The 5 Best Headlamps and Lanterns of 2018

Let these versatile lights illuminate your path.
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Ledlenser MH10

gear guide 2018 ledlenser headlamp

Our take The MH10 is a head cannon. With a beastly 600 lumens, it can illuminate terrain up to about 500 feet away, which let one tester scout climbing routes up the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado, before dawn. The MH10 combines a reflector with an adjustable lens, allowing you to focus the light by twisting the bezel for a concentrated beam that lacks the dark spots or dimming around the edges that often plague reflector-only lights. The tradeoff for all that juice? A chunky, cigar-size rechargeable battery pack that sits at the back of your head, and the MH10 lasts only 10 hours on its highest setting (120 hours on low). But at least it has a rear-facing red LED on there, too.

Trail cred “On pre-dawn patrols at our local ski resort, I have to ski at half speed with normal headlamps,” our tester says. “With the MH10, I can rip and not worry about outpacing my field of view.”

$80; 5.6 oz. Buy Ledlenser MH10 Now

Black Diamond Apollo

gear guide 2018 black diamond lantern

Our take A camp lantern is a luxury item, and the redesigned Apollo feels like one. Its frosted plastic enclosure puts out 225 lumens of soft white light that dims down to a gentle glow when you hold down its single button. During a ski tour up Colorado’s James Peak, our tester took advantage of the light’s entire range, using the soup can-size lantern’s highest setting to sort gear at an open bivy, then turning it down for glare-free bedtime reading. (He also used the USB port to charge his phone.) The Apollo can run up to 24 hours on low between its two power sources—an internal battery and an optional, three-AA backup. Ding: Luxury light means luxury weight.

Trail cred “I appreciated the LED power meters for the internal battery and the AAs, which make it easy to figure out how much juice the Apollo has left,” our tester says.

$60; 12.1 oz. Buy Black Diamond Apollo Lantern Now

Lander Cairn

gear guide 2018 lander lantern

Our take With the Cairn, Lander ditched the self-standing design of most lanterns for something more packable and versatile. While it can’t stand on its own, the Cairn has an integrated shock cord anchor that let us tie it to support beams and illuminate gear piles in darkened huts in New Zealand’s Egmont National Park. “Hanging it is simple,” says our tester. “Just loop the cord around a tree branch, secure it with the plastic toggle, and bam: You’ve got overhead lighting, with none of the shadows or dark spots some lanterns cast.” The Cairn’s 3,300mAh battery lasts up to 40 hours on low. Bonus: The external USB port can fully charge an iPhone 7 Plus or similarly powerful phones.

Trail cred “We were storing our food in bear boxes in Arizona, which meant unloading our bags every night,” our tester says. “The Cairn’s 300-lumen output ensured that we didn’t misplace anything in the dark.”

$50; 10 oz. Buy Lander Cairn Lantern Now

Black Diamond Storm

gear guide 2018 black diamond headlamp

Our take Near, far, and all-around, the Storm has reliably lit our campsites and nighttime adventures for years. And now it’ll light them brighter—it’s up to 350 lumens from the previous 250—and in more colors now that a blue mode joins the existing green and red. The power boost is the biggest upgrade, giving us the confidence to get started earlier on dawn-patrol ski tours through heavily treed terrain in Colorado’s Butler Gulch. Also cool: A brightness memory returns the headlamp to your previous setting when you turn it on, and the lamp dims with the same simple touch as previous versions. In other ways, it’s delightfully retro. The Storm runs on four AAA batteries, which keep it going for about 160 hours on low. Bonus: It’s waterproof to one meter.

Trail cred “The three colored lights may sound like overkill, but they were clutch for reading the lines on multicolored topo maps,” says our tester. “The green light makes brown lines pop, while blue light turns green lines black.” 

$50; 3.9 oz. Buy Black Diamond Storm Headlamp Now

Uco AIR

gear guide 2018 uco headlamp

Our take At a featherweight 1.6 ounces, the AIR is one of the lightest full-featured headlamps we’ve ever tested. “It felt like I was wearing a headband, not a piece of hardware,” says our tester. Users control the AIR with an intuitive dial around the bulb: Twist left to turn on the white LED, which was bright enough (150 lumens on max setting) for night hiking in rocky terrain in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park; twist right to trigger the red beam. Tradeoff: The Air’s miniscule 170 mAh rechargeable battery lasts five hours on low and just under an hour on high. If you’re headed out for more than a night or two, plan on topping it off from a power bank; otherwise, it’s best as an emergency option for dayhikes.

Trail cred “I frequently took it on evening trail runs in the hills outside Boulder, Colorado,” our tester says. “I didn’t feel the Air shifting around on my head like a heavier headlamp does.”

$35; 1.6 oz. Buy UCO AIR Headlamp Now

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