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Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp: Reactive, Programmable, and Rechargeable

Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp
Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp

If you’re a hiker, camper, runner, or cyclist and need a reliable powerful headlamp for nighttime use, you should check out the new Petzl Tikka RXP. I’ve been using one for the past few weeks and it puts the other headlamps I own to shame. This in a very cool product that’s ideal for people who engage in multiple sports, each with different lighting needs.

The Petzl Tikka RXP headlamp has a built-in light sensor which automatically adjusts the amount of light you need for different activities such as hiking, running or climbing. Called Reactive Lighting, this hands-free feature adjusts the headlamp’s beam intensity from 215 lumens  down to 7 lumens depending on your activity so you don’t have to stop what you are doing, while maximizing the life of the headlamps battery. Very Cool.

Factory Defaults
Factory Defaults

But, if you want to change the factory defaults, you can program the headlamp from your computer to create different lighting profiles for different sports or trip needs.For example, you might be willing to sacrifice the distance that you can see forward in the dark in exchange for longer battery life. Not only that, you can set up a different lighting profile for each one of your activities, and simply switch between them, so you never have to buy another headlamp again. That’s revolutionary.

But that’s not the only thing that makes the Tikka RXP special. Not by a long shot. Small and lightweight (3.8 ounces), it has a lithium-ion battery that can be charged via a micro-USB connector, it has regular manual and red modes that work without the light sensor, and a well designed head band that will stay on your head during intense periods of activity.

You can create new activity profiles and lighting settings for the Tikka RXP's reactive abd constant lighting modes.
You can create new activity profiles and lighting settings for the Tikka RXP’s reactive and constant lighting modes. Simply download the Petzl OS program from Petzl.com, connect your computer (Mac or Windows) to your headlamp via the included USB cable, and change your settings.

Reactive Lighting

The Tikka RXP has three lighting modes: reactive, manual (called constant), and red. The reactive mode has a sensor which adjusts the amount of light needed depending on what you’re looking at. The sensor works by detecting the amount of light that bounces back to it and strengthens or dims the headlamp accordingly. For example, if you look into the distance on a dark night , the light will brighten to help you see further because little light is bounced back. But if you then look down at a map, the headlamp will dim because a lot of light will be reflected back to the sensor and less light is needed.

In addition to adjusting the intensity of light, the reactive lighting mode eliminates the need to manually adjust the lamp when you are moving. This hands-free feature is very useful if you need to use your hands for something else or you’re moving to fast to stop and change the light setting. It also serves to extend the life of your battery to its maximum burn time because you’ll never need more light (or power) than needed.

However, the reactive lighting mode is not foolproof and the sensor can be confused in certain conditions, such as fog or smoke. It can also be a bit annoying if you’re switching between a bright light source and a dark area, like a camp, fire while you’re also cooking on a canister stove in camp. Under those conditions, the light appears to flash back and forth, higher and lower, which can be disorienting.

When reactive lighting is not needed, you can simply switch to manual model and adjust the headlamp’s light intensity to be low, medium, or high. The same holds for red mode (constant or flashing), which is provided to help preserve your night vision and uses much less energy to help preserve battery life.

All three lighting modes are regulated, meaning that the brightness of the light remains constant even as the battery drains. Plus, there is a reserve battery feature, that burns for 1 hour at 25 lumens when the battery is just about to run out of juice, so you have time to get to shelter before the lights go out completely.

USB Lithium Rechargeable Battery

The Petzl Tikka RXP has a lithium-ion battery which I like because I do a lot of night hiking in winter when the sun goes down early. Lithium batteries are much more resistant to cold weather than NiMh or alkaline batteries and won’t drain if you can’t keep them warm next to your body. I own another 200+ lumens headlamp that has an NiMh battery and I don’t really trust it  to remain charged in winter. I always carry a second less powerful headlamp that has a lithium-ion battery in it, just to hedge my bets.

Recharge the Battery with a mini-USB cable
Recharge the Battery with a micro-USB cable

Even better, the Petzl Tikka RXP can be recharged using a micro-USB plug. That means you don’t need to buy yet another proprietary battery recharger and that you can recharge your headlamp with the same converter you use to charge your cell phone, in the car, or from a portable battery pack. I wish all manufacturers would standardize on USB or micro-USB plugs and I think that Petzl is leading the industry in this respect. This is a big deal for me, especially on longer backpacking trips, where I don’t want to have to carry multiple battery rechargers….especially overseas.

I often carry an ultra-thin Anker Astro 3 6000 mAh backup battery now on hikes which has a built-in micro-USB cable so I don’t have to fuss with extra patch cords. Being able to recharge a headlamp in addition to my cell phone (which I use as a GPS and mapping tool) is fantastic. Of course you can also buy a second Accu Tikka RXP lithium-ion battery to carry along and recharge separately (it doesn’t have to be in the headlamp) while you are using the headlamp or an AAA battery adapter that lets you use lithium-io, NiMh, or alkaline batteries. Unfortunately, neither of these were yet available when I tested the Tikka RXP.

Easy to Adjust Strap
Easy to Adjust Strap

Easy to Adjust Headstrap

The first thing I noticed when I first saw the Tikka RXP was the headstrap. It’s very different from the single loop headstraps that come with most headlamps and that are always coming undone or falling off. That kind of thing really irritates me.

But the Tikka RXP headstrap can’t come off the headlamp, it’s easy to adjust, and it stays adjusted. If you’re running down a trail in the twilight or after dark, the last thing you want to have is a headlamp that is always slipping off. That wouldn’t be very hands-free, would it?

Likes

  • Reactive, manual, and red modes are all provided
  • Create multiple lighting profiles each with their own distance, lumens, battery preservation settings
  • 1 hour reserve power supply
  • Micro-USB enabled rechargeable battery can be charged outside of headlamp
  • AAA battert adapter kit is available
  • Comfortable and secure headstrap

Dislikes

  • Learning curve to get used to the reactive modes in different lighting conditions since you can only test them in the dark

Recommendation

If you’re looking for a high-powered, but lightweight headlamp, the Petzl Tikka RXP is an excellent choice because it can be programmed for many different activities from hiking and running to climbing and biking. With a maximum of 215 lumens, the Tikka RXP provides as much light as many more expensive headlamps, all in a lightweight package that is easy and secure to wear when you’re active and moving at high speed. While the Tikka RXP features a reactive hands-free sensor, it still provides push button controls and three power levels for those times when you want manual control. Finally, the ability to recharge the lithium-ion battery using a micro-USB adapter obviates the need to carry bulky proprietary rechargers and means you can recharge it using the same storage technology you use today to recharge your phone and other electronics.

Disclosure: Petzl provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a free Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp for this review. 

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13 comments

  1. Is it using mini-usb connector, or a micro-usb one? All Android/bb phones I know have a micro-usb connectors, and the two are not compatible.
    My camera has a mini connector, instead of the micro one, and it annoys me everytime that I need to carry a special cable just for it, instead of using the same cable as my smartphone.

  2. Well I’m glad to see they finally replaced the Core battery that they stopped making last year. I almost went out and tried stockpiling those when I learned they’d be discontinued.

    Still, 3.8 ounces is hardly lightweight for a standard-sized headlamp. My XP2 with the Core battery is 3.0 ounces, or 2.4 with 3 AAA lithium batteries.

    The reactive lighting sensor seemed gimmicky to me when they came out with it on the Nau last year, and it still does now. For hiking it’s totally unnecessary (how hands-free do you need to be while walking?), but even for other activities, like biking or climbing at night, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve wanted to adjust my light source– I’d rather just turn the light on to high or medium and leave it that way until I don’t need it anymore.

    • I thought so too when I started using it, but I do like the fact that I can have a summer profile (maxiumum battery and low lumens) vs a winter profile (max light, lower battery life – because I will probably only need the light for a few hours and I like max intensity because I can’t see all that well in a very dark snow-filled world unless I create the shadows.) Before, I had to buy two different headlamps to achieve that.

      Having set those profiles, I’ll probably never fiddle with this light again, I do think this is a useful feature for people who engage is multiple sports including hiking, running, and x country skiing, and it’s a much lighter and less expensive version than the Nao.

      Think about it – you need different lighting profiles when you are moving faster through the woods. This is a multi-sport light, and yes probably less optimal for just hikers.

      For me, the Tikka RXP weighs less than half the weight of my BD icon (8 ounces) and even throws off more lumens,. I just cut my headlamp weight by more than 50%.and I can recharge it using the battery I carry anyway.

      • To me, the rechargeable battery is the most important part– keeping AA’s and AAA’s out of landfills is worth some extra weight, and the cost pays for itself over time. What boggles me is that BD, Petzl, and Princeton Tec seem so far behind the cutting edge as far as LEDs. I’ll stick with my XP2 with the Core until I find a 3 oz headlamp with an actually bright LED and rechargeable battery– 200 lumens isn’t really that impressive to me.

        I have an Ultrafire flashlight with an all metal case and a single LED that puts out 900 lumens, and weighs 4.8 ounces (1.7 oz for the rechargeable battery, 3.1 for the steel case and LED). I’ve taken it on a few night hikes, and it puts all headlamps I’ve seen to shame. With a plastic case and headlamp strap, this could easily weigh as little as the RXP or even the XP2, but all of the headlamp manufacturers seem to reserve brightness like that for things like your BD Icon or heavier. The wonderful thing about LEDs is they can easily be dimmed– why not make a headlamp that has a “standard” mode of medium intensity, and a “I need some freakin light” mode that puts out a giant beam?

      • It probably needs to be metal to act as heatsink?

  3. Interesting. Possibly even useful:-)

    But even though (or perhaps because?) my entire work life involved complicated tech, I prefer to leave it at home when I go to the woods. I find that it creates distance between me and what I’m out there to experience.

    Now, if I were out there for a “productive” reason I might be all over this like white on rice.

    But that is me, your mileage may vary..

  4. This has to be one of the coolest headlamps I’ve seen in a very long time. I love my Tikka2, and at the price I paid it can’t be beat. This looks very cool though. How do you like the separate spot and separate flood lights? With mine, I have little plastic window I have to slide up and down to switch between spot mode and flood light mode. Not a huge deal, but a dedicated reflector housing for each LED seems to make more sense. Triple the lumens is not a bad selling point either…not that I “need” to upgrade!

  5. Hi ! Can it be used while charging ? (the same way I recharge my cellphone using a portable battery pack connected with a USB cable)

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