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Flashlight vs. Headlamp for hiking
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wiiawiwb wiiawiwb
(wiiawiwb) - F
Flashlight vs. Headlamp for hiking on 11/04/2010 08:28:07 MDT Print View

I've read through many threads about flashlights and headlamps but my question is a tad different.

I am looking at getting a new flashlight or headlamp. It would be for use in a survival situation only. I no longer backpack; rather, my adventures are all day hikes. So, this would not be used for typical backpacking activities such reading in a tent, sitting around a campfire or the like.

My main concern is if I were injured and had to survive alone. It would also be used if I were delayed on the trails and had to hike out in the dark.

For certain, whatever I get, I would want it to be able to illuminate the trail enough for me to walk in the dark.

I'm leaning toward a flashlight rather than a headlamp. By the way, I already have my main flashlight, an HDS T120. The new one would be my backup lighting source in the event the main one hit the skids, broke or didn't work. It would have to do all the things my HDS is asked to do.

Finally, because it would be carried while I hike, I would not consider anything that is more than 5-6 oz.

So, which makes more sense, a flashlight or a headlamp?

Thanks for your thoughts.

K. S.
(bwalt822) - F
How about this on 11/04/2010 08:40:07 MDT Print View

Since this will be a backup I would just get one of these...

Or if you have certain internet phones and you carry it with you, you can just download an app which will let you turn the screen to full brightness or engage the flash on the camera to act as a flashlight.

Andy Schill
(Aschill) - F
Headlamp on 11/04/2010 08:43:59 MDT Print View

I would go with a headlamp, for some simple reasons:

- Its always better to be hands free
- You can hold the headlamp in your hands if it makes you feel better
- You can buy headlamps with really high outputs that equal what regular flashlights can do
- In a "survival" situation you might not be able to use your hands to hold a flashlight.
- For 5-6 oz you can get a pretty nice headlamp
- Its also very easy to strap your headlamp to other objects.

Edited by Aschill on 11/04/2010 08:45:58 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Flashlight vs. Headlamp for hiking on 11/04/2010 08:55:23 MDT Print View

I would go with a flashlight. It can be rigged easily to your hip belt which will give you a better throw down the trail if required. With a flashlight, you can spot things better without being constrained by head movement. A flashlight can be used as an upright lantern. Finally, you can, if hiking with another, actually turn to speak to them without blinding them.

Oh, and there are strap attachments for your flashlight to your head, making it more versatile than just a headlamp.

I like the new Surefire G2X with 15 and 200 lumens. The throw is much nicer and more concentrated than anything Fenix has to offer. The casing is much more durable and the warranty is guaranteed.

Edited by FamilyGuy on 11/04/2010 08:58:33 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
headlamp on 11/04/2010 09:54:08 MDT Print View

its totally hands free even if yr incapacitated ... i consider the light where you look to be an advantage then

and you wont drop it once its on yr head ...

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Flashlight vs. Headlamp for hiking on 11/04/2010 10:28:42 MDT Print View

Yup, a headlamp is good if you are incapacitated. Hopefuly you have it on strobe.


Edited by FamilyGuy on 11/04/2010 11:01:17 MDT.

wiiawiwb wiiawiwb
(wiiawiwb) - F
Strobe on 11/04/2010 10:44:57 MDT Print View

Where I hike, in the east, I am almost always under the canopy of trees. I've hiked out west were I was often above treeline or in the open. The forests where I typically are wet, thickly vegetated and covered above so a strobe, or sos, mode is of less importance.

Edited by wiiawiwb on 11/04/2010 10:45:55 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Flashlight vs. Headlamp for hiking on 11/04/2010 11:33:18 MDT Print View

I'd perhaps revisit why you're interested in a second light to begin with. If you're fearful your current light will fail, and if spare batteries aren't sufficient insurance, then I'd look at replacing it with a more dependable light. Since switching to LED lights a decade ago, the only "failure" I've experienced is misplacing my light (my fault, not its). LED lights from established makers rank with the most dependable backpacking gear available, and even failing batteries give plenty of warning before they wink out completely.

Backup flashlights tend to be minimal ones that are very lightweight and can be kept handy (such as on a keychain). A button cell light or single AAA light generally fills the bill, so that's what I'll recommend for peace of mind at less than one ounce.



eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
reliability on 11/04/2010 11:40:19 MDT Print View

I simply cannot have a light fail on me on the mountain, and i simply cant drop one ... which is why i carry a petzl e-lite as well as my main ... 1 oz including bats ... and my main is a petzl as well ;)

Edited by bearbreeder on 11/04/2010 11:44:50 MDT.

Stephen Adams
(stevemkedcom) - MLife

Locale: Northwest
Flashlight for emergencies on 11/04/2010 12:10:01 MDT Print View


I use a photon freedom clipped to a head band. At first I was very skeptical of using this for night hiking but I have been caught out several times hiking in the pitch dark with it and did just fine on a regular trail. I would not want to bush whack with it however. Since I carry my 17 oz down sleeping bag and a poncho/tent even on day hikes I figure if I got lost in the dark I would not try to grope around some mountain in the dark and would just set up a shelter and go to sleep and wait until morning. Before others blast me for suggesting such a tiny flash light just remember the original post did say for emergency only on day hikes not climbing mount Everest.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
bright light on 11/04/2010 12:28:59 MDT Print View

Here is a light from Sears that uses 6 AAA batteries and specs at 66O lumens.

Head lamps can be found at 100 lumens.

The light factories!

Edited by rambler on 11/04/2010 12:36:52 MDT.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: bright light on 11/04/2010 13:11:18 MDT Print View

I just use el cheapo button cell LED lights, like the Photons, as zipper pulls on my backpack and/or jacket for backups. The Freedom's clip is nice, but I have had 2 of those lights fail on me. The cheap sub-$1 / sub 1oz. generics have always done well.

You can always use a headlamp as a flashlight, but not always the other way around.

You can always clip the Freedom to your backpack or nostril.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
flashlight vs headlamp on 11/04/2010 15:26:32 MDT Print View

For hiking-only, I prefer a flashlight since it's easier to flick back and forth while looking at each tree to find the next blaze. It is also easier to flick back and forth to see the section of trail 2-4 steps away, and then to see where you are putting your feet. A handheld headlamp isn't quite as easy to hold (wrong shape), and generally has a wider beam (harder for route finding).

A headlamp will work better if you plan to make dinner and pitch your emergency tarp - and wait until morning to find your way out.

ps: If both your hands were incapacitated (fell off a cliff?), I bet you'd be too hurt to hike out, and would just be sitting there trying to stay warm and blowing your whistle...

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: flashlight vs headlamp on 11/04/2010 15:54:41 MDT Print View

"ps: If both your hands were incapacitated (fell off a cliff?), I bet you'd be too hurt to hike out, and would just be sitting there trying to stay warm and blowing your whistle..."

If both hands were incapacitated, how are you going to get the whistle to your lips?


Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Flashlight vs. Headlamp for hiking on 11/04/2010 16:22:13 MDT Print View

I find that walking in the dark with a headlamp on is problematic because the direct light hides variations in terrain. I end up taking the headlamp off and holding it in my hand at waist level while walking in the dark. I also tend to like to use the red LED if I can see with it well enough as it doesn't mess up my night vision.

I would still carry a headlamp instead of a flashlight because you can carry it either way and having it on your head is very useful when doing things like looking at maps and doing first aid.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Flashlight vs. Headlamp for hiking on 11/04/2010 16:42:12 MDT Print View

Attach your flashlight to your hip belt, cap, etc.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
I use a headlamp all the time! on 11/04/2010 17:03:55 MDT Print View

For what it's worth, I carry a headlamp, not a flashlight, in my car for emergency use. If I have to change a tire after dark, I want both hands free and to be able to direct the light where I need it! The same is true for home repairs or for finding things if the power goes out.

I also use my headlamp every time I clip my dog's claws. It's far easier to see what I'm doing, and I need both hands plus my body to keep the dog still!

I still have a flashlight around the house, but I haven't used it in years. I finally took the batteries out.

Edited by hikinggranny on 11/04/2010 17:04:33 MDT.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Flashlight vs. Headlamp for hiking on 11/04/2010 17:07:21 MDT Print View

Since it's a backup light I'd get nothing more than a coin light.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Lighting on 11/04/2010 17:19:39 MDT Print View

If I understand this correctly, you only day hike and you are already carrying a serious flashlight for the unlikely event that you get caught out in the dark. Now you want to add a second light in case you get caught out in the dark and your contingency flashlight fails?

If I was only dayhiking I would carry at most a lightweight backup light like a Petzl e+Lite or a Photon II. You've already got a flashlight, so I wouldn't add a second light. If you really do want to add something I would make it extremely light & cheap since most likely it'll never be used. With regards to your question of headlamp or flashlight, I would say go with a headlamp since you are already carrying a flashlight. This way you use whatever suits your needs better should this survival situation occur.

Another option is to buy a light that can work as both a headlamp and as a flashlight. ZebraLights come to mind. They can do both, but IMO the price ($50-$65) and weight (~3oz) are too high to carry as a second backup light. One of these would be great as your only light. The H51 is probably brighter than your current flashlight.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Flashlight vs. Headlamp for hiking on 11/04/2010 17:22:15 MDT Print View

The problem in comparing lightweight headlamps to lightweight flashlights is that the flashlight technology with respect to power output, durability, and features is quite a bit ahead.

Having a back-up light that has little output makes zero sense. Considering that the cheap ones are guaranteed to crap out at the most inopportune times.