for most applications, with a spot out to 50m lighting the way in all but whiteout conditions. An easy-toggle multi-press on the main button flips between hi/lo beam, strobe and a red light for reading maps at night. Recharging the 700 mAh Lithium Ion battery is via a standard micro-usb, so easily juiced up at work, in the car, etc. In short, if you’re in the market for a running headlamp, get this, and even if you’re not running it’s well worth a look – especially paired with the optional stuff sack that doubles as a lantern.
The lightweight Petzl Iko Core headlamp is an excellent choice for trail runners and hikers. Not only is it one of the very brightest head torches around, but the clever design makes it ideal for high-energy activities. The elastic tension straps thread keep everything securely in place while you're on your way. Rather than having the batteries and light in one place, here the weight is distributed differently, with the heavier battery pack sitting 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 AAAs if you prefer. Head to our Petzl Iko Core head torch review for more info.
For a budget-friendly option, try the Vont Spark LED headlamp – oddly, it's sold as a two-pack, which means that price you're seeing is even better value. This bargain head torch includes two different light sources, which can be adjusted for seven different light modes, to enable you to match your needs without draining the battery unnecessarily. While the light isn't tiltable, it is fixed at a helpful 45-degrees, and it's waterproof, too. Finally, it comes with a lifetime warranty, backed by Amazon, for extra peace of mind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 rechargeable 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 (13oz) 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).
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 (4.2oz) it won’t slow you down.
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.
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.
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).
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.