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10 Best Rechargeable Headlamps

10 Best Rechargeable Headlamps for Backpacking and Hiking

A headlamp is one of the most important 10 essentials for backpacking, hiking, and any kind of outdoor adventure sport. But traditional battery-powered headlamps are rapidly being replaced by rechargeable headlamps which are more convenient and less wasteful to use because you don’t need to throw out dead batteries. While you should alway charge your headlamp at home before a hike or trip, most people carry portable USB-compatible battery chargers in the backcountry now to recharge their phones and other electronics. Being able to recharge from a single shared battery helps you save weight, reduces toxic waste, and simplifies the use of electronics in the backcountry.

Here are our top 10 picks for the best rechargeable headlamps for backpacking and hiking. While there are some familiar company names listed below, popular outdoor gear manufacturers have been slow to make USB rechargeable headlamps. Smaller, innovative companies that specialize in lighting have filled the void and make very competitive products. Be sure to check out our advice below about what to look for when buying a rechargeable headlamp for backpacking and hiking.

Make / ModelLumensLockRed ModeWeight (oz)Price
Black Diamond Revolt175YesYes3.4$60
Fenix HL 12R400YesYes2.6$61
LED Lenser SEO 7R220YesYes3.2$90
Nitecore NU 25360YesYes1.1$37
Nitecore NU 10160YesYes2.3$25
Nite Ize Radiant 250250NoYes3.2$50
Petzl Actik Core300NoYes2.9$69
Petzl Bindi200YesYes1.2$60
Princeton Tec Axis Rechargeable250YesYes2.9$60
UST Brila 580580NoYes3.4$45

1. Black Diamond ReVolt

Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp
The Black Diamond ReVolt is a dual power headlamp that can be run using regular AAA batteries (alkaline or lithium) or the included Black Diamond AAA rechargeable batteries. These are recharged directly in the unit using a micro-USB cord. The ReVolt has a flood and spot light capability with 6 lighting modes including full strength in proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red night-vision and lock mod. It has a lock mode to prevent accidental activation and a built-in battery meter. Read our ReVolt Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

2. Petzl Actik Core

Petzl Actik Rechargeable Headlamp
The Petzl Actik Core is another dual power headlamp that can be used with regular AAA batteries or the Petzl Core battery. The Core battery can be recharged with a micro-USB cord and is also swappable between different Petzl “Core” headlamps. With a maximum of 300 lumens, the Actik has three white lighting modes: proximity, movement, and distance vision; in addition to red mode lighting in continuous or strobe modes. If you’ve had poor luck with headlamp durability, the Actik also comes with an impressive 5 year warranty.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

3. Princeton Tec Axis Rechargeable

Princeton Tec Axis Rechargeable Headlamp
The Princeton Tec Axis has a built-in battery that is rechargeable with a micro-USB cord. It had four lighting modes: dual beam, spot, flood, and red night lighting, with a max light output of 200 lumens. We particularly like the twist style dimming switch on the side of the headlamp since it’s so intuitive to use. The Axis also has a digital lock to prevent accidental activation and a battery meter which flashes during recharging. The product has excellent documentation and comes with a 5 year warranty.

Check for the latest price at
REI | Amazon

4. Nitecore NU 25

Nitecore NU25 USB Rechargeable Headlamp
The Nitecore NU 25 is a light weight (1 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. All of the button-press options can be a bit hard to remember, so check out the simpler Nitecore NU10, listed below.

Check for the latest price at
Amazon

5. Nitecore NU 10

Nitecore NU10 USB Rechargeable Headlamp
The Nitecore NU10 has a max light output of 160 lumens and 5 high output LEDs, including white and red light modes. It has three brightness levels: high, mid, and ultra low, along with two special modes including a flashing SOS. The NU10 provides a 170 degree wide field of illumination, making it ideal for night hiking and trail running. It also has a lock-out mode to prevent accidental activation as well as a battery indicator. Recharging requires a micro-USB cord (included).

Check for the latest price at:
Amazon

6. Fenix HL 12R LED Rechargeable Headlamp

Fenix HL 12R USB rechargeable Headlamp
Weighing just 2.6 ounces, the Fenix HL 12R has 4 brightness levels in white, and a three modes in red including a reading mode, strobe and flash. The HL 12R has a maximum of 400 lumens for quick blasts of light and up to 110 hours of runtime on a single charge. Containing a built-in battery, this headlamp is USB rechargeable with a battery indicator so you’ll always know when charging is needed. The unit also has a digital lockout mode to prevent accidental activation.

Check for the latest price at
Amazon

7. Petzl Bindi Headlamp

Petzl Bindi Ultralight Headlamp
The 200 lumen Peztl Bindi is a 1.2 oz rechargeable headlamp with white and red lights. The white light has three power setting: high, medium, and low, while the red light has two modes: low and a strobe. The Bindi has a battery meter and a lock out function to prevent accidental activation. It also has a reserve power mode that kicks in to keep the light burning at 3 lumens for 90 minutes when you’re almost out of power. Battery capacity is limited however, so expect to recharge the Bindi often. Some people dislike the minimal head strap, but the Bindi is so lightweight, you soon forget about it. Read our Bindi Review.

Check for the latest price at
Moosejaw | Amazon

8. Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST) Brila 580 Dual Power

UST Brila 580 Rechargeable Headlamp
The UST Brila 580 is a dual power headlamp that can be powered by a removable USB rechargeable lithium-ion battery or 3 x AAA batteries (not included.) It has a maximum light output of 580 lumens but can run on low for up to 18 hours at 30 lumens. The Brila 580 has three white light modes: high, medium, and low; and two red modes: steady and SOS flashing. It has a manual focus control that provides a long-distance spot beam or broad flood beam. The Brila does not have a lock out mode, but you can remove the battery to prevent accidental activation in your pack.

Check for the latest price at
Amazon

9. LED Lensor SEO 7R

LED Lenser SEO 7R
The LED Lensor SEO 7R is a dual power and dual color (white and red) headlamp that can be powered with a removable USB-rechargeable battery (included) or.3 AAA alkaline batteries. It has a maximum light output of 220 lumens with up to 20 hours of runtime at 20 lumens. The white light has four modes: high, low, auto dim, and flashing, while the red light has two modes: regular and blinking. There’s a manual focus adjustment that lets you switch between a spot or flood focus and a smart dimming capability that saves battery power by automatically reducing light intensity when it’s not needed. The SEO 7R has a built-in travel lock to prevent accidental activation and comes with a 5 year guarantee. The company is a division of Leatherman.

Check for the latest price at
Amazon

10. Nite Ize Radiant 250

Niteize Radiant 250 Rechargeable headlamp
The micro-USB rechargeable Nite Ize Radiant 250 headlamp has a white light and red mode with a max light output of 250 lumens. It has two switches that give you five lighting options: a white LED switch with high/low spot and high/low flood, and a red LED switch in flood to preserve night vision. It does not have a lock out capability to prevent accidental activation, but a battery indicator light is provided to signal when power is low. Charge time is very fast for a headlamp, at just 2 hours.

Check for the latest price at
Amazon

How to Choose a Rechargeable Headlamp

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

Batteries

Most rechargeable headlamps bundle in a cold-resistant lithium-ion battery, although there are also dual-power headlamps that can also be powered by alkaline 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.

Headlamp Head Bands

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 head bands are only necessary for very heavy headlamps or ones with remote battery packs that are carries separate from the light source and linked by an external wire.

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 100 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 modes 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 camp fire. 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.

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

Head lamps with manual or digital on-off locks are useful to prevent the accidental activation of a light 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 recharageable 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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21 comments

  1. My beef with headlamps isn’t so much the type of batteries used. It’s how complicated many of them are to operate. I’ve parted ways with Black Diamond headlamps because of this. My daughter has a Petzl Actik Core, and I like it, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out how to lock it. And there are no locking instructions in the downloadable manual. Are you sure about that feature?

    • Try a long 4 second press of the button to unlock the light. If that doesn’t work call, yep call, petzl. You might have a defective unit.

      • I called Petzl customer support. They report that the Actik models do not have a lock mode. The ReActik models do have a lock mode. I also checked to see if I could make my daughter’s Actik lock, but with no success.

    • I have owned several headlamps over time and a few years ago my wife bought me the BD ReVolt as a birthday present. I use the dimming ability, red light and lock all the time. It has been the best one so far, although I understand the “beef” Sazerac has with the complication in operating some of them. It took me many times looking at the manual before I had it down. Once over that hump though, the ReVolt has been great.

  2. Something I look for now is the brightness of the red light. I like to use red to preserve night vision as long as possible, however, some lights have such dim red LEDs that they are almost useless for any real activity in that mode.

  3. I’m using a Nitecore NU20 that you reviewed awhile back. Absolutely perfect headlamp, runs for hours, USB rechargeable, easy controls. Thanks for all of your helpful reviews and insights!

    • I love that headlamp too. Use it all the time. My friend Martin Rye from the UK told me about it and he usually has excellent camera and electronics recommendations.
      It doesn’t have a red light mode which I know most people want.

    • The NU 20 is my personal favorite. I’ve had it for 12 months and this time of year I use it everyday.

  4. One of the cool features of the NU 25 is it will run while plugged into your battery pack. I’m not aware of any of the others having this capability.

  5. Since the only battery-using items I carry are my camera (which has a power-saving mode so rarely needs a battery change) and headlamp (which will go for several weeks without a battery change using lithium batteries), I certainly don’t want anything rechargeable that would force me to carry a charger. Why are we all of a sudden becoming dependent on stuff needing recharging? Why are we supposed to take lots of electronics into the wilderness? I go out there to get away from that stuff!

  6. I’ve got a Nitecore NU10 that I use a lot. It has a pretty design severe issue with the baseplate upon which the light-proper pivots. The baseplate has slots to accomodate the head strap, which leave only about 2 mm in two place that hold the pivot pins. I’m very gentle on my equipment, and especially so with this light, but I’ve broken two plates so far and the third one has a crack already, so I do not recommend this one based on durability concerns. (I currently have it hacked together with a wrap of tape around the whole mess, thus requiring you to tilt your head to move the light focus, which is far from optimal.)

  7. Nice selection of headlamp options (the NU20 looks interesting; wasn’t on my radar), but i’m not seeing any set of objective criteria by which these are selected as “best.” Best for what, and best for whom?

    And, “But traditional battery-powered headlamps are rapidly being replaced by rechargeable headlamps which are more convenient and less wasteful to use because you don’t need to throw out dead batteries.”

    As if rechargeable AAA and AA batteries don’t exist. No need to throw out batteries. In my anecdotal experience, the rechargeable Eneloop (formerly Sanyo, now Panasonic) NiMH batteries seem to perform fine down through the single digits (ºF), so i’m not sure lithium is the only viable option for cold-weather use. Been looking for testing under controlled conditions, but haven’t found good information yet. In any case, friends don’t let friends use alkaline batteries.

    I just picked up a BD Storm to replace an older BD lamp that, after many years, is behaving erratically and is no longer reliable (can’t remember the model). It involves BD’s somewhat involved press and press-and-hold activation scheme, but after a few uses, it becomes second nature.

    The Storm is larger than most, and a little heavy (4.1 ounces with 4 AAA batteries), but provides spot- and broad-beam options, and i’m hoping the “extra” battery helps extend run time. In addition to a red light option, this also has blue and green, though i’m not quite sure what those are intended for. Also on plus side is that it’s fully waterproof. Some reviewers complain about the front of one of the strap buckles (there are two) facing in toward the head creating an irritation point, but this hasn’t been a problem for me, at least yet. Like most straps i’ve used, this one tends to wander from where you set it and requires readjusting. Seems the ideal strap system remains to be designed.

    • I think he’s pretty clear about the selection criteria below. Did you bother to read it?

      • Obviously, i read the post, and i see the criteria. But not all the headlamps listed embody all of the feature sets described. And, there are other headlamps not listed that might be “best” for someone’s specific set of needs. Philip did made it clear that one should evaluate one’s needs and make decisions based on that, which is the bottom line. I guess i’m just being cranky about the “best” or “best of” framing maybe being a little overused. Maybe just a pet peeve for me.

    • I’m not yet educated on the use of the green light, but the blue is useful to me as a hunter. I also feel a bit “slow” because it took me waaay more than a few uses for BD’s scheme to not become second nature. I finally threw my Storm in the trash, alkaline batteries and all.

      • I can see where the BD button-pressing scheme would be too complicated for some. I’d had an older BD lamp with a similar system, so i was somewhat “initiated.”

        Thrunight just appeared on my radar. Looking at the TH20
        (http://www.thrunite.com/thrunite-th20-high-output-and-light-weight-aa-battery-led-headlamp/)

        Well reviewed, surprisingly robust specs for just one battery, machined aluminum casing instead of plastic, but still not too heavy. Looks to have a moderately wide flood pattern, slightly brighter in the center; beam spread not adjustable.

        Was reading someone’s blog where he used two lamps when night hiking, one with a spot aimed at the trail ahead, another with a broad beam aimed just ahead of him. Not sure how/where he arranged them on his head.

  8. Looking for some insight into a headlamp that has a high mode that I can use for minimum 2 hours straight, along with the red light.
    Need something super bright for Search and Rescue
    Any ideas?

    • Take a look at the Black Diamond Icon, which I’m pretty sure is up to 500 lumen’s. It’s a good deal heavier, but has a separate battery compartment. I used it for several years. But it’s in a different class than these listed here, which are “single strap” headlamps with the batteries bundles with the LEDs in a single unit.

  9. I tend to use 2 headlamps when night hiking – 1 pointed down for foot step illumination and the other pointed out for trail navigation. For the foot step light it is important to select a light that has a wide beam throw to make it easier to determine the best place to step. I purchased the NU10 for this reason after not feeling entirely safe hiking with my Petzls (NU10 is 170 degree wide vs 100 degree Petzls). The relative beam weakness of the NU10 wasn’t an issue since the target is only 5-6 ft away. The trail light on the other hand must have at least 7 hrs of usage when used at the closest setting above 150 lumens. For example, the NU25 only has 5 hours at 190 lumens so it could easily die on me with a long hike (I often do this to get to a peak at night for star and then sunrise photos). For this reason it’s worth the couple more dollars to get the NU32 for the run time of 17 hours at 190 lumens. But both the NU25 and NU32 have a 100 degree beam spread so I prefer the cheaper NU10 for the foot step light.

  10. I love my little UCO. At first I was puzzled by the headband “buckle” on the right side at about 2 o’clock instead of 6 o’clock. Then when I used it I had an ah-ha moment when I realized that in the dark I could put it on and know that the tilt feather was always correctly oriented and a clockwise rotation would activate the red light and counterclockwise would give me a white. Plus you can charge with a USB port no batteries involved!

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