Headlamps are a multi-purpose tool – use them while cooking in a hut, to light the trail ahead or asa safety device to alert rescuers to your whereabouts. Don’t leave home without one.
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 highest and lowest light settings.
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 spotlighting.
Straps should be soft, comfortable, washable and wide enough to support the weight of the headlamp. Most straps use a sliding adjustment that can be tightened or loosened easily on the go. Some models, with heavy rear-mounted batteries, have a top strap – but as USB-rechargeable batteries have become more ubiquitous these have become less common.
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.
Function and mode
One on/off button that can be toggled through the various lighting modes is usual. By holding this button down, the light can be dimmed or brightened. Most models allow the light to turn on at the last brightness setting. All headlamps have a transport lock to prevent the light inadvertently turning on in your pack. Many headlamps have a red light function which preserves night vision – useful for stargazing and spotting nocturnal wildlife.
Water and dust resistance
Headlamps have an IPX rating indicating their water-resistance. An Ingress Protection Rating (IP) measures both water and dust resistance. IPX ratings range from IPX4 to IPX8, where IPX4 means they can handle splashing water (10-litre/min) from any angle – that’s most rainy conditions. IPX8, the highest rating, is full and continuous immersion up to and within the manufacturer’s specifications.
IP ratings come with two numbers (e.g. IP67). The first number rates solid protection (i.e. dust) on a scale of 0-6 where 0 offers no protection and 6 is dust tight. The second number rates water-resistance using the IPX scale.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) FL-1 flashlight standard measures the following features in laboratory conditions:
- Output: Total light output measured in lumens after the light has been on for 30 to 120 seconds
- Run-time: The time until the light output drops to 10 per cent of its original value
- Range: The distance in metres at which the headlamp produces a light intensity of 0.25 lux (about the same brightness as a full moon).
Ledlenser MH8 $199.99
Tiltable and detachable lamp, ANSI-rated, detachable washable headband, five different light functions, Advanced Focus System, transport lock, USB rechargeable battery, also runs on standard batteries, red, blue and green lights, seven-year extended warranty, IP54. Output 600 lumens Range 200m Run-time 7-60hr Weight 140g. www.ledlenser.co.nz
Petzl Swift RL $189–$199
A hermetic polymer housing, USB rechargeable 2350mAh battery with 6hr charge time, battery charge indicator, two light modes offer manual or automatic adjustment of light brightness, scattered, focused and mixed beam, IPX4. Available in September. Output 700 lumens Weight 105g. www.petzl.co.nz
Petzl Actik Core $139.90
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, ANSI-rated, IPX4. Output 350 lumens Range 95m Run-time 2-160hr Weight 82g. www.petzl.co.nz
Petzl Bindi $119.90
Ultra-light running rechargeable headlamp, three lighting modes, red night vision light, two lock functions to avoid accidental turning on, can be worn around the neck, tiltable head, ANSI-rated, IPX4. Output 200 lumens Range 36m Run-time 2-50hr Weight 35g. www.petzl.co.nz
BioLite 330 $99.99
Proprietary 3D SlimFit construction for a snug fit, 9mm front profile, moisture-wicking fabric, USB-rechargeable battery, ANSI-rated, IPX4, available in four colours. Output 330 lumens Range 75m Run-time 3.5-40hr Weight 65g. www.ampro.co.nz
Ledlenser NEO6R $99.99
Rechargeable running headlamp with swivel head, ANSI-rated, reduced glare wide beam, chest belt attachment, two energy modes, rear red blinking light, low battery indicator, seven-year extended warranty. IP57. Output 240 lumens Range 30m Run-time 6-40hr Weight 95g. www.ledlenser.co.nz
Ledlenser MH5 $99.99
Tiltable and detachable lamp, ANSI-rated, detachable washable headband, two light functions (high power, low power), rechargeable battery, can also run on standard batteries, low battery indicator. Seven-year extended warranty, IP54. Output 400 lumens Range 180m Run-time 4-35hr Weight 92g. www.ledlenser.co.nz
Black Diamond Iota $79.99
One TriplePower LED, lithium-ion rechargeable battery with 3hr charge time, three light settings, PowerTap technology switches between dimmed and full beam, battery charge indicator, IPX4. Output 150 lumens Range 40m Run-time 2-40hr Weight 56g. www.southernapproach.co.nz
Black Diamond Storm $99.95
PowerTap technology instantly switches between dimmed and full beam, Brightness Memory turns on at chosen brightness, regulated for constant light output, four AAA batteries included, four light modes, red, green and blue night-vision, IP67. Output 375 lumens Range 100m Run-time 5-150hr Weight 120g. www.southernapproach.co.nz