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Best Headlamp
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Clint Lum
(clintlum91) - F
Best Headlamp on 10/15/2013 21:32:22 MDT Print View

So what do you guys think the best headlamp is if we are concerned with both weight, lumens, ease of use, etc.

I currently have a eLight by Petzl, but it just does not put off enough light to do anything more than read at night.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Best Headlamp on 10/15/2013 21:42:31 MDT Print View

Perhaps what you seek is a headlamp with control for different intensities of light. Those cost a little more money, but then they also tend to be more efficient with battery power. Also, you want to think about what battery type you want it to use. Many hikers want to cut down the number of different battery types that they use so that they can cut down on spares and the weight of spares.

A couple of years ago I purchased a Zebralight, and I've been very happy with it ever since. Of the three main light intensities that it can do, the medium level is perfect for night trail hiking. The low level is good for things around camp.


Kevin Manley
(manleyk) - F - MLife

Locale: Denver-ish
+1 on 10/15/2013 21:55:12 MDT Print View

I hike and cave with Zebralights. They are tough, bright, and light. Just pick the one with the battery that works with the rest of your gear. My Zebralight H51, my Garmin, and my Steripen all run on AA's so I can bring just one set of batteries.

The H31 runs on CR123's, and the H600 runs on 18650's.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
depends on 10/15/2013 21:59:07 MDT Print View

If you are backpacking in June when the days are long you really don't need any light... unless you want to hike at night.

If you just want to read and do camp chores... the light weight, small headlamps are enough.

But if you want to have enough light to get off a mountain in the dark... they you don't want to worry about weight so much as having lots of lumens and a battery pack that will last.

so... the best depends on what you want to use it for...

Bill D.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/15/2013 21:59:48 MDT Print View

Bob -
"Of the three main light intensities that it can do, the medium level is perfect for night trail hiking."

What sort of run time do you get with the Medium level?

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/15/2013 22:25:27 MDT Print View

+1 Zebralight H51 which is being discontinued but zebralight is still selling the H51 at a discount. As to runtime, what they advertise is what I have gotten with the same sort of batteries.. and remember, they are fully regulated, so you actually have light levels for the length of time they say, rather than an ever dimming light.

High: H1 172 Lm (0.9 hrs) or H2 86 Lm (2.4 hrs) / 120 Lm (1.7 hrs) / 4Hz Strobe
Medium: M1 26 Lm (8 hrs) or M2 7 Lm (26 hrs)
Low: L1 2.2 Lm (3 days) or L2 0.18 Lm (16 days)
Light output are out the front (OTF) values. Runtime tests are done using Sanyo 2000mAh Eneloop AA batteries.

The H51 is being replaced by the H52 which can be used with both AA and 14500 batteries (the H51 did not support 14500):

High: H1 280 Lm (0.9 hrs) or H2 172 Lm (1.7 hrs) / 108 Lm (3 hrs)
Medium: M1 50 Lm (7.5 hrs) or M2 25 Lm (12 hrs) / 12 Lm (27 hrs)
Low: L1 2.7 Lm (4 days) or L2 0.34 Lm (3 weeks) / 0.06 Lm (2 months) / 0.01 Lm (3 months)
Beacon Strobe Mode: 4Hz Strobe at H1 / 19Hz Strobe at H1

Light output are ANSI out the front (OTF) values. Runtimes tested (and parasitic drain estimated) using Sanyo 2000mAh Eneloop AA batteries. Light output with 14500 batteries are the same except that the H1 is 500Lm for the first minute and then step down to 280Lm.

A few more observations on my recommended flashlight page though I haven't updated it in a year so there are likely new / improved headlamps I didn't mention


Edited by verber on 10/15/2013 22:28:27 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/15/2013 22:48:24 MDT Print View

"What sort of run time do you get with the Medium level?"

On a single AA battery, it goes 19 hours. The rating is with a Sanyo 2700 mAH NiMH battery, but you can use alkaline or lithium primary or about anything in the AA package. If you use these a lot, then you might want to go with a rechargeable NiMH battery, but I tend to use a lithium primary battery for minimum weight and highest energy density.

Basically, you will find that Zebralight keeps improving their product ratings from year to year. The maximum light intensity keeps increasing, and the battery life keeps increasing. The overall weight doesn't change very much, because it always takes a certain amount of aluminum tube to encase one AA battery. The head strap is better and heavier than what you may need, though. I substituted my own strap and saved a large fraction of an ounce.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: depends on 10/15/2013 23:03:37 MDT Print View

"But if you want to have enough light to get off a mountain in the dark... they you don't want to worry about weight so much as having lots of lumens and a battery pack that will last."

That is the big plus for these fancy multi-intensity headlamps. When you are just using it around camp, you don't need much intensity, so you leave it on the lowest setting and it gets days of battery life. Then for the night trail, you have the medium setting. For a special situation or emergency, you have the brightest intensity, but it gives only a few hours of life on one battery. So, whatever you need to use this for, it will do it.

In August a bunch of us did a Trans-Sierra dayhike at Piute Pass. We started hiking in the early morning darkness, hiked all day, and then finished late that night in darkness. The Zebralight did fine, although I held it low in my hand to get a better light angle on the trail.

As was pointed out, the intensity regulation is very good. On an ordinary non-regulated headlamp, the light intensity correlates to the battery voltage, which begins to decay immediately. With a well-regulated headlamp, the regulator "chops" the battery voltage in a pulse width modulator, and that holds the effective light intensity very constant until the battery is getting fairly dead. This is more important when you are using the higher intensities, since they use more current than the lowest.

Two years ago I got a good night photo of an Idaho wolverine using just my Zebralight for illumination.


David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/15/2013 23:06:08 MDT Print View

Short answer: I, too, really like the Zebralight H51. I skip the headband because when on the trail, I want it at waist, not head level. In camp, when I need both hands, I can use the integral clip to secure it to my pant's waist or my hat. Looks like I'll be getting their H52 in the future.

Bob: I like your write-up on lighting. You (like many non-cavers) jump from flashlights/candles to gas-fueled lanterns. For some group BPing trips, I've liked carbide-fueled caving lanterns. Smaller and lighter than white-gas or butane-powered lanterns, they are more directional and considerably lighter and tougher than similarly bright incandescent bulb lights. I haven't compared them to LED in the last decade, but I have trouble imagining a time while BPing that I'd prefer a gas lantern to a carbide one.

christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Zebralight headlamp strap on 10/15/2013 23:12:22 MDT Print View

I'd love to see a pic of these homemade zebralight head straps if anyone has it handy.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/15/2013 23:21:20 MDT Print View

"Bob: I like your write-up on lighting."



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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Zebralight headlamp strap on 10/15/2013 23:27:02 MDT Print View

"homemade zebralight head straps"

I had a used Croakies eyeglasses neoprene retainer strap. I removed the very nice Zebralight strap from the silicone light holder, ran the Croakies strap through and around the two end points, then sewed it to the correct length for my head.

My H501, with strap and lithium AA battery, weighs in at 1.92 ounces.

You can go with a much thinner and simpler strap, but it won't be as comfortable.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/15/2013 23:35:34 MDT Print View

"carbide-fueled caving lanterns"

Some of us were cavers in the 1960's, and carbide lights were common. There were two big problems. One is that the spent carbide has to be properly disposed of, and that is difficult to do in a cave.

The second problem is not realized until you are rappelling down halfway on a 200-foot rope, and the carbide flame gets too close to the rope. Phhht!

As a result, I was the only person in the cave club who went purely electric from the start. Of course that was the day of the incandescent bulb and a lantern battery.

What we have today in LED headlamps is about 1000% better.


Mark S
(gixer) - F
Zebralight H600 MKII or H602 on 10/16/2013 00:48:45 MDT Print View

Have to confess that i am a bit of a torch geek, in my defence i do end up doing a LOT of night hikes though.

I've tried many different brands and types and the best solution i've found so far is the Zebralight H600

 photo 20130918_231054_zps6a905144.jpg

The new version is around 1000 lumens on full, has a fantastic beam pattern that will allow enough throw to scout out trails, but also provides enough flood on the lower settings to see where you are going.

The high setting was enough for me to confidently ride on a extremely rocky track on my MTB in the dead of night.
The medium setting offers more than enough output to run off-road at night
The lower settings are great for around camp, map reading etc

The newer version also comes with a added "top of the head strap" so is extremely stable, even when running

 photo 20130918_231054_zps6a905144.jpg

As i say the H600 offers to me at least a really decent compromise of flood and throw for night hiking, if you want more throw though the H602 is a veritable wall of light (for it's size)

H602 on the left H600 MKII of the right

 photo 20130918_231054_zps6a905144.jpg
Top to bottom, MKI H600, H602, H600 MKII

 photo 20130918_231054_zps6a905144.jpg

H602 weight without battery or strap

 photo 20130918_231054_zps6a905144.jpg

H602 weight with strap and a Eagletec 3400mAh battery

 photo 20130918_231054_zps6a905144.jpg

Both the newer H600 and H602 have PID control that will automatically adjust the torches output depending on the temperature of the head.
They will also automatically drop the output depending on the battery voltage.

So this being said it's not possible to give run times at the highest outputs, i tend to set mine on their highest outputs and just let them do their own thing, apart from a few blasts of the turbo mode.
With this in mind i'm seeing around 2 to 3 hours use on a single 3400mAh battery


Edited by gixer on 10/16/2013 00:59:20 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/16/2013 06:34:18 MDT Print View

Thanks for the real world number.

Zebra's multi-multiple choice answer brackets the situation, and one never knows how "optimistic" they are. I'm sure it varies, but "19" is enough to get through a couple of summer nights.

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Zebralight on 10/16/2013 08:04:46 MDT Print View

Like some others I'm a bit of a flashaholic - so I know I take more lights than most when out in the woods just to try them out.

I currently have 4 headlamps. Zebralight H31w, Surefire Saint Minimus, Light and Motion Solite 250 and a Princeton Tec EOS. The ZL and Surefire use CR123 batteries; the Solite 250 is USB rechargeable and the EOS uses the obiquitous 3xAAA format.

Of those - the one I recommend is the Zebralight for most people. It really hits the sweet spot on the price/weight/quality spectrum. I personally like the CR123 format due to the 123 powered Steripen and most of my flashlights are CR123. Oddly I like the USB second as I typically have a backup USB charger for my phone that I can use in a pinch. Admittedly - the EOS and the Solite were bought with biking also in mind - both have helmet/bike mount kits. The EOS isn't bright enough for the bike however but does make a decent headlamp - it's just bigger and heavier than the diminutive CR123 based ZL. If you prefer AA then go for the H51/52.

I have some 18650 lights and like that format but am not crazy about the size for a headlamp - I'd probably for that weight use the Solite which is plenty bright - and has a separate battery pack on the back of the strap.

I've found ZL's published runtime numbers are pretty close to my experience on an RCR123 and a primary CR123. In other words, at lower levels which are fine for most purposes, you'll have days of runtime.

I will note - however - that the one thing I wished I had done is buy the "flood" version of the H31. It has a pretty defined hotspot which for most purposes is somewhat inconvenient. It is one thing about the Saint that is fantastic.

Edited by PGAsby on 10/16/2013 08:07:28 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Best Headlamp on 10/16/2013 08:37:30 MDT Print View

My favorite continues to be the P-Tec EOS. Functionally waterproof, good through for night hiking, easy to use, inexpensive, and really durable (I have dropped mine many times without issue). But I am old school.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: How about a Photon LED Microlight on 10/16/2013 08:57:04 MDT Print View

Very light and bright enough for most nighttime chores. Even night hiking if needed.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Zebralight on 10/16/2013 09:36:05 MDT Print View

Another vote for the 1AA Zebralights (from a flashoholic who owns dozens of headlamps).

I find the floody models the most useful.

Edited by Bolster on 10/16/2013 09:40:03 MDT.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Best Headlamp on 10/16/2013 10:12:38 MDT Print View

You have to be careful with regulated lights. I bought a Fenix HL21 which is a fully regulated, single AA headlight that is reasonably bright and offers a few brightness options that work well for me. Unfortunately, being "fully" regulated it stays bright (never dims) until it dies. This might sound like a good thing, but in practice it can leave you in a very bad situation as it just dies without warning.

I've been really impressed with the Zebralight flashlights and have the new H52W AA headlight on order right now (supposed to start shipping on Oct 18th). I've had the handheld version of this light for about a year and I can't say enough good things about this light. The fact that it takes either an AA or the high output 14500 lithium batteries is a huge plus and the light output is outstanding. Zebralight lights are regulated to a point but won't leave you stranded. They maintain a constant brightness until the battery reaches a certain voltage and then they will step down to a lower level. I really like this feature compared to fully regulated lights that just die.

To me it's the "additional features" on the Zebralights that make it worth paying the extra cash for them (although the build quality should be enough). You get user definable light output levels, a battery test that flashes based on the perecentage of battery life remaining and a warning light that flashes when the battery is low, even when the light is off. All worth paying the extra bucks for in my mind.