Black Diamond Spot 350
The Spot 350 is an easy-to-use, bright-enough headlamp that provides long-lasting battery life and reliable performance, year after year.
When you’re car camping or even just digging through a closet, the newly updated Black Diamond Spot 350 provides exactly what you need: a bright beam, easy-to-navigate buttons, and long-lasting battery life (more than 12 hours). The Spot has been at the top of our list since 2012 because it’s reliable and bright enough to light the way in most situations, whether indoors or outdoors. The updated 350 model includes the same features we’ve always liked. And it has 25 more lumens than the previous Spot (so 350 in all), for a slightly noticeable bump in brightness. The Spot’s top buttons got a redesign, making them more intuitive to use than the single button on older versions. You’ll still have to experiment and click through various configurations, but we think the learning curve for accessing different modes is fairly quick. The Spot has a Brightness Memory mode, so it can revert to a previous setting whenever you turn on the headlamp. This model also has a red-light option (good for when you’re switching the lamp on and off at night), a “proximity” flood-light option (which gives you a wider beam and more peripheral lighting, so it’s great for camping), and strobe options (perfect for throwing an emergency signal in the dark). The 3-ounce Spot 350 locks and is weather-resistant. And its PowerTap technology lets you transition the headlamp from full power to dimmed with one touch. Although there are models out there with brighter, higher-quality beams, none offered the same combination of decent brightness, simplicity, and reliability at such a low price.
Though not quite as bright as our top pick, this headlamp is nonetheless a comfortable, simple-to-navigate option for around-the-house use, at a fraction of the price of competitors.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $16.
The Vitchelo V800 remains a good, low-cost choice. Toggling between the red- and white-light settings (there are two separate buttons) is easy, and we liked the comfortable head strap. That said, we wish the light were brighter (it’s still only 168 lumens) and that it had a longer battery life (unlike the Spot 350, the V800 dimmed after just four hours of use). This headlamp also has fewer features, and it lacks the memory and locking modes we liked in our top pick. Even so, this headlamp performed as well as competitors that were many times the price. If you need a low-cost headlamp for completing around-the-house chores, taking your dog on evening walks, or stepping out into the yard at night, this is a good option.
Petzl Actik Core
The Actik Core has the brightest light with the highest beam quality, and it stays charged for days—whether you charge it via USB or AAA batteries. It’s perfect for backpacking trips.
The Petzl Actik Core is the best choice for backpackers, outdoor adventurers, and anyone who needs a headlamp with charging options (both USB and batteries). We tested two rechargeable headlamps in 2019 (and we’ve evaluated nine others for previous iterations of this guide), and we think this light is the best for outdoor adventures. It’s durable, easy to use, and weighs under 3 ounces (just slightly less than the Black Diamond Spot 350). The Actik Core’s 450-lumen light was also the brightest of the bunch, and it had the best optical quality. This model recharges quickly and easily, which is great if you want to juice up the light on your way to the trail. If you travel with a battery pack, rechargeable devices can be more convenient (you accumulate somewhat less battery waste over time, and the charge lasts for more than 16 hours). The Actik Core is also versatile—if you don’t have a USB source handy, you can run the headlamp on three AAA batteries. Some things we liked less: There’s no floodlight feature (which is good for camping), and the Actik Core has a lower-than-expected weatherproof rating. Compared with the Spot 350, which can withstand being submerged underwater, this model can only handle splashes.
Black Diamond Sprinter 275
The Sprinter 275 is a head-and-taillight-laden model that’s lightweight, comfortable, and secure. The lights are brighter than those in previous versions, but they are still not as strong as those on our top pick.
After years of testing, we still haven’t found a running headlamp (with a head strap or harness, plus a taillight, that won’t bounce off when you run) that’s lightweight, secure, and bright. But the Black Diamond Sprinter 275 continues to sit in our best-in-class spot. The Sprinter has a 275-lumen front light, and it provided decent trail illumination during our long nighttime runs. You’ll need to charge the headlamp every few days (according to the manual), but we used it for 13-plus hours without any problem (you can use AAA batteries if you prefer). The Sprinter notched a few wins over the other running models we tested. Its comfortable, easily adjustable strap keeps the lamp secured to your head while you run, and it weighs 4 ounces (a little more than the Spot 350, but not enough to feel heavy). Also, its rear blinker provides an important safety component. We do wish it had a lockout mode, however, to keep the light from turning on in your bag.
Black Diamond Wiz
Rainbow lights make this kids headlamp fun to play with during camping trips or backyard adventures.
The fancy light feature—which shines in all the colors of the rainbow—was what really sold us on the Black Diamond Wiz. This model also turns off at the two-hour mark, in case your kid forgets to do this. The control mechanism on the Wiz is a bit complicated, but we don’t think kids will mind clicking through the rainbow colors as they figure out which setting to choose. We think compared with the other kids models we tested (all of which offered only red and white lights), this headlamp is both the right price and more fun to use. Although the Wiz has only 30 lumens, that should be good enough for most kids (plus, they won’t be able to blind each other—or you—with the light).