If you have been in the “Great Outdoors” (whether that is camping, the cabin or a cottage) then you probably know the importance of a good dedicated flashlight. Sure, you could use your phone but that would waste the battery and you risk dropping your phone out in the uneven terrain. So, if you are going to get a flashlight, why not a headlamp? Nothing says hands free like a headlamp, so it may be your best option (double high five). The abundance of different headlamps is staggering, but I needed a couple new ones, so I thought I would shootout four popular headlamps in the $21- $45 range, available by most outdoor retailers, here, in Canada (and probably in the US):
- BioLite HeadLamp 200
- Black Diamond Cosmo 300
- Energizer Pro 7 LED 350 Lumen Headlight
- Woods Flair High Output LED Headlamp
BioLite HeadLamp 200
The HeadLamp 200 is from the outdoor equipment company, BioLite, who specialize in global initiatives to make energy accessible around the world and more eco-friendly products. Therefore, it utilizes a rechargeable battery, which on the downside accounts for its higher price. Purchased for $49.95 CAD from MEC.
We opted for the moss green which was a nice gradient colour of green, but its soft earth tones may not be the best colour for the forest, if you were to lose it. They thoughtfully added a strip of reflective material to the back of the strap. This was no doubt for those who may be running during dark hours. The strap is good quality, however, the plastic lamp enclosure and its tilt function felt a little cheap and plasticky.
The BioLite boasts dimming and four different modes: red flood, white spot, red strobe, white strobe (in that order). Accept it uses a per tap mode of selection (e.g. one push = red, two pushes= white). The good is that it starts with red, so you don’t blind yourself or your companions, especially if you are sharing a tent at night when nature calls. The bad is that selecting later modes (3 taps, 4 taps) can be tricky (if not impossible).
Good: sleek design; light/comfortable strap; rechargeable battery; BioLite supports ecological and global energy initiatives.
Bad: most expensive; plastic headlamp and tilt feels cheap and fragile; difficult to access the micro USB port; numerical button tapping system can be difficult selecting modes; only IPX4 rating.
Black Diamond Cosmo 300
The Cosmo 300 is made by outdoor equipment maker Black Diamond, so they definitely have the great outdoors in mind when it comes to their headlamp. Just based on the comparison chart (below) it is easy to see how the Cosmo 300 excels: IPX8 waterproof rating; the most lighting modes with good brightness and decent battery life (powered by 3 x AAA batteries). Purchased for $39.95 CAD from MEC.
The two button system on this one may also appeal to some, it allows you to select and retain whatever light mode you are on (even dimness). Other headlamps typically make you cycle through the different lighting to modes to reach ‘off’. Being able to keep your last selection avoids blinding yourself or others in your tent or otherwise.
It features a mesh strap that breathes and won’t retain to much water if you are sweating or are in the rain and since it has an IPX8 rating, you know its good in the rain.
Good: most amount of lighting modes; two-button system (retains your selected mode on shut down).
Bad: Tilt function feels cheap. The cost of batteries.
Energizer Pro LED 350
Also know as the “Vision HD+ LED headlamp” this headlamp is made by battery manufacturer, Energizer who also happens to make battery powered devices, such as flashlights. As such, they are able to manufacture full-featured devices at cheaper prices and the Pro LED 350 is no exception. Purchased from Canadian Tire for $21.99.
Out of all the headlamps in this test, the Energizer is the brightest of the bunch with the most lumens at 350 and it is blindingly bright! Also, the unit and strap itself is a bright neon green, so it may be the most easily detectible in the woods if you were to drop it. But I think my favourite feature is that the headlamp tilts all the way to 110 degrees, straight downwards toward your nose. Presumably, for reading a map or book, but with this much tilt it’s good for any application. The UI is also super simple (three modes, picked in sequence).
Good: least expensive; headlamp tilts the most (straight down) for reading maps or books, etc; simple functionality; the brightest in this shootout.
Bad: Lower IPX4 rating. The cost of batteries.
Woods Flair High Output LED
The Woods Flair High Output LED has some big pluses, despite some of its short comings. The unit is the bulkiest of the four, this may be due to its larger rechargeable battery that boast the longest burn time (8 hours on the brightest setting). Because of this, being slightly bigger and slightly wider (I mean slightly), it actually adds a bit of stability to the headlamp while on your head. Which helps with its best feature: it is the smoothest of the headlamps for adjusting the tilt of the lamp. It is the only unit out of all of them that you can tilt, while wearing it, with only one hand and without steadying it. Purchased from Canadian Tire for $29.99 CAD.
Good: Longest high burn time; best headlamp tilting action of all four (doesn’t feel cheap or click to hard when tilted).
Bad: Despite being rechargeable is the bulkiest unit; no dimming functionality; no manual (anywhere)
Most Sturdy: Woods Flair High Output LED
The Woods Flair had the most fluid tilting action of this test bunch and, because it’s a bit wider than the other models, I found the Woods Flair rested better on my forehead (flatter), making it the most stable.
Best for Running: The BioLite HeadLamp 200
With its rechargeable battery, light-weight design and the most comfortable strap (neoprene), the BioLite might be the headlamp best suited for early morning/evening runs.
Best For Camping: Black Diamond Cosmo 300
Because of its higher IPX8 rating, its many light modes and good battery life, the Cosmo 300 might be the best of the bunch for camping in the great outdoors.
Best Value: Energizer Pro LED 350
With its low cost, high brightness and features like the deepest tilt, the Energizer Pro LED 350 is the best value for your money.
|BioLite Headlamp 200||Black Diamond Cosmo 300||Energizer Pro LED 350||Woods Flair|
|Brightness||200 lumes||300 lumens||350 lumens||250 lumes|
|Battery||700 mAh rechargeable |
|3 x AAA batteries||3 x AAA batteries||1200 mAh rechargeable ion|
|Port||Micro usb||n/a||n/a||Micro usb|
|Burntime||40 to 3 hrs||200 to 6.5h||50 to 4 hrs||20 to 8 hrs|
|Distance||8m to 50 m||8m to 74m||80m||80 m|
|Modes||4 (spot, strobe, red flood, red strobe)||6 (spot, wide, red, strobe (for each)||4 (red, all white, spot, wide)||3 (high, low, red)|
|Button System||1 button, numerical||2 button (on/off; modes/strobe)||1 button, sequential||2 button (on/off/modes sequentially; lock)|
|Tilt||45 degrees||45 degrees||110 degrees||45 degrees|
|Warranty||1-Year limited||3-Year limited||3-Year limited||1-year exchange|
Listen to Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Blinded By The Light” on Cottage Country Mix Vol. 7: