Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamp
BioLite Headlamp 325
$50, 1.8 oz./51g
Look for an ultralight headlamp built for backcountry use that’s under two ounces and $40 or less and you’ll find very few choices—with the BioLite Headlamp 325 arguably the best among them. Then consider that it sports a basic but functional set of lighting modes, cranks out enough brightness and lasts long enough on a full charge for backpackers, dayhikers, trail runners, and other backcountry users, and this slim light will look pretty good to many people who log significant hours on the trail.
I used the Headlamp 325 on nights in camp on a five-day, late-summer backpacking trip in the Wind River Range and on back-to-back backpacking trips in the first week of April on a section of the Arizona Trail along the Gila River and in Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon. With a 700 mAh Li-ion battery that recharges via micro USB (charging cord included), the Headlamp 325’s max brightness of 325 lumens—a more than 50 percent increase over its respectably bright predecessor, the Headlamp 200—throws a solid white beam for about 250 feet/75 meters, certainly bright enough for hiking a trail in deep darkness or even route-finding off-trail.
A full charge lasts three hours at max brightness and 40 hours at low power (five lumens, adequate for camp tasks), according to BioLite. That’s good enough for the typical backpacking trip: I finished that five-day hike in the Winds with charge remaining in the 325. The reserve power mode buys you one more hour. The flood LED doubles as the charge indicator: After turning the 325 off, the flood light will flash green twice to indicate more than 50 percent of the charge remaining, red twice for under 50 percent, and red four times to indicate it requires recharging. When plugged in, the flood light slowly blinks green while charging and goes off when fully charged.
Operating the Headlamp 325 is simple and intuitive using just one power button. Click it in half-second increments to scroll through the four lighting modes, which include all that most backpackers and dayhikers need: white spot and red flood LEDs, both with dimming capability, plus white and red strobe. Its built-in “brightness memory” means the headlamps turns on in the mode and brightness level you last turned it off.
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The dimming function—common in ultralight headlamps unless they have three or four brightness levels—is useful for tasks in camp and in the tent while helping to extend the battery’s charge when using it at lower levels. The intuitive lockout mode turns on and off by holding the power button depressed for eight seconds.
The four-position housing tilt covers an adequately wide range of angles for directing the light. With all of the electronics contained inside the tiny, nearly weightless front housing, which is, in turn, integrated into the slender, easily adjustable, no-bounce head strap—which is wider from the housing to the temples for better comfort—the Headlamp 325 goes almost unnoticed on your head.
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The moisture-wicking stretch fabric, with a reflective strip on the back for night use, makes a very smooth contact all around your head, even at the housing, and doesn’t slip at all—making it certainly among the most comfortable ultralight headlamps to wear for any length of time. Plus, lacking a battery behind your head, it’s easier to wearing while it lying on your back.
The IPX4 waterproof rating means it withstands splashing water from any direction—it’s likely safe in rain but don’t let this headlamp fall into water.
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The BioLite Headlamp 325 combines incredibly low weight and comfort with an adequate range of modes at a bargain-basement price for a rechargeable, ultralight headlamp.
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Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned backpacker, you’ll learn new tricks for making all of your trips go better in my “How to Plan a Backpacking Trip—12 Expert Tips,” “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking,” and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.” With a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read all of those three stories for free; if you don’t have a subscription, you can download the e-guide versions of “How to Plan a Backpacking Trip—12 Expert Tips,” the lightweight and ultralight backpacking guide, and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.