Buyers Guide to Choosing the Best Headlamp for Backpackers

man with headlamp

Whether you are traveling the world on a backpacking adventure, camping out in the woods or hiking the Appalachian Trail, there's one thing you should never travel without - a quality headlamp. 

I often get asked what kit I would choose if I had to survive off the grid for a few weeks and my answer is always the same - a good knife, paracord and a hiking headlamp that can last a long time off a single charge.

Whether you’re trekking to Everest Base Camp, reading in your dorm bed, or just drunkenly trying to crack the combination to your padlock, headlamps always come in handy.

There's a lot of different headlamps on the market, but what is the best headlamp for travelling?

These are the top 5 headlamps for all budgets...

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Looking for more information? Wanna know everything there is to know about headlamps?

Don’t worry, I’ll cover everything you need to know.

I’ve personally tested over a dozen different headlamp brands over the last ten years and I’ve put together this definitive headlamp review post so that you check out the brightest headlamps, best value headlamps and toughest headlamps for backpacking and pick the best headlamp for your adventure style…

Quick Answer: The Best Travel Headlamps Reviewed


Why should you travel with a headlamp?

Imagine riding down a Vietnamese highway and within 5 minutes it’s dark. A plague of flying insects literally come out of nowhere. I slide my helmet visor down to see, without thinking I’ve opened my mouth & a million bugs fly inside. I was hungry, but I was kinda waiting until I arrived at the next town to eat dinner.

A young Vietnamese bloke drives past laughing, his bike lights are dimmed & he’s got his red best headlamp beaming bright. There are literally no bugs bothering him, all because of this bloody red light setting on his best headlamp.

Moral of the story, invest in the best headlamp with a red light setting, unless you like eating bugs for dinner.

Consider an LED head flashlight, these are by far the most power efficient & with technology advancing they’re smaller, lighter & brighter than ever. Find out what is the best overall LED headlight for travelling & best value for money headlamp.

What is the best headlamp for travelling? We put these bad boys to the test!

Considerations when looking for the best headlamp for you...


The best headlamp should be lightweight, especially since you’ll be carrying it around on your head! Nowadays there are plenty of ultra lightweight headlamps on the market and you can pick up cheap headlamps that still weigh very little so you shouldn't have to compromise on weight when picking out a decent headlamp for your adventures.

Battery Life

The best headlamp for traveling will have a long battery life. Your headlamp should be able to last at least 10 hours minimum, regardless of the setting.

Some headlamps use disposable batteries and others can be recharged via USB port, power bank or a solar charger. Personally, I'm a big fan of USB charging or hybrid headlamps, I like the idea of solar charging headlamps but often they can't hold a big enough charge...

Brightness & Beam

The best headlamps should have a decent lumen output, the higher it is the brighter your head-torch will be. The best LED headlights provide a good level of brightness and beam distance in diverse conditions. Most decent headlamps use proximity and movement modes to adapt light according to their surroundings.

Water Resistance

The weather is so unpredictable, so it’s better to be prepared and invest in a water resistant headlamp. All head torches should be at least a little waterproof, whether you're exploring a cave or trekking through snow, there's bound to be a chance of water no matter where you are.

To determine a headlamp's waterproof ability, we use an IPX scale. They typically range from IPX-1, which protects from dripping fluids to IPX-8, which can withstand over 3 feet of water. If you just want basic protection from splashing water from all directions, then a weather resistant rating of IPX- 4 is what you want.

Read on and check out our in-depth headlamp reviews so you can pick out the best headlamp for you...

man uses headlamps at night

When your hostel says 'light's out' but you can't put down your book...


The 5 Best Headlamps for 2018

#1 Overall Best Headlamp For Traveling

Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp Review

The Petzl Tikka XP is the best headlamp on the market by far.

For years now, Petzl have lead the way with headlamp technology and personally, I’ve always favored Petzl headlamps – they give the absolute best light to weight ratio out of all the headlamps on the market.

The Petzl Tikka XP featured smart adaptation technology meaning the brightness of the headlamp will never decrease as the battery drains. This is also a tough headlamp that is far more water resistant than most headlamps on the market and is pretty durable.

Whilst testing, I actually submerged this headlamp in a river and it kept working with no problems – it’s warranty does not cover this though so maybe don’t go too crazy.

This is an 80-lumen headlamp which offers a beam distance of 400 metres! Like all Petzl models, this headlamp comes with multiple modes including a strobe for signaling in an emergency.


  • Best light-to-weight ratio on the market
  • State of the art technology 
  • Water resistant/durable
  • Lightweight (85 grams)
  • 7 light modes and colors
  • Red light mode


  • Warranty doesn't cover water damage
  • Pricey

Best of all, this headlamp includes 'red light mode' which means this is one of the best headlamps to use if you are surrounded by insects - bugs can't see red light and so won't be tempted to fly into your face!

The headlamp has quite a few nifty new features and automatically switches to reserve mode when batteries are almost drained (signaled by blinking light). The headlamp weighs in at just 85 grams.

This headlamp has 7 different light modes and colours that adapt according to your surroundings. So you don’t have to keep clicking buttons to find the right setting, it’ll do it for you.

The headlamp can be easily attached to a bicycle or backpack so if you want to use it hands-free but don't want to wear it on your head you have options. I bought my first Petzl headlamp three years ago and it's still going strong - Petzl make quality gear.

Should you travel with the Petzel Tikka XP?

While it's a bit pricier than the others, if you want the best headlamp on the market, I recommend choosing something by Petzl.

Petzl Tikka XP is currently my top pick as the best headlamp for backpacking, and is a wise investment for anyone in need of a quality headlamp that will last the test of time. The button below has the latest price on the web....


#2 Best Value For Money Headlamp

smartlite headlampSmarter Life LED Review

The Smarter Life LED Headlight is the lightest, brightest and best headlamp with this lumen output. It has the highest waterproof rating of IPX-6, plus it’s also dustproof and shock resistant. The battery can last up to 48hrs on the lowest setting and it only requires 1 AA battery, which is included when you buy it.

This is a fairly cheap headlamp and offers truly exceptional value for money – it has six different lighting modes to suit every landscape, including a red light used to maintain night vision and remain invisible to bugs.


  • Affordable
  • 6 lighting settings
  • Red light technology
  • Adjustable straps


  • Not as awesome as higher end headlamps
  • Battery life

You can manually set your headlight mode to suit your surroundings, without having to worry about the halo effect or flickering lights.

The SmarterLife headlamp is comfortable and tailored to fit everyone with its adjustable straps and curved forehead panel. It’s also super lightweight, so you won’t be adding much extra weight to your backpack.

Should you travel with the Smarter Life LED?

If you're on a budget, I recommend picking up the Smarter Life LED headlamp. It's about five to ten bucks more expensive than the cheapest headlamps on this list but it offers way more bang for your buck and is one of the longest lasting headlamps out there. I'm a big fan of the this headlamp as it's almost fully waterproof.


#3 Best USB Rechargeable Headlamp


Aennon Top Pro XS Headlamp


Aennon Top-Pro-XS Review

Costing just fifteen bucks, the Aennon Top Pro XS is an absolute steal. This is a sturdy, shock and water resistant headlamp which is fairly bright considering it’s a USB rechargeable headlamp.

If you are looking for the best headlamp for hiking, this may well be it – as long as you have a portable battery with you it’s possible to keep your headlamp running with no worries.


  • Cheap!
  • Great for hiking
  • Water resistant
  • USB rechargeable


  • Durability is up for debate
  • Charging capabilities has mixed reviews

From a single charge you get a whopping 30 hours of constant light. This is definitely one of the best rechargeable headlamps on the market, it’s fairly bright as it boasts a powerful 220 lumens and has a beam distance of up to 150m!

This headlamp also has 4 light modes, so you can choose the level of brightness you desire.

The Aennon headlamp is USB rechargeable, so you don’t need to waste money paying for batteries. The LED lights in the head flashlight have a long lifetime of up to 30,000 hours, so you won’t have to stress about replacing the lights throughout your travels.

Should you travel with the Aennon Top-Pro-XS?

While it doesn't have as many cool tricks or specs as it's competitors, for the price, this is one of the best waterproof, lightweight and cheap hiking headlamps on the market.


#4 Best Cheap Headlamp 

Internova Star Rider XL


Internova Star Rider XL Review

The Internova Star Rider XL is the best budget headlamp on the market and costing just $10, it really is a steal.

It may not have the same kind of power as some of the other headlamps in this review but it packs some serious punch for it’s price and it’s hardy meaning it will last a long time.


  • Super cheap!
  • Red-light mode
  • 5 year warrantee


  • Not as powerful as others
  • Not as high-tech as others
  • Light doesn't reach far

It has a decent lumen output and you’re able to tilt the headlamp 60 degrees, enabling you to focus light where you need it.

The headlamp includes multiple light modes for any situation which is perfect for traveling. See through dense terrain while trekking on high mode or star gaze without straining your eyes on red mode.

You can use this headlamp in all weather environments as its IPX-3 water resistant. Without a doubt, my favourite feature of the Internova Star Rider XL is the 5 year warrantee. I’m forever breaking things when travelling, so it’s a great peace of mind knowing that they’ll fix it, no questions asked.

Should you travel with the Star Rider XL?

If you are looking for something cheap and efficient - look no further! The Star Rider XL provides some serious bang for it's buck, and while it's simple compared to it's competitors, it certainly gets the job done. 


#5 Best Solar Headlamp

Sunbow Star Solar Headlamp Review

The Sunbow Star Headlamp is an environmentally conscious headlamp. It utilises renewable energy from the sun to power the headlamp. Just in case the sun isn’t shining, they also include an AC charger, it’s always good to have a backup…


  • Environmentally conscious
  • Charges on sun and AC 
  • Battery lasts a lifetime


  • Battery only lasts 5 hours
  • No red light mode
  • Not for travelers

The battery never has to be replaced on this headlamp as it’s recharged by the sun. However, it’s not the longest lasting headlamp as the battery only holds a charge of up to 5 hours. Pretty damn cool though since it’s solar powered – real handy on longer expeditions into the mountains where solar is the only source of power around.

If you plan on spending some serious time in the woods, this is a solid choice as the best hiking headlamp that money can buy… As long as you can get some sun, you’re sorted.

The light’s beam distance is pretty good and the lamp even has a rotation of 90 degrees. Although the Sunbow Star headlamp has 3 light modes, it doesn’t have a red light which means you’ll be on the most wanted list for bugs and insects at night – this is the main drawback of this headlamp in my opinion.

Should you travel with the Sunbow Solar?

If you hike a lot or are particularly environmentally conscious, this could be the headlight of your dreams. While no red-light is a deal breaker for me, the solar technology and stellar lifetime battery make the Sunbow Solar a great headlamp for anyone looking to harness to power of the sun. 



You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can guide your light to any direction you choose…

Headlamps are an essential item for hikers, cyclists, backpackers, climbers and mountaineers. Sometimes it can be hard to determine what is the best headlamp for you, especially since there’s so many to choose from but hopefully after reading our in-depth headlamp reviews you feel armed with all the info you need to pick up a headlamp and hit the road!

Check out the comparison table below so you can figure out which headlamp is the right choice for your adventure style…

Yay for transparency! The links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you buy anything, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going. 

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The 5 Best Headlamps for Travelling

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