I remember the first time I went hunting in the Wasatch forest. We hiked in during the night to camp. We had to take switchbacks up the back of the mountain to reach the meadow above, and in the dark the ground seemed to drop off to the left of the trail. Far up the way I could see headlamps of other hunters bouncing along, the only way I knew we weren’t totally alone crawling up the face of an ancient rock. When we reached the saddle, I knew my lamp was marking the way for later parties down below.
Headlamps serve many purposes. Not only was mine showing me the path in the pitch black of a national forest, it was marking my location for others coming behind. Later it helped me set up a tent and prepare a meal.
You need a headlamp for more than one reason, and the headlamp you choose should function effectively in different situations. We’ve laid it all out for you below–how to tell the bad headlamps from the good. We’ve also picked out five hunting headlamps that stand out above the rest and reviewed their features so you can find the one for your specific needs.
Hunting Headlamps – Our Top Picks
- Alaskan Guide Series XG – “A rugged but adjustable housing lets you use this hunting headlamp anytime anywhere. Great for extreme weather.”
- Kohree Cree– “A hunting headlamp with a rechargeable lithium ion battery pack means reliability and repeated use, season after season.”
- Princeton Tec Remix LED– “With extensive customization, anyone can benefit from this quality headlamp. Just great overall headlamp.”
- Browning Pro Hunter– “A ton of settings let you use it for almost anything, not just as a hunting headlamp.”
- Alaskan Guide Series QUL – “Great for its utility in wet environments”
- Danforce– “It’s hard to pass up a seven-year warranty”
- Black Diamond Storm – “The memory setting earned this headlamp a spot on our list”
- Buckmasters Streamlight– “The two different headbands are just one part of this hunting headlamp’s versatility”
- Mossy Oak Tactical– “Its resistance to impact make this headlamp a top choice”
What to look for
What exactly is a lumen? Basically, it’s the unit used to measure brightness.
When you’re shopping for a headlamp, keep in mind that you may be hunting where there is very little ambient light. You want something that provides enough light to see by, regardless of when and where you’re hunting.
In addition to basic lighting needs, a headlamp that can provide enough light to track a blood trail is a must. You should be able to use your gear effectively in the dark and be able set up your equipment without too much clumsy noise.
While lumens are an important consideration, you don’t necessarily need as many as possible. If your light is too intense, you’ll be visible from a distance. You have to find the right balance.
Light modes and beam types
Your headlamp may be equipped with several different kinds of beam. You’ll need to know the differences between them and have an idea of which beams are important to you.
The basic beams are as follows: wide/flood, spot and strobe. The wide/flood beam feature is great for basic lighting. It gives you a panoramic view of your immediate surroundings, but the beam doesn’t travel too far ahead of you.
The spotlight, on the other hand, provides a concentrated beam of light that projects farther away from you. This type of beam will come in handy when you’re tracking.
Some headlamps may include a strobe option, which is a good beam choice to indicate distress for use in emergencies. The flashing light more easily attracts attention.
It’s common to find a headlamp labeled with a “beam reach” of at least 80 yards. Whatever the assigned number on your headlamp, this is the maximum distance the beam can travel.
What color should your light be?
The light output you should choose in a headlamp will depend on when you’re hunting. Your headlamp may have red, green or white light settings. Each color serves a different function.
Red light is traditionally used for night hunting. The red filter gives you just enough light to see without interrupting your night vision. That way, you can switch back and forth between your headlamp and darkness without having to readjust.
Additionally, because red light isn’t as harsh as pure white light, it isn’t as conspicuous. You’re less likely to be spotted, and if you are, it’s less likely to spook any game.
You can also use green light for hunting at night. Green light is brighter than red and produces more contrast. This increases the detail you can see, but it also risks disturbing your night vision. Red is better for simple night movement while green may have advantages tracking in the dark.
White light provides the most visibility, of course. White light disrupts your night vision, however, so your eyes will have to adjust to the darkness again when you turn it off. It’s also visible from long distances and creates a lot of shadows that will spook game. You should only use white light for detailed tasks that require full visibility and color vision like constructing your tree stand.
The Ingress Protection (IP) rating is an international method that identifies how well a light fitting is protected from water and solid objects.
This measurement indicates how well the fitting will work and helps you determine whether the headlamp is suitable for rugged outdoor use. Really, there’s no reason not to get a waterproof headlamp.
This IP rating is listed as ‘IPXY’. The X is a number 0-6 that represents the solid particle protection capability. The Y is a number 0-9 that tells you the liquid protection capability.
You may come across headlamps without that first number. In those instances, the IP rating looks something like ‘IPX4’. This happens if no solid particle protection has been established.
You want to find one with a liquid rating of at least 4. That’s the industry’s ranking for weather-resistance and means your headlamp will be protected from water splashes in any direction. This is the popular rating among most lamps.
The greater that second number, the more water your headlamp can be exposed to without malfunctioning. If you have a headlamp with a rating of IPX7, for example, it’s submersible in water up to one meter deep for 30 minutes.
For solid objects the ratings range from protection against objects greater than 1.9 inches to complete protection from dust for two to eight hours.
Fit and adjustment
The headlamp fit is also a major consideration. You want something with a band that’s easily adjustable. You may need to wear it alone or over a hat, and who knows how your hairstyle might change. You want a band that can accommodate different situations.
When it comes to straps, you have multiple options. Some are made of rubber. This can give you a more custom fit and better protection from moisture, but it may be more uncomfortable for long periods of time.
You can also find fabric bands. Some of these are moisture absorbing and provide more comfort for prolonged wear. Many headlamps will have several straps, so you can choose what best suits you in any particular situation.
Not only do you want the headlamp straps to adjust easily, but the headlamp light should also be simple to operate. That way you can angle the beam of light as needed, even while looking down or using additional equipment.
A headlamp that fits badly or is difficult to adjust doesn’t do you any favors. As you can see from our picks, there are plenty of options on the market. Skip those that don’t meet your requirements.
Batteries / Longevity
If you are using a traditional battery-style headlamp, three AAA type batteries is the most common configuration. You may decide to use lithium-ion rechargeable batteries instead of single-use batteries.
If you have a portable charging station that can operate in the field, this is an effective system, but it’s another piece of equipment that’ll add weight to your pack. These batteries have become more reliable and long lasting, but they still lose charge as they age. They have a greater initial cost but often save you money in the long term.
If you decide on single-use batteries, it’s wise to carry extras. Even if you opt for rechargeable batteries, you’ll want two sets to rotate through so you’re never without a power source.
Single-use batteries also cost less, but all single-use batteries are not created equal. Cheaper batteries usually don’t have the same life as higher quality brands.
Your headlamp will probably list an expected battery lifetime, but this is only an estimate. Different functions—including beam type and color of light—all affect how quickly the lamp will drain its batteries.
A concentrated white beam generally uses batteries up more quickly. Your night vision and diffused beams don’t drain them quite as fast.
Not so heavy
Like much of your equipment, it’s important to consider the weight of your headlamp. You can anticipate wearing your headlamp for long stretches, sometimes in less-than-comfortable scenarios. Don’t add to your discomfort by choosing a bulky or heavy headlamp.
The lightest headlamps will weigh in at just a few ounces, while the heftier, more solid options will tip the scales at well over a pound. Try them both to determine what best suits you and your needs.
It’s impossible to predict what might happen when you’re outdoors. Whether you slip in the mud or drop your equipment, hunting gear needs to be sturdy. Look for a headlamp that can withstand serious use.
Ease of use
The point of your light is to help you use your other equipment. You don’t want a headlamp that’s going to be a hassle in and of itself. If you’re hunting during cold weather, your hands may be gloved. Look for a headlamp that’s simple to operate without too much dexterity.
Fortunately, there are many single-button headlamps on the market. There are even models that are triggered by motion—a simple wave of your hand can turn them on or off.
The Best Hunting Headlamps In-Depth
Cabela’s Alaskan Guide XG
Like the QUL, the Alaskan Guide XG is an all-weather hunting headlamp reflective of its name. With a third vertical adjustable headband and a resilient weatherproof housing, this model takes this toughness to an even further extreme.
The comfort of the three-headband design means you can wear it for long periods, and the 90-hour life of the Maxbright LED means you can use it for just as long. This light is also brighter than other Alaskan Guide models at 170 Lumens, still powered by just three AAA batteries. A green-light option also produces 15 Lumens and lasts 200 hours.
Of course, the added ruggedness comes with a couple downsides. For one, the XG is a bit heavier than the QUL at eight ounces. This is still fairly light, though, and you can wear it for a long time without getting weighed down. Plus, the increased power and durability of this model up the price a little.
Nevertheless, the XG is a good value for its top-shelf quality. Aside from the toughness that will allow you to hunt any terrain in any weather, the ability to adjust the size and angle of the light is a gamechanger on the hunt. It keeps you hidden before the kill and helps you work efficiently after. If you’re finally taking that five-day wilderness hunting trip in Denali that you’ve been planning for years, this would make a great part of your outfit. It’s expensive, but one of the best hunting headlamps you can buy.
What we liked:
- Three-headband design
- Weatherproof housing
- 170 Lumen Maxbright LED
- Durable construction
- Light adjustable by size and angle
What we didn’t:
- Price range
Princeton Tec Remix LED
Princeton Tec is known as one of the industry leaders for headlamps. Their products are expertly made, and the Remix LEDs are no exception. Going along with their renown in the market, the customer service you can expect from Princeton Tec is also stellar.
As for the product itself, the Remix LED is a line of headlamps that you can buy specific to your situation. There are ten different combinations of color, band design and brightness. You can pick only red, green or white LEDs, or you can choose from the combinations of green/blue, green/white or red/white.
Most impressively, the LEDs are intelligently programmed. While most headbands default to white, Remix LEDs with red default to red so you don’t accidentally give away your position or nightblind yourself. All the versions run on three AAA type batteries, but their life depends on the brightness you get. The brightest gives out a solid 300 Lumens while still lasting 150 hours.
You can choose from different patterns on the band as well. There are several camo options for hunters, depending on environment, including forest or mountain. There are also plain and solid-color patterns if you prefer.
Being one of the top brands, Princeton Tec is one of the pricier options, but that comes with a durability and commitment to service you can’t often find elsewhere. Overall, if you want a quality straightforward headband that you and rely on, this could be your answer.
What we liked:
- Different color combinations
- Red default
- Max 300 Lumens
- Camo options
- Durable design
- Great customer service
What we didn’t:
- Price range
This model is focused only on the light itself. It comes with no headband but is instead is a hunting headlamp designed to attach to either a soft or hard hunting cap. As you can guess, this comes with both upsides and downsides.
First, the positives. Since it doesn’t have to support its own weight, the designers had more leeway with the housing and battery pack. The results are three powerful LED options: red, green and white, with the main white beam piercing up to 275 yards. A five-position band rotary switch lets you cycle through these options including various power settings for the main beam.
Unlike most, this is a rechargeable headlamp, the battery pack is a lithium ion battery that lasts over 20 hours on the low beam. Not only does that save you money on batteries, but it means that as long as you charge the battery before your hunt, you’ll always have a headlamp with maximum life.
Now the drawbacks. Primarily, the powerful light and the fact that this is a rechargeable headlamp mean extra weight and cost. You can mitigate the extra weight by getting the right hat to go with it, but this requires some assembly on your part. Of course, this also gives you room for adjustability and customization so the headlamp is just right for your needs.
Since this has a lithium ion battery, Kohree does provide a two-year warranty. In addition, the anodized aluminum waterproof housing means durability and the multi-season use necessary to take advantage of the rechargeable battery.
What we liked:
- Three color options
- Three power options
- Rotary switch
- Rechargeable battery
- Two-year warranty
- Durable aluminum housing
What we didn’t:
- Price range
Browning Pro Hunter
Here’s a good mid-range headlamp that gets the job done without costing an arm and a leg. It’s especially good for sneaking into your tree stand in the early hours without startling any game. Of course, its simple design also means you can use it for jogging or cleaning the basement too.
This versatility is in large part due to the comfortable and adjustable elastic headband which includes a foam pad to soften the pressure of the plastic casing against your forehead. Many other models on the market lack this feature.
The light is suitable for most uses as well. The Cree LED produces 85 Lumens which it can send about 80 yards. However, you can adjust the light for whatever you need. There are both spot and flood light settings, three power settings, a flashing setting, and white, green and red color options. The green LED is an especially nice addition that some hunters might prefer over red for sneaking through the woods.
You don’t have to worry about the LEDs giving out either. They’re all rated for 100,000 hours of use, which essentially means you can use this headlamp year after year without replacing the bulbs. With three triple AAA batteries, you can use the low beam for nearly 24 hours.
Additionally, this model is small and compact. You can easily stuff it in your rucksack or pocket when you don’t need it, and it won’t weigh you down. Of course, this light weight is due to the basic plastic housing which may not survive the worst accidents.
Finally, though, our favorite thing–the memory switch. When you turn the headlamp on, it returns to whatever setting it had when you turned it off. This is really important at night when you don’t want to accidentally flip on the powerful white beam. You can momentarily blind yourself and spook any nearby game. None of that with this feature.
What we liked:
- Comfortable headband
- Foam padding
- Adjustable light with many options
- Three color options
- Small and lightweight
- Memory switch
Alaskan Guide Series QUL
The Cabela’s Alaskan guide series QUL headlamp has four lighting modes: high, medium, low and strobe. Ultra-bright 5mm LED bulbs produce 78 lumens.
This unit runs on three AAA batteries for up to 105 hours. What’s really great is a battery meter keeps you updated on how much battery is left so there are no surprises.
This unit is weatherproof and waterproof too, even submersible in depths up to three feet. Of course, that’s a great feature if you live somewhere with a lot of rain, but it’s especially helpful if you hunt in a lot of snow.
The headlamp weighs barely over three ounces, and it has an adjustable headband. That makes it comfortable for long periods. If it weren’t for its difficult operation with gloves, it would be the perfect remote cold-weather headlamp. It’s called the Alaskan Guide after all.
- Four lighting modes
- Strong 78-lumen beam
- Adjustable headband
- Difficult to operate with gloves
This 6,000-lumens headlamp has three Cree LED light bulbs. That makes it ultra bright and capable of cutting through low visibility.
This headlamp is waterproof and weatherproof. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using this headlamp for hunting in the extreme heat or extreme cold—it performs consistently.
It features a rechargeable battery in an airtight rubber sealing that keeps it protected from elements. Dust, ice, water, mud—whatever you come across while using this headlamp, you can expect it to stay protected.
This is a durable unit. Engineer tested and designed in the United States, this headlamp features five light modes and an adjustable lamp head. You can choose between low, medium, high, strobe and red-light modes.
In addition to the light modes, this headlamp allows you to choose between a focused beam and a flood-style light. With an IPX4 rating, this headlamp has no problem with extreme weather.
It even comes with a seven-year warranty. If you’re a hardcore hunter who travels to different environments to find the most challenging game, a tough headlamp like this can help you in all sorts of conditions.
- Cree LED light bulbs
- Rechargeable battery
- Airtight rubber sealing
- Five light modes
- Seven-year warranty
Black Diamond Storm
The Cabela’s Black Diamond is a three-light headlamp that produces 350 lumens. The beam can reach 87 yards. The headlamp also features three color modes to help preserve your night vision.
An IP67 rating means this headlamp is protected from both solids and liquids and is submersible in up to three feet of water. At less than four ounces and with an adjustable headband, it’s great for long wear and a customized fit. That makes it a good option for early birds and hunters who stay late into the night.
The push-button operation means it’s easy to use. It’s powered by three AAA batteries that will give you around 160 hours of use. Unfortunately, this long battery life comes at a cost. The light is dimmer than some other models.
A strobe function, spot feature and adjustable brightness make this a versatile piece of equipment for different situations. A really cool thing is the memory setting that powers the lamp on on the last setting you used.
- IP67 rating
- Easy to use
- 160-hour battery life
- Memory setting
- Dimmer light
The Buckmasters Streamlight offers both white light and green light. You can combine these with three levels of illumination. It has a 63-hour battery life as well as a low battery indicator.
This headlamp has an IPX4 rating, and best of all, it’s shock absorbing. It even comes with two different headbands—one elastic and one rubber. If you’re looking for a single headlamp you can rely on for a variety of needs, the Buckmasters Streamlight is a good option. Its tough design is especially nice for stand hunters who might accidentally drop it.
This is a heavier unit, coming in at about 1.5 pounds, but that’s because it has three different LEDs and one C4 LED. The white light provided by the Streamlight is a focused beam. The different illumination levels of the green light allow you to choose just what you need so you don’t make yourself too conspicuous.
- Three illumination options
- Low battery indicator
- Shock absorbing
- Two different headbands
- Three LEDs and one C4 LED
Mossy Oak Tactical
This headlamp features four light modes (high, low, red and purple) and rates at 200 lumens. It’s both shockproof and impact resistant. If you’re looking for a durable, well-made hunting headlamp, suitable for hunting, the Mossy Oak Tactical is a true contender.
These bulbs have approximately 100,000 hours of life and a 450-foot beam reach. The light is bright and good quality, and it only requires AAA battery cells. This keeps it lightweight at under one pound.
We also want to point out the quality materials. Still hunters can benefit from the durability and the light weight. It’s easy to operate and fits comfortably, too, so you can wear it for a while.
Last but not least, it comes at a great price.
- Four light modes
- Impact resistant
- 100,000 hours of bulb life
- Low price range
- Low battery life