How to choose a headlamp - the best headlamp

How to choose a head torch 

Battery-powered headlamp, rechargeable headlamp, multi-beam, with or without red mode? It is not always easy to choose the right headlamp.

Is it more important to favour an ultra powerful headlamp or with a long battery life Do you need an extra lamp to free your hands at the camp or a lamp that allows you to hike at night?

To choose the functions you need, follow our guide!


An essential tool for your night outings, the headlamp has conquered many sporting universes: cycling, camping, hiking, trekking, running, trail running, hunting, fishing and more...
Investing in a good headlamp is buying a versatile product that will be useful in many situations.

In fact, headlamps free your hands and automatically directs the beam of light by following the movement of the head, unlike torches, which appeal to campers, or chest lamps, developed specifically for running.

Choosing the best headlamp for your needs, on the other hand, can be very complex as there is a very wide offer on the market.
However, not all headlamps are designed the same depending on their use, and this choice also depends on your budget and preferences.
Here, we explain to you how to choose the headlamp that will offer the best need / price ratio for you!

The sporty design

The design is the base of every object. If at first glance you can recognize a utility car from a family saloon, it's the same for a headlamp!
There are, in fact, two main categories: headlamps for hiking, trekking, bivouacking and other mountain sports and headlamps for running and in particular trail running.

  • the best headlamp - bivouac camping hiking

    Hiking headlamp

    These headlamps are compact and consist of a single unit worn on the front of the forehead which allows them to be worn over or under a mountain helmet.
    The absence of a rear block promotes lightness and facilitates use in the bivouac or in a refuge when reading, lying down or leaning against a wall.
    It's also easier to put into a bag or jacket pocket. Certain bivouac models, known as “ultra-compact”, are acclaimed for their size and their light weight.

  • best trail running headlamp

    Trail or running headlamp

    These headlamps are, on the other hand, made up of two separate blocks: a very lightweight light block in the front and a battery on the back to distribute the weight.The heaviest part is located near the neck to limit effort to the head during impacts specific to the race.
    The separation of the light unit is also very useful in facilitating the cooling of the LED away from the battery because these lamps are, in general, very powerful. The position of the battery on the back makes it easy to connect via USB even when running, or to relocate the entire battery in the bag using an extension cable.

best chest lamp

chest lamp

Decathlon likes to innovate to offer products that are always more suited to users' needs. This is why in 2015 the first chest lamps were created.
These lamps, intended specifically for running on the road, can be used alone or in addition to a headlamp.

The lamp is placed on the chest and a box on the back integrates the battery while ensuring rear visibility thanks to a red LED.
Very powerful and more suitable for a runner than a single headlamp that moves at the pace of the race, this type of lamp allows you to anticipate any obstacles on the road better.

What lumen power for a good headlamp?

Like all lighting products, sports or not, the power of a headlamp is given in lumens.
Lumens correspond to the amount of light actually emitted by the source: LED. Or light-emitting diode in French (LED suddenly). Usually several are used to obtain a lamp.

The LED is an electronic component determining the quality of the lamp, in particular in terms of consumption, durability over time and lighting comfort (cold light, warm light).
The higher the range, the less the LEDs consume at low power and the more they provide very bright lighting. Be careful, however, because the race for lumens has its limits: the stronger the headlamp, the more it draws on its battery even if the led is of a higher quality.
Rather than wanting to wow friends by lighting up the peaks and being without a battery in less than an hour, it is better to choose the power suitable for each passage and to ensure nights without bad surprises: as we say among headlamp prosl, those who want light for a long time, light intelligently!

how many lumens

How many lumens are needed for which activity?

For use in camp or bivouac, a 30 to 100 lumen headlamp is well suited. Its light is generally warm (yellow light) and its reduced power guarantees good autonomy. You will be able to illuminate objects that are near you. It will also avoid dazzling your camp mates when you accidentally put the flash light in their eyes while looking at them. Yes, it happens to everyone even when we know...

For use when night walking and in particular when the ground is rough, it is necessary to privilege a headlamp of 150 to 400 lumens which will allow to see very far when necessary and to avoid pitfalls such as roots and technical passages in the forest. or on rocks. That said, if you walk while looking at your feet, you can decrease the beam power and then increase it again once you look into the distance.

Which battery for a hiking headlamp?

The choice of the battery for a lamp is important because it depends on what you are going to do with your headlamp.

Most headlamps use either batteries (AA or AAA) or rechargeable batteries (NiMH rechargeable batteries or Lithium Accu).
Obviously, a rechargeable headlamp will be more expensive to buy but will prove to be less expensive over time (if used often) and will limit battery waste!

Paired with the use of a solar charger or a portable battery ("powerbank" as we say in the jargon of headlamp engineers), a rechargeable headlamp allows you to travel in complete autonomy during hikes of several days or long treks.  Especially as you don't want to carry too much weight, so leaving with a reserve of batteries is not an option.
Mid-range rechargeable headlamp models generally offer a USB rechargeable battery built into the lamp. This is an advantage in terms of compactness but a constraint because you will not be able to use the lamp when it is charging. It is therefore necessary to check the battery charge before leaving.
Some high-end models offer a retractable USB rechargeable battery. This is an important advantage because you will be able to buy an additional battery that you will recharge while you are using the lamp. Sometimes you may even be able to use batteries if an adapter is available. If this last option interests you, the TREK 900 USB headlamp is for you:you will be able to go further and always well lit!

rechargeable headlamp

different lighting modes

Lighting modes

Controlled by one or more buttons, the lighting modes are predetermined power levels allowing you to choose the power of the headlamp according to the situation: you don't have the same need if you walk at night or read in your tent.
At Decathlon, all hiking and trek headlamps are designed so that the red mode or the weakest mode comes on first. This makes it possible not to dazzle those around you and not to wake up your room-mate if you have to get up at night.

Depending on the models (from the simplest to the most high-end), the headlamps offer the following modes:
> A fixed red mode to see without dazzling those around you.This very energy-efficient mode allows you to leave the lamp on at night to serve as a benchmark or night light, if necessary.
> Eco mode for use in the bivouac and greater autonomy
> Average mode for walking on less technical tracks and allows you to see while saving the battery
> Strong mode for hiking on technical trails and faster sports
> boost mode, delivering maximum power for a few seconds in order to see very far during very technical passages or when searching for off-trail routes
> Flashing white mode, of the distress beacon type to be visible when needed. This mode, like the fixed red mode, consumes very little energy for reasons of energy saving in an emergency situation.

Did you know?
Most running and trail running lights offer a flashing mode on the front and / or the back of the head to indicate its presence but do not always offer the solid red mode.


Mechanical or electronic, locking a headlamp is very useful.
Indeed, when it is transported, tossed around in a backpack or a pocket subjected to shocks, this system prevents it from turning on: it would be a shame to run out of battery because your lamp lit up inside your backpack while you were hiking ..

In short, if you know that you are going to need your headlamp over a long period, take one equipped with 'a locking system to make sure it always works well when you take it out of its pocket.
Locking modes are generally available from the mid-range.

Reserve mode

This mode allows you to conserve a reserve of energy in your headlamp when the battery reaches the end of its capacity, a bit like the petrol reserve in your car.
The headlamp flashes three times and automatically reduces its power to between 20 and 50 lumens for about 1 hour. This will allow you to go on your outing and go home safely. But be careful when the lamp alerts you because then the battery will be completely empty (like the tank of your car if you use all the reserve ...).

Light dimmer

The light dimmer is present only on certain models and allows a very precise adjustment of the power when you keep the ignition button pressed.
It is particularly interesting in the bivouac, so eyes adapt to the dark. Therefore, reducing the lighting allows you to see just as well while preserving the battery.

the best headlamp - bivouac camping hiking

Lamp beam width

The field of illumination of your headlamp must match the field of vision you are looking for.

In general,  the slower the movement, the more you will prefer a headlamp with a wide field of vision (between 30 ° and 45 ° angle). This is useful for example when you are on your campsite at the bivouac or walking on the track, where you know that there are no obstacles. All our trekking headlamps are equipped with a wide field of vision.

For running and in particular trail running where the movement is fast and that we seek to see very far, we will favour, at equivalent power, a headlamp with a narrow beam (between 10 ° and 25°) to optimize the use of the power emitted by the LED.

While the field is fixed on many first-price and mid-range models, some higher-end models offer mixed beams (with two LEDs and two beam widths). You can therefore adapt the beam precisely according to what you want from your headlamp.

The impact and water resistance of your headlamp

Like all outdoor products, a headlamp must be able to withstand rain, impact and abrasion. That's why we test them, to guarantee you optimal performance, even in difficult weather conditions.

The protection index or IPXX allows you to find out about its degree of robustness.
The first X corresponds to protection against solid particles such as dust, sand, etc.
The second X corresponds to protection against water intrusion.

Most models of headlamps withstand rain, i.e.  IPX4.
When the headlamp can withstand big splashes of water (such as under a waterfall for example), the index may be IPX5 (strong splashes of water) or even IPX6.
When the headlamp withstands a short immersion, it will be rated IPX7 (resistance up to 30 minutes under 1 meter of water). If it can withstand more water, it will get the IPX8 (over 30 minutes and over 1 meter of water) but these lamps are generally reserved for canyoning enthusiasts.

Regarding dust protection, the index is rarely used.
Index 5 (e.g. IP56) corresponds to protection against particles larger than one millimetre and possible deposits of non-harmful dust.
The maximum rating of 6 (for example IP67) indicates total protection against dust.

So depending on the weather, you will take a more or less water protection index because it's possible to hike in the rain for several days if you are on a trek. An IPX4 protective headlamp should be sufficient as long as it is protected when not in use And of course you will need to be more vigilant about the dust resistance of your headlamp, if you are planning a trek in the desert.

Headlamp adjustment ergonomics

To make the headlamp simple and intuitive to use, we have developed ergonomic control systems so that you can easily and quickly select the desired lighting mode.
On a mid-range and top-of-the-range hiking and trekking headlamp, the solution is a double + and - control with large buttons, easily manipulated, even with gloves.
On a trail headlamp it is a turning placed on the side of the light module. In both cases, these solutions make it possible to increase or reduce power quickly without having to "move" between modes.

In addition, being able to easily adapt the headlamp to the size of your head is a point of detail that is very important. Our headlamps are equipped with an elastic band and two symmetrical adjustment buckles, which make tightening easier. Children, adults and mountain sports helmets, headlamps must be able to adapt to all sizes!

Some lamps also allow the lamp to be oriented downwards. This prevents the beam from being just at the height of your camping friends face when you are at the bivouac. And if you are hiking at night, no need to lower your head to illuminate in front of your feet


Bruno's tip

Lighting product manager

My little tip
The headband is adjustable on some models, and designed so that it can be washed. You just have to detach it from the lamp and put it in the machine, ideally in a protective bag to prevent the adjustment buckles from being damaged during the washing cycle.
If you lend your equipment sometimes or if you have worn your headlamp for a long time, and sweated when wearing it, do not hesitate to take the time to wash the band, you will have the impression of having a brand new headlamp!