Walking, Hiking & Trail Running

Petzl NAO Headtorch Review

The summit is still four hours away, and the early start from the refuge will mean three of those hours will be climbing in the dark. Summiting at daybreak is a common line of attack on many mountains, so a headlamp is one of the pieces of kit that you simply can’t be without. Even if it’s a day trip in the middle of the summer we’d take a headlamp, and as soon as winter darkens we’d take two plus spare batteries. Light is something you don’t ever want to be without in a mountain environment.

There are, of course, hundreds of headlamps available, but none are quite like the Petzl NAO. This is one of the world’s most advanced headlamps. Heck, you can even sync it with your computer. It’s one step away from having its own Instagram account.

“The headlamp automatically adjusts to the environment. Look down at a map in the dark and the lamps will dim the brightness so you don’t dazzle yourself.”

The key point of this lamp, and others in Petzl’s Performance Series, is that it has ‘reactive lighting’. This means that the headlamp automatically adjusts to the environment. For instance, look down at a map in the dark and the lamps will dim the brightness so you don’t dazzle yourself. As the dawn breaks, the lamp will sense the improving light and dim it accordingly. And it really works, impressively quickly too. As well as limiting the amount of manual adjustments to a minimum and leaving your hands free, this feature also makes the burn time more efficient.

The NAO is the most advanced in the series and perfect for trail running, where you need a super strong output – this one comes in at 575 lumens at the maximum output, a serious amount and easily good enough for dark evenings on the trail.

Out of the box, the jumble of leads suggests this is a fairly advanced piece of kit. You’ll see the three bulbs on the face of the lamp. The lower two bulbs are high output LEDs that provide a combination of flood and spotlighting. As well as a constant lighting mode (old school!), there are two lighting levels, one that prioritises brightness and one that prioritises burn time. Because there are so many variations, it’s hard to account for a maximum burn time, but it could be anything from 6.5 hours to 52 hours. Given the high output usage, as Petzl say, this is one for quick activities such as trail running and morning ascents. There’s a handy battery monitor showing the percentage of lighting there is left.

The Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery sits on the back of the head balancing out the main unit (there’s a belt kit that allows it to sit somewhere warm in really cold weather). It’s certainly comfortable to wear and doesn’t move at all. The battery is recharged via a USB, but can also be replaced by two AAA batteries if needed (although performance is reduced). The really technical bit is that if you download OS by Petzl software you can fine tune brightness and burn times for specific activities. It’s a neat idea and easy to use, but maybe overkill for many users.

Overall however, this is a marvellous piece of kit and one that’s perfect for trail runners and climbers particularly. Far from being a gimmick, the features really do help and work very well.

Petzl NAO Headtorch Review Stats:

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