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 that 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 headlamp’s battery. Very Cool.
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 headband that will stay on your head during intense periods of activity.
The Tikka RXP has three lighting modes: reactive, manual (called constant), and red. The reactive mode has a sensor that 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 a 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.
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 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?
Comparable Rechargeable Headlamps
|Make / Model
|Petzl Actik Core
|Black Diamond SPOT-R Headlamp
|Nitecore NU 33
|Black Diamond Astro 300-R
|Biolite 800 Pro
|Nitecore NU 25 UL
|Coast Fl1R Micro Headlamp
|Petzl Bindi Ultralight
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.
- Reactive, manual, and red modes are all provided
- Create multiple lighting profiles each with its own distance, lumens, battery preservation settings
- 1-hour reserve power supply
- Micro-USB enabled rechargeable battery can be charged outside of headlamp
- AAA battery adapter kit is available
- Comfortable and secure headstrap
- The learning curve to get used to the reactive modes in different lighting conditions since you can only test them in the dark
Disclosure: Petzl provided the author with a headlamp for this review.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.