5 Best Headlamps for Backcountry Hunting
It goes without saying that headlamps are a vital piece of backcountry hunting gear. Summertime fair-weather backpackers often find themselves using headlamps on midnight bathroom runs, when reading a book or a map in their tent, or when trying to get another mile or two in before dark. These backpackers typically have the luxury of good weather and long summer days. They may not even use half of the headlamp's battery on any given trip. Backcountry hunters on the other hand, commonly hunt in the shoulder seasons (spring and fall), and use their headlamps to combat dwindling daylight hours, and for long treks back to camp after a failed stalk. If the hunt is successful, hunters may find themselves facing long hours of sweat equity in the pitch black, hunched over a carcass while extracting precious ounces of groceries from a carcass. The harsh backcountry environment is no place for a sub-par headlamp that could cause inconvenience at best, and be life threatening at worst! Note that we always recommend carrying two headlamps while hunting. We don't often recommend redundant equipment, but in the case of headlamps the extra safety and peace of mind another headlamp provides is worth the extra weight and then some.
If you don't have time to read all of the reviews, start by clicking through our top picks.
Best Overall Headlamp - Fenix HM50R
Best Budget Headlamp - Black Diamond Spot 350
Best Ultralight Headlamp - Black Diamond Spot Lite 200
Best Headlamp for Battery Life - Black Diamond Spot 350
Best Backup Headlamp - Petzl Tikka
What Features are Important to You?
Not all hunts are created equal and your criteria will likely change depending upon the timing of your hunt and the species you are pursing.
- Brightness - Commonly stated in lumens, the more lumens the brighter your lamp will be. One lumen equals the amount of light given off by one candle. As a frame of reference, a 75W lightbulb is equivalent to roughly 1100 lumens. Most vehicles use Halogen bulbs which are 700 lumens on low beam and 1,200 on high beam.
- Beam distance - Beam distance is a useful metric to help understand the quality of the headlamp beam and how useful it will be in the field.
- Battery Life - Typically stated in hours or minutes at two extremes (low and high setting).
- Cost - Most headlamps typically run between $20-$100.
- Weight - Most headlamps are pretty light to begin with, but it's useful to consider weight when counting ounces as a backcountry hunter.
- Rechargeable vs. Not Rechargeable - A nice feature if you are already carrying a power bank for your phone, GPS, etc.
- Additional Features - Common additional features include the ability to turn on your lamp and have it hold it's previous setting, red light function, easy to read battery life indicator, cold weather performance, etc.
Fenix HM50R - Check Price on Amazon
Weight: 2.2oz (without battery)
Max Brightness / Beam Distance: 500 lumens / 860 feet (262 meters)
Battery Life (Low/High): 128 hours / 14 hours
Pros: Performs well in cold conditions, durable aluminum housing, waterproof, extremely bright, USB rechargeable, light is removeable for hand-held carry, easy to read battery monitor light, large button is easy to use with gloves.
Cons: No red light mode, if you use a battery instead of recharging, the CR123A battery may be hard to find.
Black Diamond Spot 350 - Check Price on Amazon
Max Brightness / Beam Distance: 350 lumens / 280 feet (85 meters)
Battery Life (Low/High): 200 hours / 3.75 hours
Pros: Great value, long battery life, brightness memory, waterproof, battery life indicator, comfortable, red light mode.
Cons: Six settings make take some getting used to.
Black Diamond Spot Lite 200 - Check Price on Amazon
Max Brightness / Beam Distance: 200 lumens / 210 feet (64 meters)
Battery Life (Low/High): 60 hours / 1.5 hours
Pros: Affordable, waterproof, ultralight, red light mode.
Cons: Short battery life relative to other lamps, settings make take some getting used to.
Nitecore NU32 - Check Price on Amazon
Max Brightness / Beam Distance: 550 lumens / 410 feet (125 meters)
Battery Life (Low/High): 330 hours / 7 hours (high) / 1 hour (turbo)
Pros: Rechargeable, great battery life, waterproof, red night mode.
Cons: Grows dimmer as battery drains, buttons may be difficult to use with gloves.
Petzl Tikka - Check Price on Amazon
Max Brightness / Beam Distance: 200 lumens / 197 feet (60 meters)
Battery Life (Low/High): 240 hours / 60 hours
Pros: Inexpensive, great battery life, red night mode, can be converted to rechargeable, glow in the dark feature, works well in cold weather.
Cons: Not fully waterproof. Rechargeable CORE battery not included.