Every firefighter needs light while they work, especially in heavy smoke conditions. Thus, every firefighter should have at least one personal light that can help them overcome this. A helmet light is one of the best choices for hands-free use, but which one should you buy?
The 10 best firefighter helmet light options are:
- Streamlight 69140 Vantage LED Tactical Helmet Mounted Flashlight
- FoxFury 940K-010FI Fire and Impact Resistant Waterproof Side-Mounted LED Helmet Light and Flashlight
- FoxFury 420-T09 Command+ Tilt Fire and Impact Resistant Waterproof White LED Headlamp/Helmet Light
- Nightstick NSP-4650B Helmet Light
- Streamlight Vantage 180 X
- Streamlight PolyTac 88854 Helmet Light
- Streamlight 69189 Vantage LED Helmet Mounted Flashlight
- Nightstick FDL-300R-K01 Helmet Light
- Streamlight 68201 4AA ProPolymer LED Flashlight
- Life Mounts LED Helmet Mounted Light.
As an added bonus, we’ve also picked the best firefighter helmet camera option but before we get to that – let’s examine what helmet lights are, why they’re needed before the reviews and finally, we wrap up with a guide to choosing the best firefighter helmet light for you.
What Is A Firefighter Helmet Light?
As you can probably imagine a firefighter helmet light is a flashlight-style device that is attached to a firefighter’s helmet to give them better visibility while they work, without requiring a hand to hold them.
Fires are extremely low visibility events. The smoke can make it hard to see even a few inches in front of your face and a good flashlight can help to cut through the smoke and allow the firefighter to work safely and with a better understanding of the situation they face.
There was a time when these helmet lights burned through a huge number of batteries on each shift but, fortunately, today that’s not the case. With both disposable and lithium-ion batteries offering greater performance at the same time as LED lights have reduced the power need to create bright light.
No firefighter should be without a helmet light and it’s one of the essential tools for the job. It’s hard to know which one to buy at first because there are so many choices, but it’s quite easy to narrow that range down when you know what to look for.
10 Best Firefighter Helmet Lights
All of these helmet lights are an excellent choice for a firefighter and while our top pick is definitely the Streamlight 69140 Vantage, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Just make sure you pick one that suits your needs as a firefighter.
Streamlight is our favorite brand of flashlight and here they deliver another excellent all-around product.
What we like: This flashlight is incredibly easy to rotate thanks to the clamp design, the blue taillight makes it very easy to operate in any situation, and we found this a pleasure to use while wearing gloves. It will shrug off high-temperature exposure and the shock mounting is absolutely excellent. The price is reasonable too.
What we don’t like: Some firefighters have said they’ve had difficulty attaching it to their helmet but we couldn’t replicate this issue.
Here is a review of the Streamlight Vantage:
You can find the Streamlight 69140 Vantage LED Tactical Helmet Mounted Flashlight on Amazon.
2. FoxFury 940K-010FI Fire and Impact Resistant Waterproof Side-Mounted LED Helmet Light and Flashlight
This pure black helmet light is a pleasure to look at and it works superbly well.
What we like: You can get up to 8 hours of 200 lumens of light on a single battery charge! It is very lightweight but also fully waterproof to a meter’s depth, fire-resistant, and impact resistant. There are three effective modes of lighting available along with a green rear LED to help make operations easier.
What we don’t like: It’s a bit bigger than we’d like it to be and it can be awkward to mount at times.
You can find the FoxFury 940K-010FI Fire and Impact Resistant Waterproof Side-Mounted LED Helmet Light and Flashlight on Amazon.
3. FoxFury 420-T09 Command+ Tilt Fire and Impact Resistant Waterproof White LED Headlamp/Helmet Light
This is the 100 lumens version and it’s important not to order the 65 lumens variant which is not as functional.
What we like: You can get 14 hours running time on a single set of four AA batteries at 100 lumens. It’s fully fire resistant and offers excellent waterproofing to a depth of 3 meters. The wide-angle beam is probably the best in its class across out tests. The elastic strap allows for more uses than mounted lights do.
What we don’t like: No option for a lithium-ion battery pack and some firefighter say that they feel the light doesn’t cut through smoke well enough.
You can find the FoxFury 420-T09 Command+ Tilt Fire and Impact Resistant Waterproof White LED Headlamp/Helmet Light on Amazon.
A bright, fully functional light with a very nice look.
What we like: The combination of a 220 lumens flashlight and 100 lumens floodlight in a single neat package is useful, as is the survival mode which uses only 15 lumens to extend the battery life for additional hours. It’s fully waterproof and we think it works well with all fire helmets too.
What we don’t like: It needs an Allen wrench/key to work the binding and that can be very inconvenient when you need to make adjustments at an incident.
This video shows the procedure for mounting the NSP-4650B:
You can find the Nightstick NSP-4650B Helmet Light on Amazon.
The Vantage 180X is available in orange or black, and the orange is certainly easier to find if you drop it.
What we like: This light is chemical resistant which can be of real value when dealing with industrial fires. The quick-release helmet bracket is good. The light meets the IPX7 standard for waterproofing which means it will hold up in almost all firefighting situations. The turnout gear attachment hook is also very useful.
What we don’t like: It’s a bit heavier than we would like and we’d like them to upgrade the quality of the clip which feels a bit flimsy.
You can find the Streamlight Vantage 180 X on Amazon.
The bright yellow of this light is very recognizable and it’s super easy to find if you should drop it anywhere.
What we like: The casing is among the toughest in our tests – it’s never going to suffer from impact damage. The o-ring is very well sealed, and the 50,000 hour lifetime of the LED light is a good thing too. The push button control on the tail cap is perfect for use at any time.
What we don’t like: Some users complain of issues that haven’t been rectified by the manufacturer – it’s best to buy it on Amazon where the warranty can be enforced.
You can find the Streamlight PolyTac 88854 Helmet Light on Amazon.
This is an updated version of the popular Streamlight vantage. It seems to be superior, but it just doesn’t have the proven track record of the original vantage model.
What we like: It’s super lightweight (3.6oz) and has a very compact form factor. It’s easy to attach either over or under the brim of your firefighter helmet. The C4 LED is much brighter than the LED used on previous models of this light. Two modes (High = 350 lumens with 2.25-hour runtime) and (Low = 135 lumens with 5 hour runtime). It’s both impact and chemical resistant.
What we don’t like: Some users complain that they struggle to mount this light to the helmet or that it can rattle loose and fall off, but overall, it’s an absolutely excellent product.
Here is a video comparing the Vantage II to the original:
You can find the Streamlight Vantage II on Amazon.
The bright orange design is certainly noticeable, and you shouldn’t lose this one if you drop it.
What we like: The lithium-ion batteries deliver substantial useable time for the light. The multi-angle mount makes it very easy to get the light where you want it. The limited lifetime warranty is more generous than most manufacturers will offer in this industry.
What we don’t like: Some users say that it won’t fit all helmet designs though when we tried a few different helmets we had no problems.
You can find the Nightstick FDL-300R-K01 Helmet Light on Amazon.
This is an ultra-budget option that you might want to consider as a backup for your main flashlight.
What we like: The price. The fact that it’s scratch resistant and both impact and shock resistant. The batteries last for a reasonable amount of time when running. That it’s lightweight.
What we don’t like: This isn’t always bright enough for major incidents and we felt that the manufacturing quality was a little lacking, it seems a bit flimsy.
You can find the Streamlight 68201 4AA ProPolymer LED Flashlight on Amazon.
This is a relative newcomer to the market but it’s a well-designed product with a growing fanbase.
What we like: The clamp design makes it easy to attach this to any helmet and you don’t need any tools to get it to work. The rotational base is very good. The “shock and spray” 300 lumens mode is very bright, indeed. It runs on a single AA battery.
What we don’t like: You need to change batteries a little too often for our tastes. This helmet light is not NFPA rated for firefighter use, so it may not be the best choice.
You can find the Life Mounts LED Helmet Mounted Light on Amazon.
How Does A Firefighter Helmet Light Work?
A helmet light is usually a small flashlight. They use a battery pack to provide power to an LED array. They barely consume any energy and battery life is often good enough to get a firefighter through an entire shift without a change of batteries.
They will also be designed to stand up to the kinds of rough conditions that firefighters typically work in. So, they will be waterproof, shock proof, and heat-resistant. You can’t just strap any old flashlight to the side of a firefighter’s head. That would be very dangerous, indeed.
The Different Types Of Helmet Lights
You might think that there would only be one type of helmet light but, in fact, there are several and they include:
- Headband-style lights – the headband goes over the helmet and you can adjust the bindings to get a tight fit to the helmet. The advantage of these lights is they can stay permanently on your helmet. The disadvantage is the bindings often come loose over time and you can end up losing the light when it gets caught on something.
- Helmet-mounted holder lights – these are better secured but you do need to attach a permanent bracket to the helmet and then clip the light into place. They cost a bit more but are often worth the extra expense.
- Helmet mounted lights – These types of helmet lights have a built-in mounting device to secure them to the helmet. This is a nice touch because you can often get a better angle for lighting with these than you can with a bracket you have to install.
Each of these options is more secure than the last but each will cost more than the one before too. Helmet mounted lights require a specially designed helmet that costs a lot more, but it may pay you back tenfold with better visibility and fewer lost lights when compared to a headband-style setup.
Why Do Firefighters Need Helmet Lights?
There are quite a few good reasons that a firefighter might need a helmet light including:
- You need bright light to see – smoke is the enemy of every firefighter and you need a light to cut through the smoke to enable visibility
- You need both hands to work – most firefighters will also carry a second flashlight which is clipped under their coat that they can use in one hand but a lot of the time, these flashlights aren’t practical because you need both hands to do the job with
- You might need to signal you’re in an emergency situation – flashlights are also there so that you can send an SOS to other firefighters if you get stuck or if you find someone who is caught that cannot free themselves
- You’re going to crawl sometimes – it’s really hard to crawl and carry a hand flashlight, it’s really easy when you’ve got a light on your head, and trust us, as a firefighter, there will be times when you need to crawl through spaces
What To Look For When Buying A Firefighter Helmet Light
When you buy a firefighter helmet light, you don’t want to buy the first one that you see, you need to weigh up a few important factors so that you can make the right choice.
You can normally choose from two beam types or you might be able to get a helmet light that can switch between the two. Flood beams are used to open a space with lots of light, a spot, on the other hand is designed to give you much better visibility of a specific part of the room.
We’d strongly recommend that you choose a light that allows you to switch back and forth between the two, otherwise, you’re really limiting your ability to get the most out of your helmet light.
This is a measurement of how far the light will travel when you’re using the helmet light and thus, how far you will be able to see. This will usually be measured in feet or meters and it’s the maximum useful distance away that you can get value from your purchase.
As a general rule, the longer the beam distance, the better.
The Brightness Rating
You measure the brightness of a helmet light in lumens. This value should be as high as possible because it represents the quality of the light you will get, the beam distance says how far it goes, lumens tell you how well you can see in that space.
However, while lots of lumens is, generally, a good thing. You also want to try the light and ensure that it focuses that light well for close up work.
The Battery Life/Consumption
The longer the battery life, the fewer replacement batteries you need to carry and that keeps the overall weight of your kit down. The good news is that most helmet lights have a low energy consumption and the batteries last for a long time.
Some helmet lights also have a built in boost or zoom function that can deliver a seriously bright burst of light. This is normally used to investigate something too far away to reach with the ordinary light. However, be warned this function can seriously deplete the battery.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the lighter you can get your helmet light, the happier you will be. Fortunately, the modern lights are so much lighter than they once were that this ought not to be a problem.
It’s worth noting that there’s often a trade-off between the lightest possible model and the length of battery life. The smaller the flashlight, the smaller the battery.
The more modes you have the better. You should, at a bare minimum, have an SOS mode which allows you to easily call for help if the situation requires it. You should also have the facility to switch between the two standard modes as we talked about earlier.
The boost functions, etc. can all add additional value though usually at the cost of a few extra bucks.
All firefighter helmet lights tend to be waterproof. After all, the nature of the job is that you’re going to get soaked on many fires. The best lights will have an O-ring which is solidly built and rubber gaskets that fully seal the body. If water gets inside the helmet light it may well break.
The light will also need some kind of shock proofing. Your helmet light needs to be able to handle the same abuse as your helmet, or at least close to it, you don’t want your helmet light to shatter into a million pieces every time you catch something while turning around.
Types Of Batteries
The best type of helmet light is one with a dual-power system which allows you to use both rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and disposable alkaline ones. That will give you the most options to power your lights even on the longest shifts.
Rechargeable batteries are lighter and easier to use but, if you don’t have time to charge them, they can become inconvenient pretty quickly.
Throwing handfuls of alkaline batteries in the garbage, however, gets pretty expensive and it’s terrible for the planet.
That’s why we recommend going for a balanced solution if you can.
What Is A Firefighter Helmet Camera?
A firefighter helmet camera is a simple helmet-mounted camera that can help you review what happened at an incident for the purposes of training or evaluation. There aren’t so many cameras that are up to the rigors of supporting firefighters and thus, we’ve only recommended one in this review compared to the 10 best firefighter helmet light options we have.
Here is a video of firefighter helmet cam footage:
The Best Firefighter Helmet Camera
The majority of helmet cameras just aren’t designed to be exposed to extreme heat or flames. So, we settled on a single pick that really gave us confidence that it would hold up in the field.
What we like: It’s actually designed for firefighting. It’s both heat resistant and fully waterproof (you can submerge this up to 33 feet!) and it still works. 1080p output at 30 fps is more than good enough for most applications. The time-stamping function is really good. Will mount to any brim on a US-style fire helmet.
What we don’t like: Quite a bit more expensive than other action cams, but again, that’s because it can withstand the conditions in a fire. The included 32GB card could be bigger. We’d like to see 120 fps at 720p for better frame-by-frame analysis.
You can find the Fire Cam MINI1080 Helmet Camera on Amazon.
Firefighter Helmet Cameras – What To Look For
If you want to select a firefighter helmet camera there are also some useful attributes to keep an eye out for.
You want a helmet camera that is, ideally, targeted at firefighters – go for something that is used in extreme sports, these won’t be heatproof but they are more likely to survive a shift of firefighting than a low-end consumer model.
This is pretty easy – the more megapixels, the better. The resolution relates to how big you can make the image when you watch it later without distorting it. If you want to watch it on a decent-sized monitor, bring on the megapixels.
You may need to invest in additional housing for some helmet mounted cameras to make them fully waterproof. Given the nature of a firefighter’s work – if you don’t have this, you’re in trouble.
The definition is defined on modern cameras as 1080p, 4K, 6K or 8K. The higher the better for good quality images but the frame rate also matters because if you want to slow down the action to work out exactly what happened 120 frames per second gives you a lot more images to choose from than a 24 frames per second capture.
We’ve never known firefighters to have the luxury of standing still during a firefighting exercise and that means you’ll want to stabilize the image the camera captures (unless you want it bobbing up and down like a yo-yo and trust us, you don’t, it will make you feel seasick to watch it) and that means it should have image stabilization features built-in.
Operating System Compatibility
Mac, Windows or Linux? It matters when it comes to getting your footage off of the camera. Most are compatible with all operating systems but there are exceptions out there.
You want to check that the batteries can last as long as possible. Many action cams are only equipped to deliver a few minutes of footage before they need new batteries.
Memory Storage Type
While your batteries may last forever, it’s no use if you can’t capture all the video that your create. The bigger the maximum memory storage, the better and certain storage is cheaper than other kinds of storage. It’s worth paying quite a bit of attention to this before you buy a helmet camera.
Finally, the camera needs to be light enough that it doesn’t interfere with your work because that would be really annoying. The lighter and the smaller the camera, the better.
We hope that our review of the 10 best firefighter helmet lights and helmet camera options has been helpful for you and that you now feel confident to select a helmet light and, possibly, a helmet camera too. This is a vital piece of kit to a firefighter and it’s important to make the right choice for your needs.