Here at We Are Explorers, we’re all business. That’s why, when we got the call to test out some head torches, our first thought was “get the clipboards and someone make a spreadsheet.” Absolutely no time for fun and games.

 

We definitely didn’t take a trip down memory lane and play spotlight. We can also promise that we didn’t all turn on our torch’s strobes and have ourselves a four-person bush rave. And it would have been ridiculous for us to sneak up on each other with our lights off and scare the bejesus out of a fellow explorer.

Ok, ok, the jig is up. That’s exactly what we did. But what did you expect from a couple of bush monkeys?

Well, we may be bush monkeys, but we’re also a tough crowd to please. Here’s what we found:

 

pat corden, head torch, explorer review, explorer project, aidan, claudia, ellie

How We Review Head Torches

At We Are Explorers we like thorough reviews. The type where the gear goes on family trips, gets borrowed by a mate, and hopefully, makes it out the other end. We say what we think, and there ain’t nothing that’s gonna change that.

We talk more about this in our editorial standards.

Our reviewers put these head torches through every conceivable situation imaginable that might give us an indication of their performance should you pluck one off the shelf. We dropped them in buckets of water, we used them for special effects, we tested every single strobing mode… you name it.

While we have a great time doing it, we also considered the features of each head torch. We looked at price, comfort, durability, waterproofing, special features, and even how good they’d be for ghost stories around the campfire. We’re well aware how much time a head torch purchased to help making cooking camp dinners actually spends above the carrots…

We’ve reviewed the head torches that we know and trust. As these models get upgraded we’ll continue to update this article so that you can find the torch that’s gonna light up your world.

 

What Makes a Good Head Torch?

The perfect head torch for me, probably won’t be the best fit for you. And that’s because everyone out there is buying based on different features. To choose the right head torch for you, you need to understand what features you’re looking for. These are the ones that we think are the most important:

Ideal Head Torch Features

Brightness:

Head torch brightness is measured in lumens, which measure the total amount of visible light a torch puts out. Higher lumens equal a brighter light.

Light Modes:

Most head torches come with the option to change the way the beam of light is put out. Some will have wide angle, or spotlight, battery-conservation or ultra-bright modes. Red light mode is also becoming very common.

Ease of use:

Consider how difficult it may be to adjust the settings while you’re wearing it. Can you adjust the fit while it’s on your head? Can you press the buttons if you’re wearing gloves?

Brand reputation:

Two head torches may have exactly the same list of features and their only difference is the brand. This tiny difference is often actually quite huge, but if you’re unfamiliar with the brand you can turn to reviews of discontinued or past products from each brand to get an idea of what to expect from their upgraded models.

Batteries and Power:

There’s nothing worse than your USB rechargeable headtorch running out of juice on day two of a five-day hike. Consider how long you need your head torch on your noggin, and how you’d prefer to power it up. These days you’re swimming in choice so you can afford to be fussy here.

Weight:

For ultralight hikers and runners, this one is a no-brainer – the only correct purchase is the one that is lightest, regardless of all the other features. But for the rest of us, increased weight often represents increased battery life, or a more sturdy band. Consider how long you’ll be wearing it and see if you can try one on before you buy.

Why Should I Care About Discontinued Models?

In the name of continual improvement and technological advances, discontinued models of our favourite products are a reality we have to accept. But – they aren’t all bad. In fact, there are many discontinued models that remain strong favourites, even after an updated model is released.

There are heaps of reasons why a product can be discontinued, which I’m not going to go into here, but looking at experiences with a previous model can actually shed a lot of light on what you may be able to expect in the newer, flashier, upgraded model.

 

tim ashelford, outdoor retailer australia, new gear, 2018, biolite, head torch

Sometimes an upgrade is just a new colour | @tim_ashelford

 

Most brands build upon the model that came before. It’s cool to watch a brand like Black Diamond take on customer feedback and see their torches evolve from single-use batteries to rechargeable batteries, to USB rechargeable models as preferences change over time.

All this is to say, you’ve gotta be a bit bananas if you discount a product review because the product is expired. Use older reviews to compare against the new product. There’s no better gauge of an untested products likely performance than looking at how the model that came before performed.

The Best of the Best Head Torches

Short of having an actual award ceremony, here’s our top recommendations when it comes to head torches. Got a category to suggest?

Leave us a comment and we’ll see if we can find a winner!

The Best Head Torch For Casual Camping Trips:

Knog Bandicoot Head Torch

The Best Head Torch If You’re Scared of the Dark:

Ledlenser MH-10 Head Torch

The Best Head Torch For Trail Running:

BioLite HeadLamp 750

The Best Head Torch For the Person Who Drops Everything:

Petzl Actik Head Torch

The Best Head Torch For Spotlighting

Ledlenser MH-6 Head Torch

Head Torch Reviews

Ledlenser MH-10 Head Torch

Price: $189.95
Lumens: 600
Weight: 158g
Power: Removable rechargeable battery
Availability: Buy now
Reviewer:
 Pat Corden

 

pat corden, head torch, explorer review, explorer project, aidan kempster, ledlenser mh-10

 

When talking bang for buck, this head torch has got a whole lot of bang but it’s also going to cost a fair few bucks with an RRP of $189.95. However, there’s a reason for the hefty price tag. With 600 lumens, it’s in a league of its own. It shines brighter than my future, has an adjustable beam (both in brightness levels and beam width) and can tilt up and down. It also has a removable rechargeable battery, so you can hot-swap new batteries in on those longer expeditions.

I used the Ledlenser MH-10 for a week on the Great South West Walking Track and while it worked wonderfully, it felt like overkill. I had to switch it to the lowest light level most of the time as the other two were blinding to any other hikers within a 50m radius. However, when doing a bit of late night wildlife spotting, the strong beam and adjustable focus came in handy. Even with decent use over the week, there was no discernible drop in brightness (and it wasn’t even fully charged when I left). Weight is always a consideration when hiking, and while the LedLenser is a bit bulky with the battery pack on the back, it is actually quite light at only 158g.

In the end, while it’s a great torch, it isn’t your “ghost stories around the campfire” or “once a year camping trip” kind of torch. It’s more of a specialist torch for caving, professional spotlight players, or those who are afraid of the dark.

Ledlenser MH-10
“It looks like he’s compensating for something.”
Battery & Battery Life
80
Weight & Comfort
80
Beam Brightness
100
Features & Ease of Use
80
Pros
Brighter than my future
Removable rechargeable battery allows you to have others charged up and ready to chuck in
Adjustable beam width
Cons
Need to put filters on for red or green light
Doesn't take standard batteries when the rechargeables run out
Expensive
85

Black Diamond Storm Head Torch

Price: $89.95
Lumens: 350
Weight: 110g
Power: Batteries
Availability:
Discontinued
Upgraded model:
Black Diamond Storm 500 Lumen Rechargeable Headlamp
Reviewer: Claudia Mitchel

 

pat corden, head torch, explorer review, explorer project, claudia mitchel, black diamond storm

 

The 350 Lumen Black Diamond Storm Headlamp (no longer available) is a neat little head torch that provides everything the adventure-goer or night-seeker needs for those quick weekend rainforest benders or longer hiking endeavours. The battery-powered torch weighs about 110g with a comfortable adjustable head strap and numerous functional (red light, varying beam settings) and fun (red, blue and green disco light) features.

It’s no slump in the power domain, with this later iteration boasting an unprecedented 350 lumens and improved peripheral lighting which means it is both perfect for route finding after dark and close-range activities at the campsite like cooking, reading or sorting gear. Luckily for me, it’s also completely waterproof and dustproof, with an IP67 rating meaning it’s good for depths of up to 1m for 30 minutes. It got the tried and tested dunk test at home in a bucket and emerged as good as new (or as good as when it went into the water at least).

It’s also got an intuitive secure locking mode, which prevents the light from accidentally turning on when stored in your pack or pocket. With a finite amount of battery power, this can be one of the most frustrating moments when out hiking and desperate for light. Thank you Black Diamond.

Unfortunately, it’s not rechargeable, so you’ll still be relying on wasteful single-use batteries. There’s also a slight learning curve to this one. With a bit of fiddling around you can figure out the main functions of the head torch but to dig deeper into the range of features on offer including strobe lighting, and secure locking mode, you might need to pick up the manual, or have a bit more patience than I did.

Black Diamond Storm
“The disco light feature is the bonus feature I’ve been wishing for in a head torch”
Battery & Battery Life
70
Weight & Comfort
90
Beam Brightness
80
Features & Ease of Use
90
Pros
Incredible power
Completely waterproof and dustproof
Intuitive secure locking mode prevents the light from accidentally turning on
Well priced
Cons
Not rechargeable
Not super easy to use
83

Petzl Actik Head Torch

Price: $89.95
Lumens: 350
Weight: 86g
Power: Batteries
Availability: Buy now (but it’s getting harder to find, so be quick!)
Upgraded Model: Newer models are available now
Reviewer:
Pat Corden

 

pat corden, head torch, explorer review, explorer project, ellie, petzl, actik

 

The Petzl Actik is a bit like Mama Bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. With 300 lumens of power, IP X4 water resistance and a weight of 96 grams, it’s got a little bit of everything, but not too much,

If you’re looking for a jack-of-all-trades, this might be the one for you. Decent battery life, adjustable brightness and a red light all mean that it isn’t short on features. Furthermore, Petzl headtorches are known for their durability and while we didn’t go all out when testing this aspect, it seemed to stand up to the challenges thrown at it. A couple of drops here and there didn’t seem to faze it at all.

Disappointingly, our model didn’t come with the CORE rechargeable battery pack that Petzl offer, but you can buy one separately. I think by now, these should just be standard, not an optional extra, especially if they have already made it for this model. To be honest, I also found it more confusing to use than the Black Diamond and Ledlenser models. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t manageable, just a bit less intuitive and took a bit of getting used to.

As many of us know, jack-of-all-trades can also mean master of none. For any given activity, there is probably a head torch in this review that will do a better job. That said, if you want a torch that can take a beating and fit most needs, this might be the one.

Petzl Actik
“Not too bright, not too dull, this torch is juuuust right” – Goldilocks
Battery & Battery Life
70
Weight & Comfort
80
Beam Brightness
80
Features & Ease of Use
70
Pros
Durable
Lock to stop it turning on in your bag
Jack of all trades
Cons
Doesn't come with a rechargeable battery as standard
A bit complex to use
75

Black Diamond Iota Head Torch

Price: $79.99
Lumens: 150
Weight: 56g
Power: USB rechargeable
Availability: Buy now (but it’s getting harder to find, so be quick!)
Upgraded Model: Black Diamond Sprint 225 Lightweight Headlamp
Reviewer: 
Pat Corden

pat corden, head torch, explorer review, explorer project, this is pat, black diamond, iota

 

The Black Diamond Iota (now superseded by the Black Diamond Sprint)is a pocket-rocket of a head torch. It packs a punch in the power area and punches well above its weight in battery life for such a compact package.

This bad boy is tiny, weighing in at only 56g. It may not have a focusing beam, different colours, internet connection or voice activation but it does have a bloody solid bulb and a long-lasting rechargeable battery. Aside from that, it has a button that turns the torch on and off and adjusts brightness. And that’s all I need.  No operators manual or three-year degree necessary for this simple piece of kit. It’s the perfect torch to keep on hand as a backup, bring along on trips in case your mate forgets theirs, or keep in your car for emergencies. While not the brightest out there, 150 lumens is plenty for your average Joe Camper.

The biggest issue that I have with this head torch is that it may ruin every other torch out there for me. I can’t think of another that is as light, simple and practical. However, it does fall short on the durability front. The Iota can take a splash or two, but a proper dunk could send it to head torch heaven. It also doesn’t take any disposable batteries like some other torches. So when the rechargeable batteries run out, it’s out of action until you can charge it via its USB port again.

With this torch, the ratings really don’t tell the true story. It scores low on features but makes up for it in simplicity. Its beam isn’t the brightest but it gets the job done. Where it really shines (get it?) is how light it is and how easy it is to use.

Black Diamond Iota
“Small things come in good packages…Wait I got that wrong, can I change my quote?”
Battery & Battery Life
70
Weight & Comfort
100
Beam Brightness
70
Features & Ease of Use
80
Pros
So so so tiny
Extremely simple to use
Lock to stop it turning on in your bag
Affordable
Cons
Doesn't take AAA batteries for when its rechargeable one runs out
Spash resistant
but not made for a proper dunk
May ruin all other head torches for you
80

Ledlenser MH-6 Head Torch

Price: $69.95
Lumens: 200
Weight: 93g
Power: USB rechargeable
Availability:
Discontinued
Upgraded model:
Newer models are available now
Reviewer: Aidan Kempster

 

Pat corden, explorer review, head torch, Ellie Ledlenser mh-6

 

The LedLenser MH-6 (discontinued, but newer models are available) is a powerful and versatile head torch. It has a great battery life, an IPX6 waterproof rating and a smart beam focusing system. It has one recessed button that requires a firm push and a lock feature to stop it turning on in your bag. It weighs only 93 grams and the adjustment straps make it easy to fit and resize. I fell asleep with it still attached to my head, so I rate it for comfort. On the price scale, it sits between the upper end hobby torches and lower range of the extreme torches.

My favourite part of the torch is the design. I have owned many head torches over the years and this torch overcomes the way the rest failed. The MH-6 binds the battery against your forehead and allows the light to tilt on its own. With every other torch I have owned, the whole body, including the battery, had to tilt. The body attached to the head strap by a flimsy plastic hinge which broke under the weight of movement. The MH-6 doesn’t flap about and it feels solid. It inspires confidence for activities in the dark that need your attention or hands.

A simple twist transforms the light from a diffuse torch to a narrow and powerful spotlight. In a field test, the MH-6 was a brighter spotlight than the diffuse CREE LED headlights I use cycling in the forest. This torch would be useful for spotting wildlife in trees.

Ledlenser MH-6
“The Ledlenser MH-6 is a great torch for outdoor athletes but overkill for the once a year camping trip.”
Battery & Battery Life
90
Weight & Comfort
90
Beam Brightness
90
Features & Ease of Use
80
Pros
Very Bright
Easy to use
Durable tilt mechanism
Red-light mode
USB rechargeable battery (3xAAA batteries can replace it in a pinch)
Cons
Pricey for those seeking a simple torch
Red light and main light at different angles
88

Petzl Reactik Head Torch

Price: $194.95
Lumens: 220
Weight: 115g
Power: USB rechargeable
Availability: Discontinued
Upgraded Model: Models of the Petzl Actik Headlamp are available now
Reviewer:
Tim Ashelford

 

pat corden, head torch, explorer review, explorer project,, petzl, Aidan, Reactik

 

The Petzl Reactik, in addition to a very clever name that riffs off its older brother the Actik, boasts a range of features that on paper, look like a step up for a head torch $50 dearer than its counterpart. For the extra dosh you can expect reactive lighting that adjusts to your surroundings, USB rechargeable batteries and about 20 extra grams.

I’ve dabbled in reactive lighting in the past while mountain biking and trail running at night and while it definitely does what it says on the package (adjusts the light to the surroundings) I’ve mostly come away wondering if it’s a bit of a gimmick. With “reactive” worked into the name and a big sensor giving me spooky third-eye vibes, I went to the Reactik expecting conversion.

Alas, I’m still not convinced. There’s still a lag when you look from the bush down to a map, meaning that you’re blinded by the reflection before it adjusts. I struggled through this for two nights before starting to double-click through to “standard mode” habitually. Unfortunately by this point I’d used up a fair chunk of the battery. Brands often claim reactive lighting is “more efficient” but unless you’re constantly running your torch at higher brightnesses than necessary, this doesn’t seem to be the case. To be fair, the light output is excellent, up to 220 lumens is more than enough (though less than its more basic counterpart) and the mixed beam ensures an even spread of light.

Also, damn, this thing is comfy! Petzl have used their patented double strap that looks like the back of a pair of swimming goggles, it keep the torch rock steady. I was initially worried that the plastic clip (a style much derided by Aidan in his Ledlenser review) would allow the torch to flip down, but I couldn’t make this happen even with vigorous headbanging.

Unfortunately these ergonomics are ruined by the two weird and fiddly buttons that operate it. I’m sure with practice these would become second nature but good luck if you’re wearing gloves.

While I’m all for rechargeable batteries, the one in the Reactik can’t be replaced by normal batteries. I think I speak for everyone in the outdoors when I say that this is annoying but USB battery packs are starting to become the norm on longer expeditions.

The Reactik ticks a lot of boxes but ultimately, head torches are best when you forget you’re wearing them, something that never quite happened while I was wearing it.

Petzl Reactik
“The Reactik demonstrates the front line of reactive and rechargeable technologies, but neglects ease of use in the process.”
Battery & Battery Life
70
Weight & Comfort
85
Beam Brightness
75
Features & Ease of Use
60
Pros
Super comfortable
Rechargeable batteries are better for the environment and cheaper long term
Even beam
Cons
Reactive lighting is still frustrating
Confusing and hard to operate
Can't replace rechargeable battery with normal batteries
73

Knox Bandicoot Head Torch

Price: $74.99
Lumens: 250
Weight: 60g
Power: USB rechargeable
Availability: Buy now
Reviewer:
Amy Fairall

 

 

When my violently orange Knog Bandicoot arrived in the mail, I have to admit, my first reaction was, ‘What the heck is that thing?’ Despite the odd appearance, this head torch impressed me on a recent camping trip.

The Bandicoot doesn’t have just one light with variable brightness, no siree. There are five different light modes on this baby, all with the ability to be dimmed up to four times. Plus, if you download the Modemaker app, you can choose between an additional 13 modes to program onto your head torch. Did someone say ‘disco flash mode’?

The Bandicoot’s battery life differs depending on how many lumens you like to use. Max battery life is in reading mode, on minimum lumens and lasts for 80hrs. This drops down to 2hrs of battery life when using all 100 lumens in the combo mode. Not bad, but not quite enough if you’re on a multi-day expedition.

Comfort-wise, the Bandicoot is a winner.It’s so light (60g) that I often forgot I was wearing it and kept blinding people when I turned to talk to them. Whoops. The only complaint I have about the design is the clips that are used to adjust the head torch to fit snugly around your head. Although there’s plenty of variance in how tight or loose the head torch can be, the small clasps that are used to lock the straps into place are fiddly and difficult to pop into the narrow holes.

Functionality is where it shines. It’s USB chargeable. And the USB port is sneakily hidden right inside the light itself. That means no more lithium batteries and no additional charging cable to pack. Plus it’s lockable (no unintentionally drained batteries here!), waterproof, and programmable.

Knog have definitely achieved what they set out to do when designing the Bandicoot. This is certainly not a boring head torch. The slick and eye-catching design, multitude of light modes and useful features make the Bandicoot a handy light tool, rather than your standard head torch. It’s great for standard camping use, but without more power and lumens, it may not be ideal for the activities of every Explorer.

Want more details? Check out Amy’s detailed review of the Knog Bandicoot Head Torch.

 

KNOG BANDICOOT HEAD TORCH
“This is certainly not a boring head torch. The slick and eye-catching design, multitude of light modes and useful features certainly make the Bandicoot a handy light tool, rather than your standard head torch.”
Pros
Cons

 

STOV Flatpack Gas BBQ
'A tough yet tiny grill that removes so many of the hassles of cooking on a small BBQ; the smoke, the unpredictable heat, the weight, and the dirty coals.'
Portability
85
Assembly
95
Cooking
80
Cleaning
90
Aesthetics & Design
100
Price
90
Pros
Clever design makes it very packable
Quick & easy to assemble and fire up
Very easy to clean
Great heat for a proper BBQ
Cons
Cooking technique takes a bit of practice
Needs proper cleaning after use
90

So, which head torch is the best?

Just like Mum and Dad, we don’t play favourites. Instead, want to provide you with everything that you need to know to choose the right one for you. None of these head torches does it all and they’ve all got their benefits and drawbacks. Depending on whether you are a microadventure King or an extended expedition Queen, a different torch will be the one for you.

In fact, if there is one conclusion we can make from the weekend testing these torches, it’s that there is no better way to spend a few days than mucking around with your mates in nature. So the most important decision you’re going to make regarding a light to slap on your noggin is the decision to get out and use it. Go forth and adventure, my fellow bush monkeys.

For the record, we were given the Black Diamond and Ledlenser head torches but had to return the Petzl ones.

 

pat corden, head torch, explorer review, explorer project, group shot, camping

FAQs Head Torches

How many lumens does a good head torch have?

A head torch used for basic activities around camp will need 100-250 lumens, but if you’re hiking/running/navigating at night, between 300-600 lumens is good.

What is the best head torch on the market?

The best head torch for you will be different than the best head torch for you, because they are all tailored to different activities and users. But when it comes to brands, we know you can rely on Black Diamond, BioLite, Petzl, and Ledlenser head torches.

Which Black Diamond Head Torch has the most lumens?

The Black Diamond Octane head torch has 1500 lumens and is currently their brightest model available.

We Are Explorers uses affiliate links. If you buy anything through our Wild Earth links we earn a small commission, which helps keep our site free! We choose products for gear guides and lists based on our own experience and understanding of outdoor gear and its impact. Learn more about our Editorial Standards.