Riding The Spine

Petzl Tak-Tikka PLUS :



        I wanted to write a brief, raving review about the Petzl Tac-Tikka Plus Headlamp. Having lived out in the woods for a good 5 years I have had my share of experience with quite a few headlamps (5 different models). It is practically a necessary human extension for the existence of somebody living in a tree house on the go; a woodsie’s third eye.

        Coming from a suburban environment, my previous concept of a headlamp was that they were for cavers, or spelunkers, and had difficulty seeing the utility of them outside of that. After having lived with a headlamp in my pocket at my ready disposal for a half century, I fear I could not live without such a handy hands-free source of illumination.

        There are plenty of headlamps to choose from these days, and I imagine that each and every one has a review floating out there on the net, somewhere. This review does not intend to regurgitate the technical specifications in the form of an over-arching comparative analysis. The intention of the review is to note the important features of the lamp in context being used.

What do you want from a Headlamp?

        There are few headlamps that provide enough light to do anything dependent on a clear field of vision, like riding at night.. Your expectations for a headlamp should be somewhat limited. If you need a light to ride your bike at night, there are some specialized products out there that can do the trick, from HID lights to Halogen, that mount on your helmet or handlebars. But for the most part, the LED or even Super LED’s will not live up to your expectations (unless maybe it is around town riding and you need a light to expose your presence to cars).


        The light profile of almost all the headlamps starts out really strong and very quickly drops down to a lower intensity that you will have consistently for a good amount of the battery life. The 4 LED’s in full power are bright enough to accomplish most of what you would need from a light source, with the exception of technical or fast off-road cycling. Three AAA batteries operate the Tak-Tikka Plus for 4-6 weeks of nightly use. I use it to set-up camp and to read for about an hour each night. The end of the battery life and light profile decrease extremely gradually to give you adequate warning to change your batteries. The halogen light sources can quickly dissipate (not to mention the bulb can instantly die) and leave you stranded without a light.


        The red-lenses starting to appear a few years ago to filter the light so it doesn’t disrupt your night-vision. They are not practical or necessary to use while hiking but are quite worthwhile to use around the campsite. When I am camping and sharing a tent, or hanging out with friends, etc. I can have enough useable light to navigate my way around my book or backpack etc. without blinding my friends with the alien light. The two guys I share a tent with do not have this feature, and it’s regrettable. Many people also discover that the red lights does not attract bugs as much.


        The On button on the Tak-Tikka Plus is much preferable to other “switches” that require a bit of dexterity that can be impossible with gloves. The rubber button is easy to depress under any conditions.


        Being able to adjust the angle of the light is a feature that is found on many (not all) headlamp models and is something you don’t want to overlook. As convenient as the Zip-Tikka is, without being able to angle the light appropriately, it is not as useful (not to mention the zip cord on it will inevitably fail with extended use). The Tak-Tikka Plus gives you four reliable directions to angle your light, which has always been plenty, whether I’m reading and need it angled down more or hiking and need it a click or two higher.


        I was not a fan of the multiple light settings at first but eventually learned to appreciate them. However, I have NEVER found the flashing light setting useful and wish it was not included. I would also prefer the light to only have a bright and brighter setting, for simplicities sake, instead of a low, bright, and brighter. The variable settings allows you to preserve the batteries a bit longer, especially if you use the light to read with at night.


I would stay away from any headlamp with a wire that connects to the battery pack. The wire WILL fail with extended use.


        I have tried a few of the hybrid model headlamps that combine the brightness of a halogen bulb with the reliability of LED. After years of use, I’ve found that I prefer the simplicity of a pure LED lamp. The halogen bulbs just use entirely too much battery juice to make them worth the extra light. I have not tried the SuperLED-Normal LED combo’s, yet, and believe they may have some benefits. 4 normal LEDs provide plenty of light (especially with a full charge) for whatever I’ve needed them. I expect that any light more powerful would drain the battery quickly enough to mitigate the light’s benefits.


        The Tak-Tikka Plus is the one headlamp that has not failed me. With new batteries it gives me the extent of light that I would reasonably expect from a headlamp and offers a reliable light for a month+ of use. My experience with other headlamps has lead me to believe that simplicity it key. Some of the other lights do provide more light, especially on full batteries, but this increase is not significant enough to warrant the drain of batteries they incur. In my opinion, if you need more light than what the Tak-Tikka Plus offers, then you probably need a more specialized source of light. I carry a Surefire flashlight that is literally bright enough to temporarily blind someone, which l use if I need a bright light. For general camping and backpacking, however, I believe that the Tak-Tikka Plus is the perfect choice.