Shining a light on the best head torches, tried and tested in 2023
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Shining a light on the best head torches, tried and tested in 2023

Jul 17, 2023

Discover the top-performing rechargeable head torches, tested and reviewed by BBC Countryfile Magazine.

Head torches have become an indispensable companion for camping trips, hikes, travelling, and various outdoor activities, providing hands-free illumination whenever we need it. However, with the vast array of options available, it's easy to end up with a lacklustre head torch that conks out at the crucial moment. That's why we've delved into the market to curate a selection of the best head torches, offering long-lasting battery life, powerful brightness, convenient battery packs, and a plethora of exciting features.

From budget-friendly options to premium choices, we've considered a range of budgets, fits, and styles to cater to every need. Let us shine a light on the top head torches that will elevate your outdoor experiences to a whole new level!

See our head torches buyer's guide...

Pros: Lightweight, packable, rechargeable, also takes AAA batteries

Cons: Red light performance and weather resistance could be better

Discover the impressive performance and versatility of the Petzl Tikka Core head torch, loved by hikers, campers, and travellers alike. With a lightweight and compact design, it's easy to carry wherever you go, and the option to use either the rechargeable CORE battery or AAA batteries provides added convenience.

While it may not offer the strongest red light coverage or the highest weather resistance, its exceptional performance and dual battery capabilities make it a top choice. Scored at 4.5 stars, this head torch is a reliable companion for your outdoor adventures. Interested? Then read our full review of the Petzl Tikka Core.

Pros: Impressive brightness, reaches long distance, wide beam

Cons: Heavier than some, no red light

The Olight Perun 2 head torch impresses with its outstanding brightness and versatile design, offering exceptional flood lighting and reaching long distances.

Although it lacks red light modes and is slightly heavier, its durability and fantastic light performance make it a worthwhile investment for general use, camping, and short hikes.

Read our full review of the Olight Perun 2.

Pros: Exceptional light performance, comfortable

Cons: Expensive, bulkier than some others

The Petzl Swift RL is a high-performance head torch with exceptional lighting and a comfortable fit. While it comes at a fairly high price point and is slightly bulkier than some competitors, its brightness and performance make it a top choice for outdoor activities like hill walking, climbing, and mountaineering.

With a 4.5-star rating, this head torch offers impressive lighting modes and reliable weather resistance, making it a valuable investment for those seeking maximum brightness and comfort on their adventures.

Read our full review of the Petzl Swift RL.

Pros: Red light performance, strong light performance, can be clipped instead of worn on head

Cons: Limited modes, not particularly cheap

The Ledlenser MH4 head torch impresses with its strong light performance, offering 400 lumens and a range of 180 meters. The comfortable band and excellent red light capabilities add to its appeal for outdoor enthusiasts.

With three lighting modes and the option to use either a rechargeable 14500 Li-ion battery or a standard AA battery, the MH4 offers versatility and reliable performance. However, the limited modes and slightly higher price compared to its features could be improved for even better value.

Read our full review of the Ledlenser MH4.

Pros: Good value, lightweight, very packable, decent performance

Cons: Not as easy as others to operate fully, red and flood lighting could be better

The Black Diamond Spot R 400 head torch offers good value with its lightweight and packable design, featuring excellent spot lighting with impressive distance. However, its red and flood lighting could be improved, and it may not be as intuitive to operate as some other models.

Overall, the Spot R 400 serves as a very good all-rounder for hiking, earning a score of 4.5 stars for its performance, resilience, and impressive battery life, making it a valuable asset for a range of outdoor activities, including long-distance hiking.

Read our full review of the Black Diamond Spot R 400.

Pros: Incredible pack size and lightweight

Cons: Comfort not the best, restricted battery life due to size

The Petzl Bindi head torch stands out with its incredible pack size and lightweight design, making it ideal for urban environments and as a convenient 'just-in-case' option for runners.

While it may have limited battery life due to its compact size, the impressive brightness and versatility make it a good value choice for those seeking a compact and portable lighting solution.

Read our full review of the Petzl Bindi.

Pros: Useful accompanying app, incredibly bright, robust build quality, multiple attachments.

Cons: Bulky, expensive, heavy, not the most comfortable.

The Ledlenser H7R Signature headlamp impresses with its bright and customizable lighting, accompanied by a user-friendly app for added control.

It's an ideal choice for professionals seeking reliable performance in challenging environments or for those requiring powerful illumination for outdoor activities in the dark. While it offers excellent reach and brightness, its bulk, weight, and higher cost may not make it the most suitable option for casual users.

Read out full review of the Ledlenser H7R Signature.

Pros: Impressive battery life, excellent light performance, rear red light aids visibility

Cons: Thin band isn’t the most comfortable, no red light up front

The Ledlenser NEO 9R impresses with its exceptional battery life and excellent light performance, although the thin band might not be the most comfortable.

It offers impressive brightness and a useful rear red light for enhanced visibility, making it a great choice for runners and hikers seeking reliable lighting performance, even though it lacks a front red light option.

Read our full review of the Ledlenser NEO 9R.

Pros: Fantastic flood lighting, comfortable headband, sustainable choice

Cons: Minimal modes, not the greatest distance

The Silva Terra Scout H impresses with its fantastic flood lighting and comfortable headband, offering a sustainable choice with the use of hemp fibres and recycled plastics.

However, its minimal modes and limited distance in the highest setting slightly detract from its overall performance, making it best suited for fast-paced adventures like running or camping in lower power mode to avoid excessive brightness.

Read our full review of the Silva Terra Scout H.

Pros: Great value, decent red light performance, good distance with white lights, battery life

Cons: Comfort is middling, flood lighting performance could be better

The Lifesystems Intensity 280 head torch offers great value with its impressive brightness, good distance coverage, and decent red light performance, making it suitable for Duke of Edinburgh, camping, and leisurely walks where super bright wide lighting isn't essential.

While comfort and flood lighting performance are average, the head torch's budget-friendly price and lightweight design make it an attractive option for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget.

Read our full review of the Lifesystems Intensity 280.

Pros: Impressive brightness, solar panel, sleek design

Cons: Heavy, not very portable

The Luci Solar Headlamp and Flashlight offers impressive brightness and a sleek design, along with the added benefit of a solar panel for charging. While it excels as a camping companion and is versatile with multiple lighting modes, it is relatively heavy and not the most portable option for outdoor activities like hiking.

Overall, it's a reasonable choice for camping and home use, but there are more comfortable and lighter options available at a similar price point.

Read our full review of the Luci Solar Headlamp and Flashlight.

Pros: Fantastic red light mode, impressive flood lighting

Cons: Mediocre battery life and beam distance

The Princeton Tec Axis 450 is a lightweight head torch with impressive flood lighting and excellent red light performance. However, its mediocre battery life and limited beam distance prevent it from standing out in a competitive market.

Although it offers good features, the price point seems slightly high, and there may be better options available at a lower price. Ideal for hikers and campers who prioritize flood lighting over long-distance illumination.

Read our full review of the Princeton Tec Axis 450.

With a wide range of head torch options available on the market, finding the right one can be overwhelming. That's why we've compiled a handy buyer's guide to help you choose the right option.

To ensure you make an informed choice, consider the following key factors when shopping for a head torch:

When selecting a head torch, consider its brightness in lumens and the beam distance for better visibility of distant obstacles during activities like night hiking or trail running.

Look for head torches that offer multiple lighting modes, including red lighting. Red light mode is especially useful for preserving night vision and not disturbing others in group settings.

Some models offer rechargeable batteries, which are more eco-friendly and cost-effective in the long run. Others use disposable batteries, which are convenient for outdoor adventures without access to power sources.

Look for adjustable straps and a comfortable band to ensure a snug fit. Consider the weight of the head torch as well, as a lighter model is more comfortable during extended wear.

If you'll be using the head torch in wet or challenging weather conditions, opt for a model with a higher water resistance rating, preferably IPX4 or higher.

Some head torches come with extra features like built-in rechargeable power banks for charging devices, SOS strobe mode for emergency situations, or lock modes.

Prices can vary widely, so having a clear budget will help you narrow down your options and find the best head torch that meets your needs without breaking the bank.

For casual camping or reading at night, a head torch with around 50 to 150 lumens should be sufficient.

For hiking, running, or other outdoor activities in low-light conditions, you may want a head torch with at least 150 to 300 lumens for better visibility.

For more demanding activities like night hiking, trail running, or search and rescue operations, a head torch with 300 lumens or more would be ideal to provide powerful illumination and long-range visibility.

By considering these factors, you can confidently select a head torch that suits your specific outdoor activities, enhances your visibility, and ensures a safer and more enjoyable experience in the great outdoors. Happy head torch shopping!

Looking for more ways to light up your camping trip? Don't miss the best camping lanterns for 2023.

Rob has been reviewing outdoor gear for over eight years and was previously editor of Adventure Travel magazine, but currently works as a content editor for 220 Triathlon.

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See our head torches buyer's guide...Best overallBest flood lightingBest spot lightingBest for professionalsBest for runningBest for sustainabilityBest for budgetProsConsWeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery lifeProsConsWeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery lifePros: Cons: WeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightnessRed light functionBattery lifeProsConsWeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery lifeProsConsWeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery lifeProsConsWeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery lifeLedlenser H7R Signature ProsConsWeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed rear lightBattery lifeProsConsWeightSize (front)Size (rear)Waterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery lifeProsConsWeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery lifeProsConsWeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery lifeProsConsWeightSize (handheld torch)Size (head torch only)Waterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery lifeProsConsWeightSizeWaterproof ratingBrightness rating in lumensRed light functionBattery life