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It pays to make a good and thorough packing list before you go camping - many of the easy things to forget, like head torches, become the most valuable items in your possession when you get out into the wild and are designed to make life much easier.
Head torches are a must - not only do they light up the area around you, many of them come with SOS flashing, low-level eye-friendly red lighting and a large amount of battery life suitable for lighting up the space around you on the darkest of nights.
What to look for in a head torch
When deciding what kind of head torch to go for, check out the power of the lighting (measured in lumens), beam distance (you want something adjustable), the battery longevity and the weight.
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300 lumens should be good for general camping and reading at night, but if you’re adventuring into dark circumstances (say, spelunking), you’ll want to look for 750 lumens.
The longer the battery life the better, naturally. Some torches come with additional power packs and many are still powered using conventional AA or AAA batteries - be sure to check which version you have before you head out and be sure to pack a spare set of batteries!
Weight-wise, the lighter the better, though of course that leads to a trade off in power and beam length.
The aforementioned red lighting often helps during GPS-reading sessions, or reading a book in a tent when a softer light is more suitable as to not disturb your companion.
In testing these torches, we found that there’s a compromise you may have to make - longer beams and brighter light inevitably sometimes mean a heavier battery back, more batteries to purchase or a generally heavier weight - we’ve noted those torches that are light and feel like a better fit for more active pursued.
When looking at headtorches, consider if you’re heading into wet conditions, and how wet they will be - headtorches have waterproof ratings that cover all eventualities.
IPX4 means splash-proof (ideal for walking or running), IPX6 can take a sudden shock of water (say, if you’re paddleboarding or on a boat) while IPX8 can be submerged (if you end up in the drink, for whatever reason).
Here are some of the best head torches we’ve tested for 2022.
BioLite headlamp 750
Key Specs: Lumens: 750, Weight: 150g, Tilt Positions: 4, Lighting Modes: 8, Battery: USB Rechargeable
Although it’s towards the higher end of the price spectrum, this option from BioLite really impressed with its 8 different lighting options and brightness capability from 250 lumens to 750 lumens at either end of the spectrum.
We liked the design - its slim-fit construction and moisture-wicking headband were comfortable to wear, it’s lightweight and easily adjustable to different sizes, too.
It comes with a rear red light and has 4 adjustable tilt positions too, so you can always be sure of the right setup to light the way ahead.
Petzl Actik Core
Key Specs: Lumens: 450, Weight: 75g, Tilt Positions: 5, Lighting Modes: 4, Battery: USB Rechargeable or AAA Batteries
This Actik Core has been designed for slightly more adventurous activities in mind, and although it’s certainly not the brightest at 450 lumens, it’s geared up for ease of use and lightweight ability.
It’s super light when not running on AAA batteries (you can also charge it via USB with the CORE rechargeable in it already), and we liked the locking function, which means it’s unlikely you’ll be able to turn it on and drain the battery accidentally when you don’t need it.
We’d recommend this option as the best bet for night time running in poorly lit areas, for instance, or perhaps cycling to accompany your bike lights.
Petzl Iko Core Headtorch
Key Specs: Lumens: 500, Weight: 79g, Tilt Positions: N/A, Lighting Modes: 3, Battery: USB Rechargeable or AAA Batteries
Built with a more performance-minded approach, this Petzl offering focuses on its lightweight frame, whilst still providing an excellent 500 lumens of brightness.
We liked its flexibility - in normal operation you can charge it using the USB port, however when out in the wild you can also run it off three AAA batteries.
It’s a different design than what we’re used to with some of the more conventional-looking head torches on the market, but the thin headband and weight-conscious approach makes it easier to wear and operate for long periods of time.
Petzl Tikka Head Torch
Key Specs: Lumens: 300, Weight: 82g, Tilt Positions: 4, Lighting Modes: 3, Battery: 3 x AAA Batteries
One of the simplest head torches on the market from Petzl, but still one of the best value for money examples, with a clear wide beam angle for good proximity lighting, a long battery life, a comfortable adjustable elastic fit and a clever phosphorescent reflector which means it can be found in the dark.
Ease is the name of the game - with single button functionality and a lightweight design, you won’t go far wrong with the Tikka.
Ledlenser H7R Core Rechargeable Headlamp
Key Specs: Lumens: 1000, Weight: 259g, Tilt Positions: N/A, Lighting Modes: 3, Battery: USB Rechargeable
This is a sturdy, well built and robust headlamp offering a dimming function, the ability to focus the light and three different lighting options.
It’s in the power stakes this lamp really shines, if you pardon the expression, and the light boasts an impressive 1000 lumens, which we found was enough to light up our entire surroundings.
It’s an impressive piece of kit, but fans of lightweight, easy to pack headtorches may think twice - we’d perhaps choose one of the more basic, less expensive, simpler models if we were out on multi-day camps or evening runs or hikes.
Key Specs: Lumens: 350, Weight: 210g, Tilt Positions: N/A, Lighting Modes: 4, Battery: USB Rechargeable
We found this option from Alpkit to be excellent value for money, and provide a good amount of light for the price.
Our only slight bone of contention is that the light is a bit more focussed than some of the others on the list, so during testing we didn’t experience as much lit in our peripheral vision than some alternatives here, but the lens does come with a twist focus which allows you to change the angle of the beam, which helped a fair bit.
Eleven hours battery life is excellent from a torch such as this, and we never worried about losing charge when using it day after day.
It’s comfortable too - we found the rear battery pack helped keep the torch secure and well-balanced.