The Essential Guide to Running Headlamps

July 13, 2023

A headlamp gives you the freedom to run whenever and wherever you want without being restricted to daylight hours. Whether you’re training for a big race or enjoy the challenge of running during the darker hours, a quality headlamp is essential for your protection and performance.

Choosing the right headlamp for running can be overwhelming if you’re unsure what to look for. It all starts with assessing your running patterns to gauge your lighting needs. Your running schedule, route length, and trail type all affect which qualities you should be looking for in a running headlamp.

Choosing the Right Running Headlamp

When looking for your ideal running headlamp, it’s important to consider the type of running you’ll be doing to determine your specific lighting needs. There are several qualities to keep in mind, as each headlamp offers a unique combination of features that will align with specific running scenarios.

1.) Brightness

The brightness of running headlamps is measured in lumens. Higher lumens are best for darker trails or starless nights when there is very little natural light. The best headlamps will have more than just low, medium, and high brightness settings. For most trails and routes, a headlamp with at least 200 lumens on its highest settings will do the trick. But if you’re going to tackle more rugged trails, do yourself a favor and find one that provides 300 to 500 lumens for maximum clarity.

2.) Battery

Most headlamps are powered with one of two battery types: rechargeable or single-use. Rechargeable batteries can be more practical and environmentally friendly, but if you start to walk out the door and realize your battery is low, there’s nothing you can do except wait for it to recharge. (If you’re going to use rechargeable batteries, we highly recommend keeping a spare pair charged at all times.) On the other hand, single-use batteries require replacements, but they may be better for longer running trips where you won’t have access to electricity for extended periods.

Pro tip: A higher brightness will use up your battery quicker, so be mindful of that as you calculate your battery’s burn time.

3.) Weight

With single-use batteries, a longer burn time requires a larger battery — and a bigger battery means a heavier headlamp. Depending on the battery type, you’ll want to make sure your head strap is adjustable to keep the weight of the light securely in place throughout your run. Whether you’re going on a long trek or simply don’t want to wear your headlamp the entire time, you’ll want it to be light enough to pack and transport easily.

4.) Comfort

Your headlamp shouldn’t be a hindrance. Few things are more annoying than your headlamp constantly sliding down as you run. If this happens, your focus and performance will suffer, and your overall running experience will be less enjoyable. A quality headlamp will have a highly adjustable band that provides the comfortable fit you need from start to finish. 

5.) Durability

Your running headlamp should be able to stand against the elements and natural surroundings you encounter, from heavy rain to freezing temperatures to tree branches and trail debris. As you search for a light that can take whatever Mother Nature throws at it, look for water-resistant features and batteries that are made to withstand extreme temperatures.

6.) Accessibility

No matter how cool or innovative they might be, none of the features of a quality headlamp are of much use if they are too difficult to activate on the go. Good headlamps have intuitive designs and easy-press buttons that provide hassle-free control of the various brightness and beam options.

Safety Tips for Night Running

A proper headlamp is crucial to overall safety when running at night. To state the obvious, headlamps increase visibility, helping you see the road or path ahead more clearly — and helping others see you. Wearing reflective gear will also help vehicles and pedestrians see you better and reduce the risk of accidents.

While headlamps offer multiple brightness and beam settings, it’s important to consider your beam position in relation to other runners. Make sure the beam is directed at the ground a few feet in front of you. This placement will help you see the path ahead rather than blinding runners coming the other way. Additionally, if you’re running in a group, be careful not to point your light in others’ eyes when speaking to them.

Finally, respect all traffic rules as you cross roads or intersections. Remember to look both ways before you cross, especially since less daylight means lower visibility.

Princeton Tec Running Headlamps Set the Standard

At Princeton Tec, we specialize in moving lights from hands to heads in order to provide you with state-of-the-art lighting solutions that help you run your best in any lighting condition. Our top recommendations include the following: 


The Byte offers a powerful light in a small, lightweight package. The 200-lumen LED makes this headlamp the brightest 2AA in the line. No matter what trail or road you face, the Byte will provide a secure fit, optimal comfort, and outstanding visibility.

Axis Rechargeable

With a USB rechargeable battery and updated aesthetics, the Axis Rechargeable provides four different beam settings with dimming in all modes. This headlamp is highly accessible with an ambidextrous and glove-friendly button on the side, so you can easily adjust brightness as you run.


Apex is Princeton Tec’s powerhouse headlamp, designed for extreme adventures with power, durability, and endurance in mind. With 650 lumens, Apex is the most intense of all Princeton Tec’s headlamps, and its external heatsink allows the LEDs to burn brighter and longer by reducing heat and regulating their temperature. The light also features tactile indicators: embossed buttons that mark the difference between the spot and flood beams, providing easy, seamless switching between the two. Rated IPX7 waterproof, Apex can withstand up to one meter of water submersion and is prepared for any environment.

A running headlamp is an essential piece of gear for runners who refuse to be limited by daylight. As creators of rugged and reliable headlamps, Princeton Tec works to provide quality lighting solutions for any runner so that you can work toward your goals day and night.