The most important feature on a hiking headlamp is a locking on-off function that prevents the headlamp from accidentally being turned on when not in use. It’s just common sense. Your headlamp won’t do you any good if it gets turned on accidentally inside your backpack and batteries drain.
The locking on-off function on a headlamp takes one of three forms when a manufacturer includes the capability in a product. Some manufacturers like Black Diamond build the lock into the electronic switch that controls the headlamp’s lighting mode. When you hold down the button for six seconds, the lock is electronically activated and the light will remain off until the switch is held down for six more seconds. This system is used on the Black Diamond Icon headlamp that I own and has proved to be very reliable over the past two years of use.
Other manufacturers like Petzl build the lock function into the analog switch used to turn the light on and off, like the Petzl e+Lite, which I also carry in my pack. The last method is to unplug the wire running from a remote battery pack to the headlamp, used on the Petzl Ultra Rush Accu 4.
Headlamps with Locking On-Off Switches
Despite the importance of having a locking on-off function on a hiking headlamp, few retailers, including REI, list it in their headlamp product specifications. I’ve compiled this list of popular hiking headlamps from Black Diamond, Petzl, and Princeton Tech to give you a better idea of which headlamps provide this important function. I’ve also listed the headlamps that include a battery meter function, which I also find important, so you can tell when your batteries are fully charged and when you need to replace them.
Written 2015. Updated 2018.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and some sellers may contribute a small portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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