Starting early is critically important for 14ers to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. It often means starting your hike in the dark of early dawn. A good headlamp will help you stay on route and safe as you get your hike started. If your trip goes longer than expected, they’ll also help you find your way home. There are a lot of headlamps available on the market of varying quality, from cheap $10 options to professional-quality headlamps at $100 or more. Here’s my guide on the best headlamps for 14ers.
Picking out the Best Headlamps for 14ers
There are a few big factors to consider when you compare headlamp options. This includes lumen rating (how bright the headlamp is), the lighting modes available, advanced features like light sensing, and extra features like auto-shutoff and a settings lock. Here’s a rundown on each of these important considerations.
Lumen Rating (Light Output)
All headlamps have a lumen rating that tells you how bright its light is (although this also depends on how the lamp focuses it). For a 14er, you want at least 300 lumen rating, but most people prefer 400 or more for better visibility on the trail.
Beam Type & Max Distance
Flood beams cast a broad light, perfect for working in camp. Spot beams provide a more focused light ideal for travelling on the trail. Some models provide versatility with settings for both modes. Beams also differ in their max distance, ranging from 50 to 150 meters or more.
While most of the best headlamps for 14ers have a high and low setting, many others provide additional settings like a red-lighting option to preserve night vision, or a strobe option for attracting attention in an emergency situation.
Not all batteries are made equal. A headlamp’s battery life depends on its quality, as well as whether you’re primarily using its highest or lowest setting. Some models use unregulated power, so the light dims and warns you when you need to change batteries instead of suddenly dying without warning.
Extra Premium Features
There are many additional features to consider today. Some expensive models include automatic light-sensing, changing the light setting to match your conditions. Others include power button locks and an auto-shutoff setting to prevent you from accidentally leaving it on and draining the battery. While not required, they’re nice to have if you can afford the extra cost.
My Favorite Five Headlamps for 14ers
Given my experience on the 14ers and my research on all of these various considerations, here are my five top recommendations of the best headlamps for 14ers.
The Pretzl Tikka is the most affordable option on this list, and is a good beginner option with limited features, but enough to get the job done. With 300 lumens of output, a max beam distance of 65 meters, 3 brightness settings, and a red night vision option, it’s a solid budget option to use for the 14ers.
The Black Diamond Storm 400 is my personal choice for a headlamp. With 33% more lumen output than the Tikka, and a 100 meter max deam distance, it packs more of a punch. It also includes some handy features including numerous brightness settings and a much longer battery life than the Tikka.
The Icon700 is the most powerful headlamp on the list, with a supercharged 700 lumens of light output and a max beam capacity of 140meters. What’s more impressive is that this is accomplished with a flood beam, providing light over a wide area. For those doing more technical climbing or skiing that requires significant lightning, there’s no better option. For more casual 14er hikers, this headlamp is a bit overpowered.
The Swift RL Headlamp is the most advanced of the best headlamps for 14ers. With an advanced light sensor setting, the headlamp automatically adjusts in response to the amount of available light to provide just the right amount. It also includes 6 different brightness settings if you want to manually pick a light level. It packs a punch with up to 550 lumens on its normal setting and a max mean capacity of 150 meters. While created for trail runners, it works great for those hiking and climbing the 14ers as well.
Hoping to climb a 14er with your kids? The Black Diamond Wiz was created specifically for junior hikers and climbers. It’s got a built-in auto-shutoff setting so your kids won’t accidentally leave it on and kill the battery, along with a kid-friendly design that includes limited settings to keep using it simple and a fun, colorful design.
While not necessary strictly speaking, a headlamp pouch can help you keep your headlamp safe and accessible when you aren’t using it. This Petzl Poche Headlamp Pouch will any of the best headlamps for 14ers secure, and can easily be secured to your bag’s exterior for easy access using a carabiner. I recommend it!
The Best Headlamps for 14ers: Now You Know!
If you can’t see where you’re going on a 14er, it’s impossible to stay safe. A good headlamp will make all the difference in guiding you up to the summit and back down to the trailhead in one piece. Remember to consider factors like a light’s lumen rating, max beam capacity, brightness setting and additional options. Safe travels on the trail, and good luck picking out one of the best headlamps for 14ers for your next Colorado mountain adventure!