I’ll begin by admitting that, before using one, I thought headlamps were silly; more of a nerdy toy than a useful tool. That said, I’ll also admit that I couldn’t have been more wrong. My Petzl headlamp is one of the few pieces of gear that I wouldn’t consider traveling without.
A headlamp can be used in a variety of ways. The obvious use being on your head, allowing you to shed light on a situation with both hands free, unlike a flashlight. The beam of light also follows as you turn your head, lighting the area you’re looking toward. For quick use, or if you don’t need your hands free, a headlamp can easily be carried like a flashlight. It can be used as a makeshift lantern, strapped across a water bottle or placed inside a jar. While sitting on the patio at our villa in Sardinia one night, I switched on my headlamp and placed a glass jar on top of it to provide a small amount of light to eat by. A headlamp can also be used to make yourself noticeable to people driving at night. Most decent headlamps will have a flashing setting, which will draw attention to you if you need. Headlamps work very well to use for lighting while fixing something under the sink or in other hard to reach places.
Now that you are (hopefully) convinced you of the usefulness of headlamps, I will move on to specifically what I like about the Petzl Tikka Plus 2 headlamp and the Core rechargeable battery. When considering the purchase of a headlamp, features to keep in mind are: basic operation, brightness, value, and battery life.
The very first thing I look for on a headlamp is the on/off switch. If the switch slides back and forth to turn the headlamp on or off I immediately discard that headlamp from my options. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. What I want is a headlamp that uses a push button on/off switch. A sliding mechanism can too easily be turned on accidentally while in my backpack, draining the batteries. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. If you go to a cheap box store (Target, Wal Mart, etc.), you’ll notice that even the cheap Energizer headlamps now use a push button switch, no longer the slide switch featured on an earlier model. The other huge advantage of the push button switch is water resistance. Any space created for a sliding mechanism is a potential water entry point. The push button switch has a rubber coating which seals out water from penetrating the headlamp casing.
The Petzl Tikka Plus 2 has three main settings. Operation is simple and intuitive. Press the button once, and the headlamp is at the brightest setting. Press the button twice to access the “economic level”, or less bright = longer battery life setting. Pressing the button three times activates the flashing mode. Once the headlamp has been set to any level for a few seconds, a single push of the button will turn off the light.
Some headlamps, including this model, also include a red light. This is activated by holding down the on/off button while the headlamp is off. The red light is useful for reading or nearsighted situations because it will not dilate your pupils, thus debilitating your natural night vision after turning the light off.
The main difference between headlamp models is the amount of light output, which is measured in lumens. Some brands advertise the number of watts, however watts are a measure of power output, not light output. Without going into further detail (because frankly I do not understand the technical details involved), I will say that my understanding is that a measure of lumens is the only way to accurately differentiate between the brightness of two headlamps. The Tikka Plus 2 is a 50 lumen headlamp. For my use of occasional night walking, reading, and general tasks around a campsite, it has provided plenty of light. I would not like to have less, though I do not necessarily need more light. If you are able to look at different models of headlamps, I suggest you ask a sales associate if you can take a couple models to a dark room to try them out.
To calculate the value of a headlamp (or any gear for that matter) it is helpful to make a list of options. On this list, place the gear in order by price or features (whichever is more of a deciding factor for you). I would recommend comparing three models: your favorite option, along with the models below and above on the list you’ve created. For example in my situation, looking at the different models of Petzl headlamps the models I would have looked at are the Tikka Plus 2 (my favorite option), the Tikka 2, and the Tikka XP 2. I weigh the factors of price vs. important features. Here is a visual of what my mental comparison might look like:
|Model:||Tikka 2||Tikka Plus 2||Tikka XP 2|
|Brightness:||40 Lumens||50 Lumens||60 Lumens|
Based on this comparison, thinking about my budget and needs, I chose the Tikka Plus 2. It is 10 lumens brighter than the model below for $10 extra. On the other side, the model above is 10 lumens brighter than the Tikka Plus 2, but costs $15 more.
Another important question to ask is how long the light will last. If you are traveling around the world (or even backpacking for a long weekend), you probably won’t want to carry many extra batteries. The type of batteries used by a headlamp can be important too. If your headlamp requires a battery that’s name has a many characters as your license plate, it’s probably not an easy battery to find, especially internationally. The majority of headlamps use either AAA or AA batteries. AA battery powered headlamps may be brighter and have a longer battery life, but they may also have a battery pack separate from the main light source (usually found on the back of the headstrap). Most small headlamps will use AAA batteries which will fit into the casing with the main light source and are the lightweight option. Another option is a headlamp that works with a rechargeable battery pack. Don’t waste your time with a hand-crank rechargeable headlamp (or flashlight or lantern for that matter). They are not bright and do not hold a charge very long (just ask my friend Laurel).
Petzl Core Rechargeable Battery
I have used Petzl headlamps for many years now. I already owned my current model (Tikka Plus 2) when I found out about the Core rechargeable battery system that is made to be compatible with the new* Tikka series headlamps. This is the icing on the cake.
To eliminate any lingering questions while I talk about the qualities of the Core rechargeable battery, I will start by telling you that the retail price is $39.95. I’ll let your jaw drop for a moment and confirm that, yes, the price of the battery alone is the same as the headlamp itself. Now, to tip the scales in the other direction, I’ll tell you that the Core rechargeable battery replaces 900 AAA batteries. Nine hundred. That is a lot of batteries that I’m not purchasing, that aren’t being sent to landfills, that I’m not carrying in my backpack! Not that I would have carried quite that many batteries, but you get the point.
The Core is easy to use. Simply open the rear battery compartment and uncover the charging port. Plug the small end of the charger into the port and the other end into a USB port on a computer. If you want to take it a step further, dowload the Petzl OS software. This will show you the progress of your charging battery and allow you to customize the light settings. The main reason to download the software is to use the custom settings. This shows a graph with one axis as the number of hours the battery will last and the other axis showing the light output. This allows you to choose the settings for both the high power setting and the economic level. Another option is to have the light slowly dim as the battery wears down (lasting longer) or to stay at full brightness until the battery is completely worn out (shorter battery life).
The Core rechargeable battery has proved to be a worthy companion to the excellent performance of the Tikka Plus 2 headlamp. It is also ideal for traveling around the world with a small backpack because it is the only battery I need.
The Petzl Core rechargeable battery is easy to install. Watch this video on the Petzl website for instructions and to see how simple it is.
*The main compatibility difference in the new Tikka series and the older models is the battery compartment opening. If you are able to compare the two generations next to one another, you will understand the vast improvement that has been made in the ease of accessing the battery compartment as well as how well it stays secure when closed.
About the author: Brian
Brian is one of the two backpacks traversing the globe with his lovely wife and better half, Kaitlin. He enjoys all things relating to delicious food, good beer, and the great outdoors. When he isn't out taking photographs and adventuring himself, he enjoys writing about travel and backpacking gear, his favorite foods from around the world, and lessons he has learned throughout his adventures.