With winter’s restricted daylight hours, now is the time to invest in a good headlamp. Look for rechargeable batteries, low weight and bulk, and decent run time.
Comfort is key, so straps should be soft and wide enough to support the weight of the headlamp. Most straps use a sliding adjustment (though some also use a toggle) that can be easily tightened or loosened on the go. Removable straps can be washed without damaging the lamp. Fixed straps can be used on headlamps with good water resistance.
The headlamp should be simple to operate. Most use one or two buttons to turn on and to cycle through the light modes. Holding the button dims or brightens the light. Many models have a brightness ‘memory’ which turns on at the last-used light setting. The headlamp should have a transport lock to prevent it from inadvertently turning on in your pack. Many headlamps have coloured lights to preserve night vision – useful for stargazing and spotting nocturnal wildlife. Glove-friendly operation is essential for use in winter.
Measured in lumens, light output can be adjusted for the conditions from a low 10 (or less) lumens for reading or early-morning starts (so as not to disturb others) up to 1500 lumens for finding your way on the trail.
A tiltable lamp housing directs the light where it’s needed and prevents the light from blinding others. Headlamps that don’t tilt might have the option to use downward-facing lights that serve the same purpose.
This is the distance in metres that the beam reaches. The range figures shown in this feature are for the lowest and highest light settings.
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.
Water and dust resistance
Headlamps have an Ingress Protection Rating (IP) that measures water and dust resistance.
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 between 4 and 8, where 4 means splashing water from any angle can be handled (10-litre/min) – that’s most rainy conditions – and 8 is full and continuous immersion up to and within the manufacturer’s specifications.
If an X is used instead of the first number, it means the headlamp has not been tested for solid protection.
Petzl Nao RL $375
Trail running lamp with ‘Reactive Lighting’ that automatically adapts the brightness level to the ambient light to conserve battery, red lighting at rear for visibility, 3200mAh li-ion rechargeable battery, IPX4. Available July 2022. Output 1500 lumens Run time 2-80hr Range 200m Weight 145g. www.outdoorestore.co.nz
Ledlenser H7R Signature $329.99
Advanced Focus System, stepless dimming, seven light functions, user customisable light settings, turns on at last used light setting, Li-ion 3.7v 4800mAH battery recharges with Magnetic Charge System, GoPro accessories adapter, transport lock, IP67. Output 1200 lumens Range 260m Run time 3.5-65hr Weight 259g. www.ledlenser.co.nz
Ledlenser H5R Core $169.99
Rechargeable battery, Advanced Focus System, stepless dimming, three light functions, transport lock, 160-degree tilting head, battery charge indicator. Seven-year extended warranty, IP67. Output 500 lumens Range 200m Run time 30min-50hr Weight 167g. www.ledlenser.co.nz
Petzl Actik Core $149.90
Rechargeable multi-beam headlamp, flood or mixed beam patterns, red light, reflective headband, battery charges via micro USB, can use standard AAA batteries, transport lock, compatible with mounting accessories, IPX4. Output 450 lumens, Run time 2-130hr Range 90m Weight 75g. www.outdoorestore.co.nz
BioLite 750 $249.99
Rechargeable headlamp with Constant Mode for steady brightness through the charge of the battery, Run Forever pass-thru charging and eight lighting modes, dimmable rear red light, micro USB rechargeable 3000mAh li-ion battery, 3D SlimFit construction, IPX4 Output 750 lumens Run time 7-150hr Range 130m Weight 150g. www.ampro.co.nz
BioLite 330 $129.99
3D SlimFit construction, 9mm front profile, articulating light, moisture-wicking fabric, four lighting modes, 900mAh USB rechargeable battery, available in four colours, IPX4. Output 330 lumens Run time 3.5-40hr Range 75m Weight 69g. www.ampro.co.nz
Knog Bilby 400 $119.99
Medical-grade silicone body and strap, set-and-forget toggle, multiple light modes each with four brightness settings, user-customisable light settings, downlight for reading, USB-rechargeable, IP67. Output 400 lumens Run time 5-105hr Range 100m Weight 90g. www.knog.com
Ledlenser MH3 $99.99
Smart Light Technology, two light functions, Advanced Focus System, detachable tiltable lamp head, dual power source, detachable headband, IP54. Output 200 lumens Range 130m Run time 4.5-35hr Weight 92g. www.ledlenser.co.nz
Knog Bandicoot Run 250 $84.99
Running lamp, one-piece sweat-resistant silicone strap, translucent material creates red ‘halo-effect’ for greater visibility to other road users, set-and-forget toggle, five lighting modes, user-customisable light settings, downlight for reading, USB-rechargeable, IP67. Output 250 lumens Run time 8-105hr Range 40m Weight 58g. www.knog.com