Head to Head: This Little Light of Mine

Find the right headlamp for the job.

A version of this story appeared in the summer 2020 issue of Uncommon Path

1. Best for Running: BioLite HeadLamp 330

BioLite HeadLamp 330

  • Weight: 2.4 oz. (with batteries)
  • Battery: Lithium-ion rechargeable
  • Max brightness: 330 lumens
  • Max burn time on lowest setting: 40 hours
  • Price: $59.95

For nighttime jogs, you’ll want a headlamp that has good front-to-back balance with the light on one side and the battery pack on the other (this design minimizes bouncing and slipping). We like the BioLite HeadLamp 330 because, along with a design that places the battery on the back, it has a superslim housing (standing only 9mm off your head) and a comfy, moisture-wicking band that stays in place, even when you start sweating.


2. Best for Camping: Black Diamond Spot 325

Black Diamond Spot 325

  • Weight: 3 oz. (with batteries)
  • Battery: 3 AAAs
  • Max brightness: 325 lumens
  • Max burn time on lowest setting: 200 hours
  • Price: $39.95

When choosing a light for nights at camp, prioritize red-light functionality. Wearing your headlamp in red-light mode will provide you with just enough light to see in front of you (say, if you’re walking to the bathroom or playing cards) but not too much to blind others or ruin your night vision. The Black Diamond Spot 325 has a red light that’s easy to toggle to, as well as other features we love for the trail: a long burn time, a dimmable light and a locking function (so it won’t accidentally turn on in your pack).


3. Best for Everyday Use: Petzl Actik Core

Petzl Actik Core

  • Weight: 2.8 oz. (with batteries)
  • Battery: Lithium-ion Petzl Core or 3 AAAs
  • Max brightness: 450 lumens
  • Max burn time on lowest setting: 130 hours
  • Price: $69.95

Batteries are fickle. That’s why you’ll want a rechargeable light like the Petzl Actik Core for your home, car or emergency drawer. Lights like these run on specialized lithium-ion batteries that you can plug into a wall, computer or power bank via an integrated USB port, ensuring that you have a fully juiced headlamp whenever you least expect to need it (think power outage, venturing into the attic or packing the car predawn). The Actik Core is also compatible with AAAs, so you can pop in spares on longer trips.


4. Best Value: Princeton Tec SNAP Modular Kit

Princeton Tec SNAP Modular Kit

  • Weight: 3.5 oz. (with batteries, in headlamp configuration)
  • Battery: 3 AAAs
  • Max brightness: 300 lumens
  • Max burn time on lowest setting: 110 hours
  • Price: $39.95

If you don’t have a specialized use in mind, you’d be well served by buying a multiuse product like the Princeton Tec SNAP Modular Kit. This three-in-one light comes with a trio of mounts, which transform it from headlamp to bike light to lantern. It’s not the top performer at any one of those things, but it’s serviceable in all and easy to configure. The best part, of course, is that you won’t need to buy three separate lights.

Looking for more headlamp recommendations from our staff? Check out our gear guide here. And find more gear recommendations from Uncommon Path.