Choosing the Right Headlamp for Urban Survival

Choosing the Right Headlamp for Urban Survival

If you have every tried moving from one place to another or completing and type of task in the dark then you know the importance of a good light. A headlamp gives you light while keeping your hands free and is indispensable in any survival situation, and more so in an urban environment where buildings can block any and all moonlight. 

There are features and accessories that can make a headlamp more useful. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your system.

Useful Features

  • Adjustable Output (Lumens) – While it’s nice to have an aircraft landing light on your head, higher outputs also drain your battery quickly. Being able to choose between multiple output settings can save power and increase your runtime. On my favorite model, the Fenix HM50R, runtime on the lowest setting (4 lumens) is 128 hours with a CR123A battery versus a runtime of only 2 hours on the highest setting (500 lumens). Since 4 lumens is often enough to complete tasks within arm’s reach you will find yourself using the “low” setting often.
  • Waterproof – Because sh*t happens. 
  • Rechargeable – Rechargeable batteries have been an option for a long time but many newer headlamps allow for USB charging through a Micro USB port. I appreciate not needing to open the unit up and swap batteries.
  • Multi Colored Light Output – Traditionally, people have used red light to preserve their night vision. It can be helpful, usually because the overall output level is lower for red light settings or when using a red filter. I tend to just use a very low white light setting. For more information about light and night vision you can read here.
  • “Dual Fuel” – Put this one in the “Bonus Feature” column. The ability to accept rechargeable batteries in addition to some type of off the shelf battery can come in handy.

My First Choice – Fenix HM50R

Fenix HM50R Rechargeable Headlamp

This light checks most of the Useful Feature boxes:

  • Adjustable Output – Low (4 lumens), Medium (30 lumens), High (130 lumens), and Turbo (500 lumens)
  • Waterproof – to 2 meters
  • Rechargeable – It take 16340 rechargeable batteries and has a Micro USB port for charging.
  • “Dual Fuel” – In addition to the 16340 rechargeable it can use CR123A Lithium Ion batteries. Runtime is longer with CR123A batteries but they are not rechargeable. It’s a trade-off.

I’m a big fan of the HM50R. It’s all aluminum and can take a beating. It doesn’t have a red light and I don’t know of a filter that fits it but for me that’s no great loss.

The Fenix HM50R retails for around $60 and is available here.

Runner Up – Fenix HL32R

Fenix Hl32R Headlamp

If red light is really important to you, the Fenix HL32R is a good option. I purchased one of these before I switched to the HM50R. I switched because I really wanted a waterproof headlamp and liked the HM50R’s ability to take CR123A batteries. However, this light is feature packed and a great choice.

  • Adjustable Output – Red Light (1 lumen), Eco (4 lumens), Low (30 lumens), Medium (70 lumens), High (130 lumens), Turbo (300 lumens), and Burst (600 lumens)
  • Water resistant – This one isn’t waterproof but is rain and splash proof.
  • Rechargeable – It has an internal rechargeable battery and a Micro USB charging port.
  • Multi Colored Light Output – 1 lumen red light.

The Fenix HL32R retails for around $50 and is available here.

Alternate Option – Petzl TACTIKKA

Petzl TACTIKKA Headlamp

Ok. I’m a little bit of a Fenix fanboy.  If you want another option the Petzl TacTIKKA is what my wife uses and it’s also a great choice.

  • Adjustable Output – Red Light (2 lumen), Max Autonomy (5 lumens), Standard (100 lumens), and Max Power (250 lumens)
  • Water resistant – This one isn’t waterproof but is weather resistant.
  • Rechargeable – It is rechargeable IF you purchase a Petzl CORE rechargeable battery. Otherwise you can use (3) AAA batteries.
  • “Dual Fuel” – AAA batteries or the CORE rechargeable battery from Petzl.
  • Multi Colored Light Output – 2 lumen red light.

Keep a few things in mind (and these are the reasons this isn’t my favorite and I choose the Fenix lights). The CORE battery is about $30 and charges by Micro USB but you must open the unit to reach the charging port. The red light is 2 lumens while the Fenix HL32R runs at 1 lumen, which to me is more than enough. 2 lumens is almost too bright if you’re going through the trouble of using a red light to maintain night vision. Finally, the output is sort of all or nothing with the jump from 5 to 100 lumens.

Ok. So you have a light. Now it’s time to keep it running.

The Petzl TacTikka retails for around $30 and is available here.

Must Have Accessories

Accessory #1 – Solar Charging Panel with USB Output

I keep this panel in my backpack. It can be clipped to the outside of the pack during the day while walking or simply set in the sun. It can charge any of these lights through their Micro USB port directly but I prefer to charge a power bank and use it to charge my devices as needed.

ECEEN 10W Solar Charger with USB Output

The ECEEN Solar Charger retails for around $40 and is available here.

Accessory #2 – Power Bank with at Least (2) USB Outputs

I have a couple of these Anker Power Banks and always keep one in my pack. The panel can be connected and left to passively charge this during the day and then you can simultaneously charge (2) devices at a time when needed.

Anker Portable Power Bank PowerCore 20100mAh

The ECEEN Solar Charger retails for around $40 and is available here.

Do you have a headlamp you love? Am I missing something? Leave a comment below and let me know.


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