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2018 guide to headlamps

Image of the July 2018 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
July 2018 Issue

For focussing a narrow beam on the trail ahead, or lighting up a campsite or hut, headlamps are a versatile hands-free light source.

Wide enough to support the weight of the headlamp and allow easy adjustment so it doesn’t bounce around or slide down while you’re on the move. A top strap is found on models with a heavier, rear-mounted battery pack. Straps should be soft, comfortable and washable. An adjustable mounting for the light is useful for tilting the beam down or up. 

The torch should be simple to operate with either a button or twist-action to activate the light. Glove-friendly operation is essential for use in winter. Dimmer switches adjust the light level and may be found on lamps with rear-mounted battery packs. 

Functions and mode
One on/off button that can be toggled through the various lighting modes is usual. A twistable face will adjust the light from spot to floodlight. A transport lock is useful to prevent the headlamp being inadvertently turned on in your pack. Many headlamps have a red light function to preserve night vision – useful for reading and stargazing. 

Output and range
Measured in lumens, light output can be adjusted for the conditions from a low 10 or 25 lumens for reading, up to 600 lumens for finding your way on the trail. Output also dictates range. Low-output models are useful work lights around the campsite or hut, while high-output headlamps are better for night tramping or running. 

User settings
Some models allow the user to customise the output of the various lighting modes. This is useful if you want to conserve battery power and find the factory settings too bright. You need to adjust the settings on a computer while the torch is connected. 

Battery life is related to output; the more powerful the torch, the more power-hungry it is. Run-times shown in this feature are for the lowest and highest light settings (where only one time is shown, this is for the headlamp’s lowest light setting). 

Water resistance
Headlamps have an IPX rating indicating their water-resistance:

IPX-4 Can handle splashing water (10-litre/min) from any angle – that’s most rainy conditions. 

IPX-6 Protected against splashed and pressurised water from any angle from a 12.5mm nozzle at 100-litre/ min. 

IPX-7 Full immersion in one metre of water for up to 30min. The perfect headlamp in extreme conditions. 

IPX-8 Full and continuous immersion, up to and within the manufacturer’s specifications. 

Ledlenser SEO 7R photographed by Dennis Radermacher

Ledlenser SEO 7R $179.99
Rechargeable plus runs on AAA batteries, ANSI-rated, two energy modes and four light functions including dimming and signal, OPTIsense adjusts light to surrounding environment, floodlight, spotlight, red or white LED, transport lock, IPX-6, seven-year extended warranty. Output 220 lumens Range 130m Run-time 5-20hr Weight 93g. www.ledlenser.co.nz 

Petzl Duo S $889
Five light modes, BOOST mode temporarily delivers 1100 lumens, glove-friendly operation, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, energy gauge, anti-glare function dims light to avoid blinding others, auto-lock, rear-mounted battery, fits all helmets, washable headband. Output 1100 lumens Range 200m Run-time 3.5-12.5hr Weight 370g. www.spelean.co.nz

Ledlenser NEO 10R $199.99
Rechargeable with swivel-mounted and focusable lamp, ANSI-rated, vertical battery box, can also be worn on chest with included chest belt, rear red blinking light, low battery warning, seven-year extended warranty. Output 600 lumens Range 150m Run-time 10-120hr Weight 179g. www.ledlenser.co.nz

Nextorch myStar $199.99
With rechargeable polymer lithium battery, 360-degree rotation transitions from flood light to spot beam, rear-mounted battery pack with flashing red visibility lights, battery indicator light, IPX-4. Output 550 lumens Range 184m Run-time 4.5-63hr Weight 169g. www.vaughan.co.nz

Black Diamond Icon $169.99
Black Diamond’s most powerful headlamp, removable balanced battery pack, Brightness Memory turns on at preset brightness, red, green and blue night-vision modes, power meter shows remaining battery life, IPX-7, 4xAA batteries. Output 500 lumens Range 100m, Run-time 70-175hr Weight 300g. www.southernapproach.co.nz

Petzl Bindi $119.90
Ultra-light rechargeable running headlamp, three lighting modes, red night vision light, two lock functions to avoid accidental turning on, can be worn around neck, tiltable head, IPX-4. Output 200 lumens Range 36m Run-time 2-50hr Weight 35g. www.spealean.co.nz

Petzl Actik Core $119.90
Multi-beam headlamp with CORE USB rechargeable battery, also compatible with AAA/LR03 batteries, two beam patterns, multiple lighting modes, red night vision light, reflective headband, emergency whistle, IPX-4. Output 350 lumens Range 95m Run-time 2-160hr Weight 82g. www.spealean.co.nz

Ledlenser NEO 6R $89.99
Rechargeable running headlamp with swivel head, ANSI-rated, virtually glare-free wide beam, can be worn on chest with included chest belt, two energy modes, rear red blinking light, low battery warning, seven-year extended warranty. Output 240 lumens Range 30m Run-time 6-40hr Weight 95g. www.ledlenser.co.nz

Black Diamond Spot $84.99
Sleek low-profile design, tap to transition between full and dimmed power, Brightness Memory turns on at preset brightness, seven lighting modes, including red night vision, IPX-8, 3xAAA batteries. Output 300 lumens Range 80m Run-time 30-175hr Weight 88g. www.southernapproach.co.nz