The Best Headlamps for RV Camping
Take One of These Powerful and Versatile Lights with You on Your Next Adventure
There once was a time when picking out a headlamp was easy. You went to your favorite outdoor store, perused the meager options available, and bought one that offered the brightest light in the smallest package that your budget allowed.
But in recent years, advances in technology have made it much more challenging to choose the right model. Today’s headlamps are smaller, lighter, and brighter than ever before. They are also more efficient, more comfortable to wear, and more affordable too. On top of that, there are far more options to choose from, making selecting the right one all the more challenging. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
Why You Should Take a Headlamp with You When Camping
A headlamp is one of the most valuable pieces of gear that any outdoor enthusiast can own. Having a hands-free light source at your disposal comes in handy in a number of situations, including setting up camp or preparing a meal after dark. They’re also helpful for navigating inside the RV without turning on all the lights and illuminating dark spots when working under the hood.
Beyond those day-to-day utilitarian uses, a headlamp could potentially save your life. Not only do they make hikers and trail runners more visible to others, they illuminate your map and route when you find yourself accidentally caught out after sunset. For that reason alone, it is a good idea to carry one in your backpack at all times, even if you don’t expect to be gone long enough to need it.
What to Look for When Buying a Headlamp
When shopping for a headlamp, there are a few things to keep an eye on. Those include:
- Lumens: This is a measure of a headlamp’s brightness. The higher the number, the brighter the light. Most models will allow you to adjust the lamp’s intensity, dialing up more illumination as needed or scaling it back to preserve battery life.
- Battery Life: All manufacturers estimate how long their headlamps will run on a single set of batteries or a charge. On the brightest setting, that number could be just three or four hours, while on a lower setting, it could potentially run 50-60 hours or more, depending on the size of the battery and the efficiency of the light.
- Rechargeable or Replaceable Batteries: Many modern headlamps now have built-in rechargeable batteries. This can make them lighter and more efficient, but it could mean you have to find a way to keep them charged while in the field. Meanwhile, models that use replaceable power cells tend to be heavier and bulkier, but when the batteries die, they can be easily replaced.
- Modes: Most headlamps now offer multiple modes of use. For instance, they have several brightness settings, with some offering infinite dimming levels. Additionally, many models come with a red light mode, which doesn’t inhibit the eye’s natural ability to see in the dark. That can be handy when out stargazing, for instance. Some headlamps even come with a flashing beacon setting that can send an SOS signal in an emergency.
- Weather Resistance: Check to see if the headlamp offers any level of water resistance. This is usually expressed as an IPX rating indicating its performance in inclement weather. For example, an IPX-4 rating means the light can survive a rain storm, while an IPX-7 rating allows it to continue to function after being submerged in water.
- Beam Type: Some headlamps allow the user to alter the focus of the light. This will enable them to switch between a tight beam that shines in a narrow cone or a broader, more dispersed pattern. A cone is brighter and travels further but doesn’t illuminate as much area. Meanwhile, the wider light source covers more space around the user but doesn’t travel nearly as far.
Now that we know what to look for when selecting a headlamp, here are the best models that are currently available.
Best Overall Headlamp: Black Diamond Storm 400
Black Diamond has consistently made outstanding headlamps for years, and the Storm 400 continues that legacy. This model has six different brightness levels, topping out at 400 lumens, with a runtime of 150 hours on its lowest setting. It also features three different light colors for improved night vision and has both proximity and distance modes for optimal illumination.
The headlamp weighs just 4.2 ounces and has an IP67 water resistance rating, making it completely dust and waterproof. It is powered by four replaceable AAA batteries and features a memory mode that maintains its brightness settings even after it has been turned off. Add in a comfortable headband, and you have a fantastic hands-free light source for use in a variety of settings. Price: $50
Best Rechargeable Headlamp: Petzl Actik Core
Petzl is another brand that has been making excellent headlamps for decades. The company’s Actik Core model has been a best seller for years thanks to its performance and versatility. This model comes with a rechargeable battery pack that provides up to 100 hours of burn time between charges. But that pack can be removed and replaced with three AAA batteries, ensuring you always have a power source when you need it.
On its brightest setting, the Actik Core produces up to 600 lumens of light, but it has a medium (100 lumens) and low (7 lumens) mode that helps extend battery life. It also has a red-light setting for night vision and both a wide and narrow beam. The headlamp tips the scales at just 3.1 ounces and has an IPX4 weather rating, allowing it to continue functioning in the rain. Price: $75
Best Lightweight Headlamp: BioLite HeadLamp 325
Thanks to improvements in technology, headlamps have gotten thinner and lighter over the years. But few models can compete with the BioLite HeadLamp 325 in this department, which somehow manages to weigh just 1.75 ounces without compromising performance. This makes it an excellent choice for high-intensity outdoor activities, including hiking, running, cross-country skiing, and cycling. Its no-bounce headband is also incredibly comfortable, making the headlamp perfect for use just about anywhere.
The HeadLamp 325 produces 325 lumens on its highest setting, with a dimming feature that balances brightness and battery life. This light has a maximum runtime of about 40 hours and features a red light mode along with white and red emergency strobes. It has an IPX4 water resistance rating and a built-in rechargeable battery. Price: $40
Best Budget Headlamp: Princeton Tec Byte
If you’re shopping for a headlamp on a budget, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a model that is better than the Princeton Tec Byte. Priced at under $20, this model offers 100 lumens of output and a runtime of up to 100 hours. It even has a red light mode that is surprisingly bright without impairing night vision.
At 2.25 ounces, the Byte is very lightweight and comfortable to wear. Like other headlamps on this list, it features an IPX4 water resistance rating, preventing damage from rain and water splashes. The light uses two AAA batteries, which are easy to find when traveling and replace in the field. Price: $19
Best Headlamp for Kids: Black Diamond Wiz
Even the smallest RVers need a wearable light source from time to time, which is why Black Diamond offers the Wiz headlamp. This model is designed specifically with kids in mind and features a comfortable headband and bright, vibrant colors. It even has a mode that automatically shuts the light off after two hours, preventing accidental battery drain.
Powered by two AAA batteries, the Wiz produces 30 lumens of light and has a maximum burn time of 60 hours. Its bright light can tilt up or down as needed and illuminates out to 20 meters. The headlamp weighs just 2 ounces and has an IPX4 water resistance rating. Price: $30
Any of the headlamps on this list will work well around the campsite or on the trail. Each offers its own level of performance and features. Find the one that best fits your needs, and you won’t be disappointed.