7 Best Caving Headlamps of 2024

Last Updated on 28/05/2024

Best Caving Headlamps

What is the Best Caving Headlamp?

The best caving headlamps provide a wide variety of beam outputs and have a long battery life, but above all else, they are reliable. We really like the ThruNite TH30 for most caving trips and also recommend the Petzl DUO for larger groups. This article explains why we wouldn’t trust any old headlamp for caving and what to look for when starting out.

If you are interested in exploring cave networks underground, you need a good headlamp to light the way. As you head down a cave, it isn’t long before you are in complete darkness, and even after your eyes adjust, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. You are fully reliant on your light source to guide you to safety. Travel headlamps are ok for one-off caving trips otherwise, I would always use a proper caver’s head torch.

One of a caver’s worst nightmares is getting stuck in a cave and not being able to get out, so be sure always to pack some caving rope. If your light source stops working when you are deep in a cave network, there is a very real chance you will never find your way out. This is why a headlamp you can rely on is so important for caving and why you should avoid using cheap camping headlamps.

If you are new to caving, any of the headlamps we review below will serve you well while exploring underground. If you are a professional working in caves daily, then there are some details of specialist companies that make caving headlamps and equipment further down the page. Without further ado, here are the most reliable headlamps for caving available today.

Our recommendations in this guide to the best headlamps for caving are based on lights we have tried and tested as well as reviews from friends in the caving industry.

5 Best Headlamps for Caving

ThruNite TH30 LED Rechargeable Head Torch

ThruNite TH30 LED Rechargeable Head Torch


  • LUMENS:  0.5 lm, 25 lm, 130 lm, 352 lm, 1275 lm, 3350 lm
  • BEAM DISTANCE: Max 155 m (508 ft)
  • WEIGHT: 175 g / 6.2 oz
  • BATTERY TYPE: 1 x 3100MAH 18650 IMR battery
  • RUN TIME: Turbo (3350 lm; 1.5 mins+103 mins), High (1275 lm; 90 mins), Medium (352 lm; 5 hrs), Medium-Low (130 lm; 14 hrs), Low (25 lm; 60 hrs), Firefly (0.5 lm; 32 days), SOS (645 lm; 305 mins)

The ThruNite TH30 LED Rechargeable Head Torch is our number one best headlamp for cavers on almost every level. If we had to choose just one caving headlamp for the next 2 years, this would be it. It has the largest range of lumen outputs and has the best battery life of any caving headlamp, and you can easily unclip it to use as a handheld torch when trying to check down tight tunnels.

The range of settings is the best we have tested, and they are all operated by a single button which is what we like to see. You can switch through 7 different light modes ranging in lumen outputs from 0.5 (firefly mode) and 3350 (turbo mode), which gives you plenty of control over brightness and beam distance. Firefly mode is like limp mode and is just enough to see your way around in an emergency, but it does not travel very far. Turbo mode is just insane and will rarely be used, but the medium-low 130-lumen output is perfect for a full day of caving.

A single 3100MAH 18650 IMR battery provides all the power you need and is by far the most reliable option. You can take spares and easily switch them over if you are caving for more than a couple of hours and want a high output. You can also charge the lamp using a power bank in your pocket for extra battery life. Both of these options make this a very reliable headlamp for caving and perfect for extended use underground.

The impressive run time of 32 days in firefly mode provides lots of reassurance that you won’t run out of headlamp battery life while caving. With most caving missions typically lasting 2 – 8 hours, you will rarely ever have to test this and can happily use the medium or medium-low settings on most trips. When the battery power falls below 10%, the led flashes three times, and the switch indicator will turn red which is a very useful feature as it gives you time to exit the cave before you run out of light.

The ThruNite TH30 is shockproof to 1.5 meters and has an IPX8 rating which is very high and means it is waterproof to 2 meters and virtually indestructible while caving. We really like the fact that the head torch can be removed from its headband holster to use in your hand. We also really like the single-button operation, which is foolproof and very easy to learn. Another great feature is its memory function which remembers which setting you used last and turns on with that setting first.

Overall this is easily the best caving headlamp you can get for the money and has never let us down when we needed it most.

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Petzl Duo Z1 Waterproof Rechargeable Headlamp

Petzl Duo Z1 Waterproof Rechargeable Headlamp


  • LUMENS: 70 lm, 140 lm (focussed), 170 lm, 300 lm, 360 lm
  • BEAM DISTANCE: low 20 m (65 ft) / max 115 m (377 ft)
  • WEIGHT WITH BATTERIES: 370 g / 13 oz
  • BATTERY TYPE: 6400 mAh Lithium-Ion battery
  • RUN TIME: 70 lm (23 hrs), 140 lm (17 hrs), 170 lm (12 hrs), 300 lm (7 hrs), 360 lm (5 hrs)

The Petzl Duo Z1 Waterproof Rechargeable Headlamp has long been the headlamp of choice for cavers and has seen lots of updates over the years. The DUO Z1 is equipped with all the latest headlamp innovations, including being ATEX certified and having FACE2FACE technology. It can be mounted on your caving/miner’s helmet and is PRO ADAPT compatible, which is ideal for serious caving.

The four light settings (plus BOOST mode) don’t just change the lumen output, they also change the type of beam to suit your environment. You have a low-intensity flood beam for close range and the best burn time. You then have a proximity setting with a mixed beam which is the setting that often gets used the most. Next, you have a beam for movement which has a focused component, and a wide beam for mixed-use. And finally, you have the distance setting, which provides a highly focused beam for checking down deep cave tunnels.

The biggest drawback of this headlamp is that the batteries are so expensive, and if you want to take a spare, it will cost almost half the price of the entire headlamp. Still, if you want the best caving headlamp, then you need to pay the premium prices. You can charge the headlamp with a pocket power bank while on the go, but this isn’t ideal. You can charge the battery from empty to full in 8 hours, and there is a CONSTANT LIGHTING feature that keeps a stable output until there is 10% battery life, and then the battery switches to reserve mode.

The headlamp will run from around 5 hours in the boost setting to nearly 24 hours on the low floodlight beam. This is enough for most caving trips. However, I would expect a bit more from the impressive 6400 mAh battery. Still, it is always very reliable, and that’s what matters.

With an IPX6 rating, the Petzl DUO Z1 is waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes, which again is enough for most cavers, but I would like to see it a little higher. The most advanced feature of the new updated model is the FACE2FACE technology which senses other DUO headlamps within 8 meters and automatically dims the beams when facing each other. This is amazing when you have a small group, and you all have the same headtorch but are useless with other brands.

In conclusion, this is a top-of-the-range headlamp for caving and is even better when more than one of your team has the same model. It is easy to operate, very reliable, and helmet mountable, but you pay a premium for the battery packs.

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Fenix HM65R Rechargeable Headlamp

Fenix HM65R Rechargeable Headlamp


  • LUMENS: 8 lm, 50 lm, 130 lm, 400 lm, 1000 lm
  • BEAM DISTANCE: low 6 m (20 ft) / max 163 m (535 ft)
  • WEIGHT WITH BATTERIES: 150 g / 5.3 oz
  • BATTERY TYPE: 1 x 3500 mAh 18650 Lithium-Ion battery or 2 x CR123A batteries
  • RUN TIME: 8 lm (300 hrs), 50 lm (97 hrs), 130 lm (50 hrs), 400 lm (22 hrs), 1000 lm (2 hrs)

The Fenix HM65R Rechargeable Headlamp is perfect for caving with its independently operated floodlight and a spotlight which can be combined for an illuminating 1400 lumens of output. It is made from an incredibly lightweight, tough, and protective magnesium alloy casing, which makes it a reliable choice for cavers. Because it is so lightweight, it never slips down your head which can be a problem for headlamps without a rear battery pack for balance.

The floodlight mode has three brightness settings, and the spotlight has 4, including turbo mode, which gives you seven lighting options to choose from and even more combinations. With the lowest setting on floodlight mode, your battery can last up to 300 hours which puts your mind at ease that you won’t run out of battery if you go into a cave fully charged. On the turbo spotlight setting, you can see up to 163 meters in front of you which is kind of unnecessary in a cave but perfect for other outdoor uses.

The Fenix HM65R is powered by a single 3500 mAh battery which is rechargeable through a USB-C charger and is easily changed for a spare fully charged battery you can keep in your pocket. The battery life is very impressive on this headlamp, and unless I am using it for caving, I rarely ever charge it because it lasts so long. Some users do report that after hours of use, it does start to get a bit warm, which isn’t really a concern and quite nice if you are caving in winter.

With an IPX68 rating, you get impact resistance up to 2 meters, waterproofing down to 2 meters underwater, and it is also dustproof. This is all you need for regular caving. There are dual buttons to operate the different lights on top, which are exactly what you want on a headlamp like this because it is simple and it works. Overall I think this is a really good headlamp that one of my experienced caving buddies absolutely swears by, and so it made the list because he knows more than I do about caving.

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Ledlenser H15R Core Rechargeable Headlamp

Ledlenser H15R Core Rechargeable Headlamp


  • LUMENS: 20 lm – 2500 lm
  • BEAM DISTANCE: low 20 m (65 ft) / max 250 m (820 ft)
  • WEIGHT WITH BATTERIES: 380 g / 13.4 oz
  • BATTERY TYPE: 1 x 4800 mAh Li-ion 7.4V rechargeable battery
  • RUN TIME: 80 hrs – 5 hrs

The Ledlenser H15R Core rechargeable headlamp is about the same size and weight as the Petzl DUO Z1 but has a completely different setup. It is turned on and off by pressing the side button, which then can be adjusted for brightness. Unlike other caving headlamps, this doesn’t have any preset light modes, and you just adjust the brightness to anywhere between 20 – 2500 lumens. You can then focus the beam like a spotlight or use it as a floodlight by extending the telescopic lens.

On the lowest possible settings, you get around 20 lumens of light which illuminate up to 65 feet in front of you and will stay constant for up to 80 hours. On the highest setting of 2500 lumens, you need to be very careful not to shine it in people’s eyes as it is so bright you could damage them. At this level, you get a massive 250-meter light range which will eventually drop down to reserve mode before 5 hours.

The 4800 mAh Li-ion 7.4V rechargeable battery is rather large, but it is very cheap to get a second backup battery (unlike the Petzl DUO, which costs a small fortune). The benefit of the large battery is the reliable power reserve which means you don’t have to worry about getting caught in the dark. The battery connects to the headlamp around the side with a coiled wire which can be disconnected when you are recharging.

One feature we think all caving headlamps should have is a battery level indicator which has four small LEDs to show how much power you have left. While most headlamps do have a battery warning signal, very few actually display it until you are down to your last 10%. We also like the focusing lens, which is very easy to operate, and along with the brightness/dimming wheel, you really have total control of the type of light you put out.

In this review of the Ledlenser H15R Core rechargeable headlamp, we feel that this is way more than your average headlamp and is much better suited to extreme activities like caving. It is IPX67 rated for submersion in 1 meter of water, shockproof, and dustproof for added peace of mind. This is by far the most controllable caving headlamp in this guide, which makes it perfectly adaptable to any situation or environment. Just be careful on the high beam; it is tremendously bright!

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Coast HL8R Rechargeable LED Headlamp

Coast HL8R Rechargeable LED Headlamp


  • LUMENS: 50 lm, 245 lm, 800 lm
  • BEAM DISTANCE: Max 214 m (702 ft)
  • WEIGHT WITH BATTERIES: 350 g / 12.3 oz
  • BATTERY TYPE: 1 x Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery or 4 x AA batteries
  • RUN TIME: low 62 hrs – high 4.25 hrs

The Coast HL8R Rechargeable LED Headlamp isn’t a bad choice for caving, but it is the last headlamp we would pick out of all five listed in this guide. The reason for this is simply down to its plastic construction and low IPX rating of 4, which makes it susceptible to water damage while caving. We do like the twist focus lens, which switches from the spotlight to flood beam, and the simple variable light control, but is this enough to splash out on this headlamp?

It has a very impressive beam distance of over 210 meters and a long run time of 62 hours in low-power mode, which is still fairly bright at 50 lumens. The battery pack is fairly heavy with the rechargeable battery and even heavier with 4 x AA batteries, but you soon get used to it. The battery pack can be recharged while connected to the headlamp or taken out to charge up or rotate with a spare. Spares can be bought separately.

The HL8R is our favorite headlamp for caving from Coast, but the fact that it is only water-resistant and not fully waterproof really lets it down somewhat. You can still absolutely use it for dry caving and all other outdoor activities, but when it comes to caving, it is safety first, and that means reliability. Personally, we don’t like taking risks, but if you want this headlamp, we won’t try and persuade you otherwise.

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Guide to Caving Headlamps

Professional Caving Headlamps

If you are an experienced caver or work underground for a living, then you might want a headlamp that is even more powerful or reliable than what is available on Amazon. There are a select few companies that make caving gear and even fewer that specialize in caving headlamps specifically. Here are three companies you can check out if you want even better performance and reliability.

Phaethon Caving Lights

Phaethon Caving Headlamps are made in Hellas, Greece, and are engineered to be super bright, durable, and efficient. They are incredibly simple in design but have all the features you might need from a caving headlamp. They can also be used for cave diving and have a waterproof rating of up to 250 meters. They are powered by two 18650 Li-ion batteries and have a range of beam settings with two lights or one. They are very expensive but if you explore caves for a living, then they are an investment.

Little Monkey Caving

Little Monkey Caving is based in the United Kingdom but has over 26 years of experience designing and making custom caving headlamps. They have two feature models called the ‘Rude Nora 4’ and the ‘Filthy Edna 2’, which are both some of the best professional caving headlamps you can buy. They are both designed to be mounted to your helmet and don’t have an elasticated headband like other lamps, but if you work underground, you will no doubt already be wearing a helmet.


Scurion headlamps are manufactured in Switzerland and are made with the same kind of precision you would expect from a swiss army watch. They are often the caving lamp of choice for armed forces and emergency services because of their extremely high build quality and reliability. Like the Little Monkey Caving and Phaethon headlamps, Scurion lights are designed to be fixed to a safety helmet/hard hat, and they aren’t cheap.

group of cavers with headlamps

Buyers Guide to Caving Headlamps

There are certain features that any good headlamp for caving should have, but unless you’ve used them before, it can be hard to know what to look for. Here are the main things we tested to find the best headlamps for cave exploration:


The brightness is typically measured in lumens (lm) and will often range from 0.3 lm on the lowest settings up to 2500 lm on the most intense settings. You really don’t need a massive lumen output as it will rarely ever get used and drains batteries fast, so focus instead on benefits other than how bright it will shine. Being able to adjust the brightness easily is far more important than the maximum output.

Beam Distance

Unless the cave system you are exploring is massive, then 100 lumens is more than enough to clearly see everything in front of you for the next 20 meters. That being said, it is always nice to have a bit of extra power, and if your battery can afford to operate at 300+ lumens, then this usually gives you great visibility of over 50 meters. Having a wide range of beam distances is never a bad thing and can normally be switched between flood and spotlight modes.

Battery Type

Ideally, you should look for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are not brand specific and can be changed relatively easily. The best type of battery for caving headlamps is the single 3100MAH 18650, which is just slightly bigger than an AA battery. They are long-lasting, fast charging, cheap, compact, and lightweight compared to larger branded batteries.

If you can charge whilst using your headlamp, then a power bank can be used to extend the battery life. Compatibility with disposable batteries can be a big benefit in certain situations.

Run Time

When looking at the run times at both maximum output and low light modes, you can get a good idea of how long a headlamp battery will last. We want to see big numbers across the board, and this is one of the reasons we think the ThruNite TH30 is a great choice. Assuming we will be using a medium-light setting of around 300 lumens, we would want to see a minimum burn time of 3 hours. Obviously, you can use a lower light mode to prolong the run time and take spare batteries if needed.

Weight with Batteries

You can expect caving headlights to be heavier than your average hiking headlamp because they are more heavy-duty and are often used on helmets anyway. But if you are wearing them on your head, then you don’t really want a heavy headlamp or battery pack to manage while you scramble across slippery rocks. If you want something lightweight, then aim for under 200 grams; however, if you are less bothered about weight, then you have more options.

Beam Settings

Beam settings are crucial to controlling brightness and managing output or battery usage. It is important for these to be easy to operate in the dark, either by buttons or a rotating switch. You should look for at least three settings of low, medium, and high, as well as things like SOS settings and red light options. There may be a lens or set to switch between spotlight and floodlight, which can be useful when crawling through tight tunnels and exploring vast cave formations.


Your headlamp needs to be durable enough to take a knock against hard rock and withstand water damage. Caves are often rugged and damp which means you often graze your headlamp against low-hanging ceilings and pass under dripping water. An IPX rating of 6 and above is sufficient to withstand water submersion however, we made an exception for the Coast HL8R headlamp in position 5. The metal casing is preferable over plastic and all the wiring and battery packs need to be just as durable as the torch.

Helmet Compatability

It is fairly common practice to wear a helmet when caving due to the ever-present risk of rocks falling on your head. So it makes sense to get a headlamp that either fits over the top of a helmet or can be mounted directly to it. All of the headlamps in this guide can be worn over the top of a helmet as well as underneath a helmet.

Ease of Use

The last thing you need when you are 200 feet underground is a headlamp that is too complicated to operate, and if you have cold hands or wear gloves, then this is even worse. A simple button or rotating switch is all a cave headlamp needs to flick through the different beam settings and light modes – the fewer moving parts, the better.


With many caving headlamps costing $200 and upwards, it is obvious that you get what you pay for, and reliability is more important than rice when your life depends on it. That being said, the ThruNite TH30 costs under $100 and is arguably better than other, more reputable competitors.

Cave Explore Stalactites Exploration Cavern

Frequently Asked Questions

How many lumens do I need for caving?

Caving headlamps range between 1 – 3,500 lumens but offer the best battery life and visibility when used between 100 – 300 lumens which is normally a medium setting. This is more than sufficient for large cave networks and isn’t too bright in tighter tunnels. It is handy to have a range of lumen outputs as well as a spotlight and floodlight setting.

Do cavers’ headlamps need to be waterproof?

Caving headlamps need to be waterproof because the risk of getting wet and malfunctioning is always there. There may be water dripping from the ceiling or running on the floor, and if your headlamp isn’t waterproof, you won’t last very long underground. Look out for an IPX rating of at least 6 to ensure your headlamp has been tested underwater.

How many headlamps should you take caving?

According to the Vermont Cavers Association, “Every caver should carry at least three sources of light”. This is because batteries and bulbs can malfunction from time to time, so having two extra light sources other than your main headlamp reduces the risk of you getting caught in the dark.

What does ATEX Certified mean, and do I need it?

ATEX Certified means that equipment is safe to use in a potentially explosive atmosphere and is the European equivalent of the HAZLOC standard. It is basically to certify that there is no spark caused by the headlamp, which could potentially ignite flammable gas underground and in caves.

Why are professional caving headlamps so expensive?

Some professional caving headlamps can cost several hundred dollars because they are handcrafted and tested to make sure they are 100% safe and reliable. Because your life can depend on your headlamp when caving, it is often seen as a worthwhile investment for anyone in the caving industry.


Thank you for reading our guide on the best caving headlamp. We hope it helped in your quest to go caving.

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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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