Editor's Rating

Petzl Tikka RXP


As ultramarathoners and backpackers, we are inevitably going to find ourselves on a trail in the dark. Sometimes we even set out specifically to run trails at night, because, well, it’s pretty damn fun. But as you embark on your nocturnal excursion, how confident are you about your ability to see the trail and your surroundings?

Sure, you can plan your night trail runs or hikes around the lunar cycle, ensuring the most light reflection off the moon and onto the ground. But what if there happens to be cloud-cover that night? Are you going to wait another 28 days for the next full moon to get in your night trail run? I didn’t think so. It’s time for you to get a torch.

Enter the Petzl Tikka RXP headlamp. This headlamp from the Petzl Performance line is “designed for dynamic, energetic activities,” says the website. This means trail running, climbing, backpacking and anything else that requires a hell of a lot of light from a lamp that recognizes and adjusts the amount and type of light it gives you.

So why did I choose the Petzl Tikka RXP after spending hours online reading reviews, watching videos, and comparing products from different brands and what do I think about it now? Let me tell you…


Great Features of the Petzl Tikka RXP

  • Petzl Tikka RXP face with light sensor (lower left), red light (upper left), spotlight (upper right) and floodlight (lower right)

    Petzl Tikka RXP face with light sensor (lower left), red light (upper left), spotlight (upper right) and floodlight (lower right)

    REACTIVE LIGHTING Technology – Petzl’s proprietary light adjustment technology intelligently dims and increases the light output of this headlamp by managing the blend of a flood and spot light system. The sensor on the face of the headlamp continually reads light reflection amounts and adjusts the output from one light source and increases another, or dims them both, or blasts them both. So if you pull up a map or look at your watch, the spotlight dims and the floodlight takes over. If you’re bombing down a dark single track, the spotlight ramps up and the floodlight dims to give you maximal depth of lighting. It’s really smart technology that I have found super useful when running trails at night. And at a max output of 215 lumens, it’s one of the brightest and strongest lamps on the market.

    • I’m mildly night-blind, so having a reliable headlamp is essential for me to train at night or run long races that start before dawn.
    • It comes with software that allows you to customize the default settings to your own preferences. I haven’t found a need to do this yet, but I imagine if I’m spending a few nights in the backcountry fastpacking, optimizing these settings for maximal battery life would be a good idea.
  • STATIC LIGHTING – In addition to the REACTIVE LIGHTING technology, you have 3 other settings on this headlamp: static spotlight, static floodlight, and red light. These modes will keep the light steady at the level you choose for the duration of your run or hike. These modes will drain the battery a bit faster than the REACTIVE LIGHTING mode.
  • Double Strap Adjustability – This headlamp separates into two straps in the back of the head to increase stability of the lamp. Since the light and battery pack are contained within the same unit, all of the weight of the weight of the lamp sits on the front of the head. The separated, adjustable straps on the back of the head secure the lamp to your head, prevents slipping and bouncing, and increases comfort.
  • Rechargeable Battery – USB rechargeable battery pack is guaranteed to last about 900 charging cycles, which Petzl calculates to be about 3 years. But honestly, you’d have to be using this lamp daily for at least a couple hours each day to require that frequency of charging. I’m guessing this battery pack is going to last me a long while.
    • Petzl also sells a separate replaceable batter pack that fits AAA batteries. I personally don’t know why I would need this, but some people are nervous about the rechargeable battery pack I guess. Or, if you’re running through the night in a 100 miler, I guess changing out AAA batteries is cheaper and easier than putting in a fresh rechargeable battery pack.
  • Petzl Tikka RXP featuring Dual Strap adjustments, terry cloth lining, and USB rechargeable battery

    Petzl Tikka RXP featuring Dual Strap adjustments, terry cloth lining, and USB rechargeable battery

    Terry Cloth Lining – The inside of this headlamp strap has a really comfortable terry cloth liner that prevents rubbing or hot spots on the forehead and helps with sweat management. I’m not sure if the fiber is a polyester base or what, but it’s soft to the touch and has been comfortable on every outing it’s been on.

    • Full disclosure, I usually wear a Half Buff under my headlamp for the sole reason of preventing rubbing from the headlamp. I have used the headlamp for a few short runs without the Buff, and had no issues. Not sure how comfortable it is on the skin after longer miles. So, my recommendation is to wear it on top of a Buff just to be sure.

No-So-Great Features of the Petzl Tikka RXP

  • REACTIVE LIGHTING TECHNOLOGY – I know, I know. I included this as a great feature above, so what the hell is it doing down here in the not-so-great section? Well, while the REACTIVE LIGHTING technology is really great on the trails, it’s pretty crappy on the roads. If you enable the REACTIVE LIGHTING mode while running facing traffic, every time a car approaches you the light will dim. Not the safest technology to take on your late night road runs. This is by no means a deal breaker for the lamp, especially since the main reason I bought it was for use on the trails. I can use one of the STATIC LIGHTING modes, or one of those god awful reflective vests. Safety first!
  • Weight – The Tikka RXP weighs in at 115g according to the Petzl site. Most of that weight sits on the light and battery housing on your forehead. So how much is 115g? Just over .25 pounds. So while it’s not breaking any scales, it’s still like running around with a decent sized hamburger patty on your head.
  • Balance – Your hamburger lamp would be a lot less cumbersome if that hamburger was split in half and balanced on your forehead and… rearhead (?). Unfortunately, Petzl opted to put everything together on the front of the head which leads to a unbalanced lamp. As noted above, the dual strap system helps minimize how noticeable the weight is on your forehead, but other lamp options split the light and battery housings to create a more equal and natural weight distribution. Maybe the added weight on my forehead helps me keep my forward body position…
  • Cost – This lamp ain’t cheap. At $100 MSRP, it’s going to cut into your shoe fetish a bit, but you’re paying for the technology it features and the customization it is capable of. If you need a lot of light to see, or just feel more comfortable running a really well lit trail, I think the cost is reasonable for a lamp that will last a long time.

Overall Impressions

I replaced a 7 year old Black Diamond lamp with the Tikka RXP, and I’ve been extremely happy I did. As noted earlier, I have some serious difficulty with seeing well at night so a quality headlamp was worth the investment for me. The lamp has made it’s way to the top of Mt. Whitney, it’s illuminated the trails of the Marin Headlands, it’s helped me avoid “landmines” in campsite vault toilets, and it’s seen the best L.A. has to offer at night. I’d recommend this headlamp to any serious trail runner who expects to spend a fair amount of time on the trails at night or needs/wants industry leading light power.

If my review wasn’t enough, or you’re just the type that wants a hard-sell, watch Petzl’s video of their Performance Line below for an explanation of some of the features I mentioned above.

Editor’s note: I was not compensated by anyone to write this review. I bought the headlamp with my own scratch and my opinions are my own and unbiased.