How Many Lumens Are Good Headlamps?

Headlamps offer illumination and brightness when you’re working on delicate projects especially at night or when you’re walking/running on a dark path.

Headlamps are handy and useful gears when you need a lighting source and also want your hands free during any indoor and outdoor activities at night.

This is because a headlamp offers the necessary lighting and yet allows you to use both of your hands.

However, not just any headlamp will do; the headlamp’s capability in terms of the amount of light it provides is an important consideration.

The amount of light a headlamp provides relies on the number of lumens the headlamp has.

Hence, you have to ensure you choose the proper headlamp with the right number of lumens for your use.

This leads us to the question, “how many lumens are good headlamps.” Read on to find the answer to this important question.

What is a Lumen?

The term “lumen” refers to the measure of the quantity or the amount of light that is produced/put out by a particular light source. Lumens shouldn’t be confused with watts.

While watt is the amount of energy required to power a headlamp, a lumen is the amount of light produced by a headlamp. Headlamps can range from between 15 to 500+ lumens.

Typically, the number of lumens is positively related to the footprints of the headlamp but negatively related to its useful hours.

This means that a headlamp with a lower number of lumens will have shorter footprints but higher useful hours and vice versa.

How Many Lumens Are Good Headlamps?

The answer to this question is subjective and depends on the individual need for a light source.

For instance, headlamps with a lower number of lumens are great for use at campsites, in groups, and for reading.

This is because they won’t be so bright to the point of irritating the people you’re with.

On the other hand, headlamps with higher number of output, such as 200 to 500+ lumens are suitable for caving, climbing, night running and in other situations when lighting up large areas is necessary.

Typically, as the battery life of the headlamp decreases, the lumen output decreases as well, dimming your headlamp.

This means that most of the time you will not get the maximum lumens out of your headlamp.

However, to help extend the battery life and light output of some headlamp models, the manufacturers included a dimmer or a similar feature that enables users to go between different modes to adjust the amount of lumen output.

This is especially true with headlamps with LED bulbs.

Therefore, your need for a headlamp would determine the number of lumens you would opt-in for. If you need a very good headlamp for reading or sewing, choose a headlamp with a lower number of lumens.

However, if you need a very good headlamp for night walking or large outdoor activities, choose a headlamp with a higher number of lumens.

Normally, headlamps that people use mostly for reading and similar activities have a lumen output lower than 100 while headlamps of 100 to 200 lumens are enough to search your pack, tent, and campsite at night, and to do some light trail-finding at a max setting.

Lumen Is Not the Most Important Factor

Logically, the higher the output — the brighter the light. However, a higher lumens rating doesn’t indicate brighter light – this is because of the headlamp beam.

Headlamp Beam Explained

You can have a headlamp with 400 lumens crammed into a very tight, bright beam that measures up to 4in. across in diameter across the circular light footprint when standing 10ft. back from a wall.

Such a headlamp will give you a very great spotlight beam. Nevertheless, virtually nothing else on the sides of the beam will be lit.

This means that you can’t see anything outside of that bright-center spotlight beam.

A headlamp with a beam like this is suitable for spotting a game or other wildlife really far away, but practically useless for reading a book or looking at something very close to you or even on the ground, outside of that 4in. diameter beam of light.

On the other hand, if you have a headlamp with 400 lumens spread over a 10-foot diameter circle of light from 10ft. back, then you would have an entirely different headlamp, which is capable of doing many different tasks than the headlamp in the first example.

With such a headlamp, you would work in construction, look for wildlife in trees or on the ground, go hiking at night, and maybe even run at night.

However, you can’t spot anything with a headlamp with a wide “flood” beam like this. Hence, the beam or spotlight of a headlamp is equally an important consideration.

This information is very helpful when determining how powerful you want your headlamp to be.

For instance, a headlamp with a higher number of lumens and a solid spot beam will enable you to see far and is very useful for emergencies, for night-hiking, and to check across your camp for critters.

Do you need a headlamp that can throw a beam that illuminates 80 meters away?

Do you need a headlamp that illuminates a wider area or just a spot? Don’t forget as discussed above that lumen degrades over time and you will not be able to see that far as your batteries get low.

Since the number of lumens doesn’t say anything about the size, shape, or pattern of the headlamp’s beam or the color balance of the headlamp’s light, you have to consider all of these factors when you need to buy a good headlamp for your use.

These factors are equally as important as the maximum lumens count for your headlamp.

What Makes a Good Headlamp?

Just as the initial question, this question is also best answered by making an assessment of your lighting needs based on your lighting desire, activities to light up, and cost.

However, if you need a good headlamp, consider the following three factors:

Does The Headlamp Work Reliably?

What is the essence of a headlamp that is not reliable or fails when you need it most?

You never can tell when you’re going to get stuck, outside, in the dark!  So you will need a good source of light that is also very reliable.

Do some research, look at the reviews submitted by users on the internet about the particular headlamp model? Is it a headlamp the works reliably – remember, it’s an electronic device, after all.

Does it Produce Light Bright Enough for Your Needs?

This is another very important consideration. Your chosen headlamp must be able to generate your desire output of light.

The headlamp must be bright enough for your use.

This includes basic brightness for running in the dark, setting up your tent, finding items in your pack, trouble-shooting during the night, etc.

However, this excludes extended hours of trail-finding in the dead of night.

Read the information on the product packaging carefully. The number of lumens or level of brightness should be indicated on it.

This will help you to know if your chosen headlamp will generate light bright enough for your needs.

Does Its Construction Make Sense to You?

Finally, the number of lumen, brightness, or beam is not only what you should consider, the construction of the headlamp must also make sense to you.

You should be comfortable and confident with how your chosen headlamp operates.

For instance, do you prefer a headlamp with a single button? Some headlamps have only one color of light while some have several colors.

Some use a rotating wheel for mode shifts, some have an external battery pack for increased comfort, and some have a tilting lamp. Get a headlamp with the construction and features you want.


You must have gotten great insight from the post above about what makes a good headlamp.

Lumens are very important factors to consider when determining a good headlamp for your use. However, “good” is subjective and depends on what you need a headlamp for.

This, in turn, determines the number of lumens you should look out for in a lamp. For instance, the light output you would need for indoor reading is not the same for outdoor hiking.

Aside from the number of lumens, you have to also consider the beam and brightness of the headlamp whether you need a headlamp that spots only a small area or covers a wide area.