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 in 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 lots of rechargeable options on the market. There are pros and cons to both options, but for long-term survival, you’re going to want to look at a rechargeable setup.
Here’s our roundup of the best headlamps that won’t leave you in the dark.
If you’re on a budget or looking for a backup headlamp, we’d recommend the Foxelli.Check On Amazon
What to Consider When Buying a Rechargeable Headlamp
As a prepper, the two things you need your headlamp to deliver are 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.
It’s often tempting to opt for a cheap model, but budget buys are unlikely to be as robust or long-lasting as more expensive models.
If you’re buying multiple headlamps, then one way to save money is to prioritize what it’s going to be used for.
Good battery life is a must when you’re relying on a headlamp in an emergency situation. The longer it lasts, the better.
It’ll come as no surprise to know that manufacturers’ estimates of battery life aren’t always a hundred percent accurate. That goes for the big names as well as 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 down 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, then 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 performance of the headlamp.
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’re having to use it for long periods without having access to a charging point.
Alternatively, you could get a headlamp which allows you to charge it while using it and hook it up to a battery pack or solar charger that you carry with you.
Brightness – How Many Lumens Do You Need?
Lumens is 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 full story…
Not all headlamps are tested to the same standard, making it very difficult to get a reliable means of comparison, and sometimes the top lumens rating for a product relates to a peak output which 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 find you get hot spots or other abnormalities in the beam which can disrupt your vision.
The level of brightness 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 be useful for finding 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.
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 weatherproof and splashproof but if it’s likely to get dropped in water then 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 give you an indication of how confident the company is in their product.
There are a couple of other considerations that are worth mentioning. These may not be a deal-breaker, but they can be handy features to have.
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, however, is important, particularly if you’re likely to be using your headlamp for long stretches.
Most headlamps come mounted on an elastic band and some models have a second band that stretches over your head for added stability.
11 Best Rechargeable Headlamps
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.
Black Diamond Revolt
It gives a good level of brightness, even on the medium setting and is small and lightweight.
There are a number of different modes – spotlight, proximity, dimming, strobe and 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: 6-175 hours (depending which batteries used)
Coast may not be as well known as Petzl or Black Diamond, but this Oregon-based company prides themselves on the durability of their headlamps which are backed by a lifetime warranty.
It also gives the option of using standard AAA batteries as a backup to the Li-ion battery pack. Check Prices on Amazon
In terms of brightness for weight, the FL75R is one of the best headlamps available.
It also has excellent optic quality. You can easily 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.
This is a fantastic, lightweight rechargeable headlamp that’s a great option for preppers on a budget or those wanting a secondary headlamp.
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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 for tasks at close quarters, it should be more than adequate. It also has a decent recharge time and a red-light mode.
It doesn’t have the option of using alkaline batteries or have the additional features of more expensive models but for a budget headlamp, it’s a great buy.
The Fenix HL60R comes with both a rechargeable Li-ion battery and a pair of non-rechargeable batteries for backup. The aluminum casing makes it durable and it has an IPX-8 waterproof classification, meaning it’s submersible up to two meters underwater.
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Although the peak output is 950 lumens, this is on ‘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.
Best for Reactive Light Technology: Petzl REACTIK+
Petzl has been making headlamps for years and has a good reputation for quality. What sets the REACTIK+ apart from the other headlamps reviewed is the reactive light technology.
You can prioritize brightness or battery life depending on what you’re doing and the headlamp will analyze the ambient light and automatically adjust the brightness accordingly.
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Sounds good, right? It might be a handy feature if you’re running and don’t want to keep switching between modes, but you’ll conserve more battery life by just using it on the medium or low constant modes.
This makes it an expensive option for preppers who don’t mind switching manually between modes.
Although the claimed 1000-lumen brightest may be a bit of an exaggeration, the beam from this headlamp is certainly 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. What you’re paying for here is a bright, reasonably priced headlamp with minimal additional features.
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The battery life isn’t worth shouting about but it’s rechargeable in just 2 hours. This is definitely an advantage if you don’t have mains electricity and you’re having to charge items from a solar or other portable charger.
It’s also lightweight and the beam is easy to swivel through 90 degrees. The casing is fairly robust and it has an IPX6 rating meaning it’s waterproof but not submersible.
The Streamlight has both a high-power spot beam and a floodlight for close up work. If you’re having to carry out detailed close-up work at night (such as fixing that generator that’s cut out again…), you’ll appreciate its bright, even illumination.
The battery life is also decent – 5 hours at high power and up to 20 at the lowest setting. Check On Amazon
It’s designed to withstand bumps and abrasion but only has an IPX4 rating, so isn’t the most waterproof model. It also doesn’t have a battery indicator or lock mechanism. This is a headlamp best used around the house or at your bug out location rather than survival in the wild.
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!
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There’s 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 should do the job for most general prepping tasks.
The battery life isn’t bad for a small headlamp and it recharges pretty quickly. You can also use it while it’s 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.
Best for Brightness on a Budget: CrazyFire Rechargeable
This is heavier than many of the headlamps we’ve reviewed, with the battery pack on the back of the head rather than integrated into the lamp.
It’s also a lot cheaper than most and has a decent bright beam for the price. We like the fact that you can adjust the focus of the beam to make it narrower or wider depending on what you need it for.
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The battery isn’t amazing, but there’s a red warning light that comes on to tell you it needs charging, which is 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.
As we’ve already discussed, for prepping purposes, it’s generally better to opt for brightness and battery life over weight. But if you do want a featherweight headlamp, then at just 1.2 oz, the Iota is one of the lightest rechargeable headlamps around.
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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 do go for this headlamp, you’re going to 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.