Homesteading Essentials: Best Headlamps From Experience

When people think about the essential homestead tools for off grid living some of the first things that come to mind are products like chainsaws and generators. Few people would think to mention the lowly headlamp. Yet, from our off-grid experience so far, functional headlamps are absolutely essential. Our back to nature lifestyle means that we don’t have light switches anymore, so when the sun goes away we are completely reliant on our head gear.

And we use them! ALL. THE. TIME. And lots of them.

One of our off grid living goals is to always be prepared, meaning we need to be able to access essential tools when we need them. We live a little like squirrels, stashing headlamps in every nook and cranny of our house and property: from the bed to the water system and even in our truck.

Our goal is to always have headlamps within an arm’s reach because we just never know when we might need one… like this time we had a huge windstorm at night on our property and had massive clean-up to do! In any case, it just makes sense to keep light sources handy because odds are that when you need to find one it will already be pitch black outside.

headlamps outside

Let’s be clear – there is no such thing as the perfect headlamp. Different headlamps can serve different purposes, but each headlamp has some special features that might make it the right choice for any given situation.

Though we are no means headlamp experts, we think our ample experience with them give us the credibility to talk about some features with you. Use these tips as a guide for finding the best headlamps for your situation- or be like us and have a few of each type, just in case.

Features to Consider When Picking the Best Headlamp For Your Needs

There are lots of features in headlamps that are important to understand in order to make a smart buying decision. Let’s take things one step at a time.

Batteries

Headlamp batteries come in a few main types and are the biggest factor for how big your lamp will be. This tiny Vitchelo headlamp uses watch batteries. This makes for a small lamp, but they can be a pain to replace because watch batteries aren’t as easy to come by as double A or triple A batteries.

This tiny headlamp uses a watch battery.
This tiny headlamp uses a watch battery.

Though double A batteries make for big, sturdy headlamps that last a long time, they can be cumbersome to wear on your head. Triple As make for smaller lamps, still last a long time, and are easier to replace than watch batteries. They are our first choice for our homestead, but your needs might be different.

double-a-batteries
Double A batteries are great but can be bulky.

When choosing between double A and triple A headlamps it is important to remember that double As are a better value because they will last longer for the price. Twelve packs of double As and triple As are usually the same price, but you will get more battery hours out of a double A pack.

Brightness

When it comes to light output, not all headlamps are created equal. Some are really dim, like a PETZL model that we use for reading. For our needs, this dimness isn’t a bad thing because it allows us to use this lamp in indoor spaces without blinding each other.

best headlamps for living off the grid

In contrast, our Vitchelo V800 Plus is extremely bright- so bright that it makes it safe enough for Jesse to use a chainsaw at night. But this brightness comes at a cost to battery life and we run through batteries pretty quickly with it.

Most headlamps have brightness settings between these two extremes, and many allow you to adjust the brightness level to fit your situation.

A tip: use the lowest brightness setting you can get away with in order to save the battery.

Types of Light

Besides brightness, there are many different forms of light that most headlamps can give off. Your best option would be to find a headlamp that implements two or more of these features in one design. The Vitchelo V800 Plus is extremely diverse, although the battery life isn’t as long as other headlamps.

Spotlight: This setting is very bright and focused and will surely blind anyone that looks at you. It’s good for true emergencies when you really need to see what you are doing.

bright-headlamp

Floodlight: A broader, dimmer setting that is better for taking in the whole scene, indoor work, and for reading.

floodlight-headlamp

Blinking: This is a setting where the light blinks on and off fairly rapidly. It’s a great feature for when you are more worried about being seen than seeing. We use this setting when we run on the rural rounds around our house. It’s our not-so-subtle way of alerting vehicles on the road of our presence.

Red Light: The red light feature is designed to reduce the impairment of night vision. In all honesty it’s not a valuable feature for us at home, but it can be useful on camping trips when you need to be able to see but don’t want to reduce your visibility too much.

red-light-headlamp

Head Straps

Head straps are pretty standard from one form of head lamp to another, but some include a strap that goes over top the head. This is pretty unnecessary unless your lamp is really big or you will be using it for hours at a time. Then the additional strap will make the lamp significantly more comfortable to wear. This headlamp is pretty good (closest to the one we use – the model we have is like 10 years old!) if you want one with a headstrap.

head-strap

Controversy Time: Are Rechargeable Headlamps Worth It?

This might offend some people, but in our opinion rechargable headlamps are stupid. Yes, we know how bad batteries are for the environment, but using rechargeable batteries is a far better choice than having a lamp that needs to be recharged constantly.

The whole point of a headlamp is that it gives you light when you need it, and often in a pinch. Rechargeable headlamps are impractical because you never know when you might need to use it and it’s hard to plan ahead with charging. From our experience headlamps usually die in the dark, and a lot of off grid charging methods (like solar power) aren’t going to work then.

vitchelo-headlamp

The overwhelming positive of batteries being readily accessible whenever we need them makes battery-powered headlamps a lot more practical for us than any rechargeable model out there. But again, your situation will be different so this is a call you need to make for yourself.

We have found that headlamps are an extremely critical tool on our homestead. Hopefully this article has given you a good starting place for finding the models that will work best for you!

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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

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Comments

  1. Sung Pyo Cho says

    All your attempts and zealous mind toward true off grid are quite impressive.
    Aside back breaking labor, maintaining this blog seems to be another challenge for you guys.

    When it comes to head lanterns, I strongly recommend you to choose 18650 rechargeable battery powered products, which are vastly available on the internet. Even with cheap made-in-China products, they work like a charm. You can get 18650 batteries from dead laptop battery packs as well even though it requires some kind of low-tech DIY.

    Normally, 18650 batteries have more capacity than Alkaline batteries, which can guarantee longer running time, better luminance and they are rechargeable about 1,000 times in theory.

    For a charger, Nitecore D4 is a thing! I promise you won’t regret it.

    I’ve really enjoyed all your awesome posts and videos.
    Keep safe and take care always!

  2. Brandon Boots says

    I enjoyed the post and found it informative. I agree with your view on the battery conundrum and may not have thought about that when I go to buy one. So thank you for your comprehensive analysis of headlamps.

  3. Ty Tower says

    Get the cheapest AA or AAA batteries you can get and get lots of them. Most of the damn things are made by the one main company and sold under various brand names . You want a “Jessie AA Super Sustainable Homesteaders Long Life Battery” No problem .” Do you have a logo to go on the label?”
    No Problem . “How many amphours do you want it to say ” No Problem .

    We will send you 5 million packed in 25 pieces per pack to arrive stateside Tuesday . remit to ……Hong Kong

  4. Denise says

    I can only agree that headlamps are one of the most underrated items out there. We don’t live off grid, but we still have several of them around the house and in our vehicles. Nothing worse than being in the middle of cooking dinner, and the lights go out. Grab a headlamp and keep on going.
    How about having to change a flat tire in the middle of the night on a dark country road?
    BTW, I discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago and have really enjoyed your journey. I have worked my way from the first blog post to here so far, and it makes me want to go on a similar journey.

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