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How To Choose The Right Batteries

Once you have choosen your new headlamp, which is no easy feat with all the lighting technologies now available, you still need to decide which batteries are best for you in order to get the best from your headlamp. If you haven't yet chosen your new lamp or are thinking of upgrading then please read this page - How to Choose a Headlamp.

There are 3 main battery types:

Battery Type
Weight
(4 batteries)
Strengths
Weakness
Alkaline
98g
Cost - Relatively inexpensive for occasional use.
Life - Reasonable life at 20C
See note 1.Tests by Lyon Equipment (Petzl UK) show that branded batteries like Energizer do outperform generic no brand batteries.
Life - Battery life drops off markedly at lower temperatures and is very poor at -20 C
Lithium
56g

Life - The longest battery life of all the types
Battery life is hardly affected by temperature
Weight - Lithiums are 43% lighter than Alkaline and 48% lighter than rechargeables

Cost - Relatively expensive at 20C where alkalines perform well but cheaper at -20C when alkalines degrade
Rechargeable
107g
Cost - So cheap that it laughs at disposable batteries for the regular user
Life - Performance equal to alkalines at 20C but better as temperature drops. Only slightly affected by temperature
Weight - The heaviest battery option

Note 1 - Tests by Lyon Equipment (Petzl UK) show that branded batteries like Energizer do outperform generic no brand batteries so it is actually cheaper to buy better quality alkalines
Note 2 - Rechargeables are NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydrides) not NiCad (Nickel Cadmium). NiMHs can be recharged at any time without impairing performance while NiCads must be fully discharged before recharging to retain performance. NiMHs are much more flexible to use.

Below you can see which types of battery suit the various conditions of use

Conditions / Usage Best Battery Type/Combination
Warm environment & Occasional Use Alkaline Batteries. For a small amount of use Alkalines will be cheaper and perform just as well as any other option
Frequent use in all conditions

Rechargeables have the lowest running costs, £28 for 2000 AAs (including buying the charger) as opposed to £1400 for disposable alkalines and offer the same or better performance than alkalines. Carry a spare set of lithiums as a back up in case you forget to recharge! (lightweight and long shelf life)

Expedition and competition use Lithiums. Excellent performance in all conditions especially the cold and the lightest battery option

Although this research was done powering headlamps, it applies just as well to any battery powered device (gps, radio etc)

Original tests carried out by Lyon Equipment UK.