November 30, 2018
By Keith Sutton
Headlamps are basically flashlights that provide the convenience of hands-free operation. Strapped on the head or clipped on a hat brim, they are excellent to use when performing night fishing tasks such as tying knots, baiting hooks and selecting a particular lure.
The ability to keep both hands free while directing light with your head also has real advantages when facing an unexpected challenge such as a nighttime medical emergency, a broken-down vehicle or getting caught on a remote part of a lake or stream after dark.
Carbide headlamps, which burn acetylene produced from calcium carbide, were developed in 1900. They were very popular with miners, hunters, spelunkers and others, and continued to be widely used even as electric lamps appeared because of the poor battery life of the latter models.
Later development of better bulbs and batteries made electric headlamps much more popular. Today’s outdoor recreationists have so many models from which to choose, they may need assistance in understanding the differences between products to determine what best suits their needs.
A headlamp’s brightness is an important measure of its usefulness for different tasks. For example, a light that’s not very bright may work fine for reading or finding your way through your house during a power outage, but when using a headlamp for locating boat trail markers or searching for a backcountry campsite at night, a much brighter light may be needed.
Fortunately, many headlamps now come with multiple settings, including a floodlight mode that casts a wide beam at one or more dim settings and a spotlight mode with a focused bright beam for long-distance viewing. The best have both and will shine the distance of a football field or farther.
The amount of light a headlamp projects is usually measured in "lumens." The more lumens, the brighter the light. The Cyclops Hat Clip Light, for example, produces just 18 lumens of light, while the Boruit RJ-5000 Headlamp produces up to 5,000 lumens. Determining this measurement can help you pick the light that’s best for you.
Most headlamps operate on either AAA or AA alkaline batteries, but some like this one by Foxelli have the added benefit of being rechargeable.
A few specialized lights, especially smaller models, require uncommon battery sizes that may be harder to find, more expensive and harder to replace, a fact to keep in mind when you’re buying.
To know how long your light will run at different settings, check the battery run-time figures give with most descriptions.
One characteristic very pertinent to headlamps is weight. Models range in size from less than 1 ounce to almost 12 ounces, and while those differences may seem insignificant, they can greatly affect comfort for some people when a headlamp is worn for long periods.
Small-statured individuals may want to use lighter models that won't fatigue neck and shoulder muscles. But remember, smaller, lighter models, such as most hat-clip headlamps, also tend to have fewer features and produce less light.
You might notice that some headlamps have an IPX rating. This gives you some idea of a light’s water resistance.
A rating of IPX4, for example, means the headlamp is able to withstand water splashing against the housing from any direction. A headlamp with this rating would have sufficient water resistance for continued operation during a rainstorm.
A few high-end lights have an IPX7 rating, which means they are waterproof down to one meter deep.
It pays to do some in-depth research when shopping so you can take advantage of the marvelous features now available on many headlamps.
For example, some, like the 5.11 Tactical S+R H3 Headlamp have a built-in battery charge indicator light that provides a warning when power begins to wane—a handy feature, indeed.
The Princeton Tec Vizz LED Headlamp has a power-saving lock to prevent it from being turned on accidentally.
HeroBeam’s Fishing Headlamp has a convenient hands-free ON/OFF motion detect mode. You just swipe in front of the lens to toggle ON/OFF. This is ideal for use with gloves or when your hands are wet and slimy from handling fish.
Sun Via’s UV LED Black Light Headlamp emits a black light beam that will light up fluorescent fishing line so you can see better to tie on lures or set the hook when you get a bite.
These aren’t your grandfather’s headlamps. You can benefit from many other wonderful features as well if you take time to do your homework before you make a purchase.