The Petzl REACTIK+ is a multi-beam, next generation head torch that, for lack of a better phrase, utilises "smart technologies" for an improved user experience and optimised battery life. It features Petzl's relatively new Reactive Lighting technology that can automatically adjust beam type and brightness on the fly. In simple terms, when looking into the distance on a dark night the beam and brightness change to illuminate the area you're looking at; you can then look down at your map and the head torch will dim to an appropriate brightness to read your map without being blinded. But that's not the end of the wizardry. Petzl have gone above and beyond with this torch, with the development of their new MyPetzl Light app that lets you configure custom lighting profiles, check battery life and burn time, and other cool stuff, via your smartphone! Is this a sign of things to come with all lighting technology, or just a fancy gimmick? Read on...
"Do I really need an app for my headtorch? And is it even practical to use on the hoof? The answer is yes and no, depending on the situation"
Fastening, Comfort and Design
The REACTIK+ is secured with a single strap that is split at the rear of the head. This arrangement offers a really comfy fit, and gives the headtorch superior stability whether you're walking or running, either when it's mounted on a helmet or directly attached to the head. Though the power pack and the business end of the torch are all front-mounted, the quality of the strap means that this 115g weight doesn't feel at all cumbersome. Where the strap is split, two buckles allow the length of the strap to be adjusted by simply slipping them forward or backwards. It's without doubt one of the simplest adjustment systems of any head torch and it can be easily tweaked while on the head. Better yet I found there was no buckle slippage throughout a day's use, so no readjusting once fitted.
"The strap offers a really comfy fit, and gives the headtorch great stability"
At the front of the strap where the torch is fastened, the band widens to give more surface area, increasing comfort and support for the torch unit. One of the really clever features of the headband is that it is sweat absorbent and wicks away excess moisture from your skin - something that runners in particular are likely to appreciate.
For the first few times I had it out, the torch had a frustrating tendency to turn on by mistake while in my bag; however on closer inspection it turns out that there is actually a lock function, activated by pressing two buttons simultaneously. This isn't immediately obvious on first use - and I am not the only user to have encountered this problem. The lock function should be made more prominent in the instructions.
Operating the REACTIK+ with gloves takes a bit of feeling around for the buttons. This is a common problem with head torches, and it's certainly no worse than most other models I've used. But I do feel that a slightly more prominent button would help the glove-wearing winter user.
Lighting Modes and Battery Life
With its five different preloaded lighting profiles, each profile featuring six different lighting modes (three using Reactive Lighting and three using a constant beam), the REACTIK+ is really in a field of its own when it comes to providing you with lighting that's fine tuned to particular settings.
The lighting profiles that come with the REACTIK+ are optimised for different activities, as follows:
Multi-activity: Lighting for close range as well as distance vision (this is the mode I typically use).
Mountaineering: Powerful directional lighting for orientation and finding your way.
Trail Running: Very bright lighting to see far in front of you and for obstacle avoidance.
Trekking: Lighting to follow your path and identify landmarks.
Bivouac: Ambient lighting for close-range vision (it's great for camping).
Profiles are all changed using the MyPetzl Light app which I will talk about more below. Each one of these profiles has three different modes, Max Autonomy, Standard and Max Power, that are changed using the top or side button depending on whether you want reactive or constant lighting.
As an example, let's say you've opted for Mountaineering mode, and Reactive lighting. You've now got three choices:
- In 'Max Autonomy' a fully charged torch gives you a max beam of 66m and a burn time of 12 hours
- 'Standard' gives you 85m and a 6 hour burn time
- 'Max Power' offers 106m and a 3 hour burn time
On a recent Cuillin traverse I found that Petzl's reactive lighting really came into its own. One minute I'd be peering far ahead trying to suss out the complexities of the onward route in the gloom; the next I'd be looking straight at my feet as I negotiated the tricky terrain. I never had to waste time fiddling with the output of the torch beam - it just adjusted itself automatically. And so long as I had the REACTIK+ set to a sensible compromise mode between distance vision and power conservation, I didn't have to worry about battery life either.
However one situation where reactive lighting doesn't perform as you would want it to is in dense low visibility cloud and heavy snow, conditions I've already had a chance to experience this November. It would seem that the light reflected off cloud and snow is picked up by the light sensor, resulting in the torch dimming. A quick switch to a constant beam using the side button will remedy the situation and allow you to see into the distance.
When you really need it, the max power output that you can achieve with the REACTIK+ is pretty impressive, certainly compared with less-powerful torches that I've used. It was excellent, for instance, when navigating out Corie an Lochain in heavy snow and evening low visibility, enabling me to find the path accross the burn from some distance away - something that my previous headtorch was quite often unable to do.
The battery pack that the REACTIK+ comes with is a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery. This pack is charged using a micro USB cable and so can be charged from either a plug, your laptop or in your car, assuming you have the correct adapters for these. Depending on the mode, this battery will last anywhere between three hours and 36 hours. I've not yet had a chance to test the charge-holding performance of the integral battery in really cold weather. Time will tell this winter season, I guess, and if there's anything interesting to report back I'll update this review.
My first thought on the USB rechargable battery was, "what if you're using it multi-day. How are you going to recharge the battery?". Well, there are two options here; you can either purchase additional rechargeable battery packs or you can buy a standard AAA battery pack and carry spare batteries to supply the power. The latter is cheaper, around £8/9 for the pack, and gives you more flexibility, particularly perhaps if you're overseas somewhere with limited infrastructure.
If you are on the go without the app you can get a rough idea of the remaining battery life by checking a small LED on the side of the torch.
MyPetzl Mobile App
The mobile app is one thing I was rather sceptical of on first acquaintance. "Do I really need an app for my headtorch? And is it even practical?" I couldn't help but wonder. The answer is yes and no, depending on the situation.
Firstly, Petzl have done an excellent job on the MyPetzl Light app. It works absolutely flawlessly in conjunction with the REACTIK+ and it's super simple to use. The app's main purpose is for selecting or calibrating the different lighting profiles, but you can also check the remaining burn time of each mode; adjust the light intensity exactly as you desire on the fly; and even send a custom emergency morse code message that the head torch will then broadcast with a pulsing light.
"The app is clever and easy to use, even if employing it in some situations out on the hill is clearly not going to be practical"
When it comes to practicality though, in my experience you'll probably find the main use for the app is before you go out, and not so much during actual use. I typically stayed with the lighting profile I selected before using the head torch, not because that's the exact one I needed at the time, but because it was a faff to get my phone out and change it on the hoof. Generally though the different modes on each profile are all you need anyway, and the app adjustment is more for fine tuning. It was however excellent being able to pitch a tent and flick the torch onto bivi profile, and instantly have a suitable light for a tent.
Simply considered as a head torch the REACTIK+ is great. At max power its 300 lumen output will light up to roughly 100 metres, which makes navigation in tricky terrain that much easier on dark nights. But if you don't need to see quite that far and would prefer to save power then the multitude of modes give you a huge choice of beam patterns and burn times. Thanks to its excellent strap the REACTIK+ sits securely on the head and is comfortable to wear over long periods of time. The different profiles mean it is suitable for a number of uses and the default multi-activity profile does everything you would want a standard head torch to do. Really you don't need a smartphone to make this a worthwhile purchase. However the MyPetzl Light app is clever and easy to use, even if employing it in some situations out on the hill is clearly not going to be practical.
Multi-beam, rechargeable headlamp that is programmable, thanks to the MyPetzl Light mobile app. Features REACTIVE LIGHTING technology that automatically adapts light intensity to user needs.
With 300 lumens of power, the REACTIK + headlamp offers outdoor enthusiasts a compact, intelligent, programmable, rechargeable solution. Thanks to the MyPetzl Light mobile app, users may consult their smartphone or tablet at any time to check remaining battery life and adapt headlamp performance to the activity: trail running, mountaineering, trekking, backpacking. Users simply download the profiles provided or create their own personalized ones. During the activity, with REACTIVE LIGHTING technology, REACTIK + analyzes the ambient light and adjusts brightness instantly to user requirements. Battery life is optimized and the manipulations are reduced to a minimum!
- Customized beam pattern, burn time and brightness, thanks to the MyPetzl Light for smart phone and tablet (free download at App Store and Google Play):
- access remaining burn time any time
- adjust brightness and burn time
- activate and create lighting profiles to suit the activity
- headlamp comes with multi-activity lighting profile
- four additional profiles available with the MyPetzl Light app: trail running, mountaineering, trekking, backpacking
- headlamp connects through Bluetooth® Smart (can be deactivated)
- the lamp can still be used without the app
- Longer burn time, visual comfort and minimal handling thanks to its REACTIVE LIGHTING technology:
- the light sensor automatically adjusts brightness and beam pattern, optimizing battery use
- depending on the chosen burn time (2h30, 5 h, 10 h), brightness automatically self-regulates in one of three modes: MAX POWER, STANDARD or MAX AUTONOMY
- Lamp can be used with CONSTANT LIGHTING technology, which ensures constant lighting over time
- Multi-beam lighting: combines a wide beam for proximity lighting with a focused beam for long-range vision
- Red lighting mode preserves night vision
- LOCK function to avoid accidentally turning it on during transit or storage
- Rechargeable 1800 mAh Lithium-Ion battery:
- universal charging with micro USB port
- charge indicator and blue signal for Bluetooth® Smart activation
- can be replaced with standard battery pack (not included) for use in remote areas
- Petzl's patented washable and adjustable headband has two-part construction for optimal positioning during dynamic activities:
- remains positioned on the head
- absorbs perspiration
- MyPetzl Light app requires iOS 7.1 or later, or Android 4.3 or later
- Bluetooth® Smart: very low battery consumption
- Beam pattern: wide, mixed or focused
- Energy: 1800 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery (included)
- Recharge time: 4.5 h
- Battery compatibility: alkaline, lithium and Ni-MH, with the standard battery pack (not included)
- Watertightness: IP X4 (water resistant)
- Weight 115g
For more info see petzl.com