For relatively close-up task lighting - for household use during power outages, reading in bed, changing a car tire or battery, or for campsite use - reviews recommend headlamps with wide flood beams. This type of headlamp doesn't provide red light for night vision, and they don't throw light far enough ahead to be good for running or hiking on challenging trails.
For comfort, ease of use and value, Backpacking Light gives top ranking to the waterproof Princeton Tec Quad (*Est. $30), which carries a lifetime warranty. It uses four Nichia SuperBright LEDs with a wide flood beam. Maximum output is only 21 lumens compared with 60 lumens for the Apex discussed further below, but one owner reviewing it at REI.com says it's almost too bright for reading.
The Princeton Tec Quad is lightweight - 2.9 ounces with three AAA lithium-ion batteries (3.6 ounces with alkaline batteries) and can use rechargeable lithium-ion or NiMH batteries. Battery life is 50 hours (on high) to 150 hours (on low). The battery pack is located in front with the lamp. Reviews say the main drawback is that the voltage regulator doesn't work well at keeping the light output constant when the light is set on its brightest setting. Princeton Tec headlamps are waterproof to one meter.
The Petzl Zipka Plus (*Est. $40) also uses an array of four LEDs for a broad floodlight, but uses a retractable cord instead of an elastic headband. This makes it less comfortable when worn on the head, but versatile since you can attach it to a wrist, tent pole or dog collar. Owners say it's useful in strobe mode as a safety blinker when walking at dusk.
As a regular headlamp, though, the Zipka Plus gets more mixed reviews. At 2.3 ounces, it's a little lighter than the Princeton Tec Quad, and a bit brighter too at 35 lumens. REI measures the Quad's output as 37 lux at two meters on its higher brightness setting, while the Zipka Plus produces 64 lux on its higher setting. However, the Zipka Plus lamp doesn't tilt to aim the light where you want it, and doesn't throw the light as far. Nor can this headlamp use lithium-ion batteries.
The Petzl Tikka Plus (*Est. $35) weighs five ounces more, but gets high marks from owners reviewing it at REI.com and at BackCountry.com. It also outputs 35 lumens but tilts for better aim, and throws light as far as 105 feet. Battery life is similar to that of the Zipka Plus - 150 hours on low, 100 on high. But like other Petzl headlamps, it's only water-resistant, not waterproof, and the lack of voltage regulation means the light gradually fades as batteries lose their charge.
As a budget headlamp, the 2007 Outside Buyer's Guide recommends the 2.8-ounce Black Diamond Gizmo (*Est. $20), saying it provides plenty of light for camp chores. Owners reviewing it at REI.com say it's not as well built as more expensive headlamps, but quite usable. Instead of an array of four LEDs powered by three AAA batteries, as on the task-lighting headlamps discussed above, the Black Diamond Gizmo has just three LEDs powered by only two AA batteries. The main drawback is short battery life of only 30 to 36 hours, but the Gizmo can use rechargeable NiMH batteries. Some owners recommend it for children because it can fit small heads and turns itself off after four hours to save battery life.