Brilliance is defined a couple of ways: either by how much light something puts out, or by how smart something is.  By both standards, Petzl’s Tikka RXP is sheer brilliance.

Petzl Tikka RXP Features:

  • Weight: 115g
  • Lighting modes: Reactive, Constant, or Red
  • Maximum brightness: 215 lumens
  • Three lighting levels available
    • Max power: power (brightness) prioritized
    • Standard: best power/burn time balance
    • Max Autonomy: burn time prioritized
  • Max beam distance: 110m
  • Independent switches for lighting mode (on side) and lighting levels (on top)
  • Power lock function
  • Water resistance: IP X4
  • Rechargeable 1800 mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Battery life: 2.5 hrs on max power, 10 hrs on max autonomy
  • Recharge time: 4.5 hrs
  • Customized burn times can be programmed via Petzl OS software
  • Universal charging with micro USB port
  • Battery charge indicator
  • Compatible with standard alkaline or lithium batteries; 3 AAA batteries require battery adaptor accessory, sold separately
  • Comfort headband strap with easy-pull adjustment in back
  • Three color options
  • MSRP $95

petzl tikka rxp

Tikka RXP Reacts to Your Lighting Needs

A couple of years ago, green technology was the biggest development in lighting; many rechargeable batteries came to market, offering a very attractive alternative to schlepping alkaline batteries to the recycling station every few months.  The problem was, many rechargeable lamps didn’t pack quite the same punch as their alkaline battery counterparts in terms of overall brightness or beam strength, so it sometimes felt like you were sacrificing a bit of performance to be eco-friendly.

Enter Petzl, with its revolutionary line of reactive lighting headlamps, including the compact Tikka RXP.  Not only do you not sacrifice brightness, you actually get more power than most compact lamps on the market – and that’s not even the coolest thing about it.  Without a doubt, the most extraordinary feature of the RXP is that the thing actually seems to have a brain.

Petzl Tikka RXP face

“The Eye” at lower left. Top left: red bulb. Top right: white LED spotlight. Bottom right: white LED flood light.

Perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch … but only slightly.  If the RXP doesn’t have a full brain, it definitely has a highly functioning eye, which is the basis of Petzl’s reactive lighting technology.  It works like this: the lamp has a large sensor in the casing (the “eye”) that detects surrounding darkness levels and your distance from nearby objects, and automatically adjusts the brightness level of the lamp to meet the conditions.  For example, if you’re running with a pack of runners who are also wearing headlamps, the RXP burns at a lower level, but if you take a wrong turn and go down a dark path by yourself, the lamp automatically brightens appropriately for the surroundings.   If you pause to read a map, Petzl’s eye detects the sheet in close proximity to your face, then lowers and softens the light so there’s no glare off the page.

Wide comfort headband at front, tapers to back

Wide comfort headband at front, tapers more narrow in back

The brightness changes are remarkably subtle, and are freakishly accurate in anticipating your visual needs.  A slight lifting or lowering of the head will adjust the beam type (from flood to spot or both) as well as the brightness.   Running in an open meadow under full moonlight keeps the lamp on a lower setting, but when you duck from that meadow onto a narrow single track in the forest, the brightness amps up.

Aside from trail running and hiking, we put our RXP to the test in a somewhat unique and highly demanding activity: cave exploration at Lava Beds National Park in northern California.   In the caves, you repeatedly alternate from standing to crawling to wriggling on your belly, sometimes with your gaze cast forward, and sometimes with your face pointed straight into the rock to avoid scraping your nose on the floor.  During several hours of exploration, the RXP was right on with providing the appropriate lighting for every position, constantly adjusting back and forth – often times in circumstances where I couldn’t have brought my hands to my forehead to adjust the light on my own.

Inside "The Catacombs" at Lava Beds National Monument

Inside “The Catacombs” at Lava Beds National Monument

At maximal power, the RXP puts out 215 lumens of light that project 110m; both of these numbers were practically unheard of in a compact lamp a few years ago.  You can scroll through three different pre-set autonomy settings, each of which offers a slightly different ration of brightness to burn time.  There’s also a constant brightness mode which de-activates the reactive lighting eye and functions like a classic headlamp; this mode also has three brightness settings to choose from.  Finally, there’s a red light mode if your main goal is to preserve night vision.  The brightness settings for the reactive and constant light modes can be customized on Petzl’s web-based OS program, although the pre-set settings function pretty well without needing much tinkering.

Petzl OS webpage

Petzl OS webpage

With its constant regulation of brightness, the RXP is supposed to optimize its burn time throughout the battery’s charge, but overall burn time is still one area where rechargeable technology lags behind its alkaline equivalents.  At max duration, the RXP gives you 10 hours of burn time; for most ultras, that’s enough to get you through the night, but if the light burns at a brighter setting for most of that duration, you may run out of juice before the sun comes up.  Fortunately, it’s easy to carry a spare battery pack, and the RXP is also compatible with alkaline or lithium batteries if necessary using an adaptor.  The downside is that each of these options costs a bit extra, and the adapter pack for alkaline battery use is rather hard to find in our web searching.

Battery pack removed

Battery pack removed at top

A number of other design elements are appreciated here also, such as a soft headband lining that feels very comfortable against the skin, and a very easy dual-strap adjustment mechanism in behind the head.  One drawback we’ve noticed as the weather is turning colder is that the function button on top of the lamp is a bit tricky to use with gloved fingers.

Side view: lighting mode button on side, brightness/on/off button on top,  micro USB charging port.

Side view: lighting mode button on side, brightness/power button on top, micro USB charging port.

The Good

  • Reactive lighting works with high precision and accuracy
  • Brightness and beam distance are adequate for all trail conditions
  • Fully customizable function

The Bad

  • Use of alkaline batteries requires adapter sold separately
  • Top casing button is tricky for use with gloves

Bottom Line: Petzl Tikka RXP

Reactive lighting is a true category changer in the headlamp game, and Petzl’s RXP is a pioneer that delivers in virtually every way you need it to, for a wide variety of applications.

Buy Now: Available at REI

About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, ultrarunner, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 20 years of experience in endurance sports. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.

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