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How To Choose a Headlamp

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Either it is a workplace (like coal mining), camping or any activity task, a head torch should be an essential piece in your kit to complete it effortlessly with its handsfree design. One has to check with the adjustable straps, built construction, waterproof nature, light brightness of the head torch before buying it.

In this buying guide, we have provided all the essential information, including various features which you have to consider to let you grab the best headlamp.

1. Lumens

Lumens are used to quantify the amount of light produced by a light source (brightness). In general, the lumens of headlamps will range from 50 – 1000+ lumens. For instance, the headlamps with less lumen range is great for use at campsites and groups, whereas the if you’re climbing or caving or want to lighten up the large area, then you will require headlamps with output of 200 – 500+ lumens.

Along with the battery usage, the lumen output will go down and dim the lamp. So, to extend the battery life and light output, a few models come with different modes to adjust the lumens output.

2. Beam Type

Most of the modern headlamps uses LED bulbs to make it more durable, energy efficient, and long lasting. The type of bulb will be determined by the beam type. There are different beam types of headlamps – wide, spot, beam pattern & variable. A few high-end models can easily switch to either mode, as per their requirement.

  • Wide Beam – Here the headlamps will produce a dispersed light (floodlight) in a wide angle for illuminating campsites or close objects.
  • Spot Beam (or Narrow/Focused) – Lighten up the path for ahead to cover dark, uncharted area. Useful while running, cycling, hiking, in any dark hours/night.
  • Variable Beam – This will let you switch in between a spot and wide-angle throw in a single headlamp.
  • Beam Pattern – High quality headlamps will create a uniform beam without splotches or dark rings. It is achieved with best quality lenses and reflectors.

3. Light Brightness Modes

The headlamps provide a number of different light modes that let you set the brightness as per your requirement without draining battery.

Strobe / flash as signal in emergencies or preserve battery life. It makes you visible while running, biking, or hiking along roadside.

Red light mode for viewing stars, cooking, or wildlife without losing the night vision. Used widely for overnight campers, as it extends the battery life.

High (Spotlight) mode for focused, bright light directed towards a distant object. Suits best for spotting climbing anchors, night hiking, etc.

Middle mode is offered by a few models, in which it illuminates with mid-level of brightness.

Low (Floodlight) mode also known as proximity/standard mode, used to produce a wider beam of dimmer, soft light towards downwards to see nearby objects. Energy efficient light setting option that suits for night hikes, cooking in camp, etc.

Zoom / boost mode for high intensity beam for short period (10 – 20 seconds). Found on a few models like what causing rustling sound nearby bushes but this mode will exert a high drain on batteries.

4. Beam Distance / Beam Length

Light source is essential to navigate in dark. Beam length is the distance that light can travel (like meters). So, one should know how far the headlamp will project the light while cycling, running or rappelling in dark/night. The headlamp with greater beam distance will cause fast depletion of batteries. The longer the beam distance the faster it will drain the battery power. So, it’s necessary to check the beam distance of a particular headlamps before its purchase.

5. Runtime

One should know the runtime of headlamp in each mode, especially while heading out for a night ride or hike. This runtime or burn-time is used to quantify how long the lamp will produce usable light till the battery charging lasts. The average running time of headlamps is 3 – 4 hours, which depends on the brightness and beam length of the particular lamp.

Even though, the manufacturers determine the runtime by conducting tests with low setting of the headlamp. We suggest you to carry extra batteries to make it use, if essential to complete your task without any problem.

6. Size & Weight

Most of the headlamps comes with a consistent size whereas a few are simple options that are intended to use in emergency. Also, check that the headlamp will fit /compatible properly on the hard hat or helmet. Its strap should be long enough to wrap it around.

A few models of headlamps are bigger and heavier due to additional battery and quantity of LEDs in the lamp, which are designed for night rides on mountain bike. A quality headlamp should be comfortable, lightweight and sturdy to produce adequate amount of light.

7. Water Resistance

The IPX rating of a particular headlamp will let you about its weather resistant, waterproofing and breathability ratings. Here the IP stands for Ingress Protection and the X means no dust rating. The IPX rating system like IPX – 0 is not water resistant and getting any contact with water may damage the electronic components.

Most of the headlamps offers the water protection by IPX – 4 to IPX – 8, in which the electronics withstand liquid splashing (rain drops or ambient humidity) in any angle. So, it’s essential to check the waterproof/water-resistance rating (at least IPX – 4) of a particular headlamp before its purchase.

8. Power Source / Battery

Almost all the headlamps use batteries (rechargeable or replaceable batteries) as their power source. They operate on either AA or AAA batteries, which you have to replace them regularly. A few models use rechargeable lithium ion or NIMH batteries that offer a mini – USB recharging option, which let you recharge in between the trips or outside in sun if you have a solar power source. A few high-end models will offer both options for its longer working.

While working on brightest mode, the headlamp will drain their charge up to 4 times faster. So, some models offer external battery packs to use for extended period of time. Or else you can carry power source (as backup) along with you to extend the runtime or power a higher lumen of your headlamp.

9. Comfort

A headlamp should come with a design of adjusting the strap to secure the light properly on the forehead without placing too much pressure. A few models will distribute the weight between front, and back to provide proper balance and less bouncing. So, one has to choose the headlamp which is made of durable yet soft fabric and adjusters won’t get loosen or slip on its own.

10. Price

Avoid buying cheap quality headlamps, as they made with cheap, crappy plastic that won’t last longer. Its battery will run out in less time and makes you feel big and bulky that wobbling around the head. So, it’s advisable to purchase a best quality headlamp at a reasonable price. Here the brand, warranty and reviews of the particular product should be noticed.

Additional Features:

There are some add-ons features which you have to know to make proper use of headlamp, in any situation.

  • Dimmer Function – Useful feature, especially when trying to conserve battery life or perform your task without irritating others.
  • Tilt Feature – Useful to illuminate the ground while walking. Simply tilt the headlamp down rather than looking at feet to illuminate the path.
  • Light Sensors – Adjust the light brightness (lumen output – dim or bright) automatically based on the setting without user interface.
  • Lock-Out Feature – Act as a key for storing a headlamp in the pack while travelling without draining batteries.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.How to check features on intended use/activity?

It is always essential to know the intended settings, which will make the selection process much easier. A few features required for your task whereas a few won’t. So, here are some features to look based on your intended usage.
Camping – spot beam, longer battery life with red light mode, & tilt feature.
Running – lightweight & high beam distance.
Hiking – waterproof, light sensors, lock-out & tilt features.
Climbing – tilt feature & spot beam
Trail Biking – spot beam & high beam distance.

2.How to clean and maintain the headlamp?

Here are some tips that ensure headlamp to work for a longer time.
Its suggested to remove the batteries from headlamp before storing it/not going to use for a longer time. Regular cleaning of headlamp will let it function properly and look presentable. Simply remove the hardware from headband strap and remove batteries. Wash the band to clean the headlamp set and clean all its surfaces, simply use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to wipe off all grime and dirt.
To make the lens crystal clear, you have to apply a thick paste made from baking soda & water on the lens. Clean it with a soft rag and repeat it regularly.

3.How long does the batteries last?

The battery runtime of headlamp will determine the number of hours the light can be operated at full power. Also, it indicates how efficient the headlamp uses its battery power. In general, the runtime can be at least 3 – 4 hours and if it is even more, then it might have a heavy battery. How bright the light produced/used by the lamp will determine how long it’s battery last. So, choose a headlamp with decent runtime and average beam length to complete your task.

4.What are the types of work headlamps and why we need it?

There are various types of headlamps used for different professions. You have to select the specific type as per your work requirement. They are headlamps for firefighters (waterproof & shockproof), mechanics (high luminous intensity with spot beam), mineworkers (bright light for a longer time without causing static) & oil rig works (same as mineworkers but won’t require bright light).
It allows you to work with both hands while still providing enough illumination. It makes it easier to move around as you go on your way, especially while crawling into tight spaces. Also, it let you visible to prevent horrendous accidents from happening with its bright light. So, it’s worth purchasing the perfect headlamp to perform your function/activity.

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