Ask Cavers: Which is the Best Caving Head Lamp on a Budget?

May 15, 2013
A Bright Yellow Head Lamp.

A Bright Yellow Head Lamp. Photo by Mboverload/Wikimedia

Although there are many excellent head lamps out there, the most awesome and powerful ones tend to have a price tag that puts them out of reach for the casual caver.

For this week’s Ask Cavers question we want to hear your thoughts on which lights have a good battery life, decent power but are still rugged, dependable and reasonably priced.

Share your thoughts and comments in the discussion below.

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Comments (13)

  1. May 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    The LED Lenser H14 is a superb reasonably priced headtorch. Gives 210 lumens from 4x AA cells. Strong elastic headband will fit most helmets and can be removed easily. Robust construction and zoom feature is very useful. They can be picked up on Amazon for around £50

  2. François Bouchard
    May 15, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    I buy about 12 years ago a petzl duo. The most used for cave. This lamp is good and it’s low cost : around 100 Euro. But this year, i upgraded that lamp to get a powerfull headlamp with the same box lamp and battery box. I just replace the light module to get a powerfull headlamp.

    I buy the OMNI V3 from this site.
    This guy make his own module and they are awsome !! from 4 lumen to 380 lumen. 6 mode of lightning and owsome desing. This module cost me 80 UK $. around 131$ canadien dollar

    petzl duo : 120 $ canadien dollar
    Omni V3 : 131 $ canadien dollar

    250$ for a powerfull and good product for speleo 🙂

  3. Michael Henry
    May 15, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Agreed and the LED Lenser 5-year warranty is superb. I have a LED Lenser H14 and H7 I kept in my bag as an extra backup that I broke last fall, took it in to a retail store a week ago without any paperwork, they looked at it and handed me a new one on the spot.
    I recently purchased a Princeton Tec Apex ($65) for its IPX7 rating (waterproof to 1m) VS the H14’s IPX4 rating but have yet to test it out, already have a feeling I will miss the focus of the H14 though.

  4. May 16, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Well, apparently the Euros have a very different threshold for a ‘budget’ headlamp. Here in the US, the generally-accepted ‘best buys’ for an adequate, robust, and reliable headlamp would be the Princeton Tec APEX ($85) or the Princeton Tec Corona ($54). What makes them a bargain is that no matter what you do to them underground, the company will replace a broken one with no charge and no questions.

  5. May 16, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I have to agree with Alex Sproul. For the price, I have not found better headlamps than the Princeton Tec Corona and Apex. I’m a college biology professor doing cave research. Outfitting research students quickly becomes expensive. Each of us carries an Apex as a primary light, and a Corona as a backup. Black Diamond has a lamp similar to the Apex for a few dollars less, but it doesn’t have the lifetime warranty.

  6. Barton Bridge
    May 16, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I think that the Fenix HP11 is a fantastic light that I have used for some time now.
    277 lumens on turbo (3.5hrs run at max) and 4 different levels. You can find it on amazon for $65 USD–Yellow-HP11YW/dp/B0055PER0E/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1368711300&sr=8-2&keywords=fenix+hp11


  7. May 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Carbide lamp. Best light for the dollar. I have and use 35 year old lamps. You can buy rebuilt for about $35. A caver out of Oklahoma sells them. Bob and Bob carries some parts.

  8. May 17, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I agree with Francois about the the Petzl Duo. But it’s only affordable because I bought it a few years ago already attached to a Petzl Ecrin Roc helmet (everything for £65 on eBay.)
    It’s perfect for caving here in Ireland where there’s no such thing as a dry cave, and the duo is extremely robust and submersible to 5 metres.
    I also upgraded the light module this year to the omni v3 to get the extra lumens without buying a completely new headlamp. The upgrade was £75 and so far has been worth every penny! Still cheap compared to a basic scurion which isn’t submersible!

  9. May 17, 2013 at 11:42 am

    A 7 led lamp that runs on 3AAA batteries and has 3 lighting levels. I got it about 7 years ago in one of those Chinese supermarkets in Preston, Melbourne. It cost about 5 Australian Dollars.

    This light is my “OhshitohshitI’mgunnadie” extra, extra get out of Dodge emergency spare!!

    May 19, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Its all about the LUMENS ………..I would put Prineton Tec “CORONA” @ #1…90 Lumens + settings for 1,3,5,8 light settings…. @ about $45-55 online with free shipping…

  11. drew
    May 22, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Fenix. I’ve used one of their older models for about 3 years with no problems. The one they have coming out next month…called the HP25 I think…looks very promising. All of their models are under $100.

  12. May 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    It’s *not* all about the LUMENS. Robustness, dependability, water-resistance etc are all obvious concerns, but I am surprised nobody mentions the field angle as an important parameter. Most of the very high-lumen lamps have a very narrow angle. There are times when it is great to be able to illuminate a single far-away spot, but 99% of the time wide-angle illumination is what you need. Carbide lamps are (were) awesome in that respect.

  13. don bittle
    May 28, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I’ve evolved from carbide to Mega’s to my current Zebra, Princeton Apex, Fenix HP’s with stops along the way for some pretty crappy stuff. I regard my present 3 (all under $100) as the best with lumens ranging from 220 to 700. Here in Missouri, caves are wet, muddy and “shocking” for a lamp. And our ceilings and domes require some pretty powerful stuff. Most of us around here are going to the LI 18650 powered stuff like the Zebra. Light, simple, small, powerful, excellent beam coverage. Going this way does require a hefty initial investment with the premium batteries going for $13 each. But, we bit the bullet and so far, it has been a good choice with some of our cavers having used these for 2 years. I still have much less than the cost of a Sten invested. BTW, as a panic backup, 2 123A’s will work also.


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