Petzl BINDI headtorch Review

Small enough to sit unnoticed in a pocket until needed, a mini headtorch is a sensible just-in-case option for pretty much any outdoor activity. For many years I've carried a Petzl e+LITE (other brands are available), but thanks to the continual development of LED and battery technology its 26 lumen output (the current model has 50) was beginning to look a bit weedy. Enter the BINDI. With a 200 lumen maximum brightness, this mini powerhouse packs a punch that belies its tiny dimensions.

Having now used one through winter and spring, I've become quite a fan. Considering its size and weight, the brightness available is dazzling. While the life of its tiny battery can't compare with a modern full-sized torch you do still get a meaningful burn time from the BINDI, and it's this that makes it a practical option for everyday use. Within reason, this is a mini torch that's more than just an emergency backup.

The BINDI can be tilted up or down for directional lighting  © Dan Bailey
The BINDI can be tilted up or down for directional lighting
© Dan Bailey

What's the catch? Well the obvious one is the price. At £50, the BINDI actually costs more than a lot of decent full-sized headtorches, models with which it can't compete directly in terms of output and battery life. Just one example that springs to mind is Petzl's ACTIK, which gives you a max brightness of 300 lumens for £40. With the BINDI, you are literally paying more for less. But then that's really the point: It's all about miniaturisation.

Size and weight

A compact torch unit that sits snugly on the head  © Dan Bailey
A compact torch unit that sits snugly on the head
© Dan Bailey

This thing weighs just 35g, including the strap, so the weight really is negligible. It's pretty small too - barely larger than the e+LITE (if you discount the cord headband). Slipping comfortably into a pocket or a bag, or indeed hanging around your neck like a pendant, you could carry it on long multi-pitch routes just in case nightfall arrives before the top. For weight-conscious walking or general travel its compact size and light weight are a major plus. From cragging to hillwalking, camping to winter climbing, I've brought the BINDI everywhere for the last several months. Why wouldn't you?

Modes, output and burn time

While a mini torch will typically have a mini range to match, the output available from the BINDI is genuinely useful for finding your way off a hill or crag after dark. I've been hillwalking with it after sunset, and running in the park at night, and for this sort of use it gives you enough light to see way more than just your next step. For complex route finding on iffy ground - think a crevassed glacier, or something like the Cuillin Ridge - it can't match the range on offer from a decent full sized torch, but given its mini weight there'd be no reason not to have the BINDI along as a backup too. If needs must, it'll certainly do.

For a tiny torch it packs a punch on max output  © Dan Bailey
For a tiny torch it packs a punch on max output
© Dan Bailey

The white LEDs have three power modes:

  • Proximity: 5 lumen, 6m range and 50hr burn time
  • Standard: 100 lumen, 23m, 3hrs
  • Max: 200 lumen, 36m, 2hrs

Proximity is really quite dim - OK for reading in a tent at night, but not much more. For general hanging about a camp at night I find the standard mode more useful, and it's usually enough on the move too. If I'm trying to conserve power then I'll tend to use standard mode by default and switch to maximum just when I need a visibility boost.

I've found the quoted burn times for standard and max mode to be pretty accurate, and in low temperatures I have not noticed a particular drop-off in battery life. Walking off Stob Coire Sgreamhach on a very cold evening in December, for instance, I had the torch on full beam for about 60 minutes, and later on it still had enough life to pitch a tent and faff about in it for another hour or so. I've not put the proximity mode's stated 50 hour life to the test.

In addition there's a red LED which gives you a barely-there 1 lumen for 33 hours, or a strobe that'll flash for 200 hours and is said to be visible at 400m. I could have done without the red LED, though I guess there's no harm in having it.

It casts a very wide beam  © Dan Bailey
It casts a very wide beam
© Dan Bailey

Casting across a wide area rather than focusing in on a single point, the beam is much more floodlight than spotlight. When you're walking or running, this gives you a good general view across most of your field of vision, which is nice for not feeling blinkered. The downside is that a more focused beam would have meant a longer range for the same power output. If asked, I'd have sacrificed the extremes of peripheral vision for a few metres more distance.

Standard mode offers plenty of light for hanging about in the camp  © Dan Bailey
Standard mode offers plenty of light for hanging about in the camp
© Dan Bailey

The on/off switch is quite hard to operate with gloves, but on the plus side it's relatively hard to nudge on by mistake. To help guard against this, the head can also be turned to leave the switch covered.

Charging

With an inbuilt battery, the only way to get juice into the BINDI is to charge it via a micro USB port. This may not be quite as instant as being able to buy a new battery in the shops, but it does mean you can charge the torch at the desk, off the mains, in the car, or off another device or power pack in the field.

Desktop charging via micro USB  © Dan Bailey
Desktop charging via micro USB
© Dan Bailey

The 680 mAh lithium-ion battery takes about 4 hours to charge from empty. An indicator light is supposed to flash red when charging and green when full; my review model's doesn't, but it still charges up OK.

Wearing it

The strap is a simple elastic cord with an adjustment toggle at the back, while the head mount is slightly curved to fit nicely on your forehead. The strap adjusts instantly to any size of head, and the whole thing sits snugly and comfortably. With its ulta-low weight and its effective strap, the torch holds completely still on your head: run, climb or bob your head about like a loon - the BINDI remains securely in place with no hint of a wobble. Petzl seem to be marketing the torch as some sort of urban night running accessory, and it certainly fits well enough for running. Fixing it to a helmet is quick and easy too.

Fitted it to my helmet before it got dark - always a good idea  © Dan Bailey
Fitted it to my helmet before it got dark - always a good idea
© Dan Bailey

Other features

Its pivoting head mount is a great feature of the BINDI. With a full 360 degree rotation, you can: tilt the torch up or down without getting a crick in the neck; stand it on a table or tent floor for close-quarters directional lighting; or turn it into the locked position where the on/off switch is covered.

The torch unit is weathertight, if not absolutely waterproof, so it should be usable in the rain with no worries. The narrow headband cord also makes the BINDI easier to hang inside a tent than a typical headtorch strap.

Its cord headband is easily hung in a tent  © Dan Bailey
Its cord headband is easily hung in a tent
© Dan Bailey

Summary

Lightweight, robust and well fitting, the BINDI is a mini marvel. With surprising power and battery life for its tiny size, this is more than just a packable emergency backup light - it's a genuinely useful headtorch in its own right. The minimalist strap and pivoting head are great features too. From crags to hills, camping to travel, at only 35g there's no reason not to have it on you all the time. Any criticisms? A slightly more focused, longer range beam might have been better than the extremely wide floodlight. Aside from that, the only thing that may raise an eyebrow is the price: if this is your secondary torch (for mountain use you definitely still need a big one too) then £50 seems quite a lot. Try shopping around.

Petzl say:

The BINDI head torch is a new departure for Petzl. It's very compact and weighs just 35g, yet it's powerful at 200 lumens. The design rotates on its mount so you can tilt it upward when it is worn around the neck for example, and it reverses into a locked position to avoid accidentally turning it on. There are three lighting power modes: proximity, movement and distance vision, with red lighting to preserve night vision. The BINDI has a rechargeable internal battery, charged via a micro USB port. Perfect for urban and trail runners, sailing, backpacking, climbing; just about anything really…

  • Weight: 35 g
  • Light output: 200 lumens
  • Beam pattern: flood
  • Charges via micro USB port
  • 680 mAh rechargeable battery
  • 3 modes: proximity, movement and distance
  • Red lighting preserves night vision and keeps from blinding others during group activities
  • Two lock functions to avoid accidentally turning it on
  • Headlamp can be tilted upward for seeing ahead when it is worn around the neck
  • Watertightness: IP X4 (weather resistant)

For more info see petzl.com

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16 Jun, 2018

Any idea on how long it will hold charge if just charged, lobbed in the bag and then left for emergencies (which is what my E-lite does).