The Best Headlamps for Hunting

The Best Headlamps for Hunting

Two universal truths to outdoor excursions of all kinds are that they tend to take a little longer than we originally planned, and most of them should be intentionally experienced at night or well before the crack of dawn at least once.

Obviously, hunters are used to both scenarios. Pre- and post-daylight functionality is a must. That’s why a headlamp is arguably the most crucial piece of emergency gear you will carry. Whether you suddenly find yourself chasing a blood trail after sundown or your alarm is set for a time that starts with a 3 or a 4, having the best headlamp you can buy is necessary for your safety, efficiency, and overall enjoyment of whatever badass nocturnal experience you’re having.

What we Look for in a Headlamp

Conceptually, headlamps are pretty simple. They’re all variations on the theme of an adjustable elastic strap with a small, battery-powered light. But when you get into the various specs of today’s broad array of offerings, it can be easy to get lost in all the different features, modes, and fits. Luckily, our crew is not short on both accidental and purposeful after-dark or pre-dawn pursuits, so we know a thing or two about picking out the right headlamp. In short, we’re looking for:

  1. Reliability
  2. Lighting Modes
  3. Comfort & Fit

The Headlamps We Use

What Makes a Good Headlamp

1. Reliability

As with most outdoor gear, one of the most important aspects of a headlamp is that it functions when we need it to. That’s why we’re calling reliability our top consideration. This encompasses the duration of the battery life (or how convenient recharging will be), how sturdy the headlamp is, and whether it boasts any waterproofing or an all-weather performance guarantee.

If you’re going to spend long periods of time in the backcountry, it might be best to prioritize longevity over lumens. Sure, being able to see into the next county is great, but it’s not worth the total darkness that ensues when that battery eventually dies and you realize you forgot to pack extras. It’s also worth mentioning that dishing out for good batteries can make a difference.

2. Lighting Modes

Another important consideration is what modes the headlamp offers. We’re usually trying to stay invisible to critters, so a red light mode is super helpful. We’re also frequently going in and out of tents and vehicles, and we definitely don’t want to blind our buddies, so a dimmer switch helps quickly suppress the brightness of the main beam.

3. Comfort and Fit

We also want our headlamps to stay absolutely glued to our heads whether we’re sweating, shivering, bushwhacking, or setting up camp. Some headlamps have a second perpendicular strap that comes over the top, which can add security to the grip. We also frequently wear headlamps over hats or beanies or under hoods, so making sure the strap and profile fits with these added layers is key.

Field notes from the MeatEater Crew

Surefire Minimus Headlamp
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Angle-adjustable LED housing, 3 preset outputs up to a max of 300 lumens

Storm Headlamp
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Black Diamond

With a fully sealed waterproof housing, PowerTap Technology and Brightness Memory, the updated Storm now features 350 lumens of power, three-color RGB night vision and improved peripheral lighting for close-range tasks.

H15R Core Headlamp
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Spot 350 Headlamp
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Black Diamond

For midweek dawn patrols, all-night approaches, or just big climbing objectives that push beyond daylight, the Black Diamond Spot 350 has 350 lumens of power, now housed in a smaller, more efficient design.

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