Campfire headtorches (Shutterstock)
Article 31 January

How to choose the right headtorch

Handy for night hikes, camp outs, dark dorms or just walking home from the bar – every traveller needs a headtorch. Here's how to pick the best one for you


With ever-decreasing airline weight limits, you’ll want a headtorch that is as light as possible. Reduced weight can mean a dimmer beam, but this may not be an issue if you’re not intending to use it for night walks.


Every good headtorch will have an LED bulb (as opposed to halogen or tungsten bulbs). LEDs are more efficient, produce less heat and have longer burn times (so last longer). Light output is measured in lumens: the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light. Most headtorches offer several brightness settings, which you can switch between; the dimmer the light, the longer the battery lasts but the shorter the distance the beam will reach. Red light settings are useful if reading a map in the dark as you won’t lose your night vision.


Most models are operated by a simple switch or button. However, there are other mechanisms, including twisting the torch, tapping the casing and swiping with your finger. Decide which you find easiest – and remember: if it’s tricky to operate in a warm, dry shop, it will be ten times harder outside in the cold and rain.

Hiking at night (Shutterstock)
Hiking at night (Shutterstock)


Every headtorch will have a maximum beam distance stated on its packaging, use this as a rough guide. Remember, this is for the torch at full brightness, not any dimmer settings.

Tilting head

Some headtorches have adjustable heads so that you can direct the light where it’s needed. A handy feature.


All headtorches have straps to keep them in place. Look for straps that are adjustable but stay secure. If the torch has a battery pack make sure it doesn’t dig into your head.


Most take alkaline batteries – usually AAA or AA. These add weight but are easy and cheap to replace. Growing in popularity are rechargeable lithium batteries, which usually come with a USB adapter or separate charger. These are good for battery life and in colder conditions but carrying spares can be difficult and expensive. Note, the quoted battery life of the headtorch is usually based on its dimmest light setting; use it as a rough guide only.

Main image: Campfire headtorches (Shutterstock)

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