Survival headlamps are light, cheap, and don’t take up much space in your Bug Out Bag. It’s worth investing in a couple to keep at home, in your car, and your emergency bag. They’re essential for power outages and survival situations, enabling you to see in the dark while keeping your hands free to light a fire, cook a meal or go to the bathroom.
For years, battery-operated headlamps were all you could buy, but now there are many rechargeable options on the market. Both options have pros and cons, but for long-term survival, you will want to look at a rechargeable setup.
Here’s our roundup of the best headlamps that won’t leave you in the dark.
11 Best Rechargeable Headlamps Reviewed
Best All-Around Headlamp: Black Diamond Revolt
Black Diamond is a popular brand among hikers, climbers, and other outdoor types who expect their gear to work and work well. The Revolt is a hybrid headlamp, offering the option of power via the included rechargeable batteries (charge via USB) or standard AAA batteries.
It gives a good brightness level, even on the medium setting, and is small and lightweight.
There are several modes – spotlight, proximity, dimming, strobe, red-light, and a locking function.
There’s also a battery indicator, so you’ll know when you’re running low on charge, and it’s one of the most waterproof models we’ve reviewed, so you don’t have to worry about using it in bad weather.
The features do take a bit of getting used to, especially as there’s only one button to switch between different modes, but once you’ve figured out how it works, the Revolt is one of the best all-around headlamps for preppers.
- Claimed battery life: 4 – 200 hours (depending which batteries used)
- Recharge time: Not stated
- Max lumens: 350 (using alkaline batteries)
- Weight: 3.2 oz
Best for Battery Life: NITECORE NU33
The NU33 is a new and improved version of Nitecores’ NU32 model. It offers 8 different brightness settings, from a ‘turbo’ mode of 700 lumens to an ultra-low 6-lumen setting which gives a whopping 150+ hours of battery life.
This is handy as it gives you a lot of flexibility to balance battery life and brightness.
The low setting (50 lumens / 47 hours) is likely to be a good compromise for most activities, but the ultra-low setting will give a bare minimum of light for basic tasks.
There’s also a red light, a useful battery indicator to help you decide when to tone down the brightness, and a locking function so you don’t accidentally switch it on in your bag.
The in-built battery is rechargeable via USB using the supplied cable.
- Claimed battery life: 4 – 150 hours
- Recharge time: 1.5 hours
- Max lumens: 700
- Weight: 3.37 oz
Best for Brightness: Coast FL75R
Coast may not be as well known as Petzl or Black Diamond, but this Oregon-based company prides itself on the durability of its headlamps, backed by a lifetime warranty.
It also allows using standard AAA batteries as a backup to the Li-ion battery pack.
In terms of brightness for weight, the FL75R is one of the best headlamps available.
It also has excellent optic quality. You can quickly move between a spotlight and flashlight beam by twisting the light, and there are three different power options.
It’s worth noting that the ‘low’ power option is still 65 lumens, which is more than sufficient for most tasks at close quarters.
It’s a shame that, given their reputation for durability, this lamp isn’t more waterproof. It’ll stand up to a light shower, but you might not want to risk it in a downpour.
- Claimed battery life: 2.25-11 hours
- Recharge time: Not stated
- Max lumens: 530
- Weight: 3.7 oz
Best Budget Headlamp: Foxelli USB Rechargeable
This fantastic, lightweight rechargeable headlamp is a great option for preppers on a budget or those wanting a secondary headlamp.
With a maximum output of 180 lumens, it’s not the brightest. You wouldn’t want to use it navigating the woods at night, but it should be more than adequate for tasks at close quarters. It also has a decent recharge time and a red-light mode.
It doesn’t have the option of using alkaline batteries or the additional features of more expensive models, but it’s an excellent buy for a budget headlamp.
- Claimed battery life: up to 40 hours
- Recharge time: 4 hours
- Max lumens: 180
- Weight: 2.4 oz ( no batteries)
Best Waterproof Headlamp: Fenix HM61R v2
The Fenix HM61R comes with a rechargeable Li-ion battery and a pair of non-rechargeable batteries for backup. The aluminum casing makes it durable and has an IPX-8 waterproof classification, meaning it’s submersible up to two meters underwater.
Although the peak output is 1600 lumens, this is in ‘turbo’ mode. The output drops to 400 on ‘high,’ which will give better battery performance.
There are three other modes of diminishing brightness, plus a red-light mode which are a bit more intuitive to switch between than the Black Diamond Revolt.
- Claimed battery life: 3-100 hours
- Recharge time: Not stated
- Max lumens: 1600
- Weight: 5.36 oz (with batteries)
Best Spotlight Headlamp: SLONIK 1000 Lumen
Although the claimed 1000-lumen brightest may be a bit of an exaggeration, the beam from this headlamp is undoubtedly bright.
It’s a pure spotlight beam – there isn’t a floodlight option – and there’s no red-light mode, making it less versatile than other models. You’re paying for a bright, reasonably priced headlamp with minimal additional features.
The battery life isn’t worth shouting about, but it’s rechargeable in just 2 hours. This is an advantage if you don’t have mains electricity and have to charge items from a solar or another portable charger.
It’s also lightweight, and the beam can easily swivel through 90 degrees. The casing is robust and has an IPX6 rating, meaning it’s waterproof but not submersible.
- Claimed battery life: 3.5-8 hours
- Recharge time: 2 hours
- Max lumens: 1000
- Weight: 4.2 oz (including battery)
Best for Close Work: Streamlight 51064
The Streamlight has both a high-power spot beam and a floodlight for close-up work. You’ll appreciate its bright, even illumination if you have to do detailed close-up work at night (such as fixing that generator that’s cut out again…).
The battery life is also decent – 5 hours at high power and 20 at the lowest setting.
It’s designed to withstand bumps and abrasion but only has an IPX4 rating, so it isn’t the most waterproof model. It also doesn’t have a battery indicator or lock mechanism. This headlamp is best used around the house or at your bug-out location rather than survival in the wild.
- Claimed battery life: 4.75-20 hours
- Recharge time: 4.5 hours
- Max lumens: 375
- Weight: 6.1 oz
Best for Comfort: BioLite 330
If you hate the feeling of wearing a headlamp, then check out the BioLite – our top choice for comfort. It’s a super low-profile lamp, and the design of the headband distributes the weight, so it feels just like wearing a cloth sweatband. No more pressure points!
There are spot and floodlight beams, and the front section tilts so you can angle the beam. It’s designed to be bright enough for night-time running, so it should do the job for most general prepping tasks.
The battery life isn’t bad for a small headlamp, and it recharges quickly. You can also use it while charging if you have a power pack in your bag.
It’s only rated to IPX4, meaning it’s not particularly waterproof, but aside from that, the BioLite is a good option for your Bug Out Bag. Oh, and it looks pretty stylish too.
- Claimed battery life: 3.5-40 hours
- Recharge time: 2.5 hours
- Max lumens: 330
- Weight: 2.4 oz
Best for Brightness on a Budget: Everbeam H6 Pro
This is a highly rated head torch that comes in at a featherlight 2.5oz.
It’s also cheaper than most and has a decent bright beam for the price. We like the clever motion sensor switch, which means you can wave your hand in front of the light to switch it on and off.
The battery isn’t amazing, but a red warning light tells you it needs charging, a handy feature. While this headlamp doesn’t excel in any particular area, it’s a decent all-around rechargeable headlamp at a budget price.
- Claimed battery life: up to 10 hours
- Recharge time: 3-4 hours
- Max lumens: 650
- Weight: 2.5 oz
Best Ultralight: Petzl Bindi
As we’ve already discussed, it’s generally better to opt for brightness and battery life over weight for prepping purposes. But if you want a featherweight headlamp, then at just 1.2 oz, the Bindi is one of the lightest rechargeable headlamps around.
The Bindi has 3 power modes with battery time ranging from 2 hours to a surprising 50 hours on the dimmest setting. That said, if you go for this headlamp, you’ll want to make sure you have a means of charging it frequently.
The thin elastic strap isn’t the most comfortable, and it’s pricey for what you get, but with the Bindi, it’s all about the (low) weight.
- Claimed battery life: 2-50 hours
- Recharge time: Not stated
- Max lumens: 200
- Weight: 1.2 oz
What to Consider When Buying a Rechargeable Headlamp
As a prepper, you need your headlamp to deliver two things: good battery life and a bright beam. We’ve covered lots of other considerations and features below, but these should be your priority.
Your budget will also be a consideration. Headlamps can range from the very cheap (and often very poor) to the painfully expensive.
Opting for a cheap model is tempting, but budget buys are unlikely to be as robust or long lasting as more expensive models.
If you’re buying multiple headlamps, one way to save money is to prioritize what they will be used for.
Good battery life is a must when relying on a headlamp in an emergency. The longer it lasts, the better.
It’ll come as no surprise to know that manufacturers’ battery life estimates aren’t always a hundred percent accurate. That goes for the big names and smaller brands – this article goes into the issue in more detail.
Another thing to remember is that long battery life doesn’t always mean PRODUCTIVE battery life.
For example, if you have two headlamps with identical battery life, but one dims much more quickly than the other, guess which one we’d want to have in our bag…
Most headlamps have two or more brightness settings. You’ll get the maximum stated battery life from the dimmest setting. When comparing headlamps, it’s worth digging into the brightness and estimated battery life for each setting.
For example, one of the great things about the NITECORE NU32 (reviewed below) is that there are four brightness options – this makes it easier to adapt your lighting to the task at hand and means you can optimize battery life.
Dual Power Lamps
If you’re looking at dual power headlamps, you will need to double-check whether the figures provided relate to the rechargeable battery or alkaline batteries.
The only manufacturer where this seemed to be an issue was Black Diamond. If you look at the product page for the Revolt, the brightness and burn times are only given for use with alkaline batteries (despite it being primarily marketed as a rechargeable headlamp).
But if you look in the instructions for the headlamp, you can find better stats on the performance; see the table below:
|NiMH rechargeable batteries||AAA alkaline batteries|
We still love the Black Diamond Revolt but wish Black Diamond were a bit more transparent about the headlamp’s performance.
If you’re using your headlamp for hiking or the odd night camping, then charging time might not be an issue, but for a prepping situation, where you may be reliant on solar or battery chargers, the less time your light takes to charge, the better.
You’ll want a high-quality battery that you can recharge multiple times without seeing a decrease in performance.
Some headlamps are dual power, meaning you can charge them from a USB or use batteries. This makes them a bit heavier and more expensive, but it offers an added level of backup if you have to use them for long periods without having access to a charging point.
Alternatively, you could get a headlamp that allows you to charge it while using it and hook it up to a battery pack or solar charger you carry.
Brightness – How Many Lumens Do You Need?
Lumens are a measure of how much light you get from a bulb. The higher the number, the brighter the light.
But as with battery life, this isn’t the whole story…
Not all headlamps are tested to the same standard, making it very difficult to get a reliable means of comparison. Sometimes the top lumens rating for a product relates to a peak output that can’t be sustained for very long.
Another thing that’s not measured in the lumens rating is the optical quality of the lamp. Ideally, your beam should be evenly lit, but in poorer quality lamps, you may get hot spots or other abnormalities in the beam, which can disrupt your vision.
The brightness level you need also depends on what you’re using it for. Some headlamps are specifically designed for trails and illuminating a large area. Others are better for close quarters when rummaging in your bag or cooking a meal.
In summary: Consider the lumens rating when comparing headlamps but don’t take the figures solely at face value.
Different lighting modes give you added flexibility to balance brightness and battery life. Ideally, you want to use your headlamp on the lowest brightness you need for the task you’re doing to preserve battery life. Headlamps that offer both a spotlight beam and a floodlight beam will be most versatile. A spotlight beam can help you find your way on a trail in the dark, whereas a wide floodlight beam is designed to maximize what you can see around you – better suited for tasks around your home or campsite.
A red-light mode uses very little power and is useful when you only need low-level light or don’t want to ruin your night vision.
Also, see our guide to the best budget night vision goggles.
Durability and Reliability
In a survival situation, your headlamp may get some pretty rough treatment. You want it to be able to put up with a few bumps and bangs and the odd rain shower without falling apart. Most headlamps are weather and splashproof, but if it’s likely to get dropped in water, you will want a fully waterproof model.
There are lots of cheap headlamps available, many from companies you’ve never heard of.
While it’s not always the case, if you want to play safe, headlamps from a reputable outdoor brand should be reliable. The warranty that comes with a headlamp should also indicate how confident the company is in its product.
There are a couple of other considerations that are worth mentioning. These may not be deal-breaker, but they can be handy features.
- Battery indicator – useful to know how much longer you’ve got before you need to charge your light
- Locking function – some headlamps have a lock so the beam can’t accidentally be switched on when it’s in your pack. If you need to rely on your headlamp in a survival situation, you don’t want to pull it out only to find the battery is dead.
- Ease of use – if you’ve ever tried fiddling with a small button on a headlamp with winter gloves on, then you’ll know how frustrating it can be.
Weight and Comfort
Rechargeable headlamps vary in weight from light to featherweight. Unless you’re on a drive to find ultralight options, weight is unlikely to be a primary consideration when choosing a headlamp. If you do want a super lightweight model, you’ll sacrifice performance.
Comfort is important, particularly if you’re likely to use your headlamp for long stretches.
Most headlamps come mounted on an elastic band; some models have a second band stretching over your head for added stability.
It’s easy to get confused by the number of headlamps available. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by choice, remember what you need to prioritize – brightness, battery life, and reliability.
For added resilience, we’d recommend getting a model that accepts standard AAA batteries as a backup option. That way, you won’t be left in the dark even if your lamp runs out of charge.