Best Headlamps for Trail Running and Cross Running
The best headlamps for trail running and cross running offer a wide range of features, from lightweight construction to optimal brightness levels. This guide discusses the two primary types of these lamps and why runners need them, as well as features to look for and some helpful buying considerations before spending your money.
Headlamps give you the flexibility to run at night and in very low-light conditions without having to carry a hand-held light source or worry about having enough battery power left on your handheld device. Some models even have an emergency strobe setting that can double as a safety beacon if you’re out after dark and need help. If you like running trails, which sometimes include dense terrain, elevation changes, or other weather hazards, headlamps are a must-have piece of gear.
Types of headlamps for trail running and cross running
For outdoor runners, headlamps generally fall into two categories: lightweight LED headlamp models that utilize one or more LEDs with optimized light outputs to throw as much light as possible onto the trail; or handheld flashlights that can clip onto your headband or belt as needed.
Lightweight headlamp options range from around 1 ounce (with batteries) up to about 3 ounces, which is still significantly lighter than even the smallest handheld flashlight. Many headlamps designed for trail runners and cross country runners come with features like adjustable brightness settings and interchangeable lenses for different beam spreads. Battery life tends to vary, too, with some headlamps lasting up to 150 hours on three AAA batteries, while others feature rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that can keep your headlamp shining for weeks or months at a time.
Some headlamps are designed specifically for trail runners who frequently run in the dark. These headlamps generally have long-distance beams that illuminate hazards hundreds of feet ahead so you can better see where you’re going. Other headlamps are designed more around close-range vision, which is particularly useful if you’re running through dense brush or other vegetation that might smack into your face as you run.
Heavyweight handheld flashlights range from less than 2 ounces up to about 8 ounces, but even the heaviest headlamp is still much lighter than the flashlight you might otherwise carry. Plus headlamps are designed to be worn around your head, not carried in your hand or hooked onto your belt, so headlamps won’t slow you down nearly as much.
As far as headlamp features go, it’s all about personal preference and what type of run you plan on doing. Features like strobe lights for increased visibility can come in handy if you plan to run after dark, but aren’t that important if the only time you head out for a trail run is during daylight hours (though an adjustable headband lamp can be helpful then).
Battery life, beam distance, and water resistance are three other important features headlamp buyers should consider. Runners who like to head out when the weather is particularly nasty might also want headlamps with replaceable batteries (so you can keep running if your headlamp’s battery dies).
Many headlamps designed for trail runners and cross country runners come in bright colors or blaze orange, which makes them easier to spot when you drop them on leaves or other thick foliage. Brightly colored headbands can also help other people see you if they’re driving along a road near your path.
While price is always a consideration, headlamps designed specifically for runners are generally more expensive than handheld flashlights, even those that feature multiple modes like strobe lights. But as with all running gear, headlamps are an important investment for anyone who wants to improve their trail running experience.
Headlamps are an important piece of safety equipment for trail runners, especially headlamps designed specifically for running where you need to see what’s in front of you or behind you. So whether it’s bright headlamp options that are easier to spot or headlamps with long-lasting batteries meant for hours of headlamp use per run, there are headlamps out there for everyone.
Best headlamps for trail running and cross running
Wearable headlamps are becoming more popular with runners who want to head out in low-light conditions. These headlamps are small enough to be worn comfortably, but bright enough to allow you to see where you’re going without slowing you down too much or weighing you down on your run.
Headlamp options designed specifically for runners usually have adjustable lighting settings so you can easily switch between high beams and low beams depending on how far ahead of you the trail is illuminated. Many headlamps also have different lenses that can help focus on specific areas depending on whether your run takes place during the day or at night. And because headlamps are worn on your head, they won’t slow you down in the same way that handheld flashlights do.
There are headlamps designed specifically for running, like this headlamp, that provide enough light to safely head out on your run in low-light conditions. Once you’ve found a headlamp designed for runners, consider some of these versatile headlamps with different lighting settings for when you head out during different times of the day. Runners who like to head out in all types of weather might also want headlamps with replaceable batteries (like the AAA lithium-ion battery ) so they can keep running if their headlamp dies on them. Finally, bright color options or blaze orange colors can make it easier to spot your headlamp, and headlamps with adjustable headbands can be more comfortable during long headlamp runs.
Best headlamps for trail runners are headlamps designed specifically for runners that provide enough light to illuminate the trail in front of you on dark trails but won’t weigh you down when worn on your head on a run. Bright color options, replaceable batteries, and headband adjustments make some headlamps better suited towards trail running while prices vary depending on runner preferences.