What You Need To Know Before Buying A Headlamp

Gone are the days when the only methods we had of lighting the darkness were candles and lanterns. Welcome to a day and age where light is literally at the tip of our fingers. With just a flip of a switch or a push of a button, we can illuminate the world around us. Headlamps, while very useful and versatile, are unfortunately an often overlooked light source. If you think that these handy devices are only good for spelunking and the likes, you may not realize what you’re missing out on. Headlamps can be used for a variety of reasons and have a number of useful and practical applications. The guide will explain exactly what you can use headlamps for and how to find the one that’s right for you.

What Can Headlamps Be Used For?
While many of us associate headlamps with the gear used by those who explore the world’s caves, that is far from the only application for these versatile lighting devices. So what exactly can you do with a headlamp?

Working on Cars
Have you ever had to work on a car in the dark or have you had to get underneath a car only to find that the lighting was not nearly sufficient enough to get the job done? A headlamp can rescue you from such a situation. Providing you with hands-free light where and when you need it, these lamps can make your car repair endeavors go much, much easier (saving you time and frustration).

Walking Your Dog
When a dog needs to go, a dog needs to go. Needless to say, it’s not always at the most convenient of times. When holding a leash and trying to control an excited pet, holding a flashlight isn’t always ideal. A headlamp can provide you with the light that you need to walk your dog safely, allowing you to see what’s around you and allowing drivers to see you and your pet.

Reading at Night
If you enjoy reading before you go to bed, you’re not alone. Getting out of bed to turn the light off when you’re done with your literary adventures can be a real pain. If you share your room with your significant other, he or she might not appreciate the entire room being lit up while you read as well. A headlamp can kill both of these birds with one stone. Instead of getting out of bed to turn the light off, simply turn off your headlamp and put it on your nightstand. Your partner gets the added benefit of not having to sleep in a well-lit room.

Outdoor Cooking
Quite a few people enjoy outdoor cooking. Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t always keep with our schedules. If you find yourself cooking outdoors once the sun has set, you may find it hard to get the lighting you need to cook your food to perfection. A headlamp can take care of this issue, leaving your hands free to tend to the food you are preparing for friends and family.

Home Emergency Kits and Navigating Blackouts
When the power goes out, the lights go out with it. When a blackout or other home emergency hits, you need to be prepared. Using flashlights and candles to navigate a blackout isn’t always convenient. Wearing a headlamp during a blackout is a great way to fight the dark and get light when and where you need it the most. If you’re cold, wet, or just plain uncomfortable and trying to figure out the safest course of action for you and your family, the last thing you want to do is fumble around for something to light the darkness. While you may have a flashlight or two, you may need both hands to help your family members stay safe. A headlamp will light the way to safety without getting in the way.

Camping and Hiking
These nifty devices can also be used when camping and hiking. When starting a campfire, illuminate the area while keeping your hands free. When hiking a densely-wooded trail or hiking at night, a headlamp can give you the light you need to stay safe during your hiking adventures.

How to Shop for a Headlamp
Now that you know all the different uses a headlamp can be great for, it’s time to learn how to shop for the headlamp that’s right for you. Believe it or not, all headlamps are not created equal. There are different specs and features you will want to look for depending on what you plan on using your headlamp for. Here are some of the main points you’ll want to consider when shopping for the headlamp that’s right for you.

When buying a headlamp, one of the first specs you will want to look at is the number of lumens the headlamp has. This number indicates the brightness or light output of the headlamp. The higher the number of lumens, the more brightly the headlamp will glow. If you are buying a headlamp to navigate darkness, such as when you are walking your dog or enduring a blackout, a higher lumen output will obviously be best. If you are buying a headlamp for reading in bed, on the other hand, you may want to invest in a headlamp that isn’t so bright that it will disturb your partner while he or she is trying to sleep.

It goes without saying that you’re going to be wearing this lamp on your head. This is why weight is another spec you’re going to want to look at when buying a headlamp. Most headlamps weigh somewhere between 3 to 6 ounces. Some models can, however, weigh much more. Headlamps that have external battery packs tend to be much heavier and bulkier. Do you need the excess weight for your purposes? Comfort is important when it comes to wearing a headlamp, so make sure you are aware of the lamp’s weight before making your purchase.

Beam Distance
Displayed in meters (with fresh brand new batteries), the beam distance measures how far a headlamp will project “useable light” (which is defined as the brightness of a full moon on a clear night). As the battery drains, the beam distance will gradually get shorter.

Battery Life (or Burn Time)
Measured in hours, a headlamp run time (burn time) is an indication of how many hours your headlamp will produce “useable light”

Beam Width
The beam width will determine the width of the illumination that the headlamp will provide in other words how much of an area you will be able to light up.
Typically there are two types of beam widths: Fixed (Flood and Spot) & Adjustable.

- Flood (also know as Wide) light will produce a wide angle of light. Not really great for distance, but perfect for campsites or repairs, where light is needed in a close proximity.
- Spot (also know as Focused) light will project light long distances. Sort of light a flashlight. Ideal for needing to see what’s ahead ex. Hiking dark trails

Adjustable allows the user to select the beam from flood to spot or something in between.

Brightness Modes
This function will allow you to control the brightness of your headlamp at any given time. Modes usually include high, middle, low, and sometimes a strobe effect that can be used for emergency purposes. Some higher-end models may even include a red-light mode that will help you retain your night vision.

Regulated Headlamps
If you buy a non-regulated headlamp, it means that the headlamp is going to dim as the batteries drain. With regulated headlamps, the brightness of the lamp remains consistent throughout the life of the batteries. The downside to this is that the light of a regulated headlamp can go out without warning (unlike unregulated headlamps that dim drastically before batteries go out). Because of this, you may want to keep extra batteries on hand at all times if using a regulated model.

External Battery Packs
If you want to add battery life to your headlamp, you may want to consider purchasing a model with an external battery pack. This is especially true if you opt for a high-power headlamp. The only problem with external battery packs is that they increase the size and weight of the headlamp. They can also make the headlamp to put an increased load on your forehead, although an external battery pack top strap can help alleviate this load. It may, however, cause the headlamp to feel more bulky.

Bulb and Beam Type
Most of today’s headlamps use LED bulbs. These bulbs tend to be more energy-efficient and durable than conventional bulbs. LED bulbs can provide you with a spot beam or a wide beam. Spot beams are great for lighting distances. Wide beams, on the other hand, are great for illuminating your immediate area. As mentioned earlier in this guide, there are headlamps that offer different beam modes. If you plan on using your headlamp for multiple purposes, one of these models will be your best bet.

Making Your Headlamp Eco-Friendly
As with all things we talk about here at Eco Geek Living, headlamps aren’t just a product that can make your life a little safer, they can also be very eco-friendly. When you purchase a headlamp, consider purchasing rechargeable batteries to power your headlamp rather than disposable batteries. This will help reduce the need for you to carry around a stash of extra batteries and, in the long run, will actually make ownership of your headlamp more affordable.

While rechargeable batteries do have a higher start-up cost than disposable batteries, they can save you quite a bit of money in the long run and they are much better for the environment. The money savings and the eco-friendly nature of these batteries are far from the only benefits you will reap from using rechargeable batteries in your headlamp.

Get Your Headlamp On!
Once you realize that headlamps are for much, much more than just cave exploration, you can find a headlamp to make your life easier, safer, and a bit more stress-free. Just make sure to keep the above tips in mind when choosing the headlamp that’s right for you and be sure to invest in quality rechargeable batteries and a charger to ensure that your headlamp is ready to go at all times.