The Best Headlamp For Trail Running – Everything You Need To Know

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Don’t tell me that you never looked at one of these guys and didn’t start making locomotive noises. Guess what? Soon you’ll be able to do it in real life.

You’re probably here because you plan on having a run in a poorly lit area – be it a back road, a forest patch, or complete wilderness. Or you may also find yourself in need of light while keeping your hands free.

That’s cool because you can install one of these guys on your forehead and illuminate the whole Amazon forest – if you pick up the right headlamp. And if you choose the right one, it may as well save your hide for years to come. So, let’s check out a few candidates for the best headlamp for trail running.

How to Choose the Best Headlamp for You

Lately, manufactures are putting more effort into their designs when it comes to their appearance, and you’ll find a few models on the market that look very cool and posh But don’t let a pretty face fool you – it’s what’s on the inside that matters.

Okay, wait, it’s the inside that is on the outside, and the outside is… Argh, you’ll get it in a second.
Check for these for things when you’re shopping for a headlamp.


how to choose the best headlamp for you

A lumen (LM) is a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source per unit of time. That’s science speak for how bright light can get. Don’t bother with anything that goes below 100, and that’s only if you’re looking for a headlamp to help you navigate the potholes on a decently-lit street.

If you’re going out into the wild, you should start with at least 250 lumens. Some headlamps still have the wattage marked down for easier understanding, since not everyone speaks lumens yet. For some quick math, when it comes to LED lights, 25W converts to 250LM, while 75W converts into 1000LM.

This is not always the biggest factor in the price tag. However, if you get a lot of lumens for a very low price, check what’s going on with the battery. Speaking of…

The Battery

Since what use is a light if you can’t turn it on. Let me make one thing clear: don’t even dare to open up your wallet if the headlamp can’t work on higher settings for at least 6 hours. In the worst-case scenario, with a combination of higher and lower settings, you should be able to get at least 12 hours of run time with a single charge.

Anything less than that should be unacceptable unless you have a thing for your light switching off in the middle of your run. Of course, pay attention to the charger and backup options as well. A lot of models come with a USB port so you can use a regular power bank to recharge your headlamp.

Some models also support the use of a backup battery or plain AAA batteries in case of an emergency. Even if you don’t go on super long runs, stuff happens. And would you rather know that you can use those couple of batteries that are hanging out in your pocket, or would you rather fumble in the dark?

The Weight

Most of our heads are already over 20 pounds of dead weight, so why add more? It seems like common sense, but don’t go for something that is going to put an excess burden on your head,
neck and shoulders which may result in you running like this…

Only joking…

Anywho, Just because something felt fine in the shop, it doesn’t have to mean that it will be perfect for a long outing. Prepare to look goofy and test your headlamp by wearing it out and about for a whole day. You could wear it around the house, but that’s not fun.

Anyway, if you can’t handle regular activities, it will be even worse when you’re bouncing about. Return it, rinse and repeat until you find the best fit.

The Band

It’s pretty much the same case as with the weight of the headlamp. The fit of the band has to be comfortable enough so you don’t want to rip it off after only 20 minutes.

It should be snug and secure without cutting into your skin. Some marks are fine, major discomfort or pain is not. And I hope I don’t have to say to not even bother with bands that are not adjustable.

Our Top 5 Picks

1. PETZL – Swift RL Headlamp

The top pick for any type of activity that needs to be illuminated. It comes with a lot of amazing features, while still staying at a reasonable price point.

Our Rating 5/5

2. BioLite HeadLamp 330 Lumen

This headlight is made with active people and their needs in mind. It’s very comfortable and affordable, and it comes in attractive color options.

Our Rating 4.7/5

3. PETZL – NAO + Headlamp

If you like connecting every gadget you own to your phone, this headlamp meets your needs. The app allows you to check the remaining light time as you go and adjust the performance of the headlamp.

Our Rating 4.6/5

4. Fenix HL60R 950 Lumens Headlamp

Super high-performer at a super affordable price. No matter where your feet are taking you, this headlamp will be able to follow.

Our Rating 4.4/5

5. PETZL – ACTIK CORE Headlamp

At almost half the price of other Petzl offering, yet with the same level of quality and innovation that landed the other two offerings on this list. Just the run time alone makes it perfect for long trips, or for those who remember to charge the battery in the middle of an outing.

Our Rating 4.3/5

Frequently Asked Questions

What brightness does my headlamp need to be?

If there’s another light present, like the street lights or the Moon, you may get away with only 100 to 150 lumens. In every other case, it’s safe to start with 300LM.

The band is irritating my skin. What should I do?

There are a couple of reasons why this is happening. First, it could be an allergic reaction. And if you’re allergic to the material the name was made from, game over. You’ll have to get your hands on a different band or headlamp.

If you’re reacting to those factory chemicals that linger on, a couple of runs in the washing machine will do the trick. That is if you can remove the band from the light because I’m not so sure it will be too happy after a soak.

The second reason could be chafing. Is the band a little too rough and scratchy? This is usually true for a lot of cheap models, so you might want to invest in a better one from the start. In the meantime, apply a little bit of Vaseline or baby oil to the area to create a slippery barrier.

I have night blindness. Am I still legally blind while wearing a headlamp?

Are you still American if you put a sombrero on? The “legally” part doesn’t change no matter how bright your headlamp is. However, you can talk to your employer, activity coordinator, priest or mom, and see if your newfound ability to see in the dark grants you some other powers or privileges.

Are there trails where I’m not allowed to use a headlamp?

For now, the answer is a firm no. I mean, you need one to see the trail in the first place, right?
However, there may be a restriction on the brightness or number of people wearing headlamps if you’re running with a group. In that case, you’ll get all the info from other group members or event organizers.


A good headlamp can be an investment, so take your time choosing and testing them before you commit. It doesn’t have to be a unitasker, so feel free to take into consideration all other activities that may require a little extra light.

And always remember to place your needs above other else’s opinions if you want to find the best headlamp for trail running.