One of the most important pieces of gear in any trail runners pack is your headlamp. It’s required at a lot of races. And something no runner or hiker wants to be caught without after dark. But like most things nowadays there are a ton of options on the market. And finding the right trail running headlamp can be a challenge. With choices ranging from trusted name brands to cheap Chinese knockoffs. So what is the right choice for you?
Below we’ll take a look at some of the most trusted running headlamps on the market. From brands that won’t leave you out in the dark… literally.
- Choosing the right trail running headlamp is crucial, as it’s essential for safety during nighttime runs.
- Avoid headlamps with internal, non-replaceable batteries for longer outings.
- Top Trail Running Headlamp Picks:
- Fenix HM65R-T: Powerful, lightweight, and durable with USB-C rechargeable feature.
- Petzl Swift RL: Versatile and adaptive lighting, compact design, and durable with a 5-year guarantee.
- Black Diamond Icon 700: Waterproof, powerful, and durable but heavier with numerous setting options.
- PETZL ACTIK CORE: Incredibly lightweight and suitable for ultra running and backpacking.
- Black Diamond Storm 400: A durable option for any weather conditions but offers lower lumens.
How to Pick the Right Running Headlamp
Choosing the right running headlamp is essential for safety and visibility, especially when running in low-light conditions. Here are some tips to help you pick the right running headlamp:
- Brightness: Look for a headlamp with adjustable brightness settings. For running, a headlamp with at least 100 lumens is a good starting point. You may want a brighter headlamp for off-road or trail running.
- Beam Distance: Consider the beam distance you need. If you run on well-lit streets, a shorter beam distance may suffice. For trail running, you’ll want a headlamp with a longer beam distance to see further ahead.
- Beam Type: There are different beam types – flood and spot. A combination of both is ideal. Use a wider flood beam for peripheral vision and a spot beam for focusing on the path ahead.
- Battery Life: Check the battery life of the headlamp, especially if you plan on long runs. Some headlamps have a rechargeable battery, while others use replaceable batteries. Ensure the battery life matches your running duration.
- Weight and Comfort: Look for a lightweight and comfortable headlamp that won’t bounce or cause discomfort during your run. Adjustable straps and a balanced design are key features for comfort.
- Water Resistance: Opt for a water-resistant or waterproof headlamp to protect against rain or sweat. Look for an IPX rating to determine the level of water resistance.
- Red Light Mode: Many headlamps offer a red light mode, which helps preserve night vision and is less likely to disturb others if you’re running in a group or near residential areas.
- Beam Angle Adjustment: A tiltable headlamp allows you to adjust the beam angle to suit your needs. This is especially useful if you need to see the ground up close or the path further ahead.
- Durability: Choose a headlamp made of durable materials. Look for a headlamp with shock resistance and one that can withstand the rigors of running.
- Brand Reputation and Reviews: Research and read reviews about the headlamp you’re interested in. Reputable brands often produce reliable products. Reviews from other runners can provide valuable insights.
- Budget: Set a budget for your headlamp purchase. While quality headlamps can be found at various price points, be prepared to spend a bit more for added features and reliability.
- Extra Features: Some headlamps come with additional features such as a strobe mode for emergency situations, a lock mode to prevent accidental activation, or a battery indicator to show the remaining charge.
- Try It On: If possible, try the headlamp on before purchasing it to ensure it fits comfortably and securely on your head.
My Favorite Trail Running Headlamps
It should also be noted that you won’t see any headlamps with internal, non-replaceable batteries on this list. Even if you put fresh batteries in it is always recommended to carry an extra set when you’re out on the trails in the dark. Headlamps with internal batteries that you can not carry a backup for should be avoided unless you are looking for something for a local short run.
Fenix HM65R-T Running Headlamp
Why you want it: The Fenix HM65R-T headlamp is a compelling choice for anyone seeking a powerful and versatile lighting solution. With its dual-beam design, it offers a remarkable 1300 lumens spotlight, providing exceptional visibility up to 185 yards, while its 400 lumens floodlight ensures effective close-range illumination. What sets it apart is its combination of lightweight durability, thanks to a magnesium alloy frame that’s 32% lighter than aluminum but equally robust. This headlamp can withstand impacts up to 2 meters and boasts an impressive IP68 waterproof rating. The comfort factor is also addressed with a redesigned headband featuring the SPORT Fit tightening system, reducing weight and enhancing comfort, making it an excellent choice for trail runners. Furthermore, the USB-C rechargeable feature ensures convenience, and the LED battery life indicator keeps you informed when it’s time for a recharge. With the added bonus of a LumenTac organizer for carrying spares, the Fenix HM65R-T is a comprehensive lighting solution for outdoor enthusiasts seeking reliability, power, and comfort in one package.
Why you may think twice: There isn’t much about this headlamp that falls in the negative category. It’s lightweight and incredibly powerful with bow a spot and flood light. It’s fast charging and the batteries can be changed out. The only reason you may want to think twice is if you want to look at waist belt light. Aside from that this is my go to choice for running headlamps.
Fenix HM65R-T Review
“This light is a winner. Even with just the flood on highest it is so bright. I tend to have poor night vision and this light is more than adequate. I hike at night or dark morning on dirt trails and some asphalt. To quality I am not a trail runner. I am a hiker and Nordic walker at a fast pace. If I add the spot function this thing is amazing. It is light and it does not bounce for me even downhill jogging. I love the fact that I can adjust the angle of the light from those side knobs without touching the on/off/intensity buttons.”
Petzl, Swift RL Rechargeable Headlamp with 900 Lumens
Why you want it: The Petzl Swift RL rechargeable headlamp is a versatile lighting solution ideal for dynamic activities like trail running, skiing, and mountaineering. Its 2-part headband offers excellent stability, and the innovative REACTIVE LIGHTING technology adjusts brightness based on ambient light levels, optimizing battery usage and burn time. Despite its compact 100g design, it delivers a powerful 900 lumens of light, providing up to 100 hours of battery life and a 150-meter range. User-friendly, it’s controlled with a single button, features a battery indicator, and has a reflective headband for added safety. Backed by a 5-year guarantee, the Swift RL ensures reliable performance for years to come, making it an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts seeking both power and durability.
Why you may think twice: This headlamp is number two on my list for a reason, It’s a top contended for the best overall headlamp. But in my testing there are few things that kept it out of the top spot. The auto dim feature is great in theory but sometimes it dims when you don’t want it to. And second the battery doesn’t hold a change as long as the Fenix even though it’s heavier overall. That said I know a lot of people that swear by it and I don’t think it will disappoint most runners.
Petzl, Swift RL Rechargeable Headlamp Review
“I hiked the Appalachian trail this weekend in the early morning before dawn. I had never used a headlamp before. This thing lights up the world! I thought I wouldnt like the reactive/adaptive feature because I’m a scaredy cat and I want it 100% bright the whole time, but it was so convenient. Despite the sunrise finally coming i still needed light on the trail but not looking ahead. This light adapted perfectly, when I looked down at where I was stepping, it would brighten. When I looked up ahead it would dim as necessary. I will never own anything else.”
Black Diamond Icon 700 Headlamp
Why you want it: The Black Diamond Icon offers a lot to love in a trail running headlamp. The over the top strap makes the back loaded battery compartment feel secure when running. It’s waterproof and built to the Black Diamond quality standard. Meaning this thing is tough. The 700 lumens light is powerful allowing you to see as far as you could possibly want. And the settings allow you to dial it in to your liking. There is also a light setting memory so it will be on the same setting when you turn the headlamp off.
Why you may think twice: This Icon is much heavier than other headlamps on this list. A few ounces may not seem like a big deal. But if you’re running long hours into the night, every ounce adds up. There are also a lot of setting options with only a few buttons. This means if you make a change it can be difficult to get back to the setting you like. Especially if you change them accidentally at 3am on the trail.
Black Diamond Icon 700 Review
“Another great product from Black Diamond. I have this light mounted to my type 1 helmet and it exceeds my expectations. The RGB light modes are great when you’re trying to maintain your night vision and the white light modes dominate the darkness without overpowering the situation. Dimmable on all modes, RGB is bright enough to navigate (clearly see the ground) on a moonless night. I found the battery indicator functions per design when using rechargeable AA batteries (I use Goal Zero AA), but will only display 1 led when using disposable batteries. I have had this light in service during subfreezing temperatures and 3+ hour exposures to heavy rainfall/snow fall without incident. Would highly recommend to anyone needing a dependable light for when it counts.”
PETZL, ACTIK CORE Headlamp, 450 Lumens, Rechargeable, with CORE Battery
Why you want it: The PETZL ACTIK CORE packs a lot of light into a small package. This thing is incredibly lightweight. At 75 grams you are not going to find a more ideal headlamp for ultra running and backpacking. It also comes with a rechargeable battery pack that allows you to use either the PETZL rechargeable pack or regular batteries. I really like this design feature.
Why you may think twice: The lightweight design could also be a downside when it comes to durability. And the headlamp is only rated as water resistant. So if you want something that could withstand full submersion this probably isn’t the right product for you.
PETZL ACTIK CORE Review
“I like this headlamp. The red settings are bright and useful for preserving night vision. The 3 levels of white are helpful and provide enough variability. The unit is very lightweight, comfortable, and the lamp pivots on the headband so spot work and simple walking are both accommodated. The build quality is quite good. The only gripe, pushing the single button at different durations to raster between red/white/brightness can be off-putting– it’s hard to get the results you want right off the bat.”
Black Diamond Storm 400 Headlamp
Why you want it: This thing is the tank of ultra running headlamps . It runs in any weather and is fully submersible. The Black Diamond Storm will work under water and is a favorite of cavers for it’s durability. The case fits 4 batteries so the light lasts a long time. And it features much of the same features that come on the Black Diamond Icon. Adjustable light settings, red light feature, tough dim feature, and light setting memory. You can check a more in-depth review on the Black Diamond Storm by click here.
Why you may think twice: If you want a more powerful light for the trail then you may want to look at other options. With 400 lumens the light is lower on the end of light output. The light settings can be difficult to work with, Given you only have a a few buttons to control a bunch of functions.
Black Diamond Storm Review
“I’ve used this headlamp for the past year before I picked up another as a backup. I’ve dropped this in mud, water, off of trees and it still holds up just like I got it yesterday. Battery life is pretty good and I haven’t had any issues with flickering. The only drawback is that the touch dimmer is a bit sensitive so I usually lock the light when caving.”
Selecting the perfect running headlamp is paramount to ensuring your safety and visibility during low-light runs. By following the tips outlined in this blog post, you can make an informed choice that not only illuminates your path but also enhances your overall running experience. Remember, a well-chosen headlamp can be a runner’s best friend, providing the confidence to conquer those early morning or evening workouts while staying safe and visible. So, whether you’re a dedicated night owl or an early riser, take these guidelines to heart and light up your running journey for both safety and enjoyment.
What is the ideal brightness for a running headlamp?
The ideal brightness for a running headlamp depends on your needs and the environment. For urban running, around 150-200 lumens should suffice. For trails or areas with poor lighting, consider a headlamp with 200-400 lumens or more.
What beam type should I look for in a running headlamp?
A headlamp with a focused or spot beam is suitable for running. It helps you see the path ahead clearly without blinding others. Some headlamps also offer adjustable beam angles for versatility.
What is the best battery type for a running headlamp?
Most running headlamps use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries or disposable batteries. Rechargeable batteries are more cost-effective in the long run and environmentally friendly. However, if you need extended battery life for ultra-long runs, consider a headlamp with swappable battery options.
Are there any specific features I should look for in a running headlamp?
Look for features like a comfortable and adjustable headband, water-resistance or waterproofing, and multiple brightness settings. Red LED lights are useful for preserving night vision. Additionally, consider a headlamp with a wide beam for peripheral visibility.
How long should the battery life be for a running headlamp?
Battery life depends on the headlamp’s brightness setting. A headlamp with around 3-5 hours of battery life on a high setting is usually sufficient for most runs. Some models offer longer battery life by using lower brightness settings.
Are there any considerations for headlamp weight and comfort when running?
Lightweight and comfortable headlamps are essential for running. Look for models with moisture-wicking headbands and adjustable straps to ensure a secure fit without bouncing. Try the headlamp on before purchasing to ensure it’s comfortable for your head shape.