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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. Using your smartphone as a flashlight doesn’t cut it. But the days of old-school AA and AAA battery-powered headlamps is history.  USB rechargeable headlamps have become ubiquitous and are less wasteful because you don’t need to throw out dead batteries.

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, Petzl, and Princeton Tec 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

Make / ModelLumensLockRed ModeWeightPrice
Knog Quokka80YesYes1.73 oz$25
Biolite 330330YesYes2.4 oz$50
Fenix HM50R500NoNo2.8 oz$60
Petzl Bindi200YesYes1.2 oz$60
Nitecore NU 32550YesYes3.5 oz$40
Nitecore NU 25360YesYes1.85 oz$37
Nitecore NU 20360YesNo1.82 oz$30
Nitecore NU 10160YesYes2.3 oz$25
Claymore Heady600YesNo3.7 oz$80
UCO Air150YesYes1.6 oz$30

1. Knog Quokka Rechargeable Headlamp

Knog Quokka Rechargeable Headlamp
Weighing in at just 1.73 oz, the Knog Quokka rechargeable headlamp is a streamlined but powerful rechargeable LED headlamp with red and white lightning modes including a spot and wide beam. The controls are simple to remember and the headlamp has a battery indicator and lock mode to prevent accidental discharge. While it looks weird, the medical-grade silicone head strap is amazingly comfortable, secure, and easily adjustable. The light also has a built-in USB adapter which eliminates the need for recharging wires and is rated waterproof (IP67) for all-weather use. Available in black, grey, lime (above), and blue-green. Read our Knog Quokka Headlamp Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI (exclusive)

2. Biolite Headlamp 330

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. Read our Biolite 330 Rechargeable Headlamp Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

3. 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 | Amazon

4. Petzl Bindi Rechargeable Headlamp

Petzl Bindi Ultralight Headlamp
The Peztl Bindi is a 1.2 oz rechargeable 200-lumen headlamp with white and red light modes. The white light has three power settings: high, medium, and low, while the red light has two modes: low and a strobe. The Bindi has a battery meter and a lockout 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 Petzl Bindi Review.

Check for the latest price at
Moosejaw | 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. Read our Nitecore NU32 review.

Check for the latest price at
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).

Check for the latest price at
Amazon | Drop.comSunny Sports

7. Nitecore NU 20 Rechargeable Headlamp

Nitecore NU20 rechargeable Headlamp
The Nitecore NU20 has a maximum light output of 360 lumens and comes with four bridgeness modes: turbo (360 lumens), high (220 lumens), mid (40 lumens) and low (1 lumen). There are also two special modes including a flashing SOS and a beacon. The NU 20 has a lock but its part of the headband bracket and not digital. There is also no red mode, but there is a battery meter. The headlamp can be tilted forward 52 degrees making the NU20 a good option for trail running and night hiking. Recharging requires a micro-USB cord (included). Read our Nitecore NU 20 Headlamp Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Amazon | Sunny Sports

8. Nitecore NU10 Rechargeable Headlamp

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 so you know when to recharge it. Recharging requires a micro-USB cord (included). Read our Nitecore NU 10 Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Amazon

9. Claymore Heady Rechargeable Headlamp

Claymore Heady Headlamp
The Claymore Heady is a powerful rechargeable headlamp capable of throwing out a maximum of 600 lumens. It has four white lighting modes with a push-button dimmer and a massive 3500 mAh battery making it ideal for long-range activities like mountaineering, climbing, cycling, or night hiking when you need hours of continuous performance. Weighing 3.7 oz, the Claymore comes with a clip and tripod mount making it easy to attach to safety helmets including hard hats, your belt (good for night hiking), bicycle handlebar mounts, a tripod or to hang as a lantern. The Claymore has a battery meter and locks to prevent accidental activation.  We like its multi-sport utility, brightness level, and big battery, but it doesn’t have a red mode which many people find useful at night.

Check for the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

10. UCO Air Rechargeable Headlamp

UCO Air Rechargeable Headlamp
The UCO Air is a 150-lumen rechargeable headlamp with an analog dimmer switch for ease of use. It has a spot beam with just two modes, a white LED and a red night vision mode, with a small 170mAh rechargeable LI-ion battery that requires frequent recharging with a 1 hour burn time on a high setting and a 5 hour burn time when set to low. Weighing just 1.6 hours, it has an easy to adjust velcro-style headband and is best used for camping rather than night hiking or trail running.

Check for the latest price at
REI | 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 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 carries 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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13 comments

  1. Great compilation, thank you. One little remark concerning comparable weights for the Nightcores BOTH including the (removeable) headband are NU20 1.82 oz and NU25 1.85 oz. It’s wrong on their website too.

  2. Battery powered devices have a long storeage life without loss of charge. How long does a charge remain without fading in a usb-rechargeable device? Thanks and pardon my ignorance.

    • IDK, but I get at least six months on my Bindi w/o a change in charge status. That’s more than acceptable. I’ve charged the battery to full at the end of October and come late May gone on a trip without charging it again with no change in expected performance from a “day before” recharge.

  3. When you check Nitecore’s specs at their store, the battery life in the red mode is about the same as that for their mid white brightness. I agree the red light is much easier on your camping buddies and preserves night vision but you might not save battery life over the white setting you’d normally use in camp.

    I won’t buy a light without red and I much prefer about 13 lumens or greater red brightness. Anything under that isn’t enough for these old eyes.

  4. I like the idea of not using batteries that end up in the trash, but do you and/or your readers have any concerns about running out or battery bank power and not being able to recharge the headlamp? Does anyone have specs on how these actually perform as opposed to the manufacture specs? I have s BD spot lite that specs show should last 60 hours on low. I tested it at home with new lithium batteries. I left it on, inside the house, so it wasn’t a cold environment. It lasted 15 hours on low. I don’t want to take a rechargeable out there only to have it use up my battery power bank.

    • There are about 1000 mAh in a AAA battery and 2400 mAh in a AA. That’s a good basis for comparison. As for anecdotal accounts of burn time, there are so many uncontrollable variables, I’d take anyone’s home tests with a grain of salt. Personally, I have NEVER, EVER had a headlamp with a rechargeable battery run out of juice on a backpacking or hiking trip, but I also don’t hike at night. I also recharge them before each trip. Even if one did run out, I’m sure my 10,000 mAh portable battery pack would recharge it.

      I think if its a concern, don’t use one. But I’ve had it with AAA and AA batteries in headlamps (never again)..and Black Diamond headlamps, for that matter. My 2 cents.

  5. The Nightcore lineup advertises their weight disingenuously by omitting the weight of the headband. Kind of bogus…

  6. I like my Black Diamond Storm, which has some nice features: Choice of a nice, even, broad area light or a concentrated spot, continuously variable brightness control, and multiple color choices (red, blue, and green), in addition to white, though they are limited to the broad beam. It’s also well weather sealed. The button pressing-and-holding scheme takes a bit of practice to commit to memory.

    The primary downside is the weight at 4.1 ounces with the four (yep, four) AAA batteries and strap. With its size and weight, the light tends to bounce a bit when walking, which can be a little annoying. And the strap has an annoying way of loosening when it’s not being worn, requiring readjustment every time i put the light on my head.

    But since i picked up a Nitecore NU25, it’s become my backpacking light since it’s so light and the Storm has been semi-retired to use around the house and yard.

  7. I got the Biolite last year (around this time). I like it except that the battery runs down quickly. I have not fully tested it, but I don’t think I get more than one hour without re-charging.

  8. The Nitecore NU32 is one of the best gear upgrades I’ve made in years, all thanks to the review back in January. For the weight, lumens, and multiple light options I think it’s hard to beat at $40. Each time I have forgotten to throw it in my backpack and revert to the Black Diamond Spot I keep in my car, I am very disappointed come nightfall. Highly recommend buying Nitecore, great headlamp.

  9. I happily use both a Nitecore NU25 for 3-seasons, and a Black Diamond Revolt for winter hiking in WMNF. For me the key thing with the Black Diamond Revolt is that it has AAA batteries (the included ones are rechargeable), which I promptly removed and DON’T use for winter hiking. Mainly I am concerned about battery performance and charge when the temperates are well below freezing. It’s a fact that regular batteries don’t perform well in subfreezing temps, and I’ve had bad experience with rechargeable lithium ion batteries (like on a cell phone). It is apparently a big no-no to attempt to charge LI batteries in subfreezing temps as well. So, I just use Energizer Ultimate Lithium AAA batteries (note that lithium AAA batteries are NOT the same as lithium-ion rechargeable AAA’s) which retain performance in very cold temps, plus they can be swapped out easily for a fresh pair, which can’t be done in the field with integrated rechargeable batteries like on my Nitecore.

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