Cold Weather Headlamp Guide: Best Headlamps for Winter

Some headlamps are unreliable in cold weather, the battery drains within thirty minutes after starting.

Headlamps serve many users, but this guide is mainly focused on recreational activities such as snowshoeing, winter hiking, mountaineering, or backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

Many ask what is the best coldweather headlamp for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or other winter sports such as backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

Our recommendations for the best extreme cold weather headlamps are as follows:

  1. Best Overall Headlamp for Cold Weather: Fenix HP30R V2.0 Headlamp
  2. Runner-Up Cold Weather Headlamp: Petzl Nao+
  3. Best Budget Cold Weather Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot 400-R

All of these options include rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to maximize outdoor performance in colder climates.

cold weather headlamp shining at night

Considerations for Headlamps in Cold Weather

When it comes to choosing a headlamp that can withstand freezing temperatures, some of most important factors to consider are the battery life, illumination, and water-resistance rating.

Lukcily, there are standardized measurements for all three categories. This makes it easy to compare products once you understand the basic measurements such as mAh, lumens, and IP ratings.

Long-Lasting Battery Life: How Many maH does my headlamp need?

Battery life can be the most important factor to consider when buying a headlamp, since a dead battery means that your lighting source is functionally useless.

Amperage is the important measurement of battery life for most consumer electronics, including headlamps. This is measured by mAH , or milliampere per hour, which describes how long a battery will hold a charge before a device will run out of battery.

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries often the best performance in the cold compared to alternative batteries made out of as Alkaline or Nickel-metal hydrides (NiMh).

However, common knowledge is that most batteries do not last as long during the cold than they do in normal temperatures. While Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries perform best, even lithium-ion is negatively impacted by extreme cold.

Therefore, some additional tips for maximizing battery life for headlamps include:

  1. Select a headlamp with a remote battery
  2. Keep spare batteries in ajacket close to the source of body warmth
  3. Choose higher amperage batteries with greater mAh ratings to last longer

Choosing the exact level of mAh required depends on your anticipated purposes. For instance, if you just want a headlamp for peace-of-mind when darkness falls, then 1000-1500 mAh should be suitable. However, a range of 3000-5000 mAh would be better for planning many winter hiking or skiing trips during the night.

By choosing a headlamp with the best Lithium-ion batteries and an appropriate mAh rating, you can achieve the best results for battery performance.

High Illumination: How Many Lumens are needed for a Headlamp?

Having enough illumination is a critical safety component for sports such as snowshoeing and skiing, especially since the sun sets much earlier during the winter nights.

Lumens measure how bright an object is. The strict scientific definition for a lumen is “a measure of luminous flux, the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source per unit of time.”

In laymen’s terms: the higher the lumens, the brighter the light.

Unlike battery life, lumen output is not affected by cold weather or variations in temperature. Therefore, an output level of 500 lumens is likely enough to cover most hiking needs during winter, at least for lighting up

However, snowfall during winter can affect visibility, so having a higher lumen output between 1000-2000 lumens makes it more likely that you will be spotted by others in case of emergency – especially for those spending time in remote areas.

Water and particle Resistance: What are IP Ratings?

Let’s face it: if you’re snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or out in the backcountry during winter, your gear will get wet. Whether fresh powder is raining down upon you (or heavens forbid, the dreaded “R” word), it is essential to have waterproof or water-resistant gear.

Maybe you’re prone to losing gear and accidentally dropping your headlamp in a snowbank. Or you simply want to be able to rinse off equipment without worrying that your lights will short-circuit.

Another important reason is that lithium can cause damage when exposed to water, and even present a hazard since it can create a highly flammable chemical reaction. While unlikely, your headlamp batteries should be protected and you should understand how water-resistance is measured.

For many consumer electronic goods, moisture-resistance is measured by a international standard called Ingress Protection, or an IP rating. When it comes to understanding IP ratings, there are two important numbers to understand (they always follow the characters “IP”):

  • The first refers to protection from particles such as dust.
  • The second number refers to protetion from moisture.
  • Sometimes, an IP rating contains an “X” in place of a number which simply means the value is unknown, untested, or assumed to offer no protection.

For instance, some of the minimum recommended moisture-protection IP ratings for a headlamp include:

  • IPX4 – “Protected against water splashes from all directions. Tested for a minimum of 10 minutes with an oscillating spray (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects).”
  • IP66 – “Protection against direct high pressure jets.”
  • IP67 – “Protection against full immersion for up to 30 minutes at depths between 15 cm and 1 metre (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects).”

Best Overall Headlamp for Cold Weather: FENIX HP30R V2.0 HEADLAMP

The Fenix HP30R V2.0 cannot be missed – it is literally the brightest headlamp offered by the Fenix company! The 3000 lumens offered via the maximum power output setting can light up almost any conceviable hiking or winter recreational purposes.

Besides the tremendous lumen output, this headlamp was best-in-class for a number of other factors such as including 5000 mAh batteries and IP66 water-resistance. A wide range of lumen output combinations are offered via a range of spotlight, floodlight, and a spotlight/floodlight settings.

The battery life can last up to 120 hours on low setting provided by the included batteries are two Fenix ARB-L21-5000mAh Lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are rechargeable via USB-C charging, and the total weight including battery and headband is 15.4 ounces.

Fenix HP3OR V2.0

9.2 out of 10
$219.95
Illumination: 3000 lumens
10 out of 10
Battery Life: 5000 mAh
9.8 out of 10
Moisture Rating: IP66
9.2 out of 10
Price
7.8 out of 10

Pros

Best-in-class illumination and amperage

Battery life ranges from 6 hours(Turbo) – 120 hours (Low)

Remote battery pack can be worn on hip

Cons

Expensive

Slightly heavier than other headlamps

Runner-Up Cold Weather Headlamp: Petzl Nao+

Another product that can perform very well in cold weather is the Petzl Nao+. This product was chosen as the runner up due to offering rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries that can also be worn remotely on a belt accessory, keeping the batteries warm and high-performing even in cold temperatures.

While the product specs (750 lumens, 3100 mAh batteries, IPX4) are not at the same level as the Fenix HP30R V2.0 and the price is still relatively high for a headlamp, this is still a great product made by a reliable brand.

One of the best features is the Reactive Lighting Technology which instantly adjusts brightness based on ambient light. This headlamp can also be connected and controlled via Bluetooth so you don’t have to physically adjust the headlamp to change settings while outdoors.

Petzl Nao+

8.5 out of 10
$199.95
Illumination: 750 Lumens
8.8 out of 10
Battery life: 3100 mAh
9.4 out of 10
Moisture Rating: IPX4
7.2 out of 10
Price
8.4 out of 10

Pros

Rechargeable

Reactive Lighting Technology

Belt-kit accessory to keep batteries warm during winter

Cons

Low Ingress Rating

High price relative to performance

6.5 oz – heavier than competing products

Best Budget Cold Weather Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot 400-R

The best value headlamp for cold weather is the Black Diamond Spot 400-R. At an MSRP of $64.95, the price point is one of the main draws of this product.

However, while the illumination (400 lumens) and battery life (1500 mAh) may not be at the same level of top-end products, they can certainly handle exposure to the elements.

The Spot 400-R does include a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, including a micro-USB charge port. This headlamp excels at moisture protection even compared to the Fenix HP30R V2.0 or Petzl Nao+ with its IP67 rating, meaning it is waterproof-tested to operate 1 meter underwater for 30 minutes.

Other attractive features include the Digital Lock setting, which prevents the headlamp from accidentally turning on and draining battery life while stowed, being lightweight at only 2.57 ounces, and the color options – the most recent version comes in four colors: Octane, Azul, Graphite, and Bordeaux.

Black DIamond Spot 400-R

8.5 out of 10
$64.95
Illumination: 400 Lumens
7.2 out of 10
Battery Life: 1500 mAh
7.8 out of 10
Moisture Rating: IP67
9.4 out of 10
Price
9.5 out of 10

Pros

Good price and value

Digital Lock setting

Lightweight at 2.56 oz

Cons

Lumen output and mAh levels not ideal for extended cold weather exposure

Conclusion

If budget was no constraint, we’d opt for the Fenix HP30R, which is one of the best lighting options on the market in terms of illumination and battery life.

The Petzl Nao+ is another good alternative, and the Black DIamond Spot 400-R is recommended for anyone willing to sacrifice some performance in exchange for saving some money.

You may want to consider other factors besides battery life, illumination, and moisture-proof rating when buying a headlamp. For example, weight, comfort, and fit are important factors, but these can be more subjective.

The Fenix, Petzl, and Black Diamond brands all carry several headlamp models of varying techical specifications and prices. Check out their individual websites if you’re curious to explore more options for your outdoor recreation purposes.

Brave the Winter independently reviews every product we recommend. When you buy a product through our links, we may earn a commission.