Hiking Headlamps with Locking On-Off Switches

The Black Diamond Icon Headlamp flashes blue when it's locked in the off position.
The Black Diamond Icon Headlamp flashes blue when it’s locked in the off position.

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.

Petzl E+Lite Headlamp
Petzl E+Lite Headlamp in the locked off position

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.

The Black Diamond Icon Headlamp's battery meter flashes green when turned on, indicating that the battery is charged.
The Black Diamond Icon Headlamp’s battery meter flashes green when turned on, indicating that the battery is charged.

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.

HeadlampLocking FeatureBattery Meter
Black Diamond IconYY
Black Diamond PolarYY
Black Diamond StormYY
Black Diamond SpotYY
Black Diamond SprinterYY
Black Diamond CosmoY-
Black Diamond IonY-
Black Diamond Gizmo--
Black Diamond Wiz--
Petzl Tikka RXPYY
Petzl Tikka XP--
Petzl Tikka R+YY
Petzl Tikka Plus--
Petzl Tikka--
Petzl Tikkina--
Petzl MYO-Y
Petzl e+LiteY-
Petzl Zipka--
Petzl NaoYY
Petzl Pixa 3 Pro-Y
Petzl Pixa 2 Pro--
Petzl Pixa 1 Pro--
Petzl Tactikka Plus RGB--
Petzl Tactikka +--
Petzl Ultra Rush Accu 4WireY
Petzl Ultra Rush Accu 2WireY
Princeton Tec SyncY-
Princeton Tec Remix--
Princeton Tec VizzYY
Princeton Tec ByteY-
Princeton Tec Tactical Quad--
Princeton Tec Bot--
Princeton Tec Fuel--
Princeton Tec Apex-Y
Princeton Tec Eos--

Written 2015. Updated 2018.

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  1. I’ve used my Petzl E+lite ever since I discovered it last spring – it’s as cute as a but and about the size of a large june bug. At .9 OZ it is about 1/4 of the weight of most of the other small headlights on the market. I’ve used mine about 12 hours with no sign of battery slump. It is easy to clip on my hat or head and the different lighting modes extend the battery life and my night vision when I use the red light mode. Finally, the lithium cell works much better in cold weather than NiCad or regular batteries. I really don’t understand why anyone would ever want anything heaver.

    • I have one and it’s great for reading in the tent or travelling, or as a backup, but it’s not very bright. For night skiing or biking you need something much brighter (heaver, and more expensive)…

  2. There is yet another locking mechanism: My Mammut headlamp requires two pushes of the button in rapid succession. At first I thought my headlamp was broken. Then I read the website and realized that this was by design. A very effective design by the way.


  3. I discovered recently that when one of my headlamps gets wet the electronics get confused and it likes to flash, and wont stop until you take the batteries out and dry it out. I thought my friend was nuts when he told me he saw something flashing in my pack…. I dried it out and it was good as new.

  4. No problems with my Petzel Tikka’s in the past 7 years. Positive On and Off switches and no dampness or water issues.

  5. I, too, have had no problems with Petzel lamps that do not have locks. I did have the battery drain on my Smith ski goggles that are equipped with a tiny fan to prevent fogging. The battery case has a lock, but I turned it off to check the battery, then forgot to lock it. Somehow, the fan got turned on while I was skiing. I didn’t notice, and the battery drained.

  6. My Petzel Tikka Plus 2 has never turned on accidentally. A nice solid click is needed.
    i would worry about those lamps that use a slider.

  7. A big thanks for pulling this list together. The on/off lock is a feature that I think should be on every headlamp and one that a lot of people new to hiking don’t consider.

    I’m a big BD ReVolt fan which has that feature so not only do I know it won’t turn on in my back but when I fire it up I’m sure there will be full juice. Love that lamp.

  8. The neatest solution I ever saw is, naturally, no longer used. The Princeton Tec Scout had a press-style switch on top; you had to angle the unit downward (pivot away from the plate that attached to the elastic band) to access the switch. When you stored it, you just pushed the unti back up, and the button tucked neatly under a little projection from that frame that completely covered the switch and kept it brom being pushed accidentally (or even on purpose.)

  9. My BD Spot has turned on in my pack in spite of the lock mode. If the pack contents can align to press the button, they can remain aligned for 6 seconds and unlock the light. So I lock it before packing, but pack as if it doesn’t have a lock. Better than nothing, maybe. Foolproof, not.

    • I have had same issue with the BD spot, it sometimes turns on anways

      • My BD Spot drained in my pack twice, once unlocked (forgot,
        which is too easy) and once locked. Very irritating.

      • I have an older spot and have never had a problem. I recently bought a new one and found it turned on in my pack despite the lock. Comparing the old and new versions, the on/off switch on the new one is much more prominent and easier to activate accidentally. They should go back to the old design.

  10. Same issue with BD spot!!! I thought it was me. Had a Petzl zippka for 7 years with no issues of ever turning on in my pack. On the recommendation of the gear experts I purchased a BD Spot and it seemed to have a mind of it’s own when in my pack? Went back to a petzl product and have had no issues.

  11. A lot of people at Candle Power Forums (http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/forum.php) would recommend Zebralight (http://www.zebralight.com/Headlamp_c_7.html). I’ve used an AA version for years and it’s never let me down. They have a recessed on/off button, and if you want to make extra sure it doesn’t turn on in the pack you can unscrew it a turn. For outdoors, the 4400K Neutral White version is a warmer light for seeing the forest’s natural colors.

  12. Forgot something important for camping: they each have 3 levels of moonlight mode.

  13. I reverse one of the batteries on my hiking headlamps to prevent them from coming on inside my pack. Other than the time spent to switch one of the batteries, this method has always worked well for me.

  14. I use a Zebralight H52 headlamp, a half-turn on the battery compartment cover disengages the battery and prevents turn-on. Re-tighten the cover and the headlamp works as normal.

  15. I’ve spent more on drained batteries than I spent on my Black Diamond headlamp. The lock function of pressing for six seconds is a terrible design. Way too easy for the button to be pressed by something when packed in your gear. That has happened so many times now. I began storing the Black Diamond headlamp in a plastic case, but the plastic was too soft and the problem continued — including the most recent mishaps, in the Indian Himalayas last month. I can either figure out a better case for this headlamp or better yet, get a Petzl. Thanks for the list here!

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