Review: BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro

Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamp
BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro
$100, 5.3 oz./150g

From an 18-mile, 13-hour, four-summit, partly off-trail hike in Utah’s Wasatch Range in early October to many evenings biking city streets after dark, I’ve found that BioLite’s rechargeable Headlamp 800 Pro stands out for a rare combination of ultra-bright power, wide range of modes, modest weight for a backcountry headlamp that packs this much power and versatility.

When you’re out well before dawn or after dark on a hiking, trail-running, climbing, ski touring, mountain biking, or other adventure where a very bright light is paramount to success and safety, your usual ultralight headlamp won’t do: they are not nearly bright enough and don’t hold a charge long enough. For those missions, you need an ultra-bright headlamp with a longer battery life.

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The BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro.
The BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro.

Powered by a micro-USB rechargeable, 3000 mAh lithium-ion battery, the 800 Pro’s multiple lighting modes include dimmable white spot and white flood plus the two combined; white strobe; dimmable red flood; and on the battery pack, rear-facing red solid and red strobe visibility beams, for biking streets after dark. It also has a lockout function, turned on and off by holding the power button down for eight seconds. It recharges to full in three hours.

Operation is simple and intuitive. The front power button scrolls through the light modes when clicking in rapid succession—it will turn off if you pause while clicking—and holding the button down in any mode engages the dimming function. The 800 Pro 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 the current charge level. The front housing’s four-position tilt provides an adequate range of beam angles and doesn’t slip positions, even when running.

Brightness levels range from a common low power of five lumens that’s adequate for basic campsite tasks to 250 lumens on medium, 500 lumens on high—brighter than virtually any ultralight headlamp—and a max of 800 lumens in 30-second burst mode, throwing an ultra-bright beam 135 meters/440 feet (that’s BioLite’s measure, which seemed accurate, in my experience). After 30 seconds, burst mode automatically reverts to the previous mode and brightness level.

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The BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro.
The BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro.

While 500 lumens will illuminate far enough ahead for virtually any off-trail navigation or high-speed descent, and even 250 lumens is more than bright enough for hiking a trail, the burst mode provides added assurance of finding whatever you are seeking.

The rear battery pack has two power buttons, the smaller one scrolling through the two red modes, solid and strobe, with dimming in either mode engaged by pressing and holding the button. The larger button has two functions: Click it to activate the front headlamp’s burst mode. Press and hold the large rear button for eight seconds to activate and deactivate constant mode, indicated by a blue LED bulb on the back of the battery pack (separate from the four-bulb battery indicator).

Constant mode is one of the 800 Pro’s uncommon features. Unlike most headlamps, which operate on so-called regulated power, meaning they gradually dim in brightness as their charge depletes, constant mode maintains the headlamp’s brightness level for 150 hours on low, four hours on medium, and two hours on high. As the charge diminishes, the headlamp shifts to regulated power, and the charge lasts for 150 hours on low, 8.5 hours on medium, seven hours on high, and 30 seconds on burst.

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The BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro battery pack.
The BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro battery pack.

Keeping it in constant mode is useful to avoid your light weakening unnoticeably, and perhaps dangerously, while engaged in the very type of activity for which you bought an ultra-bright headlamp, like mountain biking or skiing downhill, climbing or searching for a descent route, or maybe even running a rugged trail in full darkness (although 250 to 500 lumens will usually provide plenty of light for running in the dark). Constant mode will also, of course, deplete the charge faster.

When the 800 Pro’s charge is running low, it issues a pre-reserve warning, automatically dimming the brightness to 100 lumens and flashing four times every minute for 10 minutes; after that, it switches into reserve mode, providing a very dim but possibly critical five lumens of brightness for up to eight hours in flood, spot, or strobe mode (burst is disabled).

Another unique feature of the 800 Pro is pass-thru plus charging, which enables you to plug the 800 Pro into an external power source, like the BioLite Charge 40 PD power bank ($60, 9.4 oz./266.5g, scroll down in my review of backpacking accessories) using the included, three-foot-long charging cable, which circumvents the headlamp’s internal battery. By keeping the external power source in a jacket pocket, close to body heat, you can operate the headlamp in sub-freezing temps for hours longer than its max burn times, where other headlamps would drain quickly. It gives the 800 Pro an operating temperature range of -4° to 122° F/-20° to 50° C).

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The BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro head strap and battery pack.
The BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro head strap and battery pack.

Comfort can be easily overlooked in headlamps—but makes a more pronounced difference with larger, ultra-bright headlamps, especially when you’re wearing one for hours on a long backcountry mission. Here, like other BioLite headlamps, the 800 Pro excels.

First of all, while it weighs at least three ounces/85 grams more than the lightest headlamps on the market, for its power, the 800 Pro remains impressively light and compact at 5.3 ounces/150 grams.

On top of that, having the electronics integrated into the slim, moisture-wicking head strap creates a smooth, comfortable fit that doesn’t feel like a bulky, heavy headlamp and does not slip or bounce even when moving quickly while running, mountain biking, or skiing. The head strap splits into a double strap across the rear battery pack—which is less than half the size of a smartphone—creating soft contact against the back of your head that’s so comfortable (again, for a headlamp of this size and power) that I hardly think about it while wearing it.

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

See an instructional video on using the many features of the BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro at

The Verdict

For a variety of after-dark activities on or off-trail, from bike commuting to hiking and backpacking, mountain biking, climbing, or ski touring, when you need an ultra-bright headlamp, the BioLite Headlamp 800 Pro delivers a rare combination of multiple lighting modes and brightness levels, a long-lasting charge, plus comfort and modest weight for its power and versatility—at a very competitive price for this degree of performance.


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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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