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Published Jun 20, 2022 6:53 AM

It’s easy to get tunnel vision on rifles, binoculars, and UTVs, but don’t forget that the best headlamps for hunting can make your favorite hobby significantly more enjoyable. We saved you the trouble of searching through endless products by picking the best headlamps available for this gear guide.

Most hunting begins with a dark walk through trees and underbrush. Don’t get me wrong — I like tripping over roots and stubbing my toes on rocks as much as anybody — but using a flashlight can certainly get you to the stand or blind in one piece more often than your natural night vision can. Keeping your hands free has obvious advantages of your own. By using a headlamp, you’ll always have light where you need it and still be able to carry and move whatever you want.

A lot of gear guides will phone it in with a list of the first headlamps the writer found in some kind of camouflage pattern. Camo is cool, but there are other things that make a great headlamp for hunting. That’s where I focused my attention, and the result is a list of solid gear that can walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Methodology

As is the case with all of my gear guides, I first put myself in the mindset of someone who needs the best headlamp for hunting they can possibly get. That can mean a few different things, but everyone deserves a quality item from a reputable manufacturer. That’s where I began my search; companies that have a proven track record of building reliable gear. Next, I filtered out products that aren’t able to work in bad weather. Not every hunting headlamp needs to be totally waterproof, but some degree of weather protection is essential. Finally, I gave preference to headlights that feature multiple power output settings so you can have the right amount of light for every job. This wasn’t a make-or-break criterion, but it was a consideration. To learn more about Task & Purpose’s testing protocols, click here.

Black Diamond has earned a loyal following with everything from rock-climbing gear and backcountry skis to hiking packs and headlamps for hunting like the Storm 500-R. This headlamp’s spec sheet reads like a wishlist of our favorite features, and I am here for it.

To be good for hunting, a headlamp has to be durable. The Storm 500-R delivers with a rugged housing that’s built to take a beating and can be submerged for up to 30 minutes. With 500 lumens on tap in the highest setting, this headlamp has as much power as most hunters will ever need. You can also dial it back to 250 lumens to stretch battery life from seven to 19 hours or use the soft glow of the lowest setting to get situated in your blind without announcing your presence.

Sometimes, buying good gear for hunting, tactical situations, or preparedness comes down to a simple question: which product would you trust when the shit hits the fan? In this case, the Black Diamond Storm 500-R is an easy choice.

Product Specs
  • Power output: 500 lumens (high), 250 lumens (medium), six lumens (low)
  • Batteries: Rechargeable 2,400 milliamp-hour lithium-ion battery
  • Claimed maximum battery life: Seven hours (high), 19 hours (medium), 350 hours (low)
  • Waterproof rating: IPX7
PROS

Rechargeable battery is perfect for off-grid life

Can withstand drops and temporary submersion

Turns on with the last brightness setting you used

CONS

Price reflects the upgrades over the competition

Recharging takes longer than swapping out batteries

The folks at 5.11 Tactical have a firm understanding of what makes good tactical gear, but the Rapid is also one of the best headlamps for hunting you can get. In terms of price, its MSRP of $54 is pretty average. Where this headlamp really shines is versatility; it’s a solid choice for a range of situations.

With a standard AA battery, the Rapid puts out a modest 200 lumens. You can increase power to 330 lumens by swapping in a rechargeable 14500 battery, but you’ll have to supply your own. The tradeoff is a lightweight headlamp that can be removed from the headband and clipped to a pack strap or carried by hand. Choose from four power levels in spotlight mode or turn to the white floodlight to extend battery life.

Compared to more backcountry-oriented offerings like the Black Diamond Storm 500-R, this is a step down in water protection but it should be more than sufficient in all but the most extreme cases. The versatility is a major selling point since this can easily replace several other lights and be an awesome EDC flashlight. At this price, it’s not a bad idea to pick one up for everyday use even if you do choose something else for hunting.

Product Specs
  • Power output: 330 lumens (14500 lithium-ion rechargeable), 200 (AA)
  • Batteries: One AA (included), rechargeable 14500 lithium-ion (not included)
  • Claimed maximum battery life: One hour (spotlight), six hours (floodlight)
  • Waterproof rating: IP54
PROS

Can be worn or carried several ways

Replace the disposable AA battery with a rechargeable 14500

Five settings are available

CONS

Battery life could be better

Not as streamlined as most headlamps

Honorable Mention

Brands like Black Diamond get a lot of attention these days (and deservedly so), but check any old-timer’s pack and there’s a good chance you’ll find a Petzl headlamp in there. Experienced hunters, service members, and campers are on to something because the range-topping Tactikka +RGB is worth a serious look.

One thing you can never take for granted in the backcountry is reliable power. The Tactikka +RGB can run on three disposable AAA batteries or stay operational almost indefinitely when paired with a CORE rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a solar charger. Four power modes let you move through the dark quickly and safely with 350 lumens or get the most out of your battery with a two-lumen glow.

One feature that makes this one of the best headlamps for hunting is a red emergency strobe that lasts up to 400 hours and is visible up to 700 meters away. Combine that with a camouflage pattern, and this is a great buy for any hunter or service member.

Product Specs
  • Power output: 350 lumens (high), 100 lumens (medium), six lumens (low), two lumens (continuous)
  • Batteries: Three AAA, one Petzl CORE rechargeable (not included)
  • Claimed maximum battery life: Two hours (white, high), 12 hours (white, medium), 160 hours (white, low), 60 hours (red, blue, green), 400 hours (emergency strobe)
  • Waterproof rating: IPX4
PROS

Petzl has longstanding credibility in the outdoor and military communities

Choose from four colors of light

Upgrade to a Petzl CORE rechargeable battery

CONS

It would be nice if the rechargeable battery was included

Water-resistant, but not waterproof

HIghest Output

Those of you who want the brightest headlamp for hunting will be pleased to learn that the SureFire Maximus cranks out a whopping 1,000 lumens. That’s double the power you’d get from anything else on this list and makes the Maximus a standout contender in this market.

Having this much power is great when you need to see across an open field, maneuver a small boat, or keep track of dogs, but it can also be excessive and ruin your natural night vision. When you need less light, the Maximus can be adjusted across its power range to deliver exactly the amount of light you want. Battery life is fairly impressive, ranging from 1.5 hours at maximum output to 550 hours at the lowest setting. Its weather-resistant housing and rechargeable battery make this a reliable piece of gear to carry in the field.

Some people are skeptical of integrated battery packs because they can’t be replaced if they fail, but that possibility is so unlikely that you probably don’t need to worry about it. If you’re concerned about having enough power, you’ll likely find this to be the best headlamp for hunting.

Product Specs
  • Power output: One to 1,000 lumens (continuously variable)
  • Batteries: Internal rechargeable lithium-ion
  • Claimed maximum battery life: 1.5 hours (maximum power), 550 hours (minimum power)
  • Waterproof rating: IPX4
PROS

One of the brightest headlamps on the market

Power output is adjustable from one to 1,000 lumens

Built-in rechargeable battery is great for long hunting trips

CONS

Waterproofing isn’t on par with power output

Only produces white light

Best Hat Brim Clip-On

Some of you aren’t ready to go all-in on strapping a flashlight to your head, and I get that. If all you’re doing is hooking up a trailer or fiddling with a combination lock on your hunting lease, clipping a Bushnell TRKR to your hat brim is the way to go.

Since this headlamp isn’t intended for setting up camp and hoofing it to your blind before dawn, it doesn’t need to overboard on power. Its 85 lumens are well-suited to tasks that take place within arm’s length, and that’s about it. There is a red light setting, but its one-lumen power rating isn’t exactly inspiring. Perhaps the biggest consideration is whether or not the 45-minute battery life is enough.

The TRKR isn’t going to replace any of the other headlamps on this list, but it can be a great backup or alternative for people who don’t need a full-scale headlamp for hunting. If nothing else, it’s a great piece of kit to toss in the truck for roadside repairs or unexpected detours on foot.

Product Specs
  • Power output: 85 lumens (white), one lumen (red)
  • Batteries: One AAA
  • Claimed maximum battery life: 45 minutes (white), 4.25 hours (red)
  • Waterproof rating: IPX4
PROS

Can be added to your favorite hat’s brim

The least expensive option here

Produces white or red light

CONS

Only generates 85 lumens

Very limited life from a single disposable AA battery

Our verdict on headlamps for hunting

Black Diamond is one of the best brands for backcountry gear, and the Storm 500-R is the best headlamp for hunting (and all kinds of other adventures). You can also save some money and get 5.11 Tactical’s versatile Rapid detachable headlamp. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments section and share the wealth.

What to consider when buying headlamps for hunting

Finding the best headlamp for hunting is more straightforward than buying a pair of hunting boots or a great hunting knife, but there are still a few features you should keep an eye on to make sure you get the best headlight for you. Pay special attention to the colors and power settings available, as well as weather resistance and camouflage patterns.

Key features of a headlamp

Variable power output and color modes

What kind of hunting gear do you already own? You probably have half a dozen backpacks, a few pairs of boots, and all kinds of camouflage. That’s because different problems call for different solutions. Having a headlamp that can provide soft light or a powerful beam is incredibly valuable. Multiple power modes can deliver the right amount of light, whether you’re navigating a rough trail or rummaging through your pack.

White light is the most common color because it’s what our eyes are used to and allows us to access the most visual information. When we see white light, the cones in our retinas perceive the world around us in great detail. Red and green lights are popular because they’re gentler on the rods in our retinas that get used in darkness. These colors also don’t tend to carry as far, so you’re less likely to give away your position.

Weather resistance

It would be great if every hunt got beautiful weather, but that’s not the case. You’re going to get caught in a rainstorm at one point or another, so having gear that’s up to the challenge is important. Weather-resistant headlamps can handle rain and the occasional splash so you don’t have to baby them.

Waterproof headlamps go a step further, with enough protection to handle temporary submersion. If you’re concerned about dropping your headlamp off a boat or dunking it during a stream crossing, pay attention to each product’s IP rating.

Camouflage

Having camouflage on your headlamp certainly isn’t essential, but it can be nice to have. If you primarily use a headlamp to unload gear from your truck, load a boat, or get your blind organized, you can use any headlamp you want because it’ll be put away by the time any game animals come around.

On the other hand, some people might not want to deal with stashing a headlamp when not in use. If you want to wear it or keep it in the open, a splash of camouflage will be a valuable feature.

Pricing 

Most of the best headlamps for hunting cost between $50 and $75, with a range of features and capabilities. The most expensive premium option we recommend is the SureFire Maximus, which costs $270 and provides significantly more light than the rest of the top hunting headlamps on the market. At the other end of the spectrum, the Bushnell TRKR can be clipped to your hat brim for just $20.

FAQs about headlamps for hunting

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: What is the brightest headlamp for hunting?

A: How much light do you need? You could get a headlamp with a claimed 10,000 lumens, but the brightest headlamp may not be the best headlamp for hunting.

Q: What is a red light used for on headlamps?

A: Red light creates less glare than white light. It’s also easier on your eyes, so they can adapt more quickly to the darkness when you’re done using your light.

Q: Can deer see red or green light?

A: There is evidence to suggest that, because of a condition called protanopia, deer cannot detect red or green lights.

Q: How many lumens do I need for hunting?

A: That depends on what kind of hunting you have in mind. If you just need to get situated in your blind, a 50-lumen glow is adequate. If you’re trying to spot hogs across an open field, you’ll need an actual spotlight.

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