Petzl REACTIK+ Headlamp Review

3

Basic summary: The REACTIK+ headlamp is the next generation of Petzl’s innovative reactive lighting technology, which adjusts the amount and type of light based on your surroundings in order to provide appropriate functionality while optimizing battery life. It is a compact, water resistant, rechargeable headlamp that delivers up to 300 lumens of brightness and a vast array of customization options depending on your needs. The REACTIK+ uses the MyPetzl Light mobile app and Bluetooth Smart connectivity for constant access from a smartphone or tablet at home or on the trail.

MSRP:  $110

battery-life-and-burn-time-1100Features:

  • Weight: 115g
  • Maximum brightness: 300 lumens
  • Beam pattern: wide, focused, and mixed
  • Batteries: rechargeable 1800 mAh lithium ion with micro USB port. Also compatible with alkaline, lithium and Ni-MH batteries with an optional battery pack sold separately.
  • Reactive lighting: Sensor automatically adjusts brightness and beam pattern depending on object proximity and ambient light
  • Reactive lighting default brightness settings and burn times:
    • Max autonomy mode: 80 lumens / 10 hours
    • Standard mode: 170 lumens / 5 hours
    • Max power: 300 lumens / 2.5 hours
  • Constant lighting mode option with three brightness levels
  • Customizable with the MyPetzl Light app using Bluetooth; requires iOS 7.1 or later, or Android 4.3 or later
  • Red light mode
  • Power lock function
  • Charge indicator (green-yellow-red) with blue light for Bluetooth activation
  • Washable and adjustable headband
  • IP X4 water resistance

e95hmi-reactik-view-3_lowres-1100

Deep dive:

Here’s how far ahead of its time Petzl’s reactive lighting system is: the technology has been around for more than a couple of years now, and it remains unmatched by any other players in the category. And for those of us who spend long and active hours on the trails in the dark, the technology is simply brilliant.

The new REACTIK+ is an update of the company’s previous Tikka RXP compact lamp; the name change eliminates confusion from Petzl’s longstanding Tikka (non-rechargeable, non-reactive) lamp and places more emphasis on the reactive lighting features that distinguish this product line (which also includes the lower-power REACTIK and higher-power NAO+ lamps) from anything else on the market.

For the uninitiated, reactive lighting works by automatically adjusting the type and brightness of the beam based on the surroundings. It uses a sensor to determine the proximity of nearby objects as well as the ambient light level, and adjusts your beam accordingly. For example, when you’re looking downward to read a map or adjust your shoes, the light uses a softer flood mode; when you look straight ahead down the trail, the beam becomes a brighter spotlight. When you’re alone on the trail, the brightness is greater than if you’re in a pack of runners who are also all wearing headlamps. It is a truly smart technology, and its accuracy in determining the correct light to provide in different conditions is quite remarkable.

petzl-sport-files-1100So how does Petzl improve this lamp? The REACTIK+ gets a moderate brightness boost from the Tikka RXP – from 215 max lumens to 300 – but the main updates are in customization and ease of use, primarily through the new MyPetzl Light app for both Androids and iPhones. Previously Petzl offered customization of its lamps through Petzl OS download software, but the new app is generally much easier to use. We did have to re-pair the device a few too many times with Android devices, but with iOS phones the pairing stuck in place better.

Customization of brightness works in a similar fashion for the REACTIK+ as it did for the Tikka RXP and the NAO+. Instead of the default high/medium/low brightness settings, you can set specific brightness levels to cycle through – although in our experience, the default settings are pretty good for trail running. The app also allows you to create separate profiles for different activities, so it responds differently when you’re running than it does if you’re climbing, hiking, or just lounging around camp.

Connectivity from the lamp to the app is via Bluetooth Smart, so it’s possible to modify the settings or access other features as long as you have your phone with you – there’s no need to hardwire into a laptop. Some of the app features are a bit of a stretch, such as the one that will flash out an SOS message in Morse code if you break your leg in the wilderness with no other means of communication available. However, the app’s ability to communicate with the lamp in real time enables some very cool practical uses of the REACTIK+, especially in regards to battery life.

See if this sounds familiar: you’re on the trail in the middle of the night, and you have no idea how much battery life your headlamp has left. Let’s say the indicator is yellow: does that mean 65% remaining, or 40%? Does red start at 20% or 15%? Using the MyPetzl Light app, you’ll know precisely how much juice is left; the remaining battery life percentage and runtime will display on your smartphone screen. Then if you want to adjust the brightness based on battery life, you can do that from the phone as well, and the settings are immediately adjusted on the lamp.

 

Another cool use is to set the beam’s brightness in direct correlation to your required battery life. If you’re going for a one hour run and want maximum brightness for the entire time, the light will measure out the most power possible for that specific duration. If you need a longer duration – for example, running through the night – you can tell the lamp how long it needs to burn, and it will adjust the lumens as necessary to stay lit for the entire duration. On that note, the max autonomy burn life of 10 hours should be enough for most people to get through most 100-mile races, depending on your speed and the time of year – but for slow runners or races in the long dark nights of winter, burn time of the REACTIK+ might come up just a bit short.

The only real downside to all of this smart technology is that you have to carry your phone with you in order to use it. Fortunately, if you don’t typically run with your phone and just want a solid, versatile, and powerful lamp for everyday training and racing, the REACTIK+ is still an excellent choice. The split strap is very comfortable, easily adjustable, and holds the lamp securely in place; it is also removable and washable when it starts to get ripe. If you don’t want to mess with reactive lighting, you can use the constant light mode that also has three brightness levels, or even a red light mode to preserve your night vision. The IP X4 water resistance rating means it will function without problems in a downpour. The lamp is small enough to tuck easily into a pocket after the sun comes up, and a power lock function ensures that it doesn’t get turned on accidentally while riding in your pack.

Conclusion

With the REACTIK+, Petzl has taken a very good lamp and made it even better from the standpoints of performance, versatility, and ease of use. It’s ideal for those who venture into the dark on a regular basis and for a wide variety of uses.

Share.

About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, California native, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 25 years of experience in endurance sports. He was a collegiate rower at UCLA, then dabbled in marathons and Ironman-distance triathlons before falling in love with ultras in the early 2000s. His favorite locations to run include Marin County, CA, and the Sierra Nevada mountains, and he loves exploring America's National Parks. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.

3 Comments

  1. Have you tried the Black Diamond Sprinter? As someone who doesn’t run with a phone, is it worth the extra cost of the smart technology? Does the automatic light adjustment work without phone connectivity too? Thanks!

    • Nathan Westlake on

      You might want the Petzl reactik (without the plus). It has a lower max lumen and no Bluetooth to phone connectivity.

      They both have the reactive lighting feature, which I’ve found pretty useful.

    • The Reactik+ is fully operational on its own and doesn’t need a phone for use. You’ll still have the three “Reactive” modes (auto-adjusting brightness) and three “Constant” modes (non-adjusting) to choose from, in addition to steady and blinking red LED modes. It also has a battery status light on the side with the typical green/yellow/red colors indicating the charge remaining. It basically becomes the same as the cheaper Reactik model (non-plus = non-bluetooth) albeit with greater light output. You could honestly buy the Reactik+, never turn on bluetooth and be perfectly happy.

      That is, until you realized you missed out on some pretty cool extras features unlocked with your phone. With the app, you can:
      1. Check the precise battery charge % remaining
      2. Check the estimated burn time remaining on any of the available lighting modes
      3. Load in new lighting profiles that modify the max brightness/burn time of the six (non-red LED) modes
      4. Dial in the desired burn time and have the brightness set accordingly

      Although I use the app sparingly, the first two features are incredibly useful. No more do you have to worry whether your headlamp has enough juice to last an entire run (or series of runs). And if you’re already low and it says that you don’t have enough burn time to make it back to civilization, just change to a more conservative lighting profile or manually dial in the time you’ll need.

      I hear that the sprinter is also a very good light and possibly more comfy. My only misgiving — and I could be wrong here — is that the battery does not seem to be easily replaceable like the Reactik and Reactik+.