Essential Camping Gear
LED Camping Hat Lights Review
LED hat or cap lights seem to have been stigmatized by the clunky negative image of campers wearing elastic-strap head lamps, (no one admits to the hands-free convenience they provide), but they really are a completely different animal. And once you use one you will soon be thinking of it as essential camping gear.
LED Hat Light Review: by Gus
I have used camping headlamps, and I loved the quality and utility of the light they provided. And I certainly appreciated the hands-free convenience – but I hated the constricting feel of the elastic headbands that most used.
I also felt a bit clunky-looking walking around camp with a light strapped to my forehead. I know – it’s childish, but that’s how I felt.
In preparation for an upcoming camping trip I thought I would try a camping hat light instead of strap-on headlamp. This also seemed like a good idea for a camping gear review, so I visited my local Gander Mountain store to see if I could convince them I was some big important Internet guy that they should give free gear to.
Almost. They would not just give me a selection of hat lights, but they did agree to “loan” me some display models – if I bought one hat light for myself, and agreed to pay for any I damaged. Done deal.
5 LED Hat Clip Lights Reviewed
- Browning Night Seeker Cap Light
- Energizer Trailfinder Performance
- MasterVision Rechargable
- Cyclops CYC-MHC-W Micro Mini
- MasterVision 1001 Clip Light
All the lights claim to be water-resistant, but it was a dry weekend so I did not get to test that.
All the lights fit a ball cap brim nicely, but they did not work on a flex-brim trail hat.
Different Top Picks:
|Performance and Features||Personal Preference|
Note: All of these cap lights worked great, and as advertized.
None were used long enough to confirm battery-life claims – but it seems safe to accept their claims.
So, the top picks were generally determined by personal preference and desired features.
**All links are my own Amazon affiliate links – which I only use to recommend good-quality camping gear – Gus
Energizer TrailFinder LED Hat Light
This one almost didn’t make the #1 pick, (of the five I reviewed). I was really self-conscious about the clunky-looking above-brim profile. But, it did have the best features, and worked even better than expected.
It’s small, but sturdily build. It has a hi-lo white light setting, (which is really all you need), and it has a red night-vision setting, which I found perfect for around-camp mobility. The brim clip is metal, and the control button is perfect. Intuitively under finger when you reach for it, and simple clicks to get the setting you want. Even with gloves on.
I really liked this light, and it was the one I used the longest.
But… I did have a few issues using it. It isn’t exactly small or light-weight, (comparatively speaking of course), I could definitely tell it was on my hat. Not nearly as light as the Cyclops Micro-Mini or even Browning Night Seeker. The weight issue is probably because it uses AAA batteries. It wasn’t an extreme issue or deal-breaker, but I did notice it. And, as mentioned, I still prefer an under-brim light, but except for that personal preference, it worked great.
Also, since it protruded past the edge of my hat brim, it affected my eyes with a little glare. I checked a couple Amazon reviews and others mentioned this issue also. But they were so happy with their light that a couple DIY fixes, like; a piece of tape, a touch of paint, or even nail polish, on the very bottom of the LED lens cover fixed the problem.
Recommendation: 4-stars. Aside from my personal under-brim preference, the eye-glare issue is all that kept this light from a 5-star rating. Note: I don’t want this to seem like a major problem – it wasn’t, but it is noticeable. But even so, this was the hat light I kept going back to on this review trip.
Retail price: $23.99 Average online price: $11.43 – $16.99
Cyclops Micro Mini LED Hat Clip Light
This hat light is a good choice for a basic work light, or for kids, (practically indestructible), but it isn’t a great all-around camp light. It only ranks #2 because it was so small and easy to use, and does what it does so well, without even seeming to be there.
It is the lightest and smallest of the lights reviewed. The on/off switch is easy to find and use, and it has a very good, bright work-light capability. But that’s it. As much as I appreciated this little light – it has two major issues keeping it from being a good over-all cap light for camping.
It does not have a night-vision light, and it does not have a low-light choice. It’s either on or off.
But… it did work very well as a work light. And it was so small and light that I didn’t even notice it on the hat when it was turned off. Also, it has a strong metal mounting clip and sturdy construction. I would expect this light to have been made by Timex. It looks like it could take a licken’! I was tempted to drop it and step on it to prove its durability. Then I remembered that if I was wrong I would have to pay for it.
The control switch was as easy to find and use as the Energizer’s. If it had a night-vision and low-light option, it would have been my #1 pick – even being an on-top mount.
I used this light for a late-evening walk-around hike and it worked great. All the light I needed, plus, it never got snagged once, even though I purposely went off-trail a couple times just to check for that.
Recommendation: 4-stars. If only it had a night-vision choice – I would have kept it for myself.
Retail price: $10.99 Average online price: $6.61 – $8.37
Browning Night Seeker Pro LED hat Light
A really good, well-built light that can be used clipped on other things too. Like straps, tent flaps, etc. The single bright white LED light is all you need, and the two green LEDs provide plenty of night-vision light.
But… like the Energizer, it uses AAA batteries – but only one, so it is a little heavier than the “coin-battery” hat lights.Make sure your hat should fits snugly.
Also, the push-button switch is a little awkward to find and use – your hand blocks your vision when you have to use it. I tried it with gloves on and had a real problem. I ended up taking one glove off to operate it. To me – this is a big negative.
My biggest problem with this cap light was its under-brim profile. I liked this light at first, but then I felt like I was going cross-eyed. Especially when I angled it downward. (It has the really nice feature of angle adjustment – as much as 90° from clip)
This light probably deserves a better rating, and could have more versatile uses around camp than just on your hat, but since I was reviewing them as hat lights, I found the on/off button issue and under-brim profile to be real problems for me.
Recommendation: 3-stars. I suppose the under-brim profile that was an issue for me might not be an issue for you – but the on/off button issue was a problem that I think most will experience.
Retail price: $18.99 Average online price: $10.41 – $14.99
MasterVision 1001 5-LED Hat Light
I liked this light because of its under-brim style and choice of how many LED’s you could have on! But it is definitely a “fair-weather” annual-purchase” choice.
This hat light has five white LEDs, and you can choose to have 1, 3, or 5 on at a time. Plus an option to have them flashing – but I can’t think of a single reason for that function, unless you want to wear it at a disco.
The switch is easy to reach, with just a thumb-flick, as long as you don't have gloves on, (hence fair-weather note) - but I liked the Energizer push-button choice better.
I did not find any great use for the 3-light position. The low 1-light setting worked fine for moving around camp – not too bright and not too dim, and I used the high 5-light setting when using it to actually illuminate something I was doing.
The best feature for me was its low-profile under-brim placement. After a few minutes I became used to it.
It would be a lot better choice if it had a red or green LED choice for night-vision lighting. (three of the other hat lights did)
- Lack of a night-vision setting – this is a big deal, this type of around-camp lighting is used almost as much as the full-illumination setting.
- Cheap plastic clips – This is a big one – I saw this criticism on several Amazon reviews, so I was prepared to be careful putting it on my hat. I did not have a problem with them, but I can see this as a major durability problem. Especially for kid’s use or repeated mounting and dismounting on hat. Expect them to break if you are not very careful putting the light on your cap.
Retail price: $9.99 Average online price: $3.83 – $6.15
Recommendation: 2-stars. This light worked well – for what it did. And it may suit your camping needs. But I can’t recommend a piece of camping gear that isn’t durable. The price is right – but you do get what you pay for.
MasterVision Rechargeable 6-LED Hat Light
Ok, this one is for the techies. It has 4 to 6 LED lights, available in a mix of white and red, or white and blue, or even white, blue, and red. Up to six light settings. The lithium battery is rechargeable using a USB cord. And it has a Sonic Bug Repellant feature!
This plastic hat brim clip has been beefed-up – so its not as likely to break as the 1001 model. It also has the same on/off/settings switch configuration as the 1001.
That is just about all I can say about it. I only used it briefly because the under-brim profile was so large I was almost craning my neck like I was looking from under a table. It was as heavy as the Energizer cap light - but a lot more "noticeable." In short; I did not like this hat light.
To be fair, I did use it long enough to test the lighting. All the various light combinations worked, and the white LEDs were nice and bright, and more than adequate for almost any personal illumination need. The red night-vision LEDs worked fine too. They provided more than enough light for ambling around camp without tripping over guy-lines or such.
According to other reviews, (Amazon), battery life is very good – but I didn’t use it long enough to find out. I know this is an unprofessional review, but I just want camping gear that works dependably. Usually when you add a bunch of bells and whistles – quality suffers. I can’t think of a reason I need a combo of colored lights at the same time. I don’t take a USB charger with me camping. And I don’t want to feel like I’m wearing night-vision goggles.
But you might feel otherwise. This is not a bad light. It seems well-built, and works as advertised. But it is expensive.
- Too big for an under-brim profile.
- Control switch is impossible to work with gloves on.
Retail price: $33.99 Average online price: $15.50 – $26.45
Recommendation: 3-stars. I give it 3-stars because it does do what is says it will. And my profile-size issues might not yours. So follow the link to see the specific stats to see if it is what you are looking for.
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Here are some other examples of camp lighting gear.
Notes and discussions:
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Pie Irons for Campfire Cooking
If you go camping with kids, you should have at least one Pie Iron, (preferably one for each kid), in your camping cookware. They are versatile – you can make anything from grilled cheese sandwiches to instant fruit pies. And they are so safe and easy to use that you can let your young campers make their own fun camping recipes for kids.
Just pop in the ingredients, close, cook over the campfire, and out comes delicious sandwiches, or biscuit-dough fruit tarts, or dozens of other camp food choices.
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