Headlamp Reviews

Best Buy

Black Diamond Cosmo

Get a near-perfect blend of price, weight, and brightness in this versatile headlamp, which was entirely redesigned for 2008. It has a 1/2-watt LED for spot uses (like routefinding) and two smaller LEDs for proximity uses (reading or cooking). The spot beam reaches 75 feet, with a piercing bulls eye amid a wider-than-average beam, so you can see side trails and tree-tunnel details. The tilt mechanism is secure enough for scrambling and trail running. Burn time: 120 hours on high, although it dims noticeably after 30 hours. $30; 2.9 oz.; 3 AAAs; bdel.com


Everlite EL-8 Solar Headlamp

Tired of tossing alkaline batteries or managing batches of rechargeables? This compact, five-LED headlamp powers straight off a packable 0.73-watt solar panel (it weighs 3 ounces and comes with adhesive-backed hook-and-loop patches so you can easily slap the panel onto a pack or tent). Our testers found the 900 mAh battery charged in six hours of full sun (eight hours in normal overcast) and poured out a 60-foot proximity glow for at least 12 hours on one charge. The lamp switches off periodically as power runs low, so you never go totally dark without warning. Optional adapter cords ($10-$17) let you tap the grid as well, or charge cell phones and other devices off the solar panel. Bottom line: A fuss-free perpetual lighting machine for greenies and thru-hikers. $50; 6.3 oz.; newlite.com


Black Diamond Ion

This tiny, weatherproof headlamp is a perfect choice for scale-carrying gram-counters or as a backup light in any survival kit (or glove compartment). The housing is the size of a quarter, and the thin elastic headband cinches securely with a cordlock. The two output levels are bright enough for camp chores and map reading, but don't rely on the 20-foot glow for serious night hiking. Burn time is limited; the 1/2-watt LED starts dimming after 2 hours, although it soldiers on doggedly for 12. Tip: Use lithium 6-volt PX28L batteries for longer life, and duct tape a spare to the headband. $20; 1 oz.; one 6-volt; bdel.com


Princeton Tec Fuel

Tough, bright, cheap–it's easy to like this three-LED headlamp. It throws a proximity beam 50 feet, and has three brightness settings, a flash mode, and a headband large enough for helmets or pumpkin-heads. The beam-angle ratchet is super secure, and battery changes are a snap with the durable compartment latch. Burn time: Rated battery life is 50 hours on high (it starts dimming at about 25), but we found medium and even low settings were usually fine for typical trail and camp use. The only knock? No spot beam. $25; 2.8 oz.; 3 AAAs; princetontec.com

eGear HL-120 Focus Control Plus

Don't shine this lamp in your buddy's eyes: It's the most brilliant light we tested, throwing a clean beam–free of rings or dark spots–a night-busting 170 feet. A lever focuses the beam's angle from 15 degrees (more reach) to 40 degrees (better peripheral coverage). Hold the button down for two seconds to dial through individual blue, green, and red proximity lights–useful modes for retaining night vision and preserving battery power. There's even a small red light on the battery housing, at the back, for safety and team racing (you'll be seen from the rear). Burn time: 16 hours on high (240 hours on a colored LED). $50; 7.2 oz.; 3 AAs; essentialgear.com

Petzl Myo XP

A new LED bulb and improved circuitry increase both light output and battery life for this tester favorite. It throws a bright beam 140 feet–with enough lumens that it's good for aggressive hiking even after three all-night epics without changing batteries. The single LED has three brightness levels, a flash setting, and a flip-down diffuser for wide-angle proximity uses. There's also a battery indicator light atop the front housing. Burn time: 80 hours on high, expect dimming at 20. $80; 6.2 oz.; 3 AAs; petzl.com