The Best Hunting Headlamps for 2014

The Best Hunting Headlamps for 2014

Remember when head-mounted lights were only worn by coal miners and coon hunters (who were often one and the same group of people)?

That antiquated image seems like it comes from way back when, but in reality, modern headlamps for everyday hunters aren't that old of a concept, and though they've come a long way since those first-generation bulbs, the goal is still the same: to provide bright, reliable light while leaving hands free to carry all that other equipment we lug into the woods.

Today, achieving that goal takes many forms, and it seems like every company out there, from dedicated light manufacturers to rinky-dink importers, is marketing more than one model of headlamp. The selection on store shelves is so mind-boggling, you'd almost be forgiven for grasping in the dark when it comes to which to wear on your head this hunting season.

Luckily, I'm here to light the path to picking the perfect headlamp with these six favorites.


Cabela's RGB II

The son of Cabela's popular RGB headlamp, this gen-2 model is a downsized, single-strap version of the original. When loaded with three AAA batteries, it weighs just under three ounces but the Maxbright Cree white LED produces 125 lumens. As the acronym suggests, the lamp is also fitted with three colored LEDs: red preserves night vision; non-spooking game green; and blood trailing blue.

Note the white LED is also switchable between low and high settings. This headlamp really shines in the battery life department, giving up 53 hours on low, 28 on high, or up to 200 hours using just a colored LED. Though the waterproof housing is made from a tough ABS plastic material, I have my suspicions about its overall durability, particularly at the door hinge and pivoting mount.

Bottom Line: Lightweight, powerful, full of features without breaking the bank.

Price: $45

LED Lenser H72

This lamp has so many things going on it makes studying the manual a must. It might take several tries to figure out how to switch between modes, but once you grasp the concept, the H72 will provide practically any lighting solution required. A positive-click button on the housing shuffles from low, bright, boost, and signal modes, while a scroll wheel on the battery compartment adjusts brightness up to 250 lumens.

The lamp swivels to aim light exactly where you need, plus the polycarb lens features a focus ring for flood to spotlight. Most headlamps with separate battery compartments feature an overhead strap, but not this one, so some shifting can occur unless you've got the single headband brain-crushingly tight. At 6ΒΌ ounces with 4 AAA batteries, it's not light.

Bottom Line: This unit is truly the workhorse of the bunch, but the features come with a price.

Price: $70

Nite Ize Inova

One of the most frustrating issues with a lot of headlamps is fumbling for the function button. Most are too small to find or not tactile enough to operate with gloves. Enter the Inova, with what the company calls Swipe-to-Shine (STS) technology that adjusts lamp brightness or switches from white to red illumination with just a swipe of the finger.

Slide your finger left across the top for the white LED or to the right for red. Multiple swipes in either direction adjust between low, medium, and high output. It's surprisingly easy and works even with gloves. For a three AAA battery powerhouse, the Inova cranks out the light, projecting 143 lumens and delivering a more-than-adequate runtime on the high setting. The polycarbonate housing is rated waterproof to 1 meter.

Bottom Line: Fantastic controls, good white light output. Runtime of 4+ hours on high is satisfactory.

Price: $35

Pelican 2760

Known for their virtually indestructible hard-sided gun and gear cases, Pelican builds that same bombproofing into their headlamps. The 2760 features a tough polymer housing designed to shrug off drops. The lamp is extremely versatile, with high and low output settings (133 and 90 lumens), as well as a 93-lumen flash mode.

The lens is set with three LEDs, a center forward-facing bulb with reflector that illuminates up to 380 feet, and two outside bulbs aimed slightly downward. Set in downcast mode, these two bulbs give off 40 lumens. There's also a separate red LED that gives off enough light to hike by, yet still preserves night vision. Expect to get up to four hours from three AAA batteries, depending on setting; downcast mode offers about 14 hours.

Bottom Line: Rugged, powerful, and multiple features at a very competitive price.

Price: $45

Petzl Tikka R+

Utilizing Reactive Lighting Technology, a front-mounted ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the light output. Look at your map and the light dims; glance down the trail and it brightens to 170 lumens. The Reactive mode can be set to deliver maximum power, maximum burn time, or a setting that blends brightness with battery life.

In any setting, the reactive lighting still optimizes battery life by only delivering bright light when needed. The lamp can also be switched to constant lighting mode with low, mid, and high settings, and features a separate red LED. My biggest reservation with the Tikka R+ is its proprietary battery that recharges via USB. Get too far away from an outlet and charging would require a separate solar unit or purchasing the optional AAA battery pack.

Bottom Line: Incedibly sophisticated, but the rechargeable batteries raise some issues.

Price: $80

Streamlight Enduro LED

High-dollar headlamps are worth the money, until you lose one. That's why I like high-value, low-price models like the Streamlight Enduro. Though it's not the brightest lamp, or full of features, considering you can pick one up for under $20 (real world), it makes sense to have one, or more, in reserve. The long-life LED is switchable between 6 and 14.5 lumens.

Runtime is surprisingly slim, just six hours in high mode, or 12 in low. The ABS plastic housing is tough and fitted with a nearly unbreakable polycarbonate lens. The only weak link is the plastic click-tab that sets the beam angle, which could break under heavy use or in extreme cold weather. The elastic band is a bit narrow, no doubt to save manufacturing costs, but the smartly designed mounting unit can be clipped to a hat brim instead.

Bottom Line: Affordable enough to always keep one in your pack, but bring spare batteries.

Price: $28

Recommended for You

Craig Boddington picks his top five over-the-counter hunts to add to your bucket list. Adventure

5 Bucket List DIY Hunts

Craig Boddington

Craig Boddington picks his top five over-the-counter hunts to add to your bucket list.

The most modern ammo and gear increase the odds of bagging a tricky tom this spring. Other Game

Today's Updated Turkey Hunting Gear

Joe Arterburn

The most modern ammo and gear increase the odds of bagging a tricky tom this spring.

Pass on your passion and make hunting fun for children with these tips! How-To

How to Make Hunting Fun for Kids

Jeff Johnston

Pass on your passion and make hunting fun for children with these tips!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 16: Cedar Break Bucks

Kevin Steele treks to the cedar breaks and coulees of north-central Nebraska for a shot at a big prairie whitetail.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 12: High Plains Elk

David Draper teams up with Fred Eichler to hunt elk on the high plains of southern Colorado.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 8: Midnight Sun Grizzlies

Kevin Steele and CZ-USA's Jason Morton return to Alaska's arctic tundra for Kevin's second and Jason's third attempt on the legendary species. Things are looking up on day one but time will tell if the boys will get a shot a the king of the tundra.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns. Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

Dream of a job in the hunting industry? Here's the inside scoop on some of the most coveted positions in the outdoors. Stories

17 Dream Jobs in the Outdoor Industry

Kali Parmley

Dream of a job in the hunting industry? Here's the inside scoop on some of the most coveted...

Over the years, Remington has introduced a continuously expanded variety of Model 1100 shotguns. Guns

Remington Timeline: 1963 - Remington Model 1100 Autoloading Shotguns

Hunting Online Staff

Over the years, Remington has introduced a continuously expanded variety of Model 1100...

See More Stories

More Accessories

 John Traywick with Browning Trail Cameras

Here are a few trail cam products that have caught our Accessories

Sneak Peek: New 2018 Trail Cam Models

PH Online Editors - January 19, 2018

John Traywick with Browning Trail Cameras Here are a few trail cam products that have caught...

These ballistic apps will help put your shot right on the money.
Ballistic apps and laser Accessories

Tested: 4 Best Apps For Long-Range Shooting

Keith Wood - October 26, 2017

These ballistic apps will help put your shot right on the money. Ballistic apps and laser

Introducing the Mystery Ranch TREEHOUSE, a new pack built specifically for whitetail-treestand Accessories

Mystery Ranch Expands With TREEHOUSE Pack

PH Online Editors - January 19, 2018

Introducing the Mystery Ranch TREEHOUSE, a new pack built specifically for whitetail-treestand

See More Accessories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.