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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Petzl Tikka RXP headlamp > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Petzl TIKKA RXP Headlamp

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - July 7, 2015

Field Report - September 22, 2015

Long Term Report - November 17, 2015

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 61
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 220 lbs (100 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking venues have been a combination of Minnesota, where I have lived most of my adult life, and Arizona where I moved to take a new job about six years ago.  I have always been a "comfort-weight" backpacker, never counting grams, but still keeping my pack as light as easily attained.  I normally carry a headlamp into the backcountry on overnight trips, but sometimes I'll go ultralight and just take a tiny microlight with me.

Initial Report

Product Information

The Petzl TIKKA RXP is a rechargeable headlamp with what Petzl terms Reactive Lighting Technology, which is a sensor and logic in the electronics to adapt to ambient and reflected light with the goal of maximizing battery life.  The following photo shows the details of the lamp in close-up:

br01
Close-up of the Petzl TIKKA RXP headlamp

Manufacturer: Petzl
Manufacturer website: www.petzl.com
Model:
TIKKA RXP
Year of manufacture: 2015
Country of origin:
Bulgaria
MSRP:
$99.95 USD (from REI)
Color tested:
Coral
Also available in black
Weight:
Manufacturer: 115 g (4.06 oz)
Measured 112 g (3.95 oz)
Battery:
1800 mAh Lithium ion
Weather resistance:
IP X4 (resistant to splashed water)
Lamp brightness:
215 lumens maximum
Battery life:
2.5-10 hours depending on brightness and mode settings
Recharge time:
4.5-5 hours minimum
Warranty:
Headlamp: 3 years
Rechargeable battery: 1 year

The features listed by the manufacturer include:
  • Rechargeable battery - recharging accomplished through a USB port
  • Includes USB charging cable, but no transformer for plugging into a wall socket
  • REACTIVE LIGHTING technology that maximizes battery life by dimming the LED lights depending on ambient lighting and according to the website the speed of movement
  • Wide and spot lights - the REACTIVE LIGHTING feature will vary how much current to feed the two LED's
  • Red light LED/mode
  • User selectable "Technology" settings (REACTIVE, CONSTANT or RED lighting).  The Technology setting is selected by repeated pressing of the Technology button on the side of the lamp head.
  • User selectable modes within the REACTIVE Technology: max autonomy, standard, max power.  The mode is selected by repeated pressing of the On/Off button on the top of the lamp head for <2 seconds.

Features not called out on the manufacturer's website but obvious by observation and/or the supplied documentation:

  • Battery charge level LED indicator: green (66+%), orange (33-66%), red (0-33%).  When on "reserve" power, the LED blinks red.  While charging, the LED blinks green and goes to solid green when fully charged
  • Adjustable elastic head strap with some padding for the forehead area

Initial Inspection

After removal from the packaging I inspected the unit for manufacturing defects and found none.  I then removed the paper strip from the battery contacts and plugged it into a portable charger that has a rating of 4000 mAh, in theory enough to charge the headlamp twice. About 4 hours later the unit was fully charged, and my charger indicated it had given up 50-60% of its charge capacity.

Trying It Out

The headlamp comes with a full sheet of instructions for use, translated into many languages.  The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and I appreciated the illustrations pointing out how the various button presses/duration controlled the unit.  It has been my experience that the biggest challenge of getting to know a new headlamp is figuring out what the various buttons do and how you have to press them to get them to do it.  The basics of this unit look pretty straightforward, but it will likely take me a while to figure out how best to use the REACTIVE technology.

I lengthened the strap to almost its maximum amount (I have a fat head) and strapped it on.  This is a very comfortable headlamp - I like the way the strap is used for extra padding on the forehead to prevent any abrasion while in motion.  There is also a section of the strap in the back where the strap overlaps itself, so the pressure is spread across a larger surface area.

I downloaded the Petzl OS software that is supposed to allow me to change the profiles used by the lamp:

Petzl OS

I find it interesting that it can read back the color of the headlamp case (see image in upper left corner).  I also customized the name :-)  The "Energy" reading gives an exact value for the battery charge - it was 94% when I first plugged it in.  Once I get a chance to play with the lamp in the field, I'll have to see if customizing the profile has any benefit or if I am happy with the default set.

Summary

I am looking forward to getting the Petzl TIKKA RXP into the field and seeing how it performs under trying conditions.  This piece of gear is in theory a perfect fit for my needs, as I am attempting to transition to all rechargeable electronics in the backcountry, which means I can keep everything running from one charger.

My go-to headlamp that I have been using for some time takes 3 AAA batteries, and if I use rechargeable cells (I normally do) it weighs in at slightly less that the TIKKA RXP, but it is not field-rechargeable without also carrying a USB AAA battery charger.

Things I Like So Far:

  • Easily charged from a USB port, including field recharging without the need for additional hardware.
  • Comfortable on my head.
  • The specifications suggest a long battery life - we'll see if this is born out in the field.

Things That Concern Me Upfront:

  • Takes a fair amount of charge to fill the battery.  This is a non-issue when charging from a mains outlet or a laptop computer, but it can consume quite a bit of the capacity of a portable charger.

Field Report

Date
Location
Trail
Distance
Altitude
Weather
July 11-13, 2015
Mogollon Rim in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona
Highline
30.4 miles
(49 km)
5500-6900 ft
(1675-2100 m)
Partly cloudy to sunny, low temperature 58 F (14.5 C), high about 85 F (29.5 C)
July 24-26, 2015 Chiricahua Mountains in the Coronado National Forest, Arizona Chiricahua Crest Trail
15 miles
(24 km)
8468-9795 ft
(2581-2986 m)
Sun, rain, sleet, we had it all.  Lows around 50 F (10 C), highs around 75 F (24 C)
August 9-14, 2015
Sisters Wilderness in the Deschutes National Forest, Oregon
Sisters Loop
55 miles
(89 km)
5300-7000 ft
(1615-2134 m)
Mostly sunny, lows around 50 F (10 C), highs around 75 F (24 C)
August 25-27, 2015
Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness in the Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
PCT/Salmon Loop
48 miles
(77 km)
1320-7000 ft
(400-2130 m)
Mostly sunny, 50-70 F (10-21 C), light winds
August 31 - September 1, 2015
Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness in the Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon Hunchback Loop
27 miles
(43 km)

1320-5045 ft
(400-1538 m)
Partly cloudy, 50-70 F (10-21 C), light winds
September 7-13, 2015
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Ely, Minnesota
Boundary Waters Canoe Trip
About 50 miles (80 km) by canoe, roughly 6 miles (10 km) portage
Around 1400 ft
(430 m)
Mostly sunny, breezy, 38-70 F (3-21 C)

Highline Trail

Two night trip to a trail that I had never explored before.  I only hiked about a third of this historic National Recreation Trail, so this leaves me something to go back for.  I used the headlamp for bladder emptying expeditions in the middle of the night, and to prepare and break camp in the morning (I often arise at 4 AM).

During my night time excursions I used the red lamp to retain my night vision.  The RXP headlamp red LED has a deep, dark red color, I would term it "ruby" in color.  It worked well: I was able to see the forest floor obstructions to avoid, and my night vision bounced back as soon as I turned it off.  I had no difficulties switching the headlamp in/out of red LED mode.

During breakfast prep I got a chance to experience the REACTIVE LIGHTING feature, as I would focus on both distant and near objects.  The lamp responds quickly, dimming the lamp when I focused on my stove, and brightening back up when I looked up at my pack.  I can't decide how I feel about this yet, I think it will take some getting used to.  It is a bit disconcerting when looking down at something you want to see the details of and having the lamp go dim.  On the positive side when looking at a distant object this lamp has a very bright beam.  Also I noticed the bulb dimming as the sun came up and the sky got brighter, which is a good thing as the headlamp becomes less necessary in brighter conditions so it is smart to save the battery life.

The other thing I noticed is the On/Off button is relatively small.  When I grab my headlamp in the middle of the night the first thing I do is determine which side is "up" before I put it on my head; the RXP On/Off button does not give a very good tactile cue for the up-side.  Next I turn the light on, and the On/Off switch takes a little practice to find quickly.  I am going to have to try it with heavy gloves on to see how easy it would be to use in severe cold weather.

During this trip I did not need to recharge the lamp in the field, as it was only in use for perhaps an hour.

Chiricahua Crest Trail

pt03

This was a three-day two-night backpacking trip, though we camped at the trail head the first night. I used the RXP for bedtime preparation, reading in my hammock, and as shown in the photo above for morning breakfast-making.  The lighting in the photo is a bit deceiving due to the camera auto-exposure, it was much darker than it appears.

Overall I was very happy with the headlamp performance with one exception: while reading my Kindle at night, the REACTIVE mode would brighten/darken the headlamp depending on where I was looking and the angle of the Kindle.  I found this to be quite distracting.  I tried switching to CONSTANT mode, but then it was way too bright.  I need to play around with the light to see how I can get a constant brightness of the appropriate level.

This trip reinforced my previous experience of difficulty with determining where the On/Off button is by feel.  I even put the headlamp on upside-down once.  I know I can determine the orientation of the headlamp by flexing the hinge that controls the vertical direction, but I had to convince myself I could not determine the top of the lamp by feel.

Sisters Loop

This was a 6-day, 5-night backpack circumnavigating the three Sisters mountains of north-central Oregon.  I used the headlamp for reading at night, getting up to "water the trees", and for making breakfast in the morning.  I am happy to report that the battery lasted the entire trip with no need for an in-field recharge and the LED indicated that the charge was still 66% or higher at the end of the trip.  This is great battery efficiency.

I continue to like the red LED for use at night to retain my night vision.  It is significantly brighter than some of the red LED's on headlamps I have used before making it quite useful for performing activities that do not require fine detail.

PCT/Salmon Loop

The hike started at Timberline Lodge.  From there I ascended to about the top of the chairlift on the Mountaineer Trail for a good look at the glacier before beginning my trip south on the Pacific Crest Trail.  After about 15 miles on the PCT I headed west on the Jackpot Meadows Trail to the Salmon River Trail, eventually hiking out to the little village of Welches.

Once again I used the headlamp for reading at night and morning kitchen/camp preparations, all with no issues.

Hunchback Loop

pt04This was a strenuous 2-day "lollipop" hike: up the Hunchback, down the Green Canyon Way, up the Salmon river, up the Kinzel Lake trail then finally back on the Hunchback.  All of the substantial elevation change was done at least twice, often on some extremely steep terrain with lots of fallen logs across the trail.

In addition to use in camp on this trip I used the headlamp while hiking.  I arose very early in the morning and was on the trail by 5:30AM, well before the sun came up.  I hiked with the headlamp on until about 7:00AM.

The headlamp worked very well on the trail.  It did a great job of illuminating the track with the spotlight as well as giving me a view of the area around the trail with the more diffuse flood beam (see photo at left for example).  The only issue I had is if there was a bough right over my head, the sensor would detect the light bouncing off the bough leaves and dim the light momentarily.  The Petzl headlamp reacts very quickly to changes in detected light and would quickly recover as soon as the overhead obstruction passed me by, so I never felt I lost my view of the trail.

I left it on later than I would with my old headlamp.  I was often going in and out of bright open areas back into dense forest canopy, and I appreciated having the additional light in the dark areas.  The headlamp automatically adapted, dimming the light when I was out in the open, and brightening it back up again in the dark areas.  Knowing that the lamp was conserving power encouraged me to use it more.  I like that.


Boundary Waters Canoe Trip

During this 7-day canoe trip through one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the U.S. I used the RXP headlamp on a daily basis in camp.  I was up early every morning, and used the light to make coffee before the others arose.  We also stayed up and had a fire most nights, so I used the headlamp to make my way to my hammock through the dense forests as I typically camped well away from the eating area.

I used the headlamp for the whole week without recharging it, and it continued to indicate a "green" power level which means I never got below 66% charge.  This was the first trip that I appreciated the reassurance that I had plenty of battery power remaining.

Summary

Good Stuff:

  1. I like the rechargeability - no need to buy batteries.
  2. Very bright illumination of the trail, I like the combination of the flood and spot.
  3. Long battery life.
  4. Reactive Lighting Technology works well in the dawn/dusk times of day where I was going in/out of dark and light areas.  It adapted to the changing conditions, saving battery power.
  5. Battery power LED confirmation on power on/off gave me positive reassurance on longer trips that I still had enough power remaining without my having to think about checking it.  I like it when gear anticipates my needs.

Room for improvement:

  1. Make it easier to find the On/Off button by feel.

Long Term Report

Date
Location
Trail
Distance
Altitude
Weather
September 25-27, 2015
Sycamore Canyon in the Coconino National Forest
near Cottonwood, Arizona
Packard Mesa
16 miles
(26 km)
3680-4640 ft
(1120-1410 m)
Sunny, 50-90 F
(10-32 C)
October 3-4, 2015
Romero Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains
near Tucson, Arizona
Romero Canyon
12 miles
(19 km)
2600-4800 ft
(790-1460 m)
Sunny, 60-90 F
(16-32 C)

Packard Mesa

This was a weekend backpacking trip near Sedona, Arizona.  On Friday night we car camped on a forest road.  I pitched my shelter (well, I really just threw my bag and sleeping pad on the ground) some distance from the group campfire.  After sitting around the campfire in the evening it got very dark, and I was happy that the RXP headlamp has such a bright light, as it wasn't easy to find my sleeping gear in the brush.

Romero Canyon

This was an overnight to one of my usual haunts not too far from my house.  My goal was to check out the water flow in the mountain streams, as we've had a good monsoon rain season this year and I hoped the waterfalls would be flowing profusely.  I was not disappointed.  I sat up for a while after dark reading my Kindle, and I've found I prefer to use the RXP headlamp to illuminate the reader screen instead of its built-in backlight.  It is easier on my eyes.

Summary

My use during the first two months was intensive enough that I didn't really discover anything new about the RXP headlamp in the last two months.  It has become a trusty companion and will accompany me on future backpack trips.


Thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Petzl for the opportunity to contribute to this test.



Read more reviews of Petzl gear
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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Petzl Tikka RXP headlamp > Test Report by Kurt Papke



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