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Shining a light on head torches

Written by George Fisher

Image for article Shining a light on head torches

Once upon a time, head torches were simple things. You turned them on, you turned them off, they gave off a yellow glow into the distance and eventually died. However, times and torches have changed!

All of our head torches are from Petzl, the French company who have a long pedigree in this area. Like most head torches, they now exclusively use LEDs (light emitting diodes) because of the amazing efficiency you get from these compared to incandescent bulbs.

LEDs have also increased in lumens, which is a measure of light output. It is important to note that this is not an industry standard test, so there will be brands whose claims may exceed Petzl’s, but in practical use do not match up.

Here is a quick overview of our range to give you an idea of what to buy.


  • Lumens: 200
  • Weight: 86g
  • Price: £30.00

The latest version of this classic head torch is still small, simple and compact. This is a great all-rounder, as useful to keep in the car as it is to go camping. It runs on AAA batteries or the Petzl CORE rechargeable battery (available separately for £30).


  • Lumens: 350
  • Weight: 82g
  • Price: £50.00

A similar shape and size to the TIKKA, but with a number of updates. It comes with the Petzl CORE rechargeable battery, giving greater battery power, although this can be swapped out for AAA batteries instead. The CORE battery is regulated, meaning it gives a constant light output, unlike the TIKKA and some other head torches whose light will gradually decline in use. It also features wide and narrow beams, allowing the light to reach further. This makes the ACTIK CORE reasonable for night navigation.


  • Lumens: 220
  • Weight: 115g
  • Price: £75.00

The name comes from Petzl’s pioneering Reactive Lighting Technology. A light sensor in the head unit adjusts the torch’s light output, depending on the ambient light. This comes in to its own when moving quickly or navigating at night. Looking at something close (for instance a map, or another person) the light will dim down so that it does not reflect from that object and blind you. As soon as you look at something in the distance, the power will increase to illuminate that object.  This is not a high or low setting, but a constant change in light output depending on the visible terrain, and works much like your eyes do to constantly adapt to their surroundings.

If you prefer not to use the Reactive Lighting, this can be turned off and the head torch used as a normal constant light. The battery can also be reprogrammed to customise exactly how much light or how long a duration you want for your chosen activity. These features, plus a more comfortable, stable head strap, make the REACTIK ideal for running and navigating at night.


  • Lumens: 300
  • Weight: 115g
  • Price: £90.00

Very similar to the REACTIK, but with two important internal differences. First, greater power, giving more lumens. Secondly this model has Bluetooth connectivity. Yes, Bluetooth! Not the first feature you might look for in a head torch, but it does have a genuine function. If you download the free Petzl app this will allow your phone to communicate with the head torch. You can check battery life and customise the brightness and duration via the app while you’re out and about, rather than needing to plug it in to your home computer. More power and duration makes this great for people who will be regularly walking or running at night.

Petzl NAO+

  • Lumens: 750
  • Weight: 185g
  • Price: £155.00

The ‘daddy’ of Petzl’s range, with a whopping 750 lumens of power. Otherwise, similar features to the REACTIK+ but in a different package. This allows a physically larger battery to be mounted on the back of the head and a cradle-like head strap ensures the torch stays stable and comfortable for longer-duration use.

A red LED on the back of the battery is good for being spotted on the road at night. Ideal for the runner who wants to train throughout the winter, professional users like Mountain Leaders, or those who simply love a really bright light.


  • Lumens: 50
  • Weight: 26g
  • Price: £24.00

This sits apart from the rest of the range, as a unique and clever little tool. It runs on a coin battery that you might see in a watch, making it super-compact so it will fit inside its small pill-shaped box. This will remain unobtrusive in a bum bag or clipped to a climbing harness. For not much more weight and cost, the TIKKA is still the more versatile head torch, but as an emergency backup to leave in your pack or First Aid kit, this is brilliant.