Petzl make some of the very best head torches around. The Iko Core comes from the specialist brand's ‘Performance’ range for more technical activities, and it packs quite a punch. Essentially this is an Iko headlamp with the added power and flexibility of Petzl’s ‘core’ rechargeable Li-Ion battery, and the result is an eye-catching, potent headlamp, totally ready for action. Read on for our full Petzl Iko Core head torch review.
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Petzl Iko Core head torch review: design and build
The design of the Petzl Iko Core headtorch is without doubt the obvious standout, looking like a cross between a set of running headphones and an alien tiara, there’s plenty to catch the eye. To get even that far, you’ll already have encountered the Apple-esque packaging, featuring a compostable central tray instead of plastic which is a nice touch.
The business end, a remarkably slim seven-LED array, houses the single on-off switch and swivels 100-ish degrees vertically. At the rear, a simple pop-off cover protects the battery pack, either the provided Li-Ion 1250mAh or alternatively three AAAs. A micro-USB charge port is built into the battery, along with inbuilt red (charging) green (charged) leds. This means that the battery needs to be charged with the main cover removed. However, it can also be charged without the head torch at all, so left in a bunkhouse/car/etc while you’re off adventuring on standard AAAs.
Ingeniously, the elastic tensioning straps are threaded through plastic eyes, and also retain the battery cover when open, minimising things to lose in the dark or leave behind by accident. The plastic retaining arms are big enough for most heads and soft hats, but won’t fit a helmet without modification, although Petzl is keen to point out that the stiffness of the arms mean it can be worn around the neck too, allowing children and those wearing helmets to still use the headtorch in a fashion.
Light origami is required to get the Petzl Iko Core into its handy storage pouch, which is translucent white, designed to double as a camp lantern, as well as being engineered to last in ripstop nylon with neatly designed pull tabs. It is quite bulky once packed down, so not brilliant as an emergency option, but fine to chuck into a bag or larger pocket.
Petzl Iko Core headtorch review: performance
The Petzl Iko Core really excels in hiking and trail-running style situations. Clamped to the head it’s very stable and secure, the heavier battery pack sitting neatly on the back of the head, the LEDs sitting almost flush with the forehead. This minimises snagging on passing branches, and the flexible arms sit flush too, giving a very low profile setup indeed. The overall comfort levels are very good, thanks to this flexible, semi-rigid structure that distributes the minimal weight neatly.
More good news, that single button control is pretty much idiot-proof, one press gives you low, another toggles up to medium, and a further squeeze gives you high-beam.
The actual lumens and burn times vary slightly if you’re running AAAs, but with the Li-Ion pack, full power gives you an eye-searing 500 lumens for 2.30 hours, in a dual-beam that lights up your surroundings like daylight. Petzl claim this is a 100m beam, and in use that feels pretty accurate, more than enough for navigation at speed, and perfect for those ‘wait a moment, where the hell am I’ moments. Mid-setting is a mere 100 lumens, 45 meter beam, and good for 9.30hours, a great midpoint for chugging along a trail or bearing and avoiding minor hazards as they come. The low setting is ideal for around camp or as a lantern, giving a massive 100 hours burn time at 6 lumens/10m claimed.
The main snag comes if you’re attempting to switch out a discharged battery pack for backup AAA’s, as this is quite fiddly. The cover over the battery pack pops off relatively easily, and isn't enormously weatherproof, in spite of a rating of IPX4. To be fair, it’s never easy to juggle AAAs outdoors in anything other than good conditions, and the fact that you can have ‘normal’ batteries as a straight-swap backup for the rechargeable pack is a plus in most situations. There’s a handy LED hidden in the front array that’ll light green if you’re at more than 30% power, red at sub-30%, so a quick check before leaving will save some faffing ‘in the field’.
Petzl Iko Core headtorch review: verdict
Purely from a lighting perspective, this is a powerful mix, with epic burntime at one extreme for short range everyday tasks, blazing power when you need it, and all in a lightweight package weighing 79 grams. The hybrid rechargeable/AAA system offers good flexibility, and the carry case lantern is a nice touch.
The real question is the semi-rigid arm system, brilliant for running and hiking, but requiring extra straps to fit to a helmet, and bulky to carry when not in use, it might not suit all shades of explorer. However, for those that need a simple-to-operate and stable headlamp that can deliver big lumens, this has a lot going for it.