Everything You Should Know About Tactical Headlamps: FAQs

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at www.caves.org or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

Looking into tactical headlamps? They are one of the most important pieces of equipment to take with you on any caving adventure. We get a lot of questions on headlamps, so we’ve prepared an FAQ here that provides the information you need to buy the best headlamp for your caving requirements.

If you want to read our review of some of the top headlamps, check that article here.

What is a Tactical Headlamp?

A tactical headlamp is suited for almost all outdoors operations. From hiking and caving to working around the house or garage, it gives an outstanding performance. It can be either head-worn or attached to the gear. These headlamps are particularly good for military operations. For that reason, law enforcement agencies and armies count on them all the time, though theirs are more robust and made of high-quality material.

One unique feature of most tactical headlamps is they can be adjusted to various light conditions. There is a simple, efficient switching mode that allows you to have the light you want.

Which Tactical Headlamps are used by professional cavers?

Professional cavers use different kinds of tactical headlamps; they especially rely on those models that operate in a dark and low-visibility setting, such as the Fenix HP25R v2.0 Headlamp.

Best Headlamp #3: Fenix HP25R v2.0 Headlamp, 1600 Lumen Spotlight, 400 lumens Floodlight and Red Light, USB-C Rechargeable with LumenTac Organizer

All these headlamps are super bright and long-lasting. They also give a next-level night vision. The PETZL 250 Lumen Headlamp in particular gives the option of red light and white light, and is also weather and shock-resistant. 

These models stand up to harsh weather conditions and deal with rain and snow as well. For these reasons, it’s easy to see why professional cavers don’t go without one.

What are ‘LUMENS’ in a headlamp?

When it comes to measuring the light of the bulb, we check lumens. The count of lumens reveals how much light the bulb will be producing. It is denoted by lm. The higher the lm rating, the better lighting. In other words, more lumens mean more brightness.

However, bear in mind, watts and lumens are two different things. Watts or wattage, shows how much electrical power the light bulb consumes. We loosely estimate the power of a light bulb by checking its wattage. In a way, we believe, if a bulb consumes more power (wattage) it means it is more powerful.

But higher wattage doesn’t always mean a brighter light. These days, due to the advancement in technology, bulbs consume less energy and are manufactured to produce brighter light that before.

In case you are wondering about a general baseline for how many lumens you should bring for caving, opt for 200-300 lumens if possible.

What about changing the batteries in tactical headlamps? When should I change them?

Firstly, yes, it is possible to change the batteries in the headlamp.

When you notice that your tactical headlamp light is dimming, it is time to replace the batteries. But in order to replace the batteries, it is imperative to know the assembly of your headlamp. For instance, you need to know how to take off the battery cover and remove the batteries from the compartment. You can see these steps in the instruction manual as well. Some headlamps are more sturdy than others, and you don’t want to accidentally drop any key pieces while fiddling with it once you’re inside a cave with darkness and uneven surfaces.

The battery life naturally depends on the headlamp model. Some batteries give a maximum of 120 hours runtime on low light, whereas the powerful models in the market give 55 hours of lighting for high modes, like PETZL Ultra-Compact Headlamp.

A beige colored headlamp manufactured by PETZL.

How far can you see with most tactical headlamps?

This is known as the Beam Distance.

It is quite simple really. If a headlamp has a 100m beam distance/length, you can see up to 50-100m in front of you clearly. A headlamp with a 200m beam distance means 120m distance will be in good condition. After this distance, the light or the brightness starts to dim, and you should not expect to see very clearly beyond that.

But the real question here is how one can calculate the beam distance with lumens. The ratings of lumens can confuse some people. A headlamp with 150 lumens can light up a distance of 100 meters. With this, you can calculate and understand how many lumens you need. Keep in mind that when you convert lumens into the beam distance, you don’t use the brightness of the bulb; you measure the distance of the total light.

High lumens can cover more distance and give better light but consume more battery too. Too much power of the headlamp will make the battery drain quickly. It’s best to use what you need to move around safely and not risk running out of light too soon.

How do I know when the headlamp battery is charged?

Most headlamps in the market come with a signal that shows their battery is charged. For instance, when the battery is charging, you may see a red light; this immediately turns green when it is charged fully.

If your headlamp doesn’t have this feature, read the description or contact the customer support team. They can tell you regarding the total charging time of the batteries. Usually, it takes 4-6 hours to fully charge the batteries, so don’t wait until the trip to check on your battery life. Good quality headlamps will include an indicator to make it more obvious.

Which batteries are the best for tactical headlamps and cavers?

Lithium-ion and rechargeable batteries are of course the best, but we understand sometimes you have to depend on the pack of AA’s or AAA’s batteries also.

In the AA’s or AAA’s batteries the brightness starts to fade fast. Therefore, it is better if you have lithium-ion and rechargeable batteries in the headlamp. Keep your tactical headlamp ready before the trip by recharging in advance.

Depending on the headlamp, it may come with its own brand of battery, typically a larger lithium-ion battery that will last quite a long time on normal modes.

A pack of 12 AAA Lithium Ion batteries by Energizer.

What is an LED headlamp?

LED (light-emitting diode) headlamps are powerful and have several technological advantages. The greatest advantage of a LED headlamp is it produces day-like light. The color temperature of the light doesn’t make you feel like you are in the dark. This gives minimum strain on the eye also.

Experts call it ‘Solid-State Lighting’ since the materials used to produce LED light to require less power to operate, like Indium Gallium Nitride (InGaN) or Gallium Phosphide (GaP). These materials provide clear illumination and require less power to operate.

LED headlamps have some other benefits too; they have exceptional color range, they extend the lifespan of the battery, and they have high brightness and intensity. That’s why, these days, the LED lights are in many smart home upgrades.

Is there any good LED headlamp in the market?

A Energizer's Vision LED Headlamp, a green strap with black frame on the lamp.

With several great LED headlamp options in the market, it’s not too difficult to compare them to fit your needs. Be sure to check out official caving headlamp review for some of our recommendations.

A good headlamp helps brighten up the underground and remote locations of the world. Keeping the way lit for you to move around with both hands free is a powerful asset.

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