10 Best Running Headlamps Reviewed & Compared

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Searching for Running Headlamps? Take a look at the best Headlamps of 2016, Pros & Cons and what to be aware of before buying them online or in a store.

Running at night can add a little spice to your routine. Or if you’re like many people, a busy schedule simply makes it a necessity. Particularly in the winter time the amount of daylight available to run in can be quite limited. Running at night entails a higher level of risk. So what to do about it? Well there are three main forms of defense.

Our Top 3 Picks
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

 

10 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. Black Diamond Ion LED

Weighing in at a paltry 1.7 oz this is by far the lightest headlamp you’re going to find. But despite its weight this lamp still packs a bit of a punch with an 80 lumen output. Easy to throw in your pocket this is one the most convenient headlamps out there.
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The Black Diamond Ion LED Headlamp breaks into the top three for several reasons. The main reason is for those looking to use the most lightweight product that literally feels like you are wearing nothing on your head. At 48 grams there is no excuse why you wouldn’t be able to take this product wherever you go no matter how much gear you are packing. It fits great in your pocket or in any compartment of your pack.

If set on low, the battery will be able to last up to 200 hours which is nearly unheard of. An eight hour battery life is available with the headlamp on the high setting of 80 lumens. The Powerslide feature allows you to easily turn the product on and off even when wearing thicker gloves. A lockout switch prevents accidental battery drainage when the headlamp is stored or not in use.

The push button housing allows you to choose between four modes of full-powered, dimmed, strobe or red night vision. Its powerful bulb works just as well as bigger lights but at a fraction of the weight. Additionally, it is tested to function at up to 1.1 meters below water for up to thirty minutes. This headlamp is great for quick trips and convenient lighting for just about any situation.
Pros
  • Trim and extremely compact
  • Red light night vision mode feature
  • Good battery life
  • Extremely lightweight
Cons
  • Construction slightly flimsy

4. Fenix HL05

Another featherweight lamp, the Fenix HL05 is great if you need a bit of light in a pinch. It’s not overly powerful, but it’s enough to make sure people notice you. Easy to stow, or slip into a pocket you aren’t going to find many more cost effective headlamps for running than this.
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Taking lightweight to a whole new level, this headlamp weighs in on the scale at half an ounce. It provides easy and accessible versatility with the clip feature that can be worn on your head, hat or pack.

The clickable head switch provides four different modes of high beam, low beam, red and red flash. Hold down the head switch for half a second to toggle the light on and off. Besides the lightweight and convenient qualities, the Fenix HL05 is known for its incredible battery life. It is powered by two CR2032 button batteries that can last up to 90 hours on the low setting and 50 hours on the high setting. As expected with such a small headlamps, the maximum distance this product can illuminate is up to 4.5 meters. Nonetheless it has up to 1m of impact resistance and can withstand water up to 2m deep.

Another plus to this headlamp is the cost of value. For under $20 you are going to get a headlamp that features several different lighting modes and can be worn on just about any part of your body providing 8 lumens.
Pros
  • Shockingly lightweight
  • Has a clip for your belt or backpack
  • Adjustable settings, long battery life
Cons
  • Doesn’t have too much juice, a bit dim

5. Princeton Tec Quad 4 LED

A sleek, minimalistic design makes this a popular headlamp among those who value simplicity. One of the really cool features of the Tec Quad are its interchangeable lenses (3) that all have a different benefit for specific situations (night vision for example). A great headlamp and fun to play with!
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The Princeton Tec Quad 4 LED Headlamp features a wide flood beam to illuminate even the darkest of conditions with four ultra bright LED bulbs. The Quad also includes an O-ring seal providing exceptional waterproof features while maintaining optimum lighting. It is made out of solid durable materials with an output of 45 lumens and burn time of over 100 hours.

If you like to have a few different color options the Princeton Tec Quad 4 LED Headlamp includes three interchangeable lens covers that change the light color to blue, green or red. The four output modes include high, medium, low and safety flash while providing nearly 30% more LED light than other competing headlamps. Its focused wide beams adapt well to different types of activities for close range where users will enjoy lighting in their peripheral vision.

The battery power meter gives continues feedback of high, medium and low battery levels. This headlamp is also rated as at Level 2 waterproof meaning it can provide light up to 1 meter below water for up to 30 minutes.
Pros
  • Lightweight, minimal battery needed
  • Changeable lenses
  • Simple design
  • Waterproof
  • Manufactured in the USA
Cons
  • No overhead strap

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

9. Energizer High Performance LED

Enjoy Energizer's powerful beam that is up to four times brighter than other standard LED headlamps. It's soft headband is sure to fit comfortably and is guaranteed to stand a wide variety of weather conditions. This headlamp also includes three AAA Energizer batteries that are some of the best on the market.
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The easy-to-use push button on the top of the bulb offers three different lighting modes to brighten all types of surroundings. Choose between spot, flood and full brightness while also being able to take advantage of the dimming feature. The Energizer High Performance LED Headlamp is able to reach a maximum distance of 40 meters with 150 lumens of bright white light power.

Keep the light going for as long as 50 hours on the lowest setting and enjoy high brightness for up to 8 hours. Easily replace the batteries by removing the back panel on the headband to quickly illuminate your path once again. Energizer has put this headlamp to the test so it can withstand harsher conditions while maintaining its water resistant qualities.
Pros
  • Affordable 
  • Three useful lighting modes
  • Smart dimming 
  • Pivoting beam head
Cons
  • Very basic look 

10. Black Diamond Sprinter

Weighing in with 130 lumen brightness this is a nice mid-range headlamp that isn’t too dim but doesn’t require excessive batteries either. Its design is good for racing, in that it has a vertical strap across the top of your head making sure it says nice and secure. All in all it’s a solid choice.
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The Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp is designed with impeccable stability making it ideal for a variety of outdoor runs. It weighs just 3.4 ounces and has a well-balanced feel from front to back. The mid-range beams can reach up to 45 meters and is powered by 170 lumens in the singular TriplePower LED bulb. The four settings include full strength, dimming and strobe lighting as well as a red taillight strobe for specialized visibility.

The lithium polymer rechargeable battery provides convenient charging with the integrated USB cord. High quality light is available up to 42 hours on the lowest setting and 6 hours on high. The overhead strap provides additional stabilization but is also removable for preferential comfort.
Pros
  • Variety: full strength, dimming, and strobe options
  • Lithium polymer battery easy to charge
  • Comfortable and adjustable straps
  • Durable, won’t burn out quickly
Cons
  • It is not the most powerful headlamp

Awareness is the first one, it’s easy to space out while you run but always stay alert for safety. The second is getting some high quality reflective gear, and the third (and one we’ll focus on today) is getting a running headlamp. Having a headlamp not only makes you substantially more visible to others at night it allows you to see where you’re going. If you’re jogging on well lit streets this is no problem. But if not being unable to see your footing very well is another risk. There are a lot of options out there when it comes to headlamps, We hope that this guide was helpful in finding a headlamp that best fits your needs.


 

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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