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Batteries: Disposable vs. Rechargeable

Utilized for countless activities and jobs, headlamps allow you to clearly and safely perform your task in the dark while keeping your hands available for the real work. To ensure optimal performance from your headlamp, it’s important to use a power source that best suits your objective–disposable or rechargeable. The superiority of one over the other is only relative to the situation at hand. Here are several points to ponder when considering either power source.

July 18 2018




Disposable batteries, with the lack of specialized electronics, provide STANDARD LIGHTING performance--the brightness gradually decreases as the batteries deplete.

Rechargeable batteries, coupled with specialized electronics, can provide CONSTANT LIGHTING and REACTIVE LIGHTING performance. CONSTANT LIGHTING allows the brightness to stay fairly consistent over the entire rated burn time. REACTIVE LIGHTING automatically adjusts the brightness when the headlamp detects the need for more or less light.

Burn Time

Disposable batteries are known to last longer while its energy output gradually decreases over time, making it so that your light will slowly get dimmer over time.

Rechargeable batteries tend to have shorter burn times with a more consistent energy output until depletion, providing a stable amount of light until it abruptly goes out.


Disposable batteries are quick and easy to replace; available for purchase almost anywhere.

Rechargeable batteries aren’t always replaceable, but when they are, they can be hard to find or are only available on the manufacturer's website.

Petzl recommendation:

  • Buy spare rechargeable batteries for each rechargeable headlamp you own


Ease of Use

Disposable batteries can be swapped out for fresh ones anywhere.

Rechargeable batteries need a power source and a few hours to recharge.

Maximum Performance

Disposable batteries have to be replaced often, before they are depleted, in order to frequently operate a headlamp at max power.

Rechargeable batteries are easily recharged before each use to frequently operate a headlamp at max power.


Disposable batteries are not reusable after a complete discharge and are thrown away, creating waste.

Rechargeable batteries are reusable and limit waste.



Disposable batteries work even after a long period of non-use, making them very reliable.

Rechargeable batteries slowly lose their charge while not in use and may become fully discharged over time.

Petzl recommendation:

  • Do not store rechargeable batteries fully discharged
  • Recharge stored batteries every 3 months

Cold Weather

Disposable batteries lose a lot of their charge in cold weather

Rechargeable batteries, specifically lithium-ion, are better at holding their charge in cold weather.

Petzl recommendation:

  • Store batteries in warm environments before using them in very cold environments
  • During cold weather activities, keep batteries close to you body for warmth



Disposable batteries are normally used in sets of 2-4 to provide more power, resulting in more weight and bulk.

Rechargeable batteries can be powerful and compact at the same time, providing a better compromise between power and weight.

The Verdict

In conclusion, the deciding factor of choosing one power source over the other is purely based on your needs for performance and use. For frequent and intensive uses, go with a rechargeable battery. For occasional uses, use disposable batteries. For the freedom to switch between both types of batteries, consider a HYBRID CONCEPT headlamp.

Additional info

Non-rechargeable energy sources

Rechargeable energy sources

Constant lighting

Standard lighting

Reactive lighting

Performance with AAA batteries

Which energy source for which use

Hybrid concept


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