Few things with less heft than a Snickers bar will get you out of trouble like a headlamp. In fact, hands-free illumination in the direction you’re looking is the first step to getting safely back to the rig when you’re darked-upon. There’s no shortage of strap-on options out there, ranging from heavy, long-lasting light blasters to quarter-sized micros that will barely light up your pre-dawn oatmeal. How do you choose? With the help of Matt Rogers, gear guru at The Trail Head in Missoula, Headwall compiled a few of this year’s best and brightest, for every member of the family.
Black Diamond Icon, $80
With two night-friendly red LEDs, two standard LEDs, and a 200-lumen “QuadPower LED,” the Icon gives you all the light you need (or don’t) in an aluminum, waterproof and nearly indestructible housing. A smart on/off switch dims down to four lumens, and it all runs on four AA batteries—although that’s why the Icon weighs 220 grams, more than the other lights combined.
Black Diamond Ion, $20Weighing in at just 28 grams, the Ion is a light to always carry, but never use—unless you must. A single, 12-lumen LED will brighten your route when unexpectedly be-nighted, and a smart toggle prevents accidental battery drain. The tiny 6-volt battery may be short-lived and hard to find, but it allows the Ion to weigh less than a USGS topo map.
Petzl Tikka2 CORE, $85
A brilliant balance of brightness, weight and convenience has made the Tikka the go-to lamp for adventurers and flat tire changers the world over. The 40-lumen Tikka2 retains three lighting modes and simple but strong construction, but for 2012 Petzl retooled the popular light with a rechargeable and “smart” battery (although AAAs still work, too). The $40 Petzl CORE battery, a rechargeable unit with lithium ion polymer technology, plugs into any USB port, so you can charge it with a cell phone charger—or portable solar units. At just 30 grams, the CORE weighs less than 3 alkaline AAAs and brings the total headlamp weight to only 76 grams. And it performs far better in cold temps, too. Download Petzl software to modify light function, regulate output and adjust settings that determine light intensity and battery life. The CORE will quickly pay for itself: It lasts longer than 900+ batteries.
Black Diamond Wiz, $20
With features like a smaller, alien-themed headband, a child-safe closure and a breakaway elastic safety strap—not to mention an auto shut-off at two hours—the 16-lumen Wiz (56 grams, with batteries) is specifically designed for kids. If your little campers are always leaving your lamp on, consider the Wiz—for the price of a dozen AAAs.