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Headlamps: Expert and User Reviews

By: Lisa Maloney on July 14, 2017

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Running Headlamps Our Sources

Headlamps: Ratings of Sources

Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier, May 2017

The editors of OutdoorGearLab.com put 28 headlamps through extensive hands-on testing, then rate them each in categories like trail finding, proximity lighting, battery life and overall brightness. Each headlamp also receives a comparative overall score out of 100 possible, a thorough review that explores the ins and outs of its field performance, and a brief comparison to similar models. Standout picks receive a score of at least 65 out of 100 possible. This report was originally published on May 10, 2015, and has been updated for 2017.

Eve O'Neill, Feb. 7, 2017

The author builds on the previous headlamps report, which was written by somebody who had been using and wearing headlamps for more than 20 years. Last year, more than 30 headlamps were put through hands-on testing for qualities like lighting distance and beam shape; this year, another dozen models were added to the test pool. Each product received an extensive, detailed and well-balanced write-up, including helpful photos that document beam brightness and shape.

Paul Cuno-Booth, April 8, 2015

The author provides a short review for each headlamp, based on the results of hands-on testing. Although the seven headlamps in this roundup don't receive comparative rankings, Paul Cuno-Booth awards two editor's choice designations, and he's not shy about highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of each headlamp's performance.

Milosz Pierwola, Not Dated

The author, a test director for GearInstitute.com, tests each of these headlamps briefly and uses them under real-world conditions too. Each headlamp receives a comparative ranking out of 100 points possible, along with "best in class" designations and a comprehensive review with individual ratings in categories like comfort, brightness, ease of use and features. Elsewhere on the site, another report gives similar results for running headlamps.

Staff of GadgetReview.com, June 5, 2017

The author and a party of four people subjected an unknown number of headlamps to testing in the Ozark Mountains and choose three top picks: One for running, one for hunting, and the last for work applications. In addition to a detailed discussion about each headlamp's performance, this site also offers a complete buying guide and offers recommendations for the ideal beam distance in applications like trail running, hiking and caving.

Pete Stoughton, March 7, 2016

Author Pete Stoughton subjects an unspecified number of headlamps to hands-on testing and provides a short review for each. No comparative rankings are issued, but he's very transparent about his testing methods and offers a great balance of pros and cons for each headlamp, coming from the perspective of an experienced trail runner.

Editors of Backpacker.com, Feb. 25, 2015

The editors of Backpacker magazine and an unspecified number of testers subject hundreds of products to hands-on testing in order to select 13 "Editor's Choice Award" winners for the 2015 gear round-up. Just one headlamp -- the Princeton Tec Sync -- makes the cut, and this is the most recent year in which a headlamp was included in the Editor's Choice awards. Elsewhere on the site, a few other non-comparative gear reviews are published.

Graham Averill , March 29, 2017

This review focuses on recent updates to headlamp technology. The focus is on features, but Outside is well-known for conducting strenuous hands-on tests of gear, so we know the reviewers "know their stuff." Elsewhere on the site, OutsideOnline.com also publishes a reader Q&A article on headlamps for running, and they include a couple of headlamps in their collection of the "best lights" for 2016.

Switchback Travel Staff, March 28, 2017

It appears that the headlamps in this roundup were subjected to hands-on testing, although the staff authors don't give details of how that was done. What is clear is that each product receives a balanced consideration of its pros, cons and features, along with brief commentary on the industry in general, updated technology for 2017, and a link to a useful headlamp buying guide.

AJ Powell, Feb. 10, 2017

This publication often conducts hands-on reviews of gear, but it's not clear if the headlamps in this round-up were actually tested. That said, the short blurb each receives highlights its usefulness for a range of sports, from mild dog-walking to epic heli-skiing during short winter days. Some of the picks are for technological advances, too -- for example, one headlamp is chosen for having the most innovative on/off mechanism.

Contributors to Amazon.com, As of July 2017

Amazon.com offers several thousand listings for headlamps. Buried among all the generic models are a number of high-quality headlamps for hiking, camping and running; some models receive thousands of user reviews. We noted standout models as having an average score of 4.3 stars or better after at least 20 useful user reviews.

Contributors to REI.com, As of July 2017

REI.com stocks several dozen types of headlamps for all uses -- most of them very high quality models. There aren't as many user reviews here as at Amazon.com, but the users tend to be fairly savvy about what they're buying and how they use it. Standout models receive a rating of 4 stars or better after at least 10 user reviews.

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