2018 Petzl Headlamps Reviewed

For those of us running in the early mornings, late nights, or ultras that require overnight racing we know how important headlamps are. A good headlamp is an essential piece of kit that you don’t really think about when it performs as advertised but can spell disaster when it fails. Petzl has been around since 1973 making headlamps so it’s fair to say they have a fair bit of history when it comes to producing headlamps. The 2018 Petzl headlamps reviewed here include the:

  • Petzl BINDI
  • Petzl ACTIK CORE
  • Petzl NAO+

Petzl BINDI

I first saw this at Outdoor Retailer last year and was immediately excited. The lightweight, small footprint really appealed to me as I’m a weight weenie when it comes to gear choices. Key specs on the Petzl BINDI include:

  • Light output: up to 200 lumens
  • Weight: 35g (crazy lightweight)
  • Lighting modes: 5 (three white modes, two red modes)
  • Energy: 680 mAh rechargeable battery via micro USB (non-replaceable)
  • Water rating: IP X4 (weather resistant)
  • Price: $59.95

The Petzl BINDI is crazy lightweight, versatile, and comfortable to wear

There is so much to love about this headlamp. At only 35g it’s half the weight or more of competing headlamps. The single elastic shock cord holds perfectly and is really versatile allowing you to wear the headlamp around your neck, on a wrist, etc. The headlamp also tilts a significant amount up or down which makes it even more versatile.

The Petzl BINDI tilts up or down a significant amount

The Petzl BINDI is tiny compared to my go-to headlamp of the last two years

The two things I don’t love are the light output and the price. 200 lumens is fine for night-time road running or non-technical trails but isn’t enough on technical trails or when pushing the pace I believe. I’ve been too spoiled by 300+ lumen output headlamps to know what is possible now and believe the sweet spot is 300-400 lumens for most people in most situations on the trails. The price is not crazy but you are definitely paying to be an early adopter here. Competing headlamps like the Black Diamond Spot sell for $39.95 with a 300 lumen output but weighs significantly more with a larger footprint.

However, you can’t have it all I realize and with today’s technology something has to give. it’s quite remarkable they packed 200 lumens in to a 35g package so kudos to Petzl for pushing the limits here.

Petzl ACTIK CORE

This appears to be the workhorse in the current Petzl lineup that should appeal to a lot of runners given the total package offered. Key specs on the Petzl ACTIK CORE include:

  • Light output: up to 350 lumens
  • Weight: 82g
  • Lighting modes: 5 (three white modes, two red modes)
  • Energy: 1250 mAh rechargeable battery via micro USB (replaceable); also can run on alkaline or lithium AAAs
  • Water rating: IP X4 (weather resistant)
  • Price: $69.95

The Petzl ACTIK CORE is a workhorse

If you simply want a headlamp that works, provides plenty of light output, and has versatile battery options then the ACTIK CORE is a good bet. I like headlamps that can run off of either a replaceable, rechargeable battery pack or AAAs if needed in a pinch. This allows you to carry a spare battery or AAAs as backups rather than a second headlamp in some use cases. I also like that the ACTIK CORE is lighter than some of its main competitors like the Black Diamond Storm (82g here compared to 110g in the Storm). My go-to headlamp up until this year has been the Petzl Tikka RXP which weighs in at 116g. The ACTIK CORE is noticeably lighter with an improved light output – booya!

The Petzl ACTIK CORE can use a rechargeable li-on battery pack or AAAs making it versatile

Again though you are paying a slight premium for the Petzl ACTIK CORE compared to its main competitors. I think if Petzl can find a way to drop the price by $10 it would be a much stronger value play as I don’t expect the majority of buyers are comparing the weights of the headlamps side-by-side. I suspect they mostly compare light output and battery run time.

Petzl NAO+

If you have raced ultras or followed ultras in recent years you have seen the Petzl NAO+ (or perhaps the previous generation) in action. It’s one of the highest performing headlamps available today. It’s basically a car headlamp attached to your dome. This baby is bright! Key specs on the Petzl NAO+ include:

  • Light output: up to 750 lumens! (that’s bright! really, really bright!)
  • Weight: 185g (important to note the weight is spread across your head, or even belt, a bit more as the battery pack is external)
  • Lighting modes: endless as they are either ‘reactive’ or ‘constant’ and customizable via the MyPetzl light app
  • Energy: 3100 mAh rechargeable battery via micro USB (non-replaceable)
  • Water rating: IP X4 (weather resistant)
  • Price: $199.95

The Petzl NAO+ is a high performing headlamp

There is a lot to love with the Petzl NAO+. With up to 750 lumens of light output this baby is bright! Consider that a single car or motorcycle headlight on the low beam setting is 700 lumens and this should give you an idea of what we are dealing with here. I also like the Reactive Lighting technology in some situations. The way the reactive lightning works is that a sensor automatically adjusts the output and beam setting to optimize the battery life. It’s not my go-to setting in all use cases (e.g., if I am running anywhere near cars I will turn it off) but I appreciate that it’s there and can be turned on or off. What’s also really cool is that the NAO+ connects to an app through Bluetooth and with this app you can customize the light output, create different lighting ‘profiles’, view the remaining burn time, etc. Neat stuff here.

I was also surprised by how comfortable the NAO+ is to wear while running. As mentioned above I’m a weight weenie when it comes to gear like this and almost always assume the lighter a headlamp is the better it will fit. And that’s true I believe, to a point. But the NAO+ uses a great design to diffuse the weight around to a larger surface area which results in a comfortable ride.

The big question for most folks with the NAO+ is going to be the price. At $199.95 it’s far from cheap. You will have to decide if it’s a good value. I personally think it is a decent value given there are very few headlamps out there that are this bright, charged via a rechargeable battery pack, that will last through an entire night of running.

Purchasing Information

If you’re interested in purchasing any of these headlamps, please first check availability at your local, independently owned running specialty store. They need your business and are a great resource for the community.

If that’s not an option, please help support us by ordering from the affiliate links below:

Meet Your Reviewer: Ben Zuehlsdorf

I am an avid running gear junkie. When I’m not smelling new shoes I’m usually running or racing around the local trails in Marin County, California or talking shop with the San Francisco Running Company community of friends. I was once a road marathoner but now have transitioned almost exclusively to the trails and racing ultras the last few years.


Disclaimer: This product(s) was provided to URP/Ben for testing purposes. All words and thoughts are my own and no compensation was offered nor received.

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