What is a Headlamp? Are There Different Kinds of Headlamps?

fit male jogger headlamp shutterstock

A headlamp is an important tool for serious backpackers or for casual hikers who need to have illumination at night and want to keep their hands free at the same time to do other tasks. There are different styles and designs, but all are intended to make life easier for hikers while out on the trail.

Headlamp is useful for hikers – image by coolhikinggear.com

What is a Headlamp?

A headlamp is essentially a flashlight attached to a headband. It has been designed to have an adjustable elastic band that fits around the top of the head, with the headlamp itself positioned on the forehead. Often the light is meant to lie flat against the forehead for comfort. This position also allows the user to point the light wherever the user turns their head.

Best Waterproof Headlamp
A headlamp – image by waterprooflab.com

What are the Uses of a Headlamp?

The main advantage of using a headlamp over a flashlight is that a headlamp provides for hands-free use. This means that a camper can use both hands to do tasks at night or at low-light levels while still having light.

Headlamp lets your hand free to do things – image by coolhikinggear.com

These can range from simple tasks such as putting on a pair of socks in the predawn to bigger chores, including setting up a tent at night or cooking dinner. A headlamp can also be used while night hiking, allowing the user to keep both hands free to negotiate obstacles, or to hold onto a pair of trekking poles.

What Functions are on a Headlamp?

Headlamp functions vary with the manufacturer. Most headlamps have LED lights that are brighter than conventional bulbs, and give enough light to perform most tasks. Some headlamps combine this with a spotlight, which can be helpful for seeing down the trail at night.

headlamp for hiking
Hiking in the dark – image by thelakeandstars.com

Other headlamps will have a blinking light that lets the user know how much battery life is left, and whether the batteries need to be changed. Some are designed to be used by mountaineers or in cold temperatures, and may have the battery pack separate from the headlamp so that it can be kept close to the body to be kept warm.

Are There Different Kinds of Headlamps?

Yes, there are different kinds of headlamps, both in styles, manufacturers, and intended use. Some headlamps are heavier and bulkier, while others are designed to be as lightweight and minimalist as possible, like the Petzel Zipka.

zipka headlamp CBF large
Petzel Zipka – image by uttings.co.uk

A nice compromise is the Black Diamond Spot, a headlamp that isn’t too bulky while not too flimsy, and has options for either a spotlight for long distance vision or LED lights for close-up light. It also has a blinking light function, which can be set so that hikers can let others know where they are in an emergency.

Black Diamond Spot – image by backcountry.com

Headlamps are useful tools that are an essential piece of gear for anyone who will be overnight camping or hiking at night.


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