Best Ultralight Headlamp for Hiking and Trekking

Ultralight Headlamp

“3 Flashlight Brad!” That’s my husband’s nickname in our family. Why? Because he can always produce multiple flashlights out of his car, from deep in his pack or buried in the camping gear. And in that assortment you will always find at least one of the best ultralight headlamps.

You laugh… but wait until you find yourself unexpectedly in the dark and he’s by your side with the brightest headlamp ever! The same is true for headlamps when we’re out camping and hiking. I can always count on him to have an extra high power headlamp for me. That has been a lifesaver so many times when trying to set up camp in the dark or getting caught out late on a trail. So I decided it’s time to act like a grown up and get my own small headlamp.

Below you will find our research and top choices for the best ultralight headlamp for hiking. To help you make the right choice for your exact needs, we have really dug deep into what makes a headlight the best. To make it easier for you, we’ve included links to where you can read more and purchase these items. Some of these links are affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you purchase. However, we have only recommended headlamps that we believe are amazing. We hope you find the perfect one just for you!

✅  Curious about our top choice for the best ultralight headlamp?  The Petzl ACTIK Core Headlamp at 450 Lumens and a quickly rechargeable battery can’t be beat. Check it out!

Hence began my search for the best headlamp for hiking, and here’s what I found out.

Choosing the Best Ultralight Headlamp for your needs

You’d think buying an ultralight headlamp would be a straightforward process; just browse a few online stores, make a pick and you’re done.

But I learned that there’s a lot to think about while picking your hiking headlamp. For example

  • Do you want to use headlamp batteries or a USB rechargeable headlamp.
  • Do you want to buy the strongest headlamp or the brightest headlamp? (And who knew they were totally different things?)
  • Are you looking for the longest lasting headlamp or the best budget headlamp?

Then you will want to also factor in durability, waterproofing, red stargazing lights, and more to make an informed decision about the best backpacking headlamp for you.

Weight

Backpacks tend to get heavier the longer you carry them. And even if you’re okay with a 14 oz camping headlamp when you just start off hiking, you might regret it a few miles down the trail. Thankfully, you can get a lightweight headlamp that weighs just a few ounces. I even found a 1 ounce ultralight backpacking headlamp that I’m thinking could replace the tiny flashlight I currently carry on even the shortest hike: the PETZL e+Lite Headlamp.  More about this in the comparison. But yes, there has to be a trade off (in terms of weight) between the most powerful headlamp and the best lightweight headlamp.

Durability

How long will your headlamp last in bad weather or rough conditions? How many falls can it survive? Most good headlamps are made of durable metal housing and also have detachable straps that can be washed.

If you compare the most powerful headlamp with a flashlight, you’ll find that flashlights are created to be tougher than headlamps. Which is a plus for flashlights, because they are more prone to being dropped and damaged. In comparison though, being able to use both your hands instead of holding a flashlight in one hand is a big plus in my eyes.

Simple example, you’ve wandered off trail while hiking alone in the dark and cut yourself against some brush or rocks. Will it be easier for you to bandage yourself with one hand while holding a flashlight in the other, or will you be thankful you have that ultralight headlamp to help you?hiking in the rain

Waterproof

Will your backpacking headlamp stand up to a rainstorm or being dropped in a river?

Most quality headlamps will have an IPX rating to indicate their level of waterproofing. What’s and IPX rating you ask? It’s a number between 1 and 9 that indicates the level of water resistance. The higher the number the better. Look for a waterproof headlamp with a high IPX rating, preferably something above IPX4. The best waterproof headlamp will have a rating of IPX7 or IPX8. Here’s a chart that I think makes this easier to understand:

IPX RatingWater Resistance
0None
4Resists Splashes
6Water Resistant
8Survive Immersion 3 plus feet

Power Sources

Headlamps that use replaceable batteries tend to be lighter weight which is definitely an important feature when choosing your ultralight headlamp for backpacking. For that reason most of our top selections are powered with replaceable batteries. However we did find the lightweight Slonik 1000 with a rechargeable battery that we really liked for it’s versatility.

Essential charging options to look for in a rechargeable headlamp are charging via car or wall chargers, or charging via a USB socket in solar packs or power banks as these might come in handy for longer treks and thru-hikes. solar Charger for headlamp

Burn Time or Runtime

This is how long your led headlamp can hold a charge and how long your batteries will last. It’s good to remember that even the brightest led headlamp runs out quickly in high-power mode. So make sure you carry those extra batteries or a good portable power source.

Cost Price

Cost is not too much of a factor here. You’ll find some of the best backpacking headlamps can be found in the $25-$40 range. Of course there are cheaper ones too. But if you’re looking for more value for money, the Zebralight H600w Mk IV 18650 XHP35 Neutral White Headlamp and the PETZL ACTIK Core Headlamp  are totally worth it!

Lumens and Beam Distance

The brightness of a backpacking headlamp is measured in lumens which is the sum of light emitted in any direction. Lumen counts range from 2 to 2000 and more; and the higher the number, the brighter the lamp. But headlamp lumens do not measure the quality of the beams of light and hence having a high lumen headlamp does not necessarily mean you’ll have the brightest headlamp.

For example, you’re trying to choose the brightest led headlamp. Both your choices are of 250 lumens, but one has a beam distance of 90-feet and the other of 120-feet. The lamp beam of 90-feet will provide better quality light because it’s more concentrated.

Beam distance is a more accurate measure of the light the best hiking headlamp gives you. The manufacturers of top headlamps will give you a maximum and minimum beam distance. Hiking headlamp reviews have shown that the maximum distance only happens in perfect scenarios, and more often than not you’ll use your headlamp at a medium setting to conserve battery.

Plus, if you’re only hiking in the daytime and camping at night, choose the best camping headlamp with a wider beam. If you’re hiking or climbing at night opt for a longer beam distance.Redlight Headlamp for Stargazing

Red Light for Stargazing

If you’re like me and love looking at the stars in the night sky, you have to get the best red light headlamp possible. Why do you need a red light headlamp? Because a red led headlamp will preserve night vision. The rhodopsin chemical in the rods in your eyes isn’t as sensitive to red light as it is to white light. But I don’t want to start a science class now, so all we need to take away here is that red light is better to see with at night. Plus it allows you to see starlight which falls in the blue-green spectrum better.

With a red headlamp, you can look at your map or star chart and go right back to looking at your surroundings without needing to blink to adjust your eyes. If you use a regular light, it can take up to 10 minutes for your eyes to adjust back gazing into the dark. Another benefit of red light is that it doesn’t spook animals, so you can quietly leave your tent without disturbing your partner and go off into the woods to pee safely.

Another awesome plus for headlamp hats that have red lights is that they don’t attract insects like white light, which is a big problem for some of us folk with sensitive skin. What more can I say?

Other modes and features

The best headlamp for hiking will also offer different modes that are useful in different circumstances.

  • Zoom or boost mode will turn it into a super bright headlamp for a short period of time. This is especially useful if you are looking for someone or something.
  • Strobe or flash mode can be used to conserve batteries in times of emergency.
  • The best headlamp flashlight will also have bigger buttons to make gloved use easier.
  • Many top rated headlamps have a tilt feature so that the light focuses on the ground in front of you and saves you from getting a crick in your neck.
  • Also look for light locking features so that the light doesn’t turn on in your backpack.

Take a look at some of the winner’s in my eyes and pick the best ultralight headlamp for your needs.

Here’s our top choices for the Best Ultralight Headlamp for Backpacking

Vont ‘Spark’ LED Headlamp – Best Value in Ultralight Headlamps

  • max lumens 200
  • max burn 90 hrs
  • weight 3.0 oz
  • waterproofing IPX5
Coming in under 3 oz, this little guy is pretty sweet! It’s no surprise that this masterpiece of a headlamp is spearheading the market for being the best value for your money at under $10 for not only 1 but 2 Vont Spark Headlamps!

You’ll find it power-packed with 200 lumens of excellent-quality LED lights and precision designed with a whole lot of features and functions. The Vont Spark Headlamp may just be your new go-to, must-have, and all-time favorite headlamp as soon as you hit the trail.

Water and drop resistant, ergonomically designed 45-degree light throw, comfortably adjustable straps with sturdy stretch, one-touch toggle through 7 light modes—all these and a lifetime promise of guaranteed quality makes the Vont Spark Headlamp our top choice for tucking into our backpack for any hiking trip.

Petzl ACTIK Core Headlamp Amazing Charging Flexibility

  • max lumens 450
  • max burn 160hrs
  • weight 2.7 oz
  • waterproofing: IPX4
The Petzl ACTIK Core Headlamp will run for days on just a 3 hour charge! It can easily be charged in the car or in your home. And adding incredible value is the fact that if no power is available to recharge, you can pop in 3 AAA batteries and keep going until you get to power.

You’ll also appreciate that you have a choice between a wide beam when you want to scan the trail and a focused beam for close up use. It has 3 levels of while light and 2 of red light, including an emergency strobe.

Black Diamond Spot 350 – Super Bright Battery Powered Headlamp

  • max lumens 350
  • max burn 200 hrs
  • weight 3.2 oz
  • waterproofing IPX8
Priced under $40, the Black Diamond Spot 350 is powerful at up to 350 lumens at a distance of 85 feet. It’s waterproof tested and rated very high at IPX8.  Powered by 3 AAA Batteries, you will get 6 different light settings. That includes the amazing option to switch from spot light to flood light depending upon your task at hand. At REI Co-op you’ll find 8 different colors so everyone can claim their favorite!

Foxelli MX20 Headlamp Flashlight – Incredibly Lightweight

  • max lumens 165
  • max burn 45 hrs
  • weight 3.2 oz
  • waterproofing IPX5
Weighing just 3.2 oz, the lightweight Foxelli is the best headlamp flashlight to use for running, hiking, camping or just around the house. It has a clean bright light that’s dimmable, and can also be used in flashing or red light mode. It is waterproof, runs on AAA batteries and fits comfortably for both adults and kids. With a selection of colors to choose from it’s a really nice choice for families, everyone can have their own color!

Note with the super low price on the Foxelli, it’s a perfect choice to grab a couple extra and keep tucked in your car, camper, etc for emergencies. (Remember 3 flashlight Brad!)

Zebralight H600W Mk IV – Best Brightest Headlamp

  • max lumens 1400
  • max burn 232 hrs
  • weight 4.5 hrs
  • waterproofing IPX8
The Zebralight H600W Mk IV is a performance headlamp for those who want superior performance and don’t mind spending a few dollars more. Durable and built to last, this powerful headlamp is perfect for camping and elevated climbing. It doesn’t have the red light that I like, but it’s submersible up to 2 meters for 30 minutes, which also makes it the best headlamp for fishing.

SLONIK 1000 – Best Waterproof Rechargeable Headlamp

  • max lumens 1000
  • max burn 8 hrs
  • weight 4.2 oz
  • waterproofing IPX8
We love that the Slonik 1000 is Super Bright with visibility of almost 2 football fields. At 4.2 ounces it is one of the best lightweight rechargeable headlamps we found.  You’ll find it easy to re-charge with the USB charger that is included. The downside is that it takes a lot of power to create that level of light so the max burn at full power is only 8 hours.

Of course the biggest appeal is the high rating for waterproofing. It will withstand rainstorms on the trail and still shine through.

The light can be easily detached from the headband if you want to use it as a mini flashlight. This headlamp has received stellar reviews. 

Petzl e+LITE – The Lightest Headlamp for any Emergency

  • max lumens 100
  • max burn 12 hrs
  • weight 1.0 oz (so tiny!)
  • waterproofing IPX7
At only 1 ounce, tThe super lightweight Petzl e+Lite is the lightest headlamp in this list. It’s the perfect backup or emergency headlamp as you can easily tuck it into your pack and never notice the weight or size. Although with only 100 lumens the lighting capability is limited. Petzl e+Lite are the perfect trail running headlamp as most of the time you won’t even notice that it’s there.
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 Vont 'Spark"Black Diamond StormFoxelli MX20Zebralight H600w MK IVPetzl e+LITESlonik 1000
WaterproofIPX5IPX8IPX5IPX8IPX7IPX8
Light ModeWhite, RedWhite, Red, Green, BlueWhite, RedWhiteWhite, RedWhite
Reported Distance on High90 meters80 meters50 meters120 meters100 meters180 meters
Lumen200 lm350 lm165 lm1400 lm100 lm1000 lm
Burning Time
(low setting)
90 hours120 hours45 hours232 hours12 hours8 hours
Power Source
(low setting)
3 AAA Battery4 AAA Battery3 AAA BatteryRechargeable2 CR2 BatteriesRechargeable
Weight3.0 oz3.9 oz3.2 oz4.5 oz1.0 oz4.2 oz
Things we likeUnbelievable price
UltraLight
WaterProof
Lifetime Warranty
Long Battery Life
Waterproof Dustproof
8 lighting modes
Lightweight
Waterproof
Built in Timer
Versatile Use
Super Bright
Durable Metal
Rechargeable
Locking
Very lightweight
Durable
Long Storage
Locking
Rechargeable
Super Compact
Extreme Bright

Best Kids Headlamp

We have 6 grandchildren, all boys! That should give you a vague idea of the number of kids flashlight and children’s headlamps that we’ve been through. But it is so important that our children and grandchildren get a sense of holding their own while hiking or camping that we always get them their own kids headlamp or kids headlight. Of course, to go a little easier on our pockets, we’ve done a fair bit of research about the best headlamps for kids in terms of weight, durability and power. Click here to read about the best headlamp for kids.

Best Dog Headlamp

Hiking out in the wild is the best place to let your dog run free, isn’t it? But if you’re worried about them going too far ahead or being difficult to spot, the idea of getting a dog headlamp may have crossed your mind. Truth be told, they don’t exist. But what does exist is utterly perfect, a light up dog harness or lighted dog collars. We did a bit of research on the best options for you puppy which you can find in this article: Best LED Dog Collars for Your Dog.

Although the reflective dog harness is handy for walking in dark areas of the city or ‘burbs, the led dog collar is more suited to the outdoors. For example, this Illumiseen Dog Collar has a charge that lasts for 5 hours, is USB rechargeable, durable and comes in different sizes. Using a light up dog collar will keep you free from worrying so you can enjoy your time in nature to it’s fullest. Click here to find out more about the lighted dog collar.

Opinions on the best ultralight headlamp may vary depending on use; but the few I’ve listed above are the top choices for best rated headlamp anywhere. Do you own one of these? Comment and tell me what your favorite feature is! Guide to the best headlamps for hiking and backpacking. #WalkingTheParks