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Knog Bilby 400 Rechargeable Headlamp Review

Knog Bilby 400 Headlamp Review

Weighing at 3.17 oz, the Knog Bilby is a 400-lumen rechargeable LED headlamp ($60) with red and white lightning modes including a spot, wide-angle, red, and special reading mode. Ideal for hiking and trail running, it comes with a comfortable bounce-free silicone headband and has an integrated USB plug that eliminates the need for recharging wires.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 3.17 oz/90g
  • Bulb detail: 5 LED
  • Beam type: Spot / Flood / Strobe / Reading
  • Max Light Output: 400 Lumens
  • Red mode: Yes
  • Lock mode: Yes
  • Battery indicator: Yes
  • Dimmer: Yes
  • Battery: 880 mAh
  • Charge time: 4 hours
  • Maximum runtime: 105 hours at min lumens
  • Maximum lumens: 5 hours at maximum lumens
  • Waterproof: Yes (IP67)

The Knog Bilby is a rechargeable LED headlamp with a silicone strap. The headlamp circuitry is totally self-contained and pulls out when you want to charge it. It has an exposed male USB that you plug can plug into a mobile battery pack or USB port. I like the fact that you don’t need wires to connect it to a battery or charger, which simplifies packing.

The headlamp is removed from the silicone strap when you want to recharge it
The headlamp “body” is removed from the silicone strap when you want to recharge it.

The strap is made with medical silicone which feels comfortable against the skin and is trivial to adjust. Unlike cloth straps, the Bilby’s silicone strap doesn’t absorb water, it won’t ever smell bad, and it won’t lose its elasticity. It’s also easy to adjust for a wide range of head circumferences including child-sized heads, ranging from 11.8 inches to 26 inches in size. To adjust,  you simply pull the slack through a plastic clip in the back to tighten or loosen. The plastic clip is permanently attached to the strap so you can’t lose it.

There are two buttons on top of the band that you depress to turn on the light and cycle through the headlamp’s logic. The headlamp has an electronic lock to prevent accidental activation and power drain when the headlamp is packed. I consider this a must-have for any hiking or backpacking headlamp.

The control logic is a little complicated however because the Bibly has 5 different LED settings as including: Spot, Mid, Wide-angle, Reading, and Red Night light.  This includes a high beam to see by, 2 elliptical beams for mid and wide beam angles, a red light to help preserve your night vision, and downlights for reading.

The light fits into the headband like this after charging. Plush Cthulu not included.
The light fits into the headband like this after charging. Plush Cthulu not included.

There are two buttons on the top of the unit and holding them both down for 3 seconds unlocks the light. The right button can then be used to switch between modes while the left button controls the brightness. A long press on the right button tilts the beam up while a long press on the left points it down, while a double press on each button activates their boost modes. Holding down both buttons turns the light off. That’s about as I much as I can remember to be honest.

But there’s more! The Bilby comes with an app called Modemaker that lets you reprogram the buttons and add additional modes. I’ve tested other lights with this capability and honestly, it’s not anything I’ve ever needed. Hiking is pretty simple stuff, although I’d probably feel differently if I was a competitive trail runner or cyclist.

Here’s a video that illustrates the programming functionality.

Comparable rechargeable headlamps

Make / ModelLumensWeight
Petzl Actik Core6003.1 oz
Coast Fl1R Micro Headlamp3001.7 oz
Black Diamond SPOT-R Headlamp3252.6 oz
Nitecore NU 337005.3 oz
Fenix HM50R7002.75 oz
Black Diamond Astro 300-R3002.65 oz
Biolite 800 Pro8005.1 oz
Nitecore NU 25 UL4001.59 oz
LEDlenser MH106005.6 oz
Petzl Bindi Ultralight 2001.2 oz


The Knog Bilby 400 (lumen) is a very powerful and customizable rechargeable multi-sport headlamp. It comes with a fully integrated bounce-free silicone head strap that doesn’t absorb sweat or odors and can be recharged via USB without requiring additional wires. The Bilby also has an electronic lock and battery indicator to prevent accidental discharge when packed in a backpack and to help notify you when it needs to be recharged. The Bilby’s high lumen output, wide-angle modes, map reading mode, and waterproof rating makes it a particularly good choice for night hiking and trail running. It can also be reprogrammed if you want to alter the button bindings and settings for specific needs.

If the Biby’s headband and wire-free charging capabilities appeal to you, but the control instruction set and programmability of the light are more than you need, I recommend checking out the 80-lumen rechargeable Knog Quokka headlamp ($25). It weighs half as much as the Bilby and has a much simpler control instruction set.

Disclosure: Knog provided the author with a sample headlamp for this review.

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  1. The Quokka model got me down the final hour of trail on Guadalupe Peak last Friday evening. I really like the simplicity and convenience of this headlamp. The integrated plug, grippy and durable headband, and portability are outstanding features. If I upgrade, it will be a Bilby for sure.

  2. Love the cute octopus!

  3. Complicated controls are a disqualifier for me, and I really don’t need multiple beam angles/widths, etc. As you indicate, hiking is simple. All I need is hi/med/lo brightness levels and simple operation. I use the Fenix HM50 and its near perfect – wish it had a lock mechanism though. I do like the idea of the silicone strap on the Knogs….elasticized cloth quits way too early.

    • For me too. I can never remember complicated control sequences and I don’t really need the high lumen counts that are all the rage. But I can see how that stuff could be handy if you’re a trail runner and you need to hike at night…or a cyclist for night riding.

  4. Keep it simple is also my motto. I am a fan of the Fenix HM50R.

    • Yeah, I don’t understand why this headlight isn’t the gold standard for all backpackers right now. It’s an incredible piece of kit. Mine has been a total champ going on 3+ years now. It just plain works, and is nice having something that is effectively 100% waterproof, and can be charged directly by USB power bank, and swap able batteries. And it can shine insanely bright for short periods of time when needed. There just isn’t any other headlight that comes close to the HM50R.

      I’m 42 years old. The number of times I needed a special mode on my headlamp, other than shine light, is exactly 0.

  5. I am yet another fan of the HM50. It took me quite a while and the purchase of several of the headlamps with little batteries before I tried the HM50. The problem was, and still is, the fact that the switch cannot be 100% locked out — except by removing the battery. I gave in because it
    1) Has a very tough metal body
    2) It has a perfect (for me) light pattern: large enough central spot with a very wide surrounding beam that is bright enough.
    3) Has replaceable batteries — If I forget to charge it, I can put in another battery
    4) It will also take (non-rechargable) lithium batteries that will run in sub-zero cold (CR123A, available in supermarkets now)
    That having been said, my HM50 is now in my son’s glove compartment.

    I’m now using an HL55 which takes a battery twice as big — or two CR123As. It’s overkill for hiking, but I also bike and with this light the ~150 lumen level will last long enough to get me home if I’m benighted. And I have found that with the over-the-top-of-the-head strap I don’t have any problem with the weight. Between the large, replaceable lithium-ion batteries and the beam pattern I have become a real Fenix fan.

    • The Fenix HM50 can be turned into safe mode to keep it from turning on by unscrewing that battery cap/door a half to full turn. It doesn’t take much to break the connection on these. It only take less than 2 seconds to unscrew the cap.

  6. I loved this super trick light for the few times out that it worked. Then it started turning itself on randomly without input or interference of any kind, running down the battery! Thankfully I was just testing around my ranch in the Oregon Cascades and didtne end up without light on the trail. I returned it (thank you Amazon) and will continue to rely on my Petzls, which have performed without issue whatsoever. More tech not necessarily good.

    • Follow up: After reading the comments here on the Fenix HM50R, I went out and bought one. I love it for its simplicity and all the reasons Doug Armstrong identifies in thesde comments. What a great forum. Thanks for all you do for us Philip!

  7. Not as complicated as it’s made out to be and very simple to use. Always restarts at the same mode last used, which is great at night when using the red light around camp. Turn on and then cycle through the modes with the right button and when you get to the mode you want the left button cycles through 4 brightness levels. Hold the right button down and the light lowers and the left down and the light raises, release the button when the light is pointing at the angle you want. Great light and for someone that walks at night it will last all night without recharging at a pretty high setting.

  8. Having extra features doesn’t it complicated. Once you’ve set it to your preferred mode you just turn it on and off if that’s all you want.

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