The development of headlamps over the last 5-10 years has been dramatic. No longer are we limited to the single option of the Petzl Zoom. There is now a selection of high tech lamps out there offering a range of functions and options.
The advent of LEDs. They do not get as hot as an incandescent bulb, therefore use less power and usually last for the life of the headlamp. This means massively improved battery life, reduced weight and a much brighter light being emitted.
Which headlamp for me?
Bench mark head lamps? The Petzl Nao, the Black Diamond (BD) Icon, and the Petzl Myo RXP are the headlamps to have if you need to see a long way for a prolonged period. These torches have multiple brightness settings, are more weather resistant and last longer. They are what you should choose if you are going to be climbing in the Alps, in Scotland in the winter or if you are going to be walking all through the night, navigating and looking for landmarks.
Very small and very light? The BD Ion, Petzl Tikkina, and the Silva Siju are examples of the lightest and smallest headlamps. They are cheap, have long battery life and fit very easily into a pocket. They are perfect for anyone who wants to be able to see what they are doing with their hands or ever so slightly further afield, or as a back up emergency lamp for anyone in the mountains.
Something more substantial? If you want something that is slightly more comfortable on the head for longer or that shines further for longer there's the Petzl Tikka XP2, or the BD Cosmo. These lamps offer slightly more light at greater range than the very smallest head torches on offer. However they are not significantly bigger or heavier.
Manufacturer websites offer in depth statistics for all their head torches. These are often the best sources of information.
Distance/Brightness in relation to Battery Life. All manufacturer websites will show on their statistical charts how long their torches will light at different distances.
Lumens. We measure light in “lumens” – a higher number means a stronger light. For most outdoor purposes, between 30 and 100 lumens and 1 – 5 watts will be ample.
Batteries. What type does it take? Will it take lithium batteries (some torches can be damaged by them, check with manufacturer) which last far longer, perform far better in lower temperatures and weigh far less? AAA batteries are harder to come by in more obscure parts of the world than the habitual AA, make sure you'll be able to find replacements. How many batteries does it take? How long will they last and therefore how many extra might you have to carry?
Bulbs. LED lamps can have from one to several LEDs and are the basic standard these days. A Halogen bulb can still be found on the Petzl Myolite in combination with LEDs. On these lamps you can switch between halogen and LEDs offering the long burn time of LEDs or the long range of a halogen bulb.
Weight. Whether you are a die hard Alpinist or not you are still going to be wearing the head lamp on your head. The lighter the better is gospel here.
Weatherproofing. Lamps don’t need to be waterproof but they should be able to cope with rain and snow. It's unlikely you will never go out in the rain with your headlamp.
Athelete: Sam Thompson Location: Arapaho Pass, CO © Tim Kemple, The North Face
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