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Head Torches - Head Lamps  

Headlamps/Headtorches for Backpacking or Camping

If you were backpacking, hiking, or camping 20 years ago, you probably remember everyone carrying a torch to see at night. These were bulky, heavy, lasted only a few hours, and required great creativity and dexterity if you needed your hands for anything else while using said torch. Today, head torches have replaced their hand held ancestors as the standard in the outdoors, and the options are endless. 

General Considerations
As you prepare for your trip into the back country, here are three key things to consider when looking for a headlamp:

  • Weight is your first consideration. You don’t want something that feels like a miner’s cap on your head. There are some great headlamps available that weigh mere ounces. 
  • The second thing to look for is brightness. Black Diamond has some nice headlamps that are very bright, lightweight, and offer up to eight settings to vary the amount of light output. Like to do a lot of night hiking? Try the super bright spotlight mode that lets you see many meters ahead. Enjoy a little late-night reading after your tent mates have drifted off to sleep? Switch to the softer settings in LED mode. Adjustable settings are also nice for conserving battery life. 
  • The third thing to consider is durability and functionality. If you’re an avid backpacker or camper, you’ll soon see the value in a headlamp you can work even when you’re wearing gloves. That is one drawback to the Black Diamond headlamp. The button is very hard to feel even without the gloves on. You might also want to be sure the headlamp you are selecting is water resistant or waterproof. Especially if you might have need to wear it in the rain.

Common Types and Brands of Headlamps

If weight matters to you in your outdoors adventure, stick with a self-contained headlamp system. These often weigh a couple of ounces at most. Typically, the batteries are the heaviest part of a headlamp. But these self-contained systems usually take two to four AAA or AA batteries and will last you upwards of 100 hours of illumination. Although they are more expensive, Lithium Ion batteries are the lightest battery available and tend to last quite a bit longer. Start with a new set of batteries at the beginning of your trip and carry a second set in your pack for longer trips.

The second type of headlamp is the one with a separate battery pack that attaches to your waist or your pack. They are much heavier, but are also going to last many times longer than the self-contained units. The cord between the battery pack and headlamp is a problem for some people. It can easily get caught when you’re backpacking or working around camp. But if you are going to do lots of night hiking, this type of headlamp might be a good option to consider. They also have a definite advantage in very cold conditions where self-contained systems often fail. Just tuck the battery pack in against your body to keep it warm for hours of use in even the most frigid of temperatures.

Petzl and Black Diamond are the industry leaders in headlamps. Both make some exceptional lamps that rate well in all three areas of consideration – weight, brightness, and durability/functionality.  Check out www.fieldandtrek.com to buy online.

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