A Closer Look at Lumens

January 2, 2024

In the world of outdoor lighting products, lumens take the spotlight. Lumens measure visible light output, with the general rule that higher lumens mean brighter light. Before choosing the best light for your next adventure, consider the lumen range that suits your activity. But remember, lumens have limitations. The specified lumens represent the maximum output when fully powered. As power decreases, so does the lumen count. That means batteries and beams matter as much if not more than the light’s advertised lumen count. Some batteries last longer than others. Some beam options require more power to sustain. When determining which light to use, consider critical factors like battery life, beam distance, and beam pattern.


Batteries play a crucial role in ensuring sustained functionality. Regardless of lumen count or potential beam brightness, a powerful light source is ineffective if the battery dies.

Rechargeable headlamps or handheld lights will be lighter to wear or hold, but if you’re using a high-power beam for long stretches, you’ll notice a decline in lumens as the battery weakens. For optimal functionality, you’ll need to have a replacement battery on hand — or a way to recharge quickly. If you use a light that requires disposable batteries, bring spares to maximize your light’s lumen count.

Beam Distance

Beam distance is another key consideration, one that’s largely determined by your activity. Hikers may prefer floodlights for broad area coverage, hunters opt for spotlights for distant visibility, and tactical situations may require switching between wide and focused beams. The beam’s impact on lumens is simple: higher lumen counts result in lower run times. If you use your light at max power on the brightest setting, expect the functional lumens to drop as your battery drains. 

Beam Pattern (and Color)

Tailoring your headlamp to your activity is essential. Consider lumens for overall visibility, but pay close attention to beam pattern and strength depending on your speed, movement, and the task at hand. 

Trail runners and fast-paced hikers will benefit from a headlamp with a white light. The higher lumen count of white light makes it ideal for navigating difficult terrain, identifying trail markers in the distance, and spotting objects in your path. Choose a bright spotlight for extended range and a well-balanced floodlight for wide-angle coverage along the trail. 

When preserving night vision is your priority, choose a headlamp with red high and low settings. Red light is least likely to disturb light-sensitive cells in your eyes and causes less eye strain due to its lower lumen output. Hiking familiar trails or setting up camp? Use red high. Reading or taking care of close-range tasks? Go with red low.

While choosing the right beam pattern is vital to the success of your endeavor, it’s critical to remember what was noted above — higher power beam patterns will drain your battery faster and reduce the overall lumens your light can provide over time. Understanding this critical point will help you plan your usage accordingly. 

For over 45 years, Princeton Tec has been a trusted source of durable lights that deliver high performance. Whether you’re focused on lumen count or overall versatility, categorizing lights by their intended use cases makes it easy to find the most suitable option for activities ranging from hiking adventures and hunting excursions to tactical missions and emergency situations. Trust Princeton Tec to provide the lighting solution you can count on for any terrain or task.