headlamp reviews

A backpacker on the Fisher Creek Trail in North Cascades National Park.

25 Essential Backpacking Gear Accessories of 2023

By Michael Lanza

Sure, your backpack, boots, tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, and other backpacking gear matter a lot, and you should put serious thought into your choices when buying any of them. But little things matter, too. Various necessary accessories, convenience items, and small comforts accompany me on backcountry trips. Nearly three decades of field-testing gear—including the 10 years I spent as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog—has refined my sense of what I like on certain types of trips and what I will not do without anytime.

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The Biolite Headlamp 325.

Review: BioLite Headlamp 325

Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamp
BioLite Headlamp 325
$40, 1.8 oz.
bioliteenergy.com

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.

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Knog Bandicoot 250 ultralight headlamp.

Review: Knog Bandicoot 250 Ultralight Headlamp

Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamp
Knog Bandicoot 250
$45, 2.1 oz.
knog.com

When I reviewed this headlamp’s predecessor, the Bandicoot, I thought it was the kind of new product that had the potential to upend an entire category. After using the more powerful and comfortable Knog Bandicoot 250 on a nine-day hike of nearly 130 miles through the High Sierra in August, mostly on the John Muir Trail, I still think this technology is a game changer.

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The Black Diamond Spot 400.

Review: Black Diamond Spot 400 Headlamp

Ultralight Headlamp
Black Diamond Spot 400
$50, 2.5 oz.
backcountry.com

How do you choose a headlamp for the backcountry? If you’re looking for a range of modes that’s both basic and versatile, good brightness and dimming capability, and smart features that make it more useful while maintaining a design simplicity that doesn’t require an advanced science degree to operate it, Black Diamond’s Spot 400 is hard to beat. On evenings in camp on a five-day, late-summer hike in the Wind River Range, I found this latest update sustains and improves on the legacy of BD’s popular Spot line as an excellent value in an ultralight headlamp.

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Black Diamond Spot 400-R headlamp.

Review: Black Diamond Spot 400-R Headlamp

Rechargeable Ultralight Headlamp
Black Diamond Spot 400-R
$65, 2.6 oz.
backcountry.com

Using Black Diamond’s Spot 400-R on various outings, from nights in camp on a nine-day hike of nearly 130 miles through the High Sierra in August, mostly on the John Muir Trail, to dawn patrol backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Boulder Mountains, I found this latest update continues the legacy of functionality and versatility that has made BD’s long-popular Spot line arguably the best value in an ultralight headlamp—while also demonstrating the strong value proposition of choosing this rechargeable model over a battery-powered headlamp.

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