Review: BioLite Headlamp 425

Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamp
BioLite Headlamp 425
$60, 2.75 oz./78g

What does the ideal backcountry headlamp look like? Many of us who find ourselves in wild spaces well before dawn or after dark might describe that headlamp as light, bright enough to see what lies at least 200 feet ahead of you (especially when off-trail), with a versatile set of lighting modes and brightness levels, easy to use, and rechargeable with sufficient juice to last several days. BioLite’s Headlamp 425 checks all those boxes and impressed me with its performance on backpacking trips in the Wind River Range in late summer and on a section of the Arizona Trail along the Gila River and in Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon in the first week of April.

Replacing BioLite’s older Headlamp 330, the Headlamp 425 not only ramps up the max brightness to 425 lumens—BioLite claims it projects a beam for 85 meters/280 feet at high power, which rings consistent with my experience using it—it also sports a smart design that translates to high comfort and ease of use.

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The Biolite Headlamp 425.
The Biolite Headlamp 425.

For starters, the large, front power button is easy to depress and to find with a finger when it’s on your head. Click that button in half-second increments to scroll through the four front lighting modes, which include red flood, white spot, white flood, and white spot and flood combined, all with dimming capability. Plus, the battery pack’s rear-facing light has white strobe and red flood and strobe modes that are bright—ideal for biking streets after dark, as I’ve done many times with this headlamp.

The 425 turns on in the mode and brightness level it was last turned off; and whenever the front headlamp or rear battery pack light is turned on or off, a four-bulb battery indicator on the battery pack displays power remaining. The front housing’s four-position tilt provides an adequate range of beam angles and stays put securely. The lockout mode is activated and deactivated by holding the 425’s power button down for eight seconds.

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The Biolite Headlamp 425.
The Biolite Headlamp 425 battery pack.

Perhaps most distinctively, the Headlamp 425 finds an appealing middle ground between heavier, bulkier, less comfortable torches that have greater power and charge duration and lighter models that are not as bright and don’t last as long in the backcountry.

Weighing just 2.75 ounces/78 grams, its ultrathin, low-profile, molded front housing integrates fully into the strap with a profile of just 0.4 inches/10mm, sitting flush against your forehead without bouncing or slipping even when hiking fast or running. The easily adjustable strap, with smooth, moisture-wicking fabric, feels so good I’d forget it was still on my head after dawn. And it shrinks down enough to fit kids.

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The Biolite Headlamp 425.
The Biolite Headlamp 425.

While a battery pack at the back of your head can feel annoying in certain circumstances, like lying on a pillow reading, this one is light and compact enough to reposition for comfort; it’s usually hardly noticeable. Plus, the rear pack provides the advantage of having a rear-facing light there for safety when biking streets.

Powered by a 1000 mAh Li-ion battery that recharges in about two hours using any USB-C cable, the headlamp has pass-through charging, meaning it can be used while plugged into a battery pack and charging. It has a run time of 60 hours at low power (five lumens, projecting a beam about 15 meters/50 feet) and four hours at high power (425 lumens); in practice, most backpackers have no need to worry about losing the 425’s charge on typical, three-season backpacking trips. I burned through only about half its full charge using it for six days straight with no recharge between back-to-back hikes on the Arizona Trail and in Aravaipa Canyon.

The IPX4 rating means it’s fine in rain or getting wet from perspiration but is not designed for immersion in water.

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The Verdict

Ultralight and compact yet bright, with a versatile set of lighting modes and brightness levels and a charge that lasts through a multi-day backcountry trip, the BioLite Headlamp 425 checks all the boxes for most backpackers, dayhikers, trail runners, climbers, bike commuters, and other users.


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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 The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page for categorized menus of all gear reviews and expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza


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