Any hunter or fisherman worth their salt knows how important a reliable headlamp is when traversing the backcountry in the darkness. Much of the time, after the sun has crept past the horizon, the fun has just begun.
Maybe you sent an arrow screaming into a bull from 20 yards as dusk fell, and the beast took off crashing into the woods. You start following the small trail of blood left behind but visibility is fading and time is not on your side.
Or maybe you’re angling for browns on the banks of the Colorado. You’re getting a few nips, but nothing more. Sunset is fast approaching, but the bites start picking up. It gets dark and the temperature starts to drop. You want to keep fishing, but you’re starting to lose your bearings.
Let’s hope in both scenarios, you have a strong, reliable light to lead the way. It could mean the difference between getting what you’re after or letting it slip through your fingers.
Pivotal situations like these are why I’m taking a deep dive into the 11 best headlamps for hunting and fishing of 2023. Because the season is too precious and the days are too short to spend behind the dim light of a subpar headlamp.
I want you to end up with a top-rated headlamp that’ll give you an edge during the hunting and fishing seasons ahead, so I set some guidelines for the products reviewed in this post. To make this list, a headlamp must:
- Have red, green, and blue light capabilities, or some combination of the three
- Be capable of emitting 300 lumens or more
- Be durable and highly water-resistant
Fragile, weak, and one-dimensional headlamps have no place here.
- For a breakdown of all the features I’ll be analyzing in this post, click here.
- To learn more about why red, green, and blue lights are important for hunting and fishing, click here.
Let’s get into it.
Best Hunting & Fishing Headlamp for the Money
Black Diamond Storm 400
Lenses: RGB, white
Max Lumens: 400
Run Time: 5 hours at 400 lumens
Batteries: Four AAAs
Weight: 4.2 oz
Pros: Highly water-resistant, powerful, battery indicator is helpful, touch-sensitive brightness adjustments
Cons: Four batteries isn’t ideal
What do you find when you arrive at the intersection of reliability, weather resistance, battery life, and value? The Black Diamond Storm 400. Whether you’re after deer, duck, salmon, or bass, it’s the best headlamp for hunting and fishing on the 2023 market.
On its highest setting, the Storm 400 is bright, powerful, and capable of illuminating tree stands and alpine lakes with ease. Adjusting the brightness is easy and can be done by tapping a touch-sensitive panel. Locking this headlamp is simple too, and will keep you from accidentally turning it on and draining the battery when it’s bouncing around in your backpack or pocket.
Curious about how much battery life is left? Just check its handy battery indicator, which will save you from playing the ‘will it or won’t it die this time out?’ guessing game.
This rugged beast has an IP 67 waterproof rating, meaning it can function under three feet of water for up to half an hour. The appropriately named Storm 400 is going to stand up to all of the muck, rain, sleet, snow, and other nasty weather conditions you can throw its way.
In terms of downsides, I’m not thrilled that the Storm 400 needs four AAA batteries to operate, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it either. Aside from that, this headlamp doesn’t have any other notable weaknesses that I’m aware of.
I recommend the Storm 400 to any hunter or fisherman looking for an affordable, top-rated headlamp with every feature you need to thrive in the wilderness.
Lamborghini of Hunting & Fishing Headlamps
Lenses: RGB, white
Max Lumens: 1,000
Run Time: 8 hours at 300 lumens
Weight: 6.3 oz
Pros: Powerful, very customizable, Bluetooth capable, Optisense
Cons: Expensive, a bit of a learning curve
If you geek out over cutting-edge gear the way I do, then you’ll likely get fired up about the Ledlenser MH11. It’s one of the most state-of-the-art hunting and fishing headlamps on the 2023 market.
The MH11 checks all of the boxes you’d expect at its price point: it has great beam distance, is super versatile, has RGB lenses for hunting and fishing, sports a monster battery, and is USB-rechargeable. But its unexpected features are what make it truly unique.
This little hoss is Bluetooth capable, which allows users to program and save different settings, control the light remotely, and even set it to an alarm from their phones. Its equipped with a feature called Optisense, which can dim and brighten the LED automatically in response to your surroundings. If that wasn’t enough, outdoorsmen can control the width of the beam with a simple twist of its dial.
As you might expect, the MH11 runs a pretty penny. Its full set of features have a bit of a learning curve as well, so don’t expect it to be effortless to use right out of the box.
But if you’re a tech-savvy outdoorsman who can afford the splurge, I think the Ledlenser MH11 might just be right up your alley. It’s second-to-none as far as hunting and fishing headlamps are concerned.
Sturdy Beast With a Built-in Power Bank
Browning Blackout Elite
Lenses: Green, white
Max Lumens: 860
Run Time: 5 hours at 860 lumens
Weight: 5.6 oz
Pros: Killer run time, can act as a power bank, powerful, very durable
Cons: No red or blue light
It simply doesn’t get much better than the Browning Blackout Elite; this powerhouse of a headlamp is about as bright, water-resistant, and long-lasting as it gets. The only thing keeping it from taking the top spot is its lack of blue and red light modes.
Not only is the Blackout Elite blessed with a beefy 2,600mAh USB-rechargeable battery, but it can actually use that battery to recharge other devices like your phone, GPS unit, or hunting watch. (No other headlamps on this list have this feature.) Outdoorsmen love its high-capacity battery, which allows for an impressive five hours of run time on its highest setting.
Its 860 lumens are bright enough for the most rugged backcountry hunts and fishing trips, and its IPX7 waterproof rating ensures that precipitation will have a hell of a time getting in. Like all Browning products, the Blackout Elite is built to withstand the toughest conditions.
There’s only one significant drawback to this headlamp: its lack of red and blue light modes. Hunters and fishermen who swear by full-RGB lamps will have to look in another direction, like the Storm 400 or the Petzl TACTIKKA below.
But if you’re content with green light for your outdoor endeavors and crave a full set of complimenting features, the Browning Blackout Elite won’t let you down.
Hunter’s Favorite Do-it-All Headlamp
Petzl TACTIKKA + RGB + CORE Battery
Lenses: RGB, white
Max Lumens: 350
Run Time: 2 hours at 350 lumens
Batteries: Three AAAs
Weight: 3.0 oz
Pros: Comfortable camo band, bright, CORE battery compatible
Cons: RGB not dimmable, weather-proofing could be better
The Petzl TACTIKKA might just be the most popular and top-rated headlamp for hunters and fishermen on this list. Everywhere you look, you’ll uncover glowing five-star reviews of this trusty torch; it was built specifically for hunters and fishermen, no doubt.
The TACTIKKA’s 350-lumen LED white light and powerful RGB lenses are bright, reliable, and simple to navigate. This headlamp thrives for outdoorsmen, as it’s great for cutting through the night fog, following blood trails, preserving night vision, and drawing in fish from the shore.
I also love the CORE USB-Rechargeable Battery, which can replace the three AAAs required to power the TACTIKKA. It’s worth the purchase, as it’ll give you the ability to juice up your light with a portable battery bank or your car’s cigarette lighter socket when it’s running low.
It doesn’t offer the best water protection, however, so look towards the weather-sealed Storm 400 if you regularly hunt or fish in areas with high precipitation.
In all, this product would be a great fit for outdoorsmen who want a high-performance headlamp that checks most of the boxes and is battle-tested in the backcountry.
The Brightest Option (Within Reason)
Fenix HP25R v2.0
Lenses: Red, white
Max Lumens: 1,600
Run Time: 8 hours at 400 lumens
Weight: 8.4 oz
Pros: Incredibly bright, monster battery, 10 modes of light
Cons: Heavy, bulky, no blue or green light
If you need an insanely powerful beam to reach deep into the dark distance, look no further than the Fenix HP25R v2.0. Sure, it could be a bit overkill for many hunting and fishing applications, but dang is it an impressive piece of gear.
Capable of shining over 300 yards on its highest setting, this beast will brighten up the darkness around you like a bolt of lightning. It has a crazy high-capacity USB-C-rechargeable battery too, so you can expect unmatched run time on its low and medium settings.
The 8.4-ounce HP25R tips the scales as the second heaviest headlamp on this list, so don’t expect it to stash away unnoticed in your pocket. It doesn’t have blue or green lights either but it does sport a 5-lumen red LED light mode that’s useful for stealthy night hunting applications.
The HP25R would excel for outdoorsmen who need all the brightness they can get. It’ll also work well for those involved in search and rescue, wildland firefighting, cave exploration, or similarly demanding outdoor activities.
Are 1,600 lumens not bright enough for your needs? Well, stay tuned. There’s an option at the end of this list that more than doubles the HP25R v2.0’s output.
Ultralight Hike-in Hunting & Fishing Headlamp
Light: Red, white
Max Lumens: 360
Run Time: 30 minutes at 360 lumens
Weight: 1.9 oz
Pros: Ultralight, great features, powerful for its size
Cons: No green or blue light
For hike-in fishing or hunting trips when you need to keep your pack weight down, the 1.9-ounce USB-rechargeable Nitecore NU25 headlamp is a stellar option. It’s a powerful little light and is my favorite of all the ultralight options out there.
The NU25 utilizes three different LEDs: white, red, and high CRI, which combine for nine different useful settings. I typically use its medium white light setting (38 lumens, 8-hour run time) when I’m camping and its high auxiliary red light mode (13 lumens, 7.5-hour run time) when elk hunting at dusk.
Its battery is pretty tiny but will last a pretty long time if you stick to mid and low modes or don’t use it frequently. On my 27-day hike of the Colorado Trail, I only recharged it once, though I used it less often than I would have on and an elk hunting trip or while night fishing.
This LED headlamp doesn’t emit blue or green light, so circle back to the Black Diamond Storm 400 if you require full-RGB capability for hunting at dawn and dusk, blood tracking after dark, or night fishing.
The NU25 will excel for hunters and fishermen who are consciously trying to keep their pack weight as low as possible and also crave the convenience of a USB-rechargeable headlamp.
Rock-Solid USB-Rechargeable Headlamp
Petzl ACTIK CORE
Lenses: Red, white
Max Lumens: 450
Run Time: 2 hours at 450 lumens
Batteries: USB-rechargeable CORE
Weight: 2.8 oz
Pros: Very light and compact, powerful, CORE battery included
Cons: No green or blue light, weather resistance could be better
Petzl makes the list of 2023’s best headlamps for the second time with their ACTIK CORE model. This option offers solid performance across the board and comes standard with a Petzl CORE USB-rechargeable battery, unlike the TACTIKKA RGB+ I went over earlier.
When you take into account the $30 CORE Rechargeable Battery that comes standard with this lamp, the ACTIK CORE presents itself as a pretty solid value. Not to mention it outshines its cousin, the TACTIKKA, by 100 lumens and weighs a hair less to boot. Its red LED light should preserve night vision well and its brightness is surprising considering it weighs just 2.8 ounces.
The ACTIK CORE comes only with red and white lenses, so hunters and fishermen who want green or blue should look towards the TACTIKKA RGB+ or Storm 400. This headlamp was clearly designed with hikers, runners, and mountaineers in mind, so we understand why its features might not be perfect for the more bloodthirsty outdoorsmen among us.
You’ve stumbled upon a solid option in the ACTIK CORE if you’re a hunter or fisherman who can get the job done with red and white light mode. If it’s RGB that you crave, the Storm 400 is your best bet.
Popular Torch With Long Battery Life
Cabela’s by Princeton Tec Alaskan Guide XP
Lenses: RGB, white
Max Lumens: 550
Run Time: Read below
Batteries: Four AAs
Weight: 9.8 oz
Pros: Powerful, durable, high battery capacity
Cons: No red or blue light, heaviest item on this list, bulky
I’ve included the Cabela’s Alaskan Guide XP as one of 2023’s best headlamps for hunting and fishing in part because it’s an extremely popular and well-reviewed option. That said, I don’t think I would consider using it for any of my upcoming hunts or fishing trips.
Before I get into why let’s talk about what I do like about it. The Alaskan Guide XP’s high battery capacity allows this torch to keep kicking for a very long time before it finally goes dark. It puts out a respectable 550 lumens, has wide beam and spotlight settings, and sports a handy low-battery indicator.
Cabela’s claims a 70-hour run time at a full 550 lumens. However, multiple reviewers take issue with these numbers, saying the light’s brightness diminishes and its beam distance shrinks after only four or five hours of use. So, yes, this light will run for a while on high but don’t expect it to shine at 550 lumens for long.
This lamp has a solid battery life in part because it requires four AAs to operate. The weight of the batteries, combined with the lamp’s thick front and back casings, makes it the heaviest headlamp on this list at a whopping 9.8 ounces. If you’re looking for a lightweight and compact option, this ain’t it.
On top of all of this, the Alaskan Guide XP doesn’t come with red or blue lenses. While many hunters and fishermen are content with green and white light, there’s no doubt that full-RGB lights are more versatile. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
If you like the Cabela’s brand but aren’t excited about the XP, check out the more basic Alaskan Guide headlamp. It sports full-RGB lenses and is more lightweight and compact.
Best Budget Headlamp for Hunters & Fishermen
Lenses: Red, white
Max Lumens: 330
Run Time: 3 hours at 330 lumens
Batteries: Three AAAs
Weight: 4.8 oz
Pros: Affordable, reliable
Cons: No green or blue, minimal weatherproofing, not very bright
If you’re hunting or fishing on a budget, we’ve got just the headlamp for you. No, it’s not going to outperform any of the other products on this list, but this little fella can hold its own nonetheless.
COAST, a humble company based in Oregon, cranks out solid, no-frills LED lights and safety products for the working man. Their FL19 isn’t loaded with eye-popping features, but it will help you find your way once the sun creeps behind the mountains. Isn’t that all you need sometimes?
There isn’t much weatherproofing to speak of on this lamp, and its luminosity is among the dimmest on this list. It doesn’t feature blue or green lights either, but what exactly did you expect for 20 bucks?
The COAST FL19 would be a solid headlamp for beginner hunters and fishermen on a budget, but would also work well as a reliable backup to your go-to torch of choice.
Best Hat Brim Clip-On Flashlight
Lenses: Red, white
Max Lumens: 920
Run Time: 30 minutes at 920 lumens
Batteries: Rechargeable CR123
Weight: 2.6 oz
Pros: Very versatile, powerful, compact, and weatherproof
Cons: No blue or green light, charger sold separately, low battery life
Yes, I know this is a flashlight. But it’s a damn good flashlight and it can clip to the brim of your hat for hands-free use. For that reason (and because of its other great features) I’m going to let it pass as a headlamp for now.
Flashlights offer precise and tactical movement that headlamps simply can’t. That’s why I’ve seen many hunters stalk the woods with compact lights similar to the MT10C that serves double duty. This sturdy little number has a 200-yard beam distance, rock-solid IPX8 waterproofing, and weighs a mere 2.6 ounces. It’s an impressive piece of gear.
This flashlight is great, but it has a few tradeoffs. Though it has a red light, it doesn’t have blue or green for stealth hunting, blood tracking, or night fishing. Its rechargeable battery (charger not included) is low-capacity and only runs for 30 minutes on its highest setting.
If you come prepared with extra batteries, the Nitecore MT10C could give you a more tactical approach on your next trip into the backcountry. And even if you don’t trust it as your standalone light, it would make for an excellent pocket flashlight to complement your trusty headlamp.
The Very Brightest Hunting & Fishing Headlamp
Ledlenser H19R Signature
Lenses: Red, white
Max Lumens: 4,000
Run Time: 3 hours at 1,800 lumens
Weight: 13.2 oz
Pros: Insanely bright, great battery life, will make your friend jealous
Cons: No blue or green light, heavy, expensive
Ledlenser strikes again, this time with the absolute brightest headlamp for hunting and fishing on the 2023 market. This hulk of a head torch puts out an insane 4,000 lumens, which let’s face it, might be a little overkill.
But, if you want a ridiculously engineered headlamp that will make all of your friends jealous, this is the one. Its 4,000-lumen high setting — though it will only run for intervals of 10 seconds — shines as bright as the high beams on a car. Yes, you can actually put that deer you’re after into the headlights with this sucker.
To nobody’s surprise, this high-performance piece of technology is very expensive. (Hell, you could even buy a top-notch compound bow for the same price.) It’s also very heavy, weighing in at a beefy 13.2 ounces — the weight of four Petzl TACTIKKAs. It only shines red and white light and is impossible to turn lower than 200 lumens.
No, this isn’t a very practical headlamp for hunting and fishing, unless your trip is taking you deep into the backcountry where the weather is unpredictable and search and rescue is a real possibility. Even then, the Ledlenser MH11 or Fenix HP25R v2.0 would probably get the job done just the same.
Don’t get left in the dark if your headlamp dies or gets lost along your trip. Bring along these products to ensure you’ll have a reliable light source, no matter what.
If you’re packing a headlamp that takes AA or AAA batteries, don’t forget to bring along some extras. It’s usually a guessing game trying to tell how much juice is left in your headlamp, so eliminate any doubt and always bring backup batteries. Nobody wants to be chasing a blood trail in the dark.
Ensure that your USB-rechargeable headlamp (and other devices) stay charged, and bring a portable battery bank along on your next hunting or fishing trip. I like this 10,000mAh version from Anker, which will fully recharge the CORE battery for the Petzl ACTIK or TACTIKKA RBG+ up to seven times.
Nitecore makes great products, and I believe their TIKI LE Pocket Torch is a no-brainer bring along for any fishing or hunting trips. Weighing in at less than half an ounce, it cranks out 300 lumens and can emit white, blue, or red light. Bring it along as an emergency backup; you might be thankful you did.
There are a lot of technical specs to factor in when searching for your next headlamp, so I broke all of the important ones down for you. Here they are:
All of the headlamps on this list have the capability to emit red, blue, green light, or some combination of the three. Why is this important? Because each different light can help hunters or fishermen thrive in different scenarios. I’ll get into more detail about this in the section below.
There’s a wordy and technical way to define lumens, but I prefer the simple way: Lumens are a measurement of brightness.
The lumen range of the flashlights on this list range from one to 4,000. That’s a wide spectrum, so let me break it down for you.
Approximate Brightness in Lumens
- 1 – 10: Best for up-close uses like cooking, reading, and going through gear
- 11 – 50: Low to mid settings, will illuminate your immediate surroundings
- 50 – 200: Medium brightness for hiking and practical uses around camp
- 200 – 500: Sweet spot for hunting and fishing, 200+ yard throw
- 500 – 1,000: Very bright, powerful enough to send rescue signals
- 1,000 – 2,000: Extremely bright, used in military and in search and rescue
- 2,000 – 4,000: Overkill, range of most headlights you’ll see on the road
Run time is how long you can expect your battery to last when a headlamp is turned on to a given setting. The lower amount of lumens you use, the longer your run time will be. The higher amount of lumens you use, the shorter your run time will be.
It’s important to consider which type of batteries your next hunting and/or fishing headlamp requires before making a purchase. I typically prefer products that are USB-rechargeable because I don’t like to fuss with estimating battery life and constantly replacing batteries.
Here’s the range of batteries represented on this list of headlamps:
- AA (bulkiest option, more life than AAAs)
- AAA (used for more compact headlamps)
- Rechargeable Petzl CORE battery (equal to three AAAs)
- Internal USB-rechargeable battery (lowest-maintenance option)
I know firsthand how important it is to scrutinize the weight of your gear during hike-in hunting or fishing trips. You need to keep your pack weight as low as possible, or hauling out that elk could be a nightmare. Every ounce counts in the backcountry, which is why we’ve taken the weight into consideration for each product.
Spooking that deer, duck, walleye, or perch you’re after is never a good idea. Give yourself a leg up by understanding which lights to use in which situations.
Typically red, green, and blue lights are better for night fishing, blood tracking, and stealth hunting. That said, some hunters and fishermen swear by a good old-fashioned white beam. Everyone’s style is different, so what works for others, may not work for you. Keep that in mind.
Here’s a little more info on red, green, blue, and white lights:
Red light offers more stealthiness when tracking animals than traditional white light and preserves the hunter’s night vision well. It’s also good for use when staying in crowded campsites to avoid shining bright white light into tents and disturbing your neighbors.
While many hunters have mixed feelings about its blood-tracking abilities, green light is widely accepted as the best color for fishing. Why? Because green light attracts phytoplankton, which attracts bugs, which then attracts baitfish, and eventually attracts the fish you’re after.
Blue is arguably the best light for blood tracking in the dark, but also impedes the hunter’s night vision more than red or green. Hunters give mixed reviews on tracking with blue light, though; it’s not for everybody. It also isn’t nearly as effective as green for night fishing.
All headlamps on this list come standard with a traditional white light. Avoid using this light when actively hunting, as you’re more likely to spook the animal. White light can be effective to attract fish, however, and offers great visibility around the campsite.
Hunting and fishing success relies heavily on being prepared for every possible scenario, day or night. A bright and versatile headlamp, though a small piece of the puzzle, will go a long way towards getting you prepared for your next trip.
So, when the sun goes down on your backcountry hunting or fishing trip, you’d better have a top-rated torch that can guide you through the darkness. I hope you’ve found an option on this list that works for you.
Because next time you’re stalking a deer at dusk, following a blood trail through a dark forest, or casting a line out under a jet black sky, you’re going to be glad you had it.
What are you waiting for? Brighten up the night with one of 2023’s best headlamps before the sun sets on your hunting or fishing season.
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Last Updated on August 24, 2023