Yes, that is a headlamp in my Dopp kit

I actually don’t know when I started carrying a headlamp with me around the world (actually in my Dopp kit), but I am never going back to the darkness. The following is my case for keeping a simple, inexpensive headlamp at the ready.

Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp. Mine has really seen some things – helped by the fact that it’s very bright. Headlight puns.

I spend most of my time in situations that do not call for a reliable hands-free light source. I live in an apartment, I don’t work on my own car and I don’t do much camping these days, but I will be damned if I don’t always have access to my trusty headlamp. In general, I am an advocate for having both access to fire (cheap lighters) and light (headlamp or flashlight) at all times, but for light – the difference between trying to tie your shoes with a flashlight in your teeth and one that is intentionally mounted to your head can be huge. Even lifesaving.

What makes for a good headlamp?

  • Cheap – if you are worried about losing it, you won’t bring it around with you which kinda defeats the put. It’s also nice if you can have more than one which is easier when they are cheap.
  • Multiple light modes – one need not get too fancy, but most new headlamps will at least provide a “high output” mode and a “low output mode” the first being good for signaling people and the latter for when you need to squeeze a lot of light out of the charge you have.
  • Takes standard batteries – before you get all up in arms about the ability to recycle batteries, hear me out. If you have a headlamp that needs to charge up via a wall socket and your power goes out, what are the chances that you charged it recently? If you had one that ran on batteries, might you have some batteries around you could use – steal them from your tv remote! This is also important for extended trips where you might not be able to bring charging infrastructure but could probably sneak a few extra AAA batteries.
Batteries that you can buy almost anywhere and last forever are a huge benefit over other designs.

Ok, so when have you actually used this headlamp you have?

Just to pick a few recent dates with my headlamp at random –

Scenario 1: We lost the dog. I don’t know who did it, but someone left the gate open and the dog got free while some friends of mine were on vacation in a rented house. Oh and it was night. So as my friends fumbled around with the “flashlights” on their phones, I grabbed my headlamp and got to searching. We did find Scout (the dog) in good shape, but the real hero of the night was the headlamp.

Scenario 2: I thought YOU had the lug nuts. Changing my tire in the rain not long ago with two friends in the car, the process quickly went from an annoying exercise for one person in the rain to a team-building exercise. One of the participants in this Tire-Changing Challenge(TM) offered to hold the lug nuts while I swapped the new wheel over but somehow lost one. Not ideal. But worse was trying to hunt around for said lug nut in the dark….in a Walmart parking lot. We (I) found it, but being hands-free was a lifesaver.

Scenario 3: My apartment has crap lighting. I read with a headlamp before bed and I am not ashamed. Would a lamp work for this? Yes. Do I look kinda stupid doing it? Definitely. Do I really care? Not so much. Do I ALWAYS know where my headlamp is. Damn right I do.

Ok fine. If I get one which should I buy?

Honestly, you can’t really go wrong here – lots of people make great headlamps. I have really liked my Petzl Tikka XP which I have had for years without a single complaint. The bonus is that if an ice climber sees you wearing one they will think you are legit.

If you are looking for something cheaper, the good folks at Amazon have lots of nice things to say about this little model from Energizer (less than $10 WITH batteries). I haven’t used one personally but it checks all the right boxes.

Like I said, I don’t think you can mess this up but I highly recommend you keep a headlamp around. Whether it’s in your car for emergencies are you are a nerd that likes them for reading before bed, there is no wrong answer but even if you use it just once, you will be thankful it’s there.

Get organized and get out there!