12 Best Running Headlamps Reviewed & Compared

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If you’re on the hunt for a top of the line Running Headlamp you’ve come to the right place! Check out our list of the best 2018 has to offer and find out which is the best option for you.

Night time running is an excellent alternative for runners with busy schedules—or for people who simply want to switch up their usual routine. In the summer, those cooler nights are a welcome change to the heat and exhaustion the sun brings; and during the winter night time running is a welcome change to the usual option of staying cooped up indoors.

However, running at night does come with some draw backs—particularly in the winter time. The limited amount of light and visibility during the night makes night time running riskier and provides a disadvantage to runners because they can’t see—or be seen—as well during night time hours.

The best way to ensure you stay safe during your nightly runs is to enlist the three main forms of defense: Awareness, reflective gear, and the utilization of running lamps. Running headlamps improves both your visibility as well as those of others—meaning you can see better AND those around you can see you as well. This is especially important for joggers who find themselves on paths that aren’t well-lit streets or parks—not being able to see where you are going comes at a great risk when you run outdoors, no matter the type of terrain.

Since there are so many running headlamp options, we took the liberty to find the best 2018 options available to you. We hope this helps you find the perfect running headlamp to fit your needs!

 

Last Updated: April 1, 2018
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By Giselle Killebrew:

This update brings several new headlamp options to the list. We have had added another Petzl headlamp, 2 black diamond options, a Coast headlamp, and a Fenix headlamp—all of which are excellent options. Take a look below to see which one is the best option for you.

Petzl PIXA 3R
  • Petzl PIXA 3R
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Constant Lighting technology maintains output as battery drains
  • Price: See Here
Petzl NAO
  • Petzl NAO
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Reactive Lighting adjusts to lighting situations
  • Price: See Here
Black Diamond Ion
  • Black Diamond Ion
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Lightweight design, ideal for running of all types
  • Price: See Here

 

12 Best Running Headlamps

 

1. Petzl Pixa 3 Pro Rechargeable

Rounding out our list is the top shelf Pixa 3 Pro, from Petzl. The headline for this lamp is performance and longevity (rechargeable). Crush resistant up to 80 kgs, this 50-lumen beacon is good for an early morning run, a crawl space project or a camping trip. Give it a try today!
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The fully adjustable LED multi-beam light allows you to adapt to all types of situations and movements for close-up and long-range vision. It features three lighting modes to illuminate what is in front of you depending on the distance and proximity.

The battery life on the Petzl Pixa 3 Pro is unmatched. Two AA batteries can last up to 12 hours if used on lower settings. The headlamp also includes a battery indicator light that will alert you when your batteries are running low. As the AA batteries near the end of their lifespan, the headlamp will continue to shine on the 15m beam setting for an additional 10 hours. Furthermore, a battery case is included that is compatible with several rechargeable lithium batteries. You are not going to have to worry about losing light for a very long time.

This headlamp is very lightweight and has excellent durable qualities for fall resistance. Its versatile design allows you to rotate the beacon up to 45 degrees to point the beam where you need it. The removable back mounting plate provides preferential placement on flat surfaces for lighting in tight spaces.

Illuminate the space in front of you for up to 55 meters with this 10 ounce headlamp. It is extremely reliable, user friendly and can withstand falls up to 6.6 ft and crushing weights of up to 80 kg.
Pros
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery pack
  • Attaches easy to just about anything
  • Built for heavy duty, not fragile
  • Washable elastic headband
Cons
  • Priced a little higher
  • Not the lightest weight model

2. Petzl NAO

Petzl has taken the top two spots of our list, and for good reason. The NAO headlamp line is one of the most interactive products on the market. It can adapt instantly to lighting needs with a light sensor and features a USB connection for quick recharge. Long and short ranges are no task for the Petzl NAO. The top-tier functions included make this a go-to product for those embarking on night time activities.
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The automatic brightness setting featured on the Petzl NAO comes in extremely handy for those who need light in no-hands situations. Its reactive lighting technology adapts instantly to the surrounding environment while saving the battery life in the process. This headlamp performs well even under low-temperature situations and features a USB connection for easy recharge.

Two lighting modes include the Max Power level and the Max Autonomy for brightness and burn time. It is an extremely lightweight headlamp coming in on the scale at just 6.5 ounces while offering up to 135 meters of beam distance. This product is compatible with all USB chargers and Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. If you are in a pinch, the headlamp also takes two AAA and LR03 batteries at a reduced performance.

When your done for the night and need to store the headlamp, the lock function helps avoid accidentally turning on the light when not in use. It offers extreme user comfort and is ideal for no-hands lighting activities.
Pros
  • Reactive Lighting adjusts automatically to low-lighting situations
  • Two lighting modes for maximum brightness and enhanced burn time
  • Lightweight
  • Rechargeable battery with USB connection
Cons
  • A little expensive

3. Petzl REACTIK+

The Petzl REACTIK+ headlamp is a lightweight option that comes packed with useful features that are sure to keep your nightly runs safe, comfortable, and well-lit. This 300 lumen headlamp comes equipped with a multiple beam lighting feature, is water resistant, and uses reactive technology to adjust its the intensity of its lighting to your surroundings.
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This 300 Lumen running headlamp is a perfect option for all nighttime runners--whether you are on a trail or your neighborhood streets, this lamp's features is sure to fit all of your needs.

The best feature this headlamp has to offer is its reactive lighting technology. This allows the lamp to adjust its lighting and brightness to your surrounding (with maximum lighting being 300 Lumen). This allows you to focus on your run without having to manually adjust your lighting as well as extensively save your battery life--making this option a much more energy efficient headlamp.

Its Bluetooth capability allows you to communicate with others through Morse code as well as track your battery life during your runs. You can also preset your lighting yourself and double check that you have enough lighting for specific distances and locations.

Another excellent feature is that it is weather resistant--so you can rely on it when the weather surprises you or catches you off guard.

At full capacity this headlamp has a 2.5 hour battery life, a 5 hour battery life when used in standard mode, and a 10 hour battery when using its maximum autonomy mode option.
Pros
  • Rechargeable Battery 
  • Bluetooth Capability 
  • Reactive lighting 
  • 300 Lumen 
  • Energy efficient 
  • Weather resistant 
  • Easy to wash 
  • Lightweight 
  • Headband is adjustable 
  • Locks to prevent unintentional usage during travel
  • Affordable price
Cons
  • Some users have issues with the bluetooth connectivity 

4. Black Diamond Sprinter

The Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp is another lightweight and affordable option that has a 200 Lumen capacity. This headlamp is a perfect option for nighttime running and is both comfortable and efficient--so you can't go wrong with this one!
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This headlamp is really popular among runners--it is affordable, comfortable, and lightweight.
It comes with a rechargeable battery and a perfectly balanced and adjustable headband--so you don't have to worry about constantly adjusting it during your runs.

Its' best safety feature is its rear red taillight strobe--for maximum visibility at night.

This lamp also uses PowerTap technology to provide different lighting settings and beam intensity.
Pros
  • 200 Lumens at max capacity 
  • Affordable 
  • Red taillight strobe for increased safety
  • Rechargeable Battery 
  • 3 Settings: full strength, strobe, and dimming 
Cons
  • Battery pack is a little bulkier than others 

5. Black Diamond Spot

The Black Diamond Spot is by far the most affordable option available. However, being the most affordable option doesn't mean it sacrifices comfort or other excellent and necessary features. This headlamp has been around for a long time, but has recently been redesigned. Its update version is by far an excellent option for your nightly runs and is sure to offer what you need.
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This headlamp is a popular choice among runners--it is comfortable, durable, affordable, and bright.
The Spot offers 300 Lumens at full capacity and utilizes PowerTap technology for you to transition between lighting settings. It also comes equipped with several lighting settings: full-capacity, dimming, strobe, red night-vision, and lock mode. It also comes with a Brightness Memory option--so you don't have to switch through all of the lighting options to get to your previous one.

This headlamp is also weather and water resistant. In fact, it can be submerged in water for a continuous 30 minutes! If you get stuck in a downpour you won't have to worry about your headlamp giving out on you!
Pros
  • 300 Lumens at max capacity 
  • Weather and waterproof 
  • Affordable 
  • 7 different lighting settings 
  • PowerTap technology for easy transitions between lighting 
  • Brightness Memory function 
  • Durable 
Cons
  • Requires AAA batteries 

6. Petzl TIKKA

A classic time-tested headlamp, the Petzl Tikka is a great go to for urban running. Boasting a plentiful 100 lumen brightness and user friendly design — the Tikka deserves its status as a household name.
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The Tikka headlamp is yet another compact lightweight set engineered by Petzl that delivers top-notch quality. It is definitely on the lower end of the pay scale when looking at its competitors. With 200 lumens brightness and wide beam capability, this headlamp brings plenty to the table; or should we say head.

A favorable bonus among its users is the glow in the dark locator that self charges when not in use to easily find the headlamp in the dark. When shining, the Tikka offers three lighting modes for proximity, movement and distance vision. The red lighting will not blind other members in the group and preserves night vision.

The Petzl Tikka is a hybrid headlamp, meaning that it can be powered by standard batteries and is compatible with the Petzl CORE rechargeable batteries. Its lightweight durable features make it weather resistant, breaking the scale at just 3 ounces. On the highest level, the headlamp illumination can range up to 80 meters and last nearly 250 hours on the lowest setting.

The user friendliness is made available by the simple push button system for fast lighting selection. The standard lighting technology beam will switch to a reserve setting when batteries are getting low to preserve the remaining battery life.
Pros
  • Three simple but effective lighting modes
  • Water resistant, 3 year manufacturer guarantee
  • Washable headband
  • Glow in the dark system for easy location when not in use
Cons
  • An overhead strap would be a great improvment

7. Black Diamond Icon

This headlamp truly lives up to its name. With a 320 lumen output this is the lamp you want for optimal visibility. The battery pack is a bit heavier due to this, but overall we’ve found it balances nicely with the tri-strap design.
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Black Diamond’s most powerful headlamp is one of the heavy hitters on the market. This line offers a waterproof, 320 lumen high-output lighting that can be fully adjusted to personal preference. Night-vision mode is available in three colors of red, green and blue making it versatile for any mission. The removable battery pack on the back of the headband can be removed for a more lightweight feel that fully adjusts for any adventure.

The headlamp features a QuadPower LED spotlight and one DoublePower white LED light for ultimate range of visibility. It also features a programmable brightness memory that gives the user the option to set the brightness level prior to being turned on. Several lighting modes are included such as dimming, strobe, and RGB night vision options.

Keep this light shining for up to 200 hours on the low setting and 50 hours on high. Although it is a little bit heavier than the previous listed headlamps, the durability and stability makes up for the 8 ounce design. This band comes with two AA batteries to get started on your journey and features a three-level power meter that shows the remaining life of the current batteries.
Pros
  • High powered
  • Exterior display shows remaining battery life
  • Performs fine when wet
  • Tri-strap construction, stays firmly in place
Cons
  • The price is a little bit steep

8. Olympia EX550 Water Resistant LED

Want to look a bit special ops next time you hit the road? Grab the EX550 from Olympia for military grade illumination. You will never have to worry about underpowered light with this headlamp, and to boot it has a hand lockout function making sure you’ll never accidentally switch it on or off.
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Olympia’s most durable and powerful headlamp offers 550 lumen powered LED light for a variety of adventures. The overhead strap design gives you a locked in fit that makes you feel like your night time run is truly a special ops mission. The structured lightweight aluminum frame makes this line a great option for trail running and other outdoor activities.

Its CREE XM-L LED bulb displays a brilliant light made available with five different settings. They include a max, high, medium, low and strobe light setting to fit any situation you come across in nature. Take it to aquatic regions and have the confidence of knowing this headlamp can withstand water as deep as one meter for up to thirty minutes. The convenient lock-out function ensures the preservation of battery life by eliminating accidental toggling of on and off features when not in use.

The Olympia EX550 was meant to withstand hard hits in several non weather-friendly environments. Compatible with CR123A batteries, the beam is capable of displaying light at up to 135 meters. The pivoting head allows users to point light at any desirable angle to brighten all sorts of paths in front of them.
Pros
  • Overhead strap, easy to cinch  up
  • Waterproof IPX-7
  • High powered, long distance beam
  • Corrosion and impact resistant
Cons
  • A bit expensive

Princeton Tec Remix

The Princeton Tec Remix headlamp is a simple and affordable option that will get the job done and provide you with the necessary lighting you need during your nightly runs.
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These headlamps are perfect for runners who love to run in muddier terrains and also need sufficient lighting. They can work in any environment and are weather and water resistant.

It also comes in different lighting capabilities of 70, 100, 125, and 150 lumens--so you can adjust it to what you need at any present moment. It utilizes AAA batteries and can last for up to 150 hours.
Pros
  • Comes in several color options
  • Affordable
  • comes in different lighting settings
  • weather and water resistant
  • can last for up 150 hours
Cons
  • Need AAA batteries (no rechargeable option)
  • no Strobe setting available

Coast FL85 Headlamp

Coast is an Oregon-based company that also produces excellent headlamps. While they might not be as well known in the headlamp world as Black Diamond and Petzl, their products shouldn't be overlooked!
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This lamp is on the affordable end and is also durable and comfortable.

At its highest capacity it provides 540 lumens and at its lowest capacity it provides 75 lumens of brightness. The light's focus is also easily adjustable thanks to its use of Twist Focus Technology. Furthermore, its' most impressive lighting feature is its ability to provide a maximum visibility distance of 564 feet!



Pros
  • 540 lumen max capacity
  • Twist Focus Technology
  • Affordable
  • Visibility of up to 564 feet when using it at max capacity
Cons
  • Bulky
  • Requires AAA batteries
  • Poor battery life when used on maximum capacity 

Fenix HP25R

While Fenix is more well-known for their excellent GPS watches, they also have also great quality headlamps to choose from! The Fenix HP25R is one of their best options and comes with a rechargeable battery--so you don't have to worry about constantly running to the store to buy more.
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This headlamp is a little on the higher end as far as cost--but it is well worth the price, given the features it provides.

This lamp utilize two head straps--for maximum security, comfort, and slippage prevention. It also comes with a USB rechargeable battery.

As far as lighting capabilities, this headlamp is beyond exceptional. It utilizes an individually controlled, dual LEd lighting beam system. One beam functions as a light beam (and has a 1,000 lumen max capacity) while the other beam functions as a flood light (with a 35o lumen capacity).
Pros
  • USB rechargeable battery
  • dual strap headband
  • dual LED beams
  • max capacity of 1000 lumens
Cons
  • Short battery life

Black Diamond Storm

Surprise! Here we go with one more headlamp from Black Diamond
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The brightness of this lights is literally brilliant. We are amazed by the power- it’s about 350 lumens. Runners said that it provides very pure light, everything is very visible on the road. There are many modes to choose from. Runners were attracted by the ability of lightning in green, red and blue colors. Blue night vision, for example, makes it much easier to see the danger. Special Power Tap Technology allows you to change the brightness very quickly. It will be excellent for running in the rain it’s waterproof. What’s more, it’s also dust proof so great for running on the muds and versatile trails.There’s a lock mode if you tend to switch on headlamp by accident.
When we talk about the price, this isn’t the cheap headlamp. Also like the other Black diamond model above, it’s rather expensive. We don’t mean that you shouldn’t spend money on it but you need to think of how much are you going to use it. This one is high quality product and you need to be ready to pay for it about 50 dollars.
Pros

Big power

Performs well in different weather conditions

Comfortable in wearing

Cons

The price is high


 

The Criteria We Used For Our Search Of The Best Headlamps For Running

How much brightness does the headlamp provide?

What types of runs do you usually go on at night time? Are you a trail runner who won’t have any light at all? Do you run in more of an urban environment at night where there will be a decent amount of city lighting? Whatever your style, the headlamp must fit your purpose. Obviously the brighter the better, but knowing the environment you run in will help you invest in the right headlamp.

Additionally, the max beam reach of the headlamp is another important factor. There is a big difference for those who need to see 15 meters in front compared to those who may only need to see a few feet in front of them. Either way it’s important to understand what your situation is.
Choose a headlamp with the right beam type for you. A flood or wide type is good for close up situations not really for distance. Spot, focused or narrow types is great for long-distance because it is a tight beam. This is ideal for dark trail runs. Lastly the food or spot type offers the most versatile of these options. Usually they include a little bit of everything.

What is the battery life compared to to others?

Battery life is one of the most important factors. Are you a runner who will be taking on trails for over 10 hours? Maybe you like to exercise for shorter periods of time closer to 2 or 5 hours. What’s great about most of these headlamps is that they are rechargeable for max battery life.  

Although several are not rechargeable, just packing a few extra batteries can easily solve your lighting problems after an extended amount of time. On the flip side, you don’t want to have to stop at an inconvenienced time during your run to switch them out. So again, know your situation.

How well is the headlamp react to weather?

Headlamps need to be as versatile as you are as an athlete. We made sure to include some of the most durable, weatherproof headlamps on the market. In reality almost every headlamps is not made only for running but for a variety of activities. Because of this, runners can reap plenty of benefits from the variety of characteristics.

For the most part, every headlamp can withstand a decent amount of water. If these lamps can go up to a meter underwater for up to thirty minutes they are going to be able to stand pretty wet running conditions. They can take on the cold very well so those living in chillier zones of the world won’t have to worry. For those in hotter areas, the listed headlamps are not going to overheat on you.

What are the materials the headlamp is made of and how much does it weigh?

All in all weight is probably going to be the number one thing your looking at next to the brightness of the lamp. Your run will most likely be a lot more comfortable the lighter the headlamp.  We did include a couple different “heavyweights” compared to others, but it also depends on your preference.  

The headlamps with added material on top, known as the overhead strap, will provide a bit more stability.  If you run on a little bit more uneven trails than that may be a good option for you. Our list contains a good mix of both heavier and lighter weighted bands. We made sure that the lightweight lamps that made the list also provided an ample amount of stability. You’re not going to want to have to adjust your headlamp on run. Ideally you want to choose one that really feels like you aren’t wearing one.

 

Other Important Factors to Consider When Selecting The Best One For You

User-friendliness is a huge advantage when picking your headlamp. We made sure to pick simple options with easy to press buttons. Many of the headlamps are also easy to navigate with gloves on if you are in the cold.

Another factor to look at depending on your situation is the headlamps with self-adjusting brightness. When you’re running you want to really be as hands free as possible even if it saves you from pressing a button less than you need to. Several headlamps were chosen for their self-dimming and self-brightening features.

Most of these headlamps offer a great amount of brightness levels and mode. Again versatility will always help out and can never hurt. Know the modes. Strobe or flash mode is great as an emergency blinker. Some of these lamps offer different colored blinking lights as well. Low is the standard mode used for easier trails and safest the most amount of battery life. The high mode is great for super dark areas and can really illuminate your surroundings for quality vision.

Tilt features are a great plus to your headlamp as well. Choosing a headlamp that can tilt up or down can come in very handy in plenty of situations.

Lastly, price is an important factor to take note of. A few of these headlamps are very economical and can easily get the job done depending on your situation. If you are a runner who stays on fairly well lit streets there isn’t much of a reason to go with a headlamp that has all the bells and whistles. Take these factors into consideration and you will be able to pick out the perfect headlamp fairly easily.

FAQ

To further help in your search for the best pair of running shoes, we have also put together some frequently asked questions that may help you spark some considerations of your own.

Q: How well do headlamps take on falls, shocks or accidental drops?

A: The headlamps listed are made sure to withstand a lot of beating. They are durable, reliable and will leave you satisfied no matter your situation. Most of these headlamps state how much impact they can withstand. The exact levels varies from lamp to lamp. Rest assured dropping these headlamps won’t break them. They are made to take on nature and her mishaps.

Q: Can I wear these headlamps in rain and snow?

A: The answer is yes. These headlamps are waterproof to a pretty high degree. If you plan on running in rainy conditions for an entire day you may want be a little weary. Each are able to stay underwater for up to 30 minutes to put a little perspective on what they can take on. Snowy and cold conditions won’t be too hard of a match for these headlamps either. Run confident with any of the above listed lamps.

Q: What is a good weight for running headlamp?

A: From the research found online a good place to start when it comes to weight of your headlamp is around 6-7 ounces. Anything more is probably better for hiking or non-running lighting.  Lighter than the stated ounces will only offer more of a comfortable and non-annoying run. The goal is to go as lightweight as possible while still being able to cover all your bases of lighting and various preferences.

Q: Does paying for more expensive headlamps mean better quality.

A: Yes because you are going to be getting additional features that aren’t on cheaper ones. Adversely, if you want to spend less than $50 on a headlamp there are several on the list that can get the job done for you. It really comes down to exactly what you need. If you are a minimalist there is good amount of options for you. If you’re the type that really wants to invest in the top-tier lamps make sure to weigh all your options to better fit your needs.

 

We really hope that this buying guide was helpful to your search. Remember, there are many different types of headlamps out there. The trick is to weigh your needs and practical uses to find the best possible pair for you.


Here are some sources we used while conducting our research:

Sources

  1. RunningUltraMarathons.com, Trail running at night, Online Running Publication, Nov 23, 2014
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