To choose the right light for you, we recommend you think about how it might perform when things go wrong. We think it’s worth considering a headlamp as a tool that can make a difference under less than ideal conditions and investing in a light that will serve you when things go wrong. Consider about the challenge of situations you might face: bad weather, cold temperatures, complex trail-finding, injuries, broken equipment or vehicles, and the need for light for much longer than expected.

Some concerns about headlamp’s features you should keep in mind when make a purchase decision:

1 – Floodlight

almost every light offers a wide floodlight mode which casts a wide beam. This kind of light is ideal for close-proximity use, such as preparing meals at the campsite, rummaging in the tent or reading.

2 – Spotlight

while a wide beam is great around camp, when you need to see at a distance a focused bright beam is ideal. The best lights shine a full football field length (100m) or over. These bright beams are ideal for trail finding situations where the ability to see trail markings at long distance is ideal.

3 – Red light

There are a few reasons a red light can come in handy. The first is battery life: the red LED is more efficient and can dramatically extend run-time. This can also be useful in a search-and-rescue scenario, because a flashing red LED can be seen at a great distance, yet will last the longest. Many people use a red LED to preserve night vision. This has an advantage for star-gazing, since it takes up to an hour for your eyes to get full adjusted to the dark, but you may need some light in the meantime.

4 – Waterproof

the waterproof lights are able to withstand water splashing against the enclosure from any direction. An IPX 4 rating provides sufficient water resistance for continued operation in a rain storm. A handful of high-end lights include an IPX 7 rating are waterproof down to one meter deep. Durability is an important criteria. Again, we’re thinking about survival when things go wrong, and one of those considerations is bad weather. Imagine yourself hiking out at night when it starts pouring rain. Will your light still work?

5 – Battery Run-time:

most of the lights best operate on either AAA or AA alkaline batteries. Athought they will generally work with after-market rechargeable batteries, you can expect that both brightness and battery run-time are reduced. Battery run-time is not a big consideration for everyone. If you are car camping and bring some extra batteries along, you are unlikely to ever have a problem (and in most cases, you won’t even need to tap into your extra battery stash). But, when things go wrong, battery run-time matters. We keep the risk of an all-night hike out of the backcountry, with an injured party member and/or failed equipment in mind. The ideal light can sustain output in the high setting all night.

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