The clocks have rolled back, meaning it's officially headtorch season. We visited Petzl HQ in Grenoble, France to get the 'heads up' on exciting new products and some key updates to their classic torches. From super-lightweight to industrial-level spotlighting, Petzl continue to dominate the field.
Read on for our breakdown of which torch you need to get you through the long nights ahead.
The Bindi . . . For the daily run (or the backup)
A heavy headtorch is a pain when you're running. There is nothing worse than the feeling of a bulky, boxlike contraption bouncing around on your forehead with every step. The Bindi is designed to counter this exact problem; every possible gram has been stripped away.
The Bindi weighs a tiny 35 grams and slips comfortably around your temples using a slim bungee cord in place of a traditional strap. It fits any head size and the mount itself is slightly curved to sit smoothly against the head. It can be easily tilted as well, depending on whether you are stargazing or watching the trail.
Which brings us to illumination. The Bindi features three basic white lighting options, plus a red beam. If you are running or hiking in the dark you'll almost certainly opt for the maximum 200 lumens. In the day of ever-increasing lumens, a mere 200 might sound underwhelming. It's worth remembering, however, that only a few years ago 200-300 lumens was an industry leading level of brightness. At max the Bindi has a beam distance of 36 metres, more than enough to get you off the hills safely or light your way on a reasonably technical trail run.
Max lumens is limited to 2 hours of burn time. This goes up to a whopping 50 hours on the lowest beam setting, but at only 6 metres of beam distance it's a function more useful around the tent than the trails.
There are also red and strobing beams available. The red 'proximity' only covers a metre and is designed for non-glare map reading. More interesting is the strobing light, reportedly visible at up to 400m and lasting for 200 hours. This is a handy survival tool if something was to go wrong on a winter night.
So, if you are looking to light up your midweek run, or for a no-bulk backup to your main headtorch, the Bindi may be the perfect choice.
The Swift RL . . . For the serious trails
Speaking of that main torch, Petzl have brought industrial levels of illumination to their sports range in the guise of the Swift RL.
The Swift is new for 2019 and shines out in the Petzl range. Firstly, the headline: up to 900 lumens at only 100 grams. That's almost double the weight-to-brightness ratio of the Bindi. Equally, those 900 lumens illuminate up to 150 metres, meaning that no matter how dark the night gets, the whole trail is visible. Even better, due to Petzl's Reactive Lighting tech, the burn time can be up to 30 hours, with a minimum guarantee of 2 hours.
Reactive Lighting automatically adjusts the lumen output based upon reflected light. A sensor in the torch recognises if light is bouncing back from something nearby and temporarily lowers the brightness. This optimises burn time and beam pattern for each situation without taking your mind or hands off what you are doing.
We were lucky enough to trial the Swift RL as spectators at the UTMB 2019. We donned a Swift on a 3-AM hike to an aid station. The brightness is truly impressive, especially for such a lightweight torch. It is also designed for absolute simplicity, with a single button controlling all functions (simply hold to switch between standard and reactive lighting) and a comfortable, easy-to-adjust-with-one-hand strap.
There are other little details that elevate the Swift and clearly show the amount of sport-minded engineering that has gone into its design. If you want to give your head a rest, you can easily wear the torch around your neck and tilt the housing to direct the beam. An onboard indicator shows you how much battery power is still available. The locking mechanism eliminates the risk of accidental power wastage. It also stops the torch from turning on and burning a hole in your pack. Finally, when it comes to recharging your power, a simple USB connection gives a total charge in 6 hours.
The Swift RL is a serious piece of kit, created for the dedicated trail runner, long distance hiker or ultra-marathon athlete. This isn't to say that it won't serve a much wider purpose, but I'd be reluctant to unleash a full 900 lumens when sitting around the campfire. Choose this one for your big adventures or your committed winter training.
Not all headtorches are built for running. Camping, hiking, walking the dog, coping when the power goes out – all of these require a headtorch that is bright, comfortable, tough and easy to use. The Tikka and Tikkina are your answer for a life in need of a little illumination.
The headtorches are almost identical siblings, with just a few tiny differences here and there. Both have undergone a refurb for the new season, with an injection of extra lumens to enhance their brightness significantly. The Tikka offers up to 300 lumens at max power, with the Tikkina coming in just a little lower at 250. These are both respectable levels of brightness and Petzl is offering the upgrade without any increase in price.
With the Tikka/Tikkina Petzl have broken down their lighting options into three modes: proximity, movement and distance. The first illuminates up to 10 metres for a whopping 120 hours, perfect for the campsite or the home. Movement delivers a 40-metre beam for 9 hours, getting you comfortably through a lengthy night hike. Distance extends the beam to 65 metres for a maximum of two hours, enough to guide you safely through hairy sections of trail.
The Tikka also offers a red light and strobing effect (not available with the Tikkina). Like the Bindi these are designed for map reading and for survival situations, though in this instance the strobe power is nearly doubled to 700 metres and 400 hours.
One key difference between these torches and those above is the power options. Both Tikka and Tikkina are part of Petzl's Hybrid range. These torches are compatible with either a CORE rechargeable battery or standard AAA batteries. That means if you find that you need the torch in emergency – the dog has run off or a fuse has blown in the house – you can rely on the batteries you have to hand to light things up.
Everyone should have a good headtorch to brighten up their outdoor life. Choose yours and enjoy playing out after dark.