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A Petzl Guide to choosing the right Headtorch

Over the winter months most of us will be running in the dark, which means if you want stay active you’ll need a headlamp, but which one? Weight, brightness, ease of use, cost, comfort and stability are all key factors when deciding which headlamp to buy. Fortunately, headlamps have come a long way in the past few years with Petzl continuing to be at the forefront of design and innovation.



Photo credit: Petzl


When choosing a headlamp the facts and figures can be something of a minefield and it's not easy to wade through all the information and make a decision. If you don’t know your lumens from your beam pattern read on!

Two Key Terms Explained..

1. Lumens

Brightness (or luminous flux) is the total quantity of light emitted from a source of light. It is expressed in lumens (lm) and is measured in the laboratory with a sphere. The higher the lamp's maximum lumen value, the more light it emits, e.g. 900 lumens is brighter than 400 lumens.
The lumen value given by manufacturers is typically the maximum power output of that lamp, regardless of the length of time it actually produces this figure, this introduces us to the next key term.

2. Burn Time

This is the length of time your headlamp will produce usable light. For years manufacturers have been free to decide how to record and measure burn times as there is no International standard. Several years ago Petzl decided to define where they felt light output stopped being usable, as there were some crazy burn times being thrown around!
Their baseline equated to the light given by a full moon, so once light output is lower than this they stop recording, even though the torch is still giving out some useable light. 

Brightness and burn time are two inextricably linked parameters of any headlamp. For a given quantity of energy, increasing the brightness automatically decreases burn time, and vice-versa. Most quality manufacturers will now indicate the lumen output and associated burn time for that output.


Photo credit: Petzl

The activity you’re doing will also help you to decide:

Reading a book in your tent? A lower powered and typically longer burn time headlamp will be fine, night running on technical terrain? The brighter the better but this will usually have a shorter burn time! 

Deciding how bright you need your lamp and how long you need it to last is key to choosing the right lamp for you.

Batteries – Choosing Your Power

In addition to lumens and burn time the battery used in your headlamp has a big impact on performance, a battery with a higher output will be able to maintain higher lumens for a longer time. High lumen Petzl NAO+ features a 3100mAh battery for sustained use while the CORE battery has an output of 1250mAh, lighter weight and more than sufficient for use in the lower powered headlamps.

There are two types of power supply in Petzl headlamps: disposable or rechargeable batteries.

  • For frequent and intensive use Petzl rechargeable batteries offer :
    • Simple universal charging via USB port
    • Economical solution over time: 1 CORE battery = 900 AAA/LR03 batteries
    • Smaller and lighter than the equivalent power from disposables e.g. 23 g CORE against 33 g for the three AAA/LR03 batteries
    • Lithium-Ion batteries offer very low self-discharge rate and very high performance, even at low temperatures

    For occasional use disposable AAA/LR03 batteries can be a better choice:
    • No self-discharge: the batteries work even after a long period of non-use
    • Very long storage time
    • Can provide lower performance in cold conditions

    The HYBRID Concept allows Petzl's new compact headlamps to run off both the CORE rechargeable battery or three AAA/LR03 batteries, without an adapter. A practical and flexible solution that allows the user to take advantage of each of these energy sources, depending on use. Compatible with all of our TIKKINA, TIKKA and ACTIK headlamps.


Photo credit: Petzl

Beam , Distance Pattern & Quality

Beam pattern is a key factor in lamp selection. Be sure to select a beam pattern that works well for your chosen application. A flood beam is not suitable for distance vision in the mountains. In the same way, a focused beam won't work well for proximity vision or reading a map. 

Petzl  headlamps feature different beam patterns, in order to best suit the diverse needs of our users. These range from a flood beam for proximity vision, to a focused beam to see at a distance or probe a specific location.

Petzl Reactive Lighting

This exclusive technology, developed by Petzl, uses a sensor to analyse reflected light, instantly delivering optimal brightness and beam pattern for the given situation. Burn time is optimized and the user can engage in his or her activity with peace of mind. 

Reactive lighting also has the benefit of optimising battery life, offering greater burn time for your lamp with the same battery.

REACTIVE LIGHTING lamps are designed especially for committing and intensive sports: no need to manually switch between modes; the user's hands are completely free, allowing complete focus on the activity.


Headlamps weighing much more than 200g generally feel cumbersome and uncomfortable for running, if you are moving quickly at night then you should be able to shake your head with no movement of the headlamp. 

Thinking about how you want the weight distributed is also important with two main designs; An ‘all in one’ unit with the light and battery at the front or a ‘split’ design with the light on the front and battery on the rear. There are advantages to both including how compact the headlamp feels and it’s balance on the head, much will depend on personal preference, comfort and the battery size needed.


Photo credit: Petzl

So, what’s the best Petzl headlamp for you?

Urban Running: The IKO CORE with it’s even beam pattern and exceptional balance is ideal for urban running, for those lighter summer nights choose the 35g BINDI.

Trail Running: Weighing just 100g while producing 900 lumens and featuring Reactive Lighting SWIFT RL is a fantastic headlamp for the trail. 

Ultras: The NAO+ features a high capacity battery positioned on the rear of the head for good balance and long burn times, Reactive Lighting helps to extend the burn time and spare batteries are available.



Petzl headlamps have been in constant evolution for over 30 years. New technologies have allowed Petzl to invent and design headlamps that are ever more powerful, more lightweight, and more adapted to the needs of outdoor enthusiasts.

To ensure excellent performance and quality for each product, all Petzl headlamps undergo different mechanical, electrical and optical simulations during their development. These tests adhere to rigorous protocol, with requirements that significantly surpass those imposed by the common standards.

Beyond laboratory tests, the first prototypes undergo numerous field tests, allowing true-condition verification of the ergonomics, the comfort of use, and the reliability of the headlamp over time. The product will receive final approval only after many months of development and testing.
Petzl does tests regarding lamp watertightness, mechanical strength of lamps (drop tests, impact and crushing), the mechanical durability of moving parts, vibration tests and finally the individual inspection of each lamp, in terms of manufacturing quality as well as lighting performance.

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