How to choose your Great Wall headlamp

If you are walking anything more than a guided day tour along the Great Wall of China, I advise you bring a headlamp. Read on to find learn about my experiences, and which factors you should consider before buying your Great Wall headlamp!

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Before purchasing your headlamp, you should think carefully through what circumstances you expect to be using it: Are you walking the Great Wall for a few days, or are you doing a long distance hike? Is there a high probability that you might be pushing your luck on the Great Wall, and end up in a steep and potentially dangerous spot when the sun sets? Or do you plan to spend your nights in a tent or other accommodation? Are you walking solo, or in a group?

On my through hike of the Great Wall, I was literally carrying my house on my back. All I needed for a comfortable night was a flat space of approximately 2.20 x 1.60 m (7.2 x 5.2 ft) Because of this, and the fact that my dream was to walk the entire Great Wall of China, I went for the lightest headlight I could trust. It never let me down through temperatures ranging from -25 C to +45C (-13C to +113F)

Old and new version of the PETZL E+LITE headlamp

As you can see, the headlamp I used is an older version of the PETZL E+LITE. It has a standard elastic headband instead of the retractable cord. On a long distance walk along the Great Wall I recommend you choose the same. The retractable cord is too flimsy to trust. It is more likely to get damaged and harder to repair than the model with a regular headband.

Keeping the headlamp around my neck 24/7 during some intense winter walking days.

Another reason to choose the old version is that on long tough days, you can wear the light around your neck all day to have it handy. In the Western and middle sections of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall you will pass countless abandoned cave dwellings. If you keep your eyes open, you will find some that are in the Great Wall itself! These are perfect places for seeking protection from the harsh elements. Have your headlamp handy and you can evaluate the cave before using it. Some caves have a lot of broken glass in them, and some may have snakes or scorpions so please take a peek before entering!

The batteries on the PETZL E+LITE have an impressive longevity! I always carried an extra set of batteries, but it took several months of careful use before I needed to replace them. The quality of batteries in rural China are lower than what you may be accustomed to. In large towns, you should have no problem finding high quality batteries. If unsure, always test them before walking the Great Wall, or if you have the opportunity, bring batteries from home. Article on batteries (coming)

I would typically use my headlamp in the tent after dark. I tried to use the red light as much as possible to conserves the batteries. If you are planning your next days hike along the Great Wall however, be aware that red roads will disappear disappear when using the red light!

​Remember - The older you are, the stronger headlamp you will need to have the same experienced brightness from your headlamp.

PETZT E+LITE

Weight: 29 g / 0.95 oz
Battery type: 2 x lithium CR 2032
Max strength: 26 lumens
Modes: 2 x white, red and red/white strobe
Wide beam
Burn time: min 55 h, max 70 h
Waterproofing: 1 m / 30 mins (IP 67)

If you are doing a shorter solo walk along the more exposed parts Great Wall, if you are walking a particularly challenging or long day hike, you would be safer using a brighter headlamp like the PETZL TIKKA XP. This headlamp is still pretty lightweight, but has a mode for a strong burst of light for shorter periods if you need to take important route choices in the dark. The light still allows you to conserve the batteries with a red light for close range vision.

PETZL TIKKA XP

Weight: 85 g / 3 oz
Batteries: 3 AAA/LR03
Max strength: 160 lumens
Modes: 5 x white, red, red/white strobe
Mixed beam width options
Burn time: min 2 h, max 100 h, 10 s Boost
Waterproofing: IP X4 (weather resistant)

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