To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Best head torch 2023: Light up your outdoor adventures with the brightest head torches

Illuminate your path on runs, bike rides or camping trips with one of these dazzling head torches

With the best head torches, the dark days of winter and nighttime adventures are no excuse to stay indoors. You can still get out on dog walks, night hikes and cold-weather camping trips if you’ve got a bright head torch to light your way.

Here we’ll look at how to compare the power of different head torches, and explain all the key features you need to look out for when shopping around. We’ve also selected our pick of the best head torches for a wide range of different outdoor pursuits, from evening plods around the block to nighttime hikes and cycle rides.

Best head torches: At a glance

How to choose the best head torch for you

How much do I need to spend?

There’s a head torch for every budget. If you just want one for nighttime dog walks, a reasonably cheap and straightforward model will suit you fine.

However, if you need a head torch for an activity where a reliable source of light could be a lifesaver, such as night running or hiking, we’d recommend picking one as expensive as you can afford – and, ideally, one that lets you buy spare, high-quality rechargeable batteries so you always have a backup close to hand, or that you can charge via USB.

Are they comfortable to wear?

They certainly should be. Try a new head torch out before you take it on any longer trips and make sure it sits snugly on your head with no discomfort. You don’t want it to come off if you lean your head forward and it should stay put even if you shake your head around. It shouldn’t dig in anywhere (which is key if there’s the weight of a separate battery pack to think about).

A top strap makes a head torch more stable for running and climbing, and it’s worth checking to see if the straps will reach comfortably around a beanie hat and any helmet you plan to wear your new torch with. Some straps are reflective, which is ideal for making sure you’re visible at night.

What kind of brightness do I need?

The brightness of a head torch is measured in lumens, and this can stretch from as low as 50 to a blinding 1,000 lumens and beyond. The more lumens a head torch packs in, the more illuminated the path in front of you – the downside is that the more powerful the beam, the shorter the battery life. Most torches have multiple modes offering different lumens, so you can easily switch between them and only use the brightest beam when necessary. Around 300 lumens is recommended if you’re heading somewhere pitch dark and rural, while less than 300 lumens will be adequate in semi-lit areas.

Head torches usually use LED light(s) or a krypton or halogen bulb – or a hybrid of two types. Multiple LED lights are the most effective, and generally provide the best balance of brightness to battery life. Note that different models focus their lumens in different ways (a “beam pattern”) – a long, narrow beam is useful for runners and cyclists as it illuminates the way ahead, while a wider beam is great for camping and working outdoors at night.

What other features do I need?

Many head torches list a total burn time (the amount of useful light you’ll get from a full battery), but it’s hard to compare them properly as so many factors affect battery life. Still, a head torch that boasts a long burn time is a sensible idea if you’re roaming away from home. But remember that cold weather can eat away fast at a full battery as they don’t perform as well at low temperatures.

Many head torches use regular alkaline batteries. Lithium-ion (li-ion) or lithium-polymer (li-po) batteries are a handy feature that saves both money and the environment, and some lights are rechargeable via a USB cable, which means you can recharge them from a portable battery or at home. These are less useful if you’re off on a multi-day hike or wild camp away from home – in that case, you’re better off picking a torch that takes AA or AAA batteries and packing lots of spares— rechargeable batteries and USB-charging head torches are more planet-friendly choices.

Head torches either come with batteries built into the central light or in a separate battery pack – if you buy the latter, check the pack sits well on your head and isn’t irritating to wear. Most head torches are adjustable, allowing you to aim the beam up and down as needed. A red light setting is useful for better night vision if you’re watching wildlife, and water resistance is a must if you’re planning to go exploring in inclement weather. We also like a softer light mode for reading or doing chores inside a tent. Make sure you pick a design with buttons that you find easy to use with gloved fingers too.

READ NEXT: Check out our favourite camping chairs

The best head torches to buy in 2023

1. Silva Trail Runner Free: The best head torch for trail runners

Price: £37.49 | Buy now from Amazon

Our top pick of the head torches for trail runners is – surprise, surprise – Silva’s Trail Runner Free. Newly updated for spring/summer 2022, the Trail Runner Free’s 55g weight won’t weigh you down over longer distances, and the hefty 400 lumen power provides a maximum range of 80 metres that will illuminate the darkest of woodland trails.

We were impressed with how the beam is designed to always illuminate the ground both directly in front and further on from your feet, and this makes it easier to judge distances and avoid obstacles as you jog. The silicone-coated headband sits well without slipping, too, and you can either stick to using three AAA batteries or buy Silva’s USB chargeable battery pack to give longer runtime.

Key specs – Weight: 55g; Modes: 3; Maximum brightness: 400 lumens; Power source: Rechargeable or battery-powered

2. Biolite Headlamp 200: The best head torch for camping and backpacking

Price: £34 | Buy now from GO Outdoors

The lightest headlamp in our round-up, Biolite’s Headlamp 200 weighs a paltry 50g and its sleek, simple moulded design is barely-there – if you hate the feel of heavy, bulky torches wrapped around your head, you’ll love this model.

The claimed 200 lumens is enough to illuminate more casual backcountry adventures such as camping and backpacking and this torch sports a decent battery life of 40 hours on its lower setting. That said, you’ll need to be close enough to electricity to recharge it via USB every few days, so it’s less useful for dedicated wild campers roaming far from the madding crowds.

It’s easy to fit and adjust the Biolite Headlamp’s single strap, and the torch itself can be tilted to get the beam just so. Crucially, it’s also simple to switch on and flick between between modes while on the go, even if you’re wearing gloves.

Key specs – Weight: 50g; Modes: 8; Maximum brightness: 200 lumens; Power source: USB rechargeable

Buy now from GO Outdoors

3. Lifesystems Intensity 280 LED Headtorch: The best budget water-resistant head torch

Price: £25 | Buy now from Lifesystems

The Lifesystems Intensity 280 headtorch is both compact and exceptionally lightweight, meaning it’s easy to pack away or keep as a spare for emergency use. The result is a head torch that’s very easy to wear and light on the head, allowing for excellent manoeuvrability and flexibility on the go.

Better still, it’s water-resistant down to the IPX6 standard, meaning that it’s protected against direct water jets rather than just splashes – this affordable head torch is ready to survive everything the great outdoors can dish out.

The USB rechargeable Li-ion battery provides an impressive 110 hours of usable light time and the beam is fully adjustable. It’s a great option for those needing a more budget option with features often found on more expensive torches.

Key specs – Weight: 90g; Modes: 7; Maximum brightness: 280 lumens; Power source: Li-ion rechargeable, USB cable included

Buy now from Lifesystems

4. Petzl Duo Headlamp: The best head torch for working outdoors

Price: £311 | Buy now from Amazon

We realise that it’s seriously pricey, but if you’re in real need of reliable illumination (and if your life might ever depend on it or if you regularly work outdoors), the Petzl Duo Headlamp would be our top choice. It offers up to a whopping 1,100 lumens of adaptive light, which is as much as you should ever need if you’re working outdoors, night skiing, illuminating a landscape or even taking on extreme adventures such as caving.

A generous burn time of up to 23 hours means you can keep going without worrying about battery life, and we like the snug, stay-put headband, which is comfortable despite sporting a battery pack on the back and weighing an admittedly hefty 370g. It also fits neatly over helmets and is waterproof to one metre.

Key specs – Weight: 370g; Modes: 5; Maximum brightness: 1,100 lumens; Power source: Li-ion rechargeable, USB cable included

5. Black Diamond Kid’s Wiz Headlamp: The best head torch for kids

Price: £25 | Buy now from Cotswold Outdoor

Got an adventurous little person who loves camping and hiking at home? Then why not set them up to see safely in the dark with Black Diamond’s Wiz, a head torch designed specifically for kids.

The Wiz weighs a mere 56g and the comfortable wide strap is designed for smaller heads so is comfy to wear and easy to adjust on the go. While this bit of tech is aimed at younger outdoors enthusiasts, it doesn’t compromise on performance – this nifty headtorch has three modes and a maximum brightness of a perfectly adequate 30 lumens.

The Wiz is also water-resistant and has handy features designed with kids in mind, such as a child-proof battery compartment and an automatic power-off function after two hours of use. You might just be tempted to borrow this little light for yourself.

Key specs – Weight: 56g; Modes: 3; Maximum brightness: 30 lumens; Power source: 2 AAA batteries

Buy now from Cotswold Outdoor

6. Knog Bandicoot 250 Headlamp: The best budget minimalist head torch

Price: £45 | Buy now from Amazon

Hate the feeling of bulky or heavy head torches? Grab a Knog Bandicoot – this barely-there light weighs just 60 grams and is super comfy to wear. An adjustable silicone strap sits nicely over a beanie hat – although it can pull on long hair – and once it’s on, it doesn’t move about, so it’s ideal for long-distance runners and cyclists.

Modes include red, spot and a handy ‘reading’ mode that’s ideal for shining a light on your book once you’re cosied up in your sleeping bag. Even better, you can customise your own modes using the Knog Modemaker App – great for anyone who works outdoors or who prefers specific settings for their adventures.

Knog have thought carefully about making you safer at night, too – there’s a ‘red halo’ mode that illuminates your head as you walk or run after dark, making you more visible to other road users.

Key specs – Weight: 60g; Modes: 5; Maximum brightness: 250 lumens; Power source: USB

7. BioLite 750 Headlamp: The best head torch for battery life

Price: £45 | Buy now from BioLite

BioLite pack in a double whammy of power and longevity into this headlamp. The max brightness of 750 lumens is only usable for brief, 30-second bursts, but you get a useful two hours at 500 lumens, 4 hours at 250 lumens and 150 hours in the 5 lumen mode.

The array of lighting modes is impressive, too, with spot, flood and strobe options, as well as a bank of rear LEDs on the battery pack which ensure you can be seen from behind.

Usefully, you can recharge the head torch while you’re using it, which is ideal for multi-day camping and hiking adventures in the backcountry. Attach a power bank or solar-powered device to the included 3ft cable and you can replenish the battery as you go.

At 150g, this model is a tad heavy for running – but it’s ideal for camping, hiking and general outdoor use.

Key specs – Weight: 150g; Modes: 8; Maximum brightness: 750 lumens; Power source: USB

Buy now from BioLite

Read more

Best Buys