10 Best Rechargeable Headlamps of 2021-2022

10 Best Rechargeable Headlamps of 2021-2022

A headlamp is one of the most important 10 essentials for backpacking, hiking, and any kind of outdoor adventure sport. Using your smartphone as a flashlight doesn’t cut it. But the days of old-school AA and AAA battery-powered headlamps are history.  USB rechargeable headlamps have become ubiquitous and are less wasteful because you don’t need to throw out dead batteries or wonder if the ones you have already have any power left in them.

Make / ModelLumensLockRed ModeWeight
Biolite 330 Headlamp330YesYes2.4 oz
Petzl Actik Core450YesYes2.8 oz
LEDLenser MH5400YesYes3.3 oz
Fenix HM50R500NoNo2.8 oz
Nitecore NU 32550YesYes3.5 oz
Nitecore NU 25360YesYes1.85 oz
Biolite 750 Headlamp750YesYes5.3 oz
Petzl Tactikka450YesYes2.8 oz
Nite Ize Radiant 300300YesYes3.2 oz
Princeton Tec Axis Recharegable 450YesYes2.9 oz
Nite Ize Radiant 170 Hat Clip Light170NoYes1.62 oz

Here are our top 10 picks for the best rechargeable headlamps for backpacking and hiking. While there are some familiar company names listed below, the companies that used to dominate the headlamp market like Black Diamond have been eclipsed by smaller more innovative companies offering less expensive and higher functioning products. You simply don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get a great headlamp anymore. Be sure to check out our advice below about what to look for when buying a rechargeable headlamp for backpacking, hiking, and trail running

1. Biolite Headlamp 330 Rechargeable Headlamp

Biolite Headlamp 330
The Biolite 330 is a USB rechargeable LED headlamp with a remote battery pack that’s good for hiking, trail running, and camping. Weighing 2.4 oz, it has white and red modes, flood and spot modes, a dimmer, battery meter, and digital lock to prevent accidental discharge when carried in a backpack or waist pack. With a maximum brightness of 330 lumens, its 900 mAh Lithium-ion battery can power the headlamp for 3.5 hours on high and up to 40 hours on low.  But what sets the Biolite apart from most other headlamps is the tight integration of the light into the head strap, so that the light has a very thin profile that sits nearly flush with your forehead. This makes it feel a lot less top-heavy and helps minimize bouncing as you run or walk.

Available from:
REI | Biolite

2. Petzl Actik Core Rechargeable Headlamp

Petzl Actik Core headlamp
The Petzl Actik Core headlamp is a rechargeable, multi-beam headlamp that provides 450 lumens of power to light the way during dynamic outdoor activities like running, hiking, and backpacking. It comes with the Core USB-rechargeable battery and is also compatible with 3 AAA/LR03 batteries without the need for an adapter, which is a nice convenience. It has 2 beam patterns (flood or mixed) and several white brightness levels, including a red lighting mode and lock.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

3. LEDLenser MH5 Rechargeable Headlamp

LEDLenser MH5 Headlamp
The LEDLenser MH5 is a 400-lumen headlamp with an intuitive focus system that allows the light to quickly go from a broad floodlight to a sharply focused long-distance beam with a twist of the light element. It also has a variable pivot mechanism that lets you adjust the lamp up or down to direct the light where you need it most. An innovative mounting system to easily remove the lamp from the strap and use it as a handheld torch or clip-on light, greatly increasing its utility. The light has a red mode and a lock to prevent accidental discharge. It comes with a large 5000 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery, but can also be powered by a AA alkaline battery.

Available from:
REI | LEDLenser

4. Fenix HM 50R LED Rechargeable Headlamp

Fenix HM50R Rechargeable Headlamp
The Fenix HM50R is a high-powered LED headlamp that puts out 500 lumens of light. It comes with a removable 16340 lithium-ion battery with 700 mAh of power and an onboard micro-USB compatible charger. If you want you can carry extra 16340 pre-charged batteries (or CR123A) and you also have the ability to recharge them in the field from a battery pack or solar panel. The tilt-capable headlamp can be removed from the headband and carried like a flashlight or used as a task light. The HM50R has four brightness modes: Turbo: 500 lumens; high: 130 lumens; medium: 30 lumens; low: 4 lumens, a battery indicator, and two beam types: spot and flood. A recessed on-off switch helps prevent accidental activation, but there is no red mode. The HM50R has a durable aluminum body (not plastic) and is waterproof.

Check for the latest price at
REI | Fenix

4. Petzl Tactikka Core 450 Rechargeable Headlamp

Petzl Tacttika Core
The Petzl Tactikka Core is a 450-lumen rechargeable headlamp with 3 LED lights and includes flood, spot, strobe, and red lighting modes. The Tacttikka comes with a USB-rechargeable Petzl CORE 1250 mAh LI-ion battery, but can also be powered with 3 AAA batteries (not included). The average burn time on the medium setting is 8 hours and on low is 130 hours, with a 3 hour charge time. Weighing 2.8 oz, the lighting angle can be swiveled for hiking and running, or removed from the strap and attached to a helmet (hardware not included).

Check for the latest price at
REI | Amazon

5. Nitecore NU32 Rechargeable Headlamp

Nitecore NU 32 Headlamp
The Nitecore NU 32 is a very bright 550 lumen rechargeable headlamp with a larger-than-average 6.6Whr (1800 mAh) lithium-ion battery for long-lasting power. It has four brightness levels, a primary CREE spotlight and auxiliary LEDs for flood, closeup, and red lighting modes with a tilt adjustment making it ideal for night hiking, trail running, and camping. The NU 32 has a built-in power indicator and lock to prevent accidental activation, it is water-resistant to 2 meters and includes a micro-USB cable for recharging.

Available from:
Amazon

6. Nitecore NU25 Rechargeable Headlamp

Nitecore NU25 USB Rechargeable Headlamp
The Nitecore NU 25 is a lightweight (1.85 ounce) state-of-the-art, multi-function headlamp available at a low price. With a max light output of 360 lumens, it has a built-in rechargeable micro-USB compatible battery. There are three LED light sources: a main white light, a softer white light for close-up tasks, and a night vision-preserving red mode, with four brightness modes: turbo, high, mid, low, as well as an SOS beacon. The NU 25 has a digital lock to prevent accidental activation and a battery meter. Recharging requires a micro-USB cord (included).

Available from:
Amazon 

7. Biolite Headlamp 750

Biolite 750 headlamp
The Biolite Headlamp 750 is a powerful rechargeable headlamp capable of throwing out a maximum of 750 lumens with a maximum 150 hour burn time, making it ideal for long-range activities like mountaineering, winter backpacking, or night hiking when you need hours of continuous performance. It has a massive 3000 mAh USB rechargeable battery, an electronic lock, and red light mode for long-lasting power and maximum flexibility. Its slim-fit construction sits flush on your forehead without bouncing or slipping, proof positive that you can have a powerful headlamp that’s lightweight and easy to wear for hours at a time.

Available from:
REI | Biolite

8. Nite Ize Radiant 300 Rechargeable Headlamp

Niteize Radiant 300
The Radiant 300 Rechargeable Headlamp is a dual-color headlamp that offers the ability to switch between white and red LEDs to preserve night vision. In addition to five LED modes, this headlamp offers lockout to prevent accidental activation and battery drain. It is impact and water-resistant (IPX4) and features a body that can be tilted up to 90° for easy beam adjustment. The lithium-ion battery has a 2 hour recharge time and can run for up to 36 hours.

Available from:
Walmart | Amazon

9. Princeton Tec Axis Rechargeable Headlamp

Princeton Tec Axis Rechargeable
The Princeton Tec Axis is a 450 lumen rechargeable dual model LED headlamp. It has spot, flood, and red modes that are all dimmable. A built-in battery power meter lets you know when you’ve recharged and the lithium rechargeable battery uses regulated circuitry to provide consistent output. The battery recharges in 4 hours and has a maximum burn time of 50 hours. This light also comes with a 5-year warranty!

Available from:
Walmart | Amazon

10. Nite Ize Radiant 170 Rechargeable Hat Clip Light

Nite Ize Radiant 170 Hat Light

The Nite Ize Radiant 170 Rechargeable Hat Clip Light combines the convenience of rechargeability, red and white LEDs, and four modes all in a compact design that clips securely onto hats. With four LED modes and an easy push-button operation, the Radiant 170 is impact and water-resistant (IPX4) and features a body that can be tilted for easy beam adjustment. It is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that charges using a micro USB cable.

Available from:
Amazon

How to Choose a Rechargeable Headlamp

Here are the most important features and considerations to evaluate when comparing different rechargeable headlamps.

Battery Capacity

Check the capacity of the headlamps you’re interested in to see how much power, measured in mAh, they can hold. If you plan on using a headlamp on a multi-day trip, it’s useful to bring one with a large battery capacity so you don’t have to recharge it from a portable power pack. Smaller capacity batteries are fine for short runs, but you will also have to recharge them more frequently, which can be a hassle if you use them a lot.

Dual Power Headlamps

Most rechargeable headlamps bundle in a cold-resistant lithium-ion battery, although there are also dual-power headlamps that can also be powered by old school alkaline or lithium-ion batteries. If you already carry a USB-enabled power pack to charge your other electronic devices, then the latter is probably unnecessary, although it might be useful if your power pack runs out of juice and you can’t recharge it. This isn’t a priority for me, but some people prefer having the ability to switch to regular batteries as a contingency.

Headlamp Headbands

All of the headlamps listed above have battery packs that are integrated with their light sources, so a single headband strap is all that is needed to wear them. Multi-strap headlamp headbands are only necessary for very heavy headlamps or ones with remote battery packs that are carried separate from the light source and linked by an external wire.

Headlamp Tilt

If you plan to trail run or hike at night, it’s important to get a headlamp that tilts in its strap bracket so you can direct the spot or floodlight onto the ground and out front, ahead of you.

Lumens/Light Output

The latest generation of LED lights available in headlamps are very powerful and the lumen outputs often exceed what’s required for nighttime use in camp or even for nighttime running. Anything headlamp with 150 lumens or more should be sufficient for general purpose backpacking and hiking. When purchasing a headlamp, the maximum light output is much less important than the length of time the headlamp can burn on low power, since that’s the setting you’ll use most often in camp or in your tent.

Red Light Mode

Headlamps with a red light mode are good for preserving your night vision if you want to read in your tent or star gaze. They also help you avoid blinding your companions in camp or around the campfire. The red light mode also uses far less energy than white light modes and is a good way to converse your battery power between charges.

Headlamp Weight

While gear weight is important, it’s often less important than a headlamp’s features, efficiency, or battery life. For example, if you need to carry a heavier power pack to recharge a lighter weight headlamp more frequently, you probably haven’t saved as much weight overall as you might like. Focus on your needs, if you know them, and let that guide your decision as to which headlamp you select.

On-Off Lock

Headlamps with manual or digital on-off locks are useful to prevent the accidental activation of a headlamp when it’s packed. I won’t buy a headlamp without one, but that’s just my personal preference.

Battery Indicator

Some sort of battery indicator is useful on a rechargeable headlamp so you know when to recharge the battery and when it’s finished recharging. Without it, you’re more likely to try to use a headlamp that is out of power when you need it.

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32 comments

  1. I really like my Biolite for running, but one thing I didn’t realize when I bought it is that I had became used to a red flashing light clipped to the back of my hat for my evening commute runs. With a battery pack on the back, I can no longer do that. They bang together. I often run with a pack now just for somewhere to clip a couple of flashers.

  2. I haven’t used the other lights on this list, but I have the Fenix and will vouch for its thoughtful, rugged design. Its lowest setting is perfect for use in a tent, and it’ll run 100 hours on low! It gets as bright as you could want. I find the beam’s width and pattern to be perfect. The only thing it lacks is a red light. I’ve owned lights that were bewilderingly complicated, with multiple modes and features, and the Fenix’s simple 1-button interface is refreshingly simple (long press for on/off, short press to toggle brightness, it remembers what brightness it was set to). You can partially unscrew the end cap to prevent it from turning on accidentally. I love it; I think it’s a great light.

  3. The only headlamp I’ll use is the Zipka by Petzl. It has three settings, from “read myself to sleep” low, to “track anything” super bright. The rechargeable battery lasts a very long time. Best of all is the unique retractable “string” with back pad to keep it positioned on your head.

    I love that it has no strap. It is packable, light and doesn’t tangle.

    • Pretty sure that’s NOT rechargeable…

      • I have 3 zipkas , none are rechargeable . I like them though. Fits easy in a hip belt.

      • Au contraire my guide. The Petzl CORE is a rechargeable lithium pack that powers all my Zipkas. I can use it, or 3As, which is a nice option if recharge power is not available. The connector is a standard mini-USB type, so not difficult to connect to any USB power. The CORE lasts crazy long, especially on the low setting which is what I use most around campsite and reading.

        The older Zipka will not accept the core, but all less than 4 years old will. It’s pretty standard and the CORE is Petzle’s rechargeable lithium battery for all of their 3A to battery convertible headlamps.

        You really should give one a try! I think you’ll Ike it.

    • Is the Zipka comfortable? Also if you wear it for a long time? Does it stay in place with no problems? I’ve never tried that string so I’m not sure of it, but it’s an interesting headlamp.
      The Zipka has the same hybrid concept of the other Petzl, the rechargeable Core battery is the same: do you think that the consumption is the same or the Zipka lasts longer for some reasons?

      • See below.

      • I find it very comfortable; much more so than headlamps with a wide band. I’ve never had one slip off on its own. The string tensions is just right for me, not so much as to annoy, yet plenty enough to hold it in place. I use them on the trail and when I read myself to sleep at night. The low light setting is enough to read by but also dim and soothing, so I usually don’t get through more than a paragraph or two…

    • Ditto, Bendrix.

      The latest versions are compatible with the same Core USB-chargeable battery, which is what I use, and are also compatible with AAs in case of emergency.

      I have read that you can modify older versions by filing away some of the divider between the batteries; proceed at your own risk.

    • I use it exclusively for its combination of compactness, versatility (attach to head, wrist, branch, etc.,) compatibily with primary and rechargable batteries, and power settings.

      Mommy on the Trail, I have worn it for many hours comfortably while night hiking and during a 3 day power outage at home. It always stays in place, which is important given that it doesn’t tilt and its position on your head it what controls the aim. It does leave a little dent after a while, but that doesn’t bother me. My Tikka is very old, so I don’t have experience with comparative battery life of current hybrid models, but the charts on Petzl’s website show the exact same burn times, and both have the same lumens.

    • Also, in addition to the settings Bendrix mentioned, it has red and strobe lighting, and a glow-in-the-dark ring on the front.

  4. Thanks for this article, It’s super useful! I’m looking for 3 headlamps (for me, my housband and my son) and after studying a lot of technical sheets I’m between Petzl Actik Core and Nitecore NU32 (maybe Tikkid for my son). It’s an hard choice.

    • The Nitecores are really super. That’s what I use and they’re very popular with many hikers.

      • Thanks for your suggestion!
        I really like the NU32 and I think it is overall better, but has a big limitation: you can’t change the battery. When the battery is died you have to buy a new headlamp, with the Petzl you can simply buy a new battery (and you can even use common batteries, for example in an emergency). I love this versatility. We coul appreciate also the Petzl Noctilight because lanterns are so useful with small child. For these reasons I’m going to buy the Petzl and than we’ll decide if to buy a second Petzl or a NU32. Usually I buy 2 identical pieces of gear for me and my housband but, in this case, maybe is better to differentiate.

  5. I’ll second what Robert H said. I’m a Fenix fanatic. I spent the first 17 years of my full-time working life in construction and still put a premium on tools that will happily survive abuse. I’ve bought four different models of Fenix lights; the HM50R (above) was my first Fenix headlamp. I liked it a lot, but I wanted something that would last longer while biking in the dark — where a brighter light is needed when moving. I bought an HL55 which is similar to the ’50, but takes a battery twice the size. My son now has the ’50 in his glove compartment. Most of you might find the ’55 too heavy; it requires a strap over the top of my head. For me it does everything that I need — other than fitting in my pocket — whether around the house, on the trail, or in the dark corners of the church basement.

    I bought my first Fenix because it looked like it could handle being dropped, unlike my earlier plastic-bodied lights. But there were two unexpected benefits to the various lithium-ion based Fenix lights:

    1) The beam is perfect for my needs. I thought that I wanted the wide, uniform beam that firefighters demand, but … The central bright area of the beam is about the size of the full beam of the flashlights that were common in the sixties — that is good enough for most purposes. The wider beam is bright enough to be usable when my eyes are adapted to the brighter area and is wide enough to be used by my peripheral vision — e.g. for branches on the trail. I can literally walk or work without thinking about the light. When I turn my head to look at something, it is lit well enough.

    2) They will accept CR123A non-rechargeable batteries, which hold an amount of energy similar to what the lithium ion batteries hold. The ‘123s have a shelf-life of about 10 years and, so Fenix claims, work better in sub-zero (F) temperatures. I can put a spare (or two for the ’55 headlamp) in the bottom of a pocket in my pack and forget about it. I do carry a “USB battery”, but I feel better knowing that if I foul up and my headlamp unexpectedly starts to go dim, I don’t have to figure out how to keep moving while recharging its primary battery.

  6. I was one of the early users of the Fenix HM50r and did a review of it. It really is the best all-around headlamp for people who want a little bit more durability and light output over lighter ones, while still being crazy light for what it is. Mine is still a champ. It’s about as lightweight as it can be while still being virtually indestructible relative to most headlamps.

    Few important notes:

    1. It can be used while charging, maximum medium light setting. So you can work in the tent while it shines and charges before bedtime.
    2. It can be “LOCKED” to not turn on by unscrewing the battery cap by 1 turn. The light will not work unless the cap is pretty tight, which is probably in order to ensure the user has proper water-tightness applied before use.
    3. Insanely waterproof. I don’t even think twice about running it under a faucet or waterfall or in a stream to rinse it off. Heck, I would probably use it to go snorkeling at night if I needed.
    4. Built-in charging. And on top of that, the charging rate is actually better than some of the standalone battery chargers for the same batteries.
    5. The LED emitter can be swapped out for a different one, for people who know what they are doing, and is not too bad of a process if one wants a higher CRI light output.
    6. You could easily make a red filter to go over the lens. Seriously, it couldn’t be too difficult to make something that can quickly cover and uncover the lens to add a red light, or whatever color you want, without more than a few grams in weight. Camera flash gels come in all sorts of colors and can take the heat generated from such a light. Would also work at higher output settings.
    7. Very little parasitic drain when left unused. Put it away with when power level is blinking green light (around 75%) and pick it up several months later and it will probably still be in the same power level zone and ready to shine.
    8. It’s very friendly to small solar chargers when charging directly to the lamp instead of an in-between power bank. Puts more of the energy directly into the headlamp instead of losing efficiency going to a power bank first, then the headlamp. Even when overcast, I can get a charge into the headlamp with my 8×12″ solar panel. If using low power mode on the headlamp at night, solar charging can easily add more energy each day than you use at night, even with poor weather.

  7. The best thing about the NU25 missing from your article, is that it will continue to work even when plugged-in being recharged (unlike my old Petzl and Black Diamonds). So if you hike late into the night and the NU25 dims after a few days, or the power-meter reads low, just plug it into a USB Battery Pack/iPhone Charger and carry-on hiking. My Anker PowerCore has 2 USB Ports so I can recharge my iPhone AND Top up my NU25 at night whilst still reading in Camp.

  8. I use rechargeable batteries in both my existing headlamps w/o a problem

  9. I’m liking my Petzl Bindi, which I consider comparable to the Nitecore NU 25 in many respects. The jump between settings in terms of lumen output isn’t as drastic as the NU 25. Still eyeing the NU 25 as it is is a smidge lighter is you replace the headband with a shock cord headband from Litesmith.

  10. That rechargeable headlamps are “less wasteful” is an idea that gets repeated over and over in outdoor gear blogs and review sites, but it doesn’t bear scrutiny.

    Sure, compared to using non-rechargeable AA or AAA batteries, a lamp with a built-in rechargeable battery is better. But compared to using rechargeable AAs or AAAs? I would argue that the built-in battery lamp is the more wasteful, less sustainable option. It will inevitably lose its ability to hold charge over time, and then the whole headlamp gets discarded – hopefully responsibly, with battery parts recycled, but it’s highly likely that at least some parts will end up in landfill.

    A good quality lamp that uses AAAs on the other hand, can last for as long as they keep making AAA batteries! Good quality rechargeable AAAs can be used over and over again, before eventually being recycled.

    I understand the benefits of USB rechargeable lamps for long trips where a solar charger or battery pack is being used anyway, but unless the trip is very long (and dark!) a spare pair of AAAs will be the lighter option.

    Until rechargeable headlamps are made with some kind of standard, easily replaceable battery, they will be the less sustainable option. I needed to replace a dead headlamp recently and was pleasantly surprised that there were still a number of AAA options out there. I chose a Black Diamond Spot Lite 200.

    • Absolutely true. I much prefer the rechargeable devices, such as the Fenix HM 50R mentioned above, which allow me to swap in a spare rechargeable battery.

      FYI, your wish has already been granted. Except for an old Black Diamond headlamp which lives on my bed-side table now, all my flashlights have what I consider to be standardized, replaceable rechargeable batteries. My pocket-sized Fenix LD02 has a single NiMH AAA battery in it right now. Many so-called non-rechargeable lights will take AA or AAA NiMH batteries. Fenix makes a lot of lights that take 16340 or 18650 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The lights that have an ‘R’ at the end of their model ID have a USB port to recharge them in place. My current Fenix headlamp has no port of its own but the 18650 battery in it has its own USB port and recharging circuit. (That was a surprise.) I have one charger for at-home use which will recharge all of these.

  11. Dont overlook Milwaukee Tools headlamps. I am not a fan of rechargable headlamps since its often not a reliable reality to be able to keep one charged in the back country so AA battery lamps are a much better choice. BUT…. I just got 2 new Milwaukees that were the brightest ones offered by them and took them on a 5 day backpack bowhunt trip in 21 deg F temps. Both ran 5 days mainly on lowest setting with occasional 2-3 minute runs on brightest setting. When I finally returned to the truck they were only 50% discharged. Pretty darn impressive to me

  12. I’m a big fan of my Silva Explore headlamp. It has been knocked off into 18” of swamp water while nighttime bushwhacking and no problems. The best and most wonderful thing for me is that I can easily operate it (turn on, change brightness levels) with the end of the thumb of my thick mitts in cold darkness. That is a frustrating exercise for me with thick mitts on a Petzl Actik Core and also a difficult fumble with a nitecore.

    Important, in case your wondering, the Silva has lamp has never turned on in my pack. The switch is recessed/protected but still very operable.

    I have not timed run time or charging time (USB) but I’ve not been alarmed by either in normal use.

  13. thanks alot of information

  14. What happens in an accident if you get stuck out in the woods and your light dies? With battery powered, you always carry 2 extra batteries (weighing little) and can replace the dead ones and still use your lamp. If you have a usb powered one and it dies, you have no light.

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