As the days grew shorter, and the season of light gave way for the darkness to reign, I started my search for a new headlamp. In this Petzl Iko Core headlamp review, I will detail my experience with this particular product.
I’m not your typical ultra trail runner who likes to spend days upon days out in the dark wilderness. Instead, I wanted a headlamp that could light up an unlit track when doing morning or evening workouts, (the local county can’t afford to light up the track!) longer runs on unlit country roads, and the occasional trail run.
With that in mind, I had three clearly defined and ranked criteria to guide my search:
- Light strength
- Battery life
Anyone who’s tried to run a workout wearing a clunky head torch will know why comfort sits at the top. Lumens or battery hours simply don’t matter when you’re trying to run fast, and your headlamp is bothering you. All that matters is seeing where you’re going without the added distraction of extra discomfort.
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Enter the Petzl Iko Core
When I started looking for the product that best matched my needs, the Petzl Iko Core came up quickly. In the name of honesty, however, I overlooked it at first. It didn’t fit my mental image of what a headlamp is supposed to look like. The result was that I discarded it was not what I was looking for.
That was a mistake that led me to wasting time with a few other options that weren’t as comfortable as I wanted. Because it’s the Iko Core’s strange look that allows it to offer comfort beyond what’s the norm for a headlamp.
More resembling a pair of around-the-neck wireless headphones more than a regular headlamp, the Petzl Iko Core is uniquely designed to optimise comfort while running. But before we dive into the details, let’s take a look at the specs.
- Weight: 79 grams
- Brightness (max): 500 lumens
- Adjustable brightness: Yes (3 predefined levels)
- Water resistance: IPX4 (weather-resistant)
- Battery: 1.250 mAh rechargeable battery pack (included)
- Burn time: 2.5 hours (max power), 9 hours (standard), 100 hours (max burn time)
- Charging time: 3 hours
Let’s not beat around the bush. The Petzl Iko Core comfort is unbeatable.
I’ve tried a variety of headlamps from various brands–other options from Petzl included–and none of them have provided the level of comfort I’ve been hoping for. That can be down to a number of reasons. The size of the lamp unit, or the battery pack. Or stretch bands that are difficult to properly adjust, always ending up either too tight or too loose.
The Petzl Iko Core has solved all of these problems. And the heart of its unique comfort, is the innovative AIRFIT band. Replacing the traditional stretch band I’ve always associated with headlamps, this somewhat rigid silicone band ensures an ergonomic fit. An adjustable elastic band and a pincher makes it easy to adjust to the appropriate tightness, and keep it in place.
Up front, the lamp unit is made up of seven small LED lamps attached to a lightweight panel. It‘s well balanced with the battery pack that sits on the lower back of your head. And the end result of this unusual composition is a supremely comfortable wearing experience.
It’s as simple as that.
I used to dread going out for a run that required a headlamp. That is no longer the case. Going to a dark track, or running on an unlit road is no problem at all. Because wearing this headlamp is no more noticeable or a chore than wearing a beanie for warmth, or a hat for shade and sweat wicking.
Light and Battery Performance
While I can talk with great confidence on the matters of comfort, this is shakier ground for me. Simply because my requirements and expectations in terms of performance are minimal.
Does the headlamp provide enough light that I can run with a firm footing on a dark track, unlit road, and well worn trails? Excellent, that’s all I need.
In terms of burn time, does it provide at least 90 minutes of sufficient light on a full charge? Perfect, I’m good.
But for the purpose of this review, I’ll dive a bit deeper into the details.
Brightness and Burn Time
With three different brightness settings, you can easily adjust the light to your needs. The three settings are:
- Max Burn Time: 6 lumens and 100 hours burn time
- Standard: 100 lumens and 9 hours burn time
- Max Power: 500 lumens and 2.5 hours burn time
I didn’t find the max burn setting particularly useful while running. The meagre light at six lumens is simply too dim to adequately illuminate the path in front of me. But, if you want to use your headlamp for other purposes, it can come in handy. For instance to light up the inside of a tent. Or provide some light for a campsite on an otherwise dark night.
In another nifty design touch, the included storage pouch doubles as a lantern that spreads and amplifies the light. This can come in scenarios like the ones mentioned above.
When it comes to the standard setting of 100 lumens, I’ve found it adequate in most circumstances. It’s enough light that I can see the ground in front of me well enough for a steady footing. As such, it is a fair compromise when you need the more than tripled burn time it provides, compared to the max power setting.
Max power is, naturally, my go to option. Simply because I never find myself in a situation where I need more than the two and a half hours of burn time you get with this setting–and it is by far the most comfortable choice. The 500 lumen light keeps me well oriented of the ground, and my surroundings.
The light itself is white and evenly dispersed with a combination beam. With the max setting, it is fanned out around your immediate vicinity, while a long, narrow light beam reaches about 100 metres in front of you.
Core Battery Pack
The rechargeable “Core” battery pack is included when you buy the Petzl Iko Core. This is a 1.250 mAh battery, and it comes with a 2 year/300 charging cycles warranty from Petzl.
Actually charging the battery pack is, well, let’s say a little cumbersome. You have to take off the headlamp, and then open the little lid that covers the battery pack. Then plug in the charging cord behind that little cover, and let the juice flow. It’s not a big deal if you’re at home. But if you’re at and about, and want to use a power bank to charge on the run, it’s not exactly practical.
What is practical, however, is the double function battery compartment. If your Core battery pack runs out, you can replace it with AAA/LR03s batteries. In terms of performance, max brightness is reduced slightly when you switch to regular batteries. Instead of 500 lumens, you get a maximum of 350 lumens. Still handy in a pinch, or on the go.
Usage and Functions
You operate the Petzl Iko Core with a single button. Located at the bottom of the light panel, it is easily accessible. A single click will turn on the light in the max burn time setting. One or two additional clicks adjusts the setting from max burn to standard to max power. The fourth click will turn off the light.
That’s about it for settings and operations.
As already mentioned, the headlamp is designed to be compact and easily portable. It can be folded up for storage. The included storage pouch that can even double as a lantern. Not exactly a deal breaker when out running. But if you’re out camping or similar, it’s a nice feature that adds to the smartness of the Iko Core.
Verdict on the Petzl Iko Core
This headlamp does everything I want, and little else. It’s fairly lightweight, and has decent brightness. And, above all else, it is comfortable to run with.
If you’re a more hardcore trail runner or adventurer, your needs might differ. Perhaps you’d want a brighter light, or longer battery life. Or something that’s easier to charge on the go. And if that’s what you’re looking for, there are definitely better options out there.
But, if you’re like me–a regular road runner who occasionally ventures on the trail, or just runs on an unlit road or track–and you value comfort above all other functionality, the Petzl Iko Core is a perfect choice.