Best head torch 2021: headlamps for running, hiking, camping and fishing

Discover the best head torch for hands-free illumination when you're running, camping or just getting about in the dark

Best head torch or headlamp
(Image credit: Silva)

Having one of the best head torches (or headlamps) can be a life-saver if you're camping, adventuring outdoors or doing anything where you need illumination but also need to keep your hands free. They're also ideal as a running torch, and they're also essential for activities such as night fishing, caving and mountaineering.

A good head torch needn't cost you the earth, and if you choose wisely you'll find one that spits out just the right amount of light you need, doesn't run out of power too quickly and is a comfortable fit for extended night treks or 3AM excursions to a camp site toilet block.

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.

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

Black Friday 2021 - 26 November
The winter sales events typically bring with them plenty of bargains on outdoor gear. We'll be keeping a close eye on prices and reporting on all the offers worth paying attention to on our best Black Friday deals page. 

The best head torch 2021

Petzl Swift RL headlamp press image on white background

(Image credit: Petzl)

The brightest headtorch around

Specifications
Max lumens: 900
Burn time: Max 100 hrs on standard, max 50 hrs on reactive
Battery: rechargeable and swappable
Weight: 100g
Reasons to buy
+Max lumens is absurdly bright+Intuitive controls+Smart 'reactive' lighting option
Reasons to avoid
-No option to use regular batteries

Our top best head torch pick right now is the outstanding Petzl Swift RL. If it's brightness you're after, this has you covered and then some. The maximum output of 900 lumens is brighter than a sun through a telescope. Realistically, you'll never need that kind of output, but it's nice to know it's there, isn't it? Petzl hasn't gone all-in on brightness and forgotten about performance, don't worry. You'll get 2 hours of 550 lumen light on the standard setting, which is pretty solid for a head torch. There's also a 'reactive' setting, that'll automatically detect how much light you need and adjust accordingly, with the aim of not wasting battery power, although this can be annoying at times. 

While you can't use standard batteries, Petzl will let you swap the included battery pack over, so you can keep a spare in your bag. Other design touches – a practical headband that wraps around the lamp section for easy storage, a switch lock that prevents the batteries from running down while in your rucksack – help this head lamp really shine. Head to our Petzl Swift RL head torch review to find out more. 

BioLite HeadLamp 750

(Image credit: BioLite)

Bright, light and long-lasting, this is one of the best head torches around

Specifications
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 round 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 burn time, and whatever your preferred night-time activity, this is a solid contender that won't let you down. See our BioLite HeadLamp 750 review for all the details.

Petzl Iko Core head torch

(Image credit: Petzl)

The best head torch for running and hiking

Specifications
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. 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.

Biolite Headlamp 200

(Image credit: Biolite)

4. BioLite HeadLamp 200

This lightweight head torch is an excellent all-rounder

Specifications
Max lumens: 200
Burn time: 40 hours on LO, 3 hours on HIGH
Battery: Rechargeable
Weight: 50g / 1.6 oz (with battery)
Reasons to buy
+Great as a running torch+Luxurious comfort+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Rechargeable only

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.

Vont Spark headlamp

(Image credit: Vont)

5. Vont Spark LED headlamp

The best budget head torch

Specifications
Max lumens: 200
Burn time: Up to 90 hours
Battery: 3x AAA
Weight: 85.5g (3oz) with batteries
Reasons to buy
+Impressive battery life+Waterproof+7 light modes
Reasons to avoid
-Not rechargeable

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. 

Silver Trail Runner Free Ultra

(Image credit: Silva)

6. Silva Trail Runner Free Ultra

The best running torch

Specifications
Max lumens: 400
Burn time (long-distance battery): 18-23 hours (Min), 7-22 hours (Med), 5-9 hours (Max)
Battery: Rechargeable, AAA
Weight: 55g without batteries, up to 141g (with long-distance battery)
Reasons to buy
+Light on front and rear+Visible up to 80m
Reasons to avoid
-1.15AH hybrid battery not included

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 Free Ultra, that’s up to 80m into the distance. 

The latest running head torch from Silva features a long-reach spotlight and a close-floodlight up-front, and uses Silva's Intelligent Light technology to provide optimised beam distribution for the best illumination wherever you are. It can kick out up to 400 lumens in Max mode, dialing down to 50 lumens in Min mode, and with its 4.0AH rechargeable battery it can keep going for up to 23 hours (and it'll manage up to nine hours in Max mode).

There's a red safety light at the back, and plenty of choice as to how you power the Silva Headlamp Trail Runner Free Ultra; the included rechargeable battery should serve you in most scenarios, but with its hybrid battery case you can also use three AAAs or Silva's 1.15AH hybrid rechargeable, giving you plenty of backup for any length of trail run.

Alpkit Prism Headlamp

(Image credit: Alpkit)

7. Alpkit Prism Headlamp

Best headlamp for adventuring

Specifications
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.

Black Diamond Flare

(Image credit: Black Diamond)

Best head torch for emergencies

Specifications
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 being 30 minutes of full immersion in water to 1m, as well as being dust proof. 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. Head to our Black Diamond Flare review for more info.

Exposure Verso Mk2 Head Torch

(Image credit: Exposure)

9. Exposure Verso Mk2 Head Torch

The best head torch for off-road runners

Specifications
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. 

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.

Petzl Tikkina

(Image credit: Petzl)

10. Petzl Tikkina

The best head torch for beginner runners on a budget

Specifications
Max lumens: 150
Burn time: 220 hours
Battery: 3 x AAA (included) or Petzl CORE USB rechargeable unit
Weight: 85g / 3oz
Reasons to buy
+Long burn time+Tiltable head lamp position
Reasons to avoid
-Not super bright

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. 

Petzl Duo S Headlamp

(Image credit: Petzl)

11. Petzl Duo S Headlamp

An ultra bright headlamp that's ideal for caving

Specifications
Max lumens: 1,100 (Boost)
Burn time: 23 hours (Ambient), 12.5 hours (Proximity), 6 hours (Movement), 4.5 hours (Distance), 3.5 hours (Rapid)
Battery: Rechargeable
Weight: 370g / 13oz
Reasons to buy
+Super-powerful output+Five individual light modes+Anti-glare function
Reasons to avoid
-Not very lightweight

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).

Black Diamond Storm 375 Headlamp

(Image credit: Black Diamond)

12. Black Diamond Storm 375 Headlamp

The best head torch for mountaineering

Specifications
Max lumens: 375
Burn time: 150 hours (Low), 10 hours (Medium), 5 hours (High)
Battery: 4 x AAA (included)
Weight: 120g / 4.2oz
Reasons to buy
+Fully water- and dustproof+Multiple lumen levels+Can be immersed to 1m for 30 minutes
Reasons to avoid
-Tilt adjustment can be stiff

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.

Coleman BatteryGuard 250L Headlamp

(Image credit: Coleman)

13. Coleman BatteryGuard 250L Headlamp

Best head torch for hiking

Specifications
Max lumens: 250
Burn time: 200 hours
Battery: 3 x AAA batteries
Weight: 105.5g / 3.7oz (excluding batteries)
Reasons to buy
+Great burn time+Rotatable head
Reasons to avoid
-Short run time on high power

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. 

LED Lenser Neo LED Head Torch

(Image credit: Lenser)

14. LED Lenser Neo LED Head Torch

A lightweight and low-level beam option for suburban runs

Specifications
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 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.

Lifesystems Intensity 230 LED Head Torch

(Image credit: Lifesystems)

15. Lifesystems Intensity 230 LED Head Torch

Best headlamp for camping and walking at night

Specifications
Max lumens: 230
Burn time: 110 hours
Battery: USB
Weight: 90g / 3.1oz
Reasons to buy
+Huge battery life+Adjustable head strap
Reasons to avoid
-Lacking in features

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).

Petzl e+LITE Classic Headlamp

(Image credit: Petzl)

16. Petzl e+LITE Classic Headlamp

The best headlamp for backpacking

Specifications
Max lumens: 50
Burn time: 12 hours (Standard), 9 hours (Max), 15 hours (Proximity)
Battery: 2 lithium CR2032 batteries (included)
Weight: 26g / 0.9oz
Reasons to buy
+Waterproof design+Incredibly lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Not that bright

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.

Mark Mayne
Mark Mayne

Mark Mayne has been covering tech, gadgets and outdoor innovation for longer than he can remember. A keen climber, mountaineer and scuba diver, he is also a dedicated weather enthusiast and flapjack consumption expert.