Dec 18 2011

Review: Petzl Tikka XP CORE Headlamp

Petzl’s Tikka XP is a great utilitarian headlamp for around the home, lighting the way on dawn patrol, or basecamp duties. Where it really shines, however, is in the rechargeable lithium-ion polymer CORE battery that uses a power cord that plugs into any USB port. Or you can use the included power converter for plugging in to 110 AC in case you don’t want to bring your laptop along just to recharge your headlamp.

Petzl Tikka XP CORE comes with CORE battery, recharger & USB cable.

There’s more to the battery than being good for 300 refills. How the power is delivered can be adjusted too, via that same USB cable while hooked to your computer where you can not only switch between a regulated or unregulated discharge of power, but also the rate of discharge if you opt for the regulated mode.

Unregulated output of Petzl Tikka XP ~ 13 hrs at Max output, but steadily dwindling.

It means more fiddling with computers and downloads and software and you might just say you’re over it like I did, but if you opt for it you can maintain the same intensity of light throughout its useable life. By contrast, the unregulated discharge, though still relatively constant since it is a lithium-ion source at its core will fade noticeably before giving up the ghost. In regulated mode you need to keep an eye on the LED atop the housing that indicate overall battery power and recharge before it very rapidly dies, but while it is good, the strength of the light will remain steady. The program to adjust it can be downloaded from the Tikka page on Petzl’s website.

..or regulate it to get max power for only 4 hrs.

The Tikka can provide dim light for longer when unregulated, but a stronger light while it lasts throughout when regulated. With the Petzl OS you can trade off intensity for longevity as you see fit. As long as you can easily recharge it, regulated makes the most sense and even over time as the battery itself fades you can expect a solid 10 hours of illumination time as long as it isn’t a continuous 10 hours. In three months of regular use around the house, usually a half hour per day walking Pepper at night, plus a chapter of reading before bed I’m noticing there is usually 30% power left after 10 days of such use.

Regulating Econo mode made most sense. Reliable low light, but not too low, for ~35 hours.

For day-to-day practical use the light is enough for a lot of activities, but don’t expect to push the envelope of lighting up a dark place for any great distance, or length of time. My neighbor JD has one too and agrees, it’s great for close-in and medium distance illumination, and not for long, but since it is rechargeable, the limits are easily overlooked. In the event that you’re away from a recharging source, the CORE battery can be replaced by 3 AAA batteries.

The main, dual-intensity bulb kicks out a healthy 35 lumen spot beam that illuminates well up to 30 feet. By pressing the membrane button on top twice you can toggle it to economy mode, or three times for strobe mode. If you depress the button for longer than 1 second it toggles to a red LED for preserving night vision, with the same strobe option, but no economy mode as it wouldn’t provide much useful value.

Petzl uses a lens to diffuse the light from spot to wide angle. My initial reaction was to turn my nose up at such a simple mode, rather than use some fancy internal subroutine in the controlling processor, but over time I’ve come to admit it spreads the beam well and I actually like the optical simplicity of the lens, especially since it does such a good job. If I need to see a bit further than the wide angle allows, it is much easier to flip the lens aside with gloves on than it is to toggle a membrane button like many other headlamps require. In addition, the spreading of the light is more even than models that use an array of LEDs to achieve a wide pattern.

It comes standard with a single, adjustable elastic band around your head, but an overhead strap is available as an option. Although I prefer having the overhead strap it really isn’t necessary since the headlamp itself is not heavy enough to require tightening the single strap excessively.

If you need a high intensity headlamp, or a super lightweight light source, the Tikka is neither. As a relatively light weight, long lasting source of light for the majority of times you need simply need more light in a dark world, Tikka is an excellent choice.

Update after 1 year
The best feature of this headlamp is the rechargeable Li-ion battery. After a year of use and somewhere around 30 recharges there is a definite reduction in how long the battery lasts before needing a refill. However, since the recharger can be done with any USB outlet and the proprietary USB cable, it is not much of an inconvenience. It also drains faster, but part of that is because of the setting I have it on to maintain 80% output right up to the end. Thus, when it shows a slight reduction in light I know it will crash soon. I could also set it to last longer or fade slowly – but that’s my choice – a feature the Tikka offers that few others do.

Tikka XP
Street Price: $55
Weight: 3 oz. (83 g)
2 spot light sources: 1 Hi-Output LED and 1 Red LED

© 2011