REVIEW: Petzl ACTIK Headtorch

£40, added 14/Nov/2017, see all Petzl news & reviews
Reviewed by Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
This review has been read 2,598 times

Petzl's ACTIK (not to be confused with the almost identical but slightly more powerful ACTIK CORE) combines a compact size and light weight, with plenty of power. Coming from Petzl's HYBRID range, it is designed to be used either with AAA batteries or with the brand's own CORE rechargeable battery, swapping between the two without need of an additional adapter. The CORE offers a different sort of performance to a standard battery, and this ability to choose makes the torch especially versatile. All is explained below.

Two white LEDs, one red, and a large power switch, 243 kb
Two white LEDs, one red, and a large power switch
© Dan Bailey

Being small and unfussy to use are two of my key requirements in a headtorch, and the ACTIK ticks both those boxes. In size, shape and weight, it's very similar to the old TIKKA XP2, which for several years has been my preferred headtorch for all-round hillwalking and climbing use. LED technology is coming on in leaps and bounds however, and the ACTIK is over three times more powerful than my old workhorse (though the current TIKKA is 200 lumens). It's fair to say I have found a new favourite headtorch.

Let there be light..., 75 kb
Let there be light...
© Dan Bailey

Modes and output

In terms of light output for its size and weight, the ACTIK gives you a lot of bang for your buck. The old TIKKA XP2's 80 lumen max output equated, in my experience, to a range of about 60 metres. The ACTIK, on the other hand, can blast out 300 lumens, giving it a usable range of more like 80 or 90 metres. If you're negotiating complex ground at night, that extra reach is very useful. I've appreciated it when searching for a flat place to pitch a tent, but a long range makes more serious situations a bit more comfortable too - think descending scrambly slopes, picking a safe way across a pre-dawn glacier, or abseiling in the dark.

For its size, the amount of light the ACTIK can put out is impressive, 150 kb
For its size, the amount of light the ACTIK can put out is impressive
© Dan Bailey

Three white light modes are available: 10m, 45m or 90m. Minimum output is only for close proximity work like bimbling about the campsite. Medium output, though, gives you a pretty useful range for walking after dark, particularly on straightforward terrain such as farm tracks. Typically I'll stick with medium when I can get away with it, to save power, and only switch to maximum output when I need to see further.

As well as throwing light out a long way, the ACTIK casts quite a wide beam, not the narrow focused spot that some torches offer. I find this wider field of vision feels more natural and less blinkered.

A red LED gives you a short-range night-vision-saving option too, for reading maps and the like. As a safety feature the red light can also be switched to strobe mode, visible at 700m and with a burn time of 400 hours.

You switch between modes using the single large button. This is intuitive, unfiddly, and can be operated wearing gloves - all basic prerequisties for a headtotch torch, in my opinion.

Batteries and burn time

Walking around with a mini sun on your head is great, but can you rely on that output all night? Sadly, no - physics gets in the way. The good news is that burn times on the ACTIK are still respectable, given the small size of its power cells. With standard AAA batteries, for instance, you get 60 hours at max output, rising to 260 hours at minimum power.

There's plenty of burn time in low-output proximity mode, 101 kb
There's plenty of burn time in low-output proximity mode
© Dan Bailey

Of course the amount of power available declines over time. You're not going to get that 300 lumen supernova for 60 hours, by any stretch of the imagination. In my experience with AAA batteries, the decline from maximum output is noticeable quite rapidly; but since you start out with a lot of power I've found there's still plenty to get by with several hours later. For descending a Munro after sunset, or starting and finishing your winter climbing day in the dark, battery life at maximum output is more than sufficient. Turn down the output and you've a big safety cushion.

The CORE versus AAAs

Coming from Petzl's HYBRID range, the ACTIK is also compatible with their CORE battery, which is sold separately at £20. Cleverly, no additional adapter is needed when swapping between battery types. The CORE is compatible with all torches in the HYBRID range: TIKKINA, TIKKA, ZIPKA, ACTIK, ACTIK CORE, TACTIKKA, TACTIKKA + and TACTIKKA +RGB.

A standard AAA has a lower self discharge rate than the CORE - ie. it holds onto its charge for longer in storage. There are several advantages to the 1250mAh Li-ion CORE, however, versus traditional AAAs:

The CORE can be recharged from any USB compatible device, be that your laptop or your car. It is arguably more economical than standard batteries, since one CORE, charged over and over, has about the same lifespan as 900 disposable AAAs (we will have to take Petzl's figure for this at face value since it's beyond the scope of a review to establish. And I have no comparison for rechargeable AAAs). The CORE (23g) is both smaller and lighter than 3 AAAs (the three I weighed were 37g - though that must depend on the particular battery). It is also said to perform well in low temperatures - though as yet I've not had a chance to subject it to prolonged minus temperatures to test this. All of this makes the £20 price tag look like value for money.

Charging the CORE battery via USB. It can also be charged without removing it from the torch, 149 kb
Charging the CORE battery via USB. It can also be charged without removing it from the torch
© UKC Gear

But the really big difference between the CORE and standard batteries is that instead of the standard 'unregulated' light, the CORE offers a more constant 'regulated' output. What does this actually mean?

While both types of battery obviously drain over time, the rate at which their output declines is different. The power available with standard AAAs drops off steeply at first and then slopes out over a long, gradual decline. The CORE's output, on the other hand, remains initially higher, before dropping quite suddenly. In maximum power mode, for instance, the CORE gives you a much more constant high output for the first 2.30 hours, but then its output falls off a cliff. By contrast, standard batteries are down on 20% power after just two hours, but then eke out to 60 hours - albeit gradually dimming all the while.

ACTIK performance graph, 34 kb

Which is better? Well it depends what you're doing with the torch. For a short night run, for instance, I'd go with the CORE. But what if you're spending longer in the dark? Though you'd want to be frugal with your power output with either battery type, after a few hours of use you're clearly going to be better off with standard AAAs. To be on the safe side, and certainly if planning to be out for a couple of nights, a spare set of batteries or a power bank are really a must.

Mucking about underground, 146 kb
Mucking about underground
© Dan Bailey

It's a braw bricht moonlicht nicht, the nicht, 117 kb
It's a braw bricht moonlicht nicht, the nicht
© Dan Bailey

Over the last few months I've been using the ACTIK with both the CORE and AAAs, and though I prefer the CORE on balance, I think the flexibility of being able to operate with either is a real convenience. If you're travelling and unable to recharge, or if you've simply forgotten to charge the CORE before going out, you've always got the AAA option. And rather than spend an extra £20, some people will prefer to stick with AAAs in any case. The CORE's regulated output may be a mixed blessing, but it is certainly good to have the option of either regulated or unregulated light, depending on activity.

This short video from Petzl explains the choice in a nutshell:

Weight and size

For packability and simplicity, and because there's less to get damaged, I generally prefer a front-mounted torch to models with a separate rear battery pack. There are drawbacks of course. A smaller front-mounted unit can mean smaller or fewer batteries, and therefore potentially less power. Putting all the weight at the front can also make for a bouncy fit when you're running. However, as LED torches have become brighter, more efficient and more compact over the years these disadvantages have diminished. Closely matching in shape and dimensions Petzl's other small front-mounted headtorches, the ACTIK is compact enough to feel unobtrusive on the head. At 81g including the CORE battery (I make it 95g with 3xAAAs) it's really pretty light for the amount of power on offer. In terms of packability, it is small enough to slip into a jacket pocket, and takes up minimal room in your day pack.

Wearing it

The strap is comfy, and easy to adjust, 103 kb
The strap is comfy, and easy to adjust
© Dan Bailey

As with all Petzl headtorches, in my experience, the ACTIK is very comfortable to wear. The broad elastic strap feels soft against the forehead, and gives a close, secure fit that prevents the torch bouncing around if you're running (being light helps in that regard as well). There's some reflective detailing to help the wearer be seen at night, too. Sitting flush to the head for comfort, the adjustment buckle doesn't tend to slip over time, and it incorporates a small whistle for emergency use.

Other features

Light trail 1, 157 kb

Light trail 2, 164 kb

Rated weather resistant rather than fully waterproof, you would not want to immerse your ACTIK in a lake, but it certainly seems happy enough in the rain. With a strong ratchet mechanism, the head can rotate through various angles, and tilts down far enough that you can walk along illuminating the ground immediately in front without ending up with a crick in your neck.

Summary

Far brighter lighting is available, while other torches are smaller and lighter. However the balance of compact size, powerful output and respectable burn time (all things considered) that Petzl have hit here makes the ACTIK a really handy headtorch for all climbing, mountaineering and hillwalking purposes. It fits well enough for running, too. Tough, reliable and simple to use, the ACTIK is all the headtorch most of us will need, and as such its £40 price seems more than fair. One of Petzl's HYBRID range, it can be used either with standard AAAs or with the rechargeable CORE battery (sold separately at £20). This adds flexibility, and might even save you money in the long run. What's more, compatibility with either system also allows you to make the tradeoff between regulated and unregulated lighting, choosing whichever option best suits the activity you're doing.

Petzl say:

Compact multi-beam headlamp with red lighting, designed for outdoor activities.

The ACTIK headlamp offers 300 lumen brightness. Featuring a mixed beam, it is ideal for outdoor activities like mountaineering, running, hiking and backpacking. Red lighting preserves night vision and prevents blinding other members of the group. Its reflective headband helps you to be seen when a light is shone on it, and is equipped with an emergency whistle for rescue situations. ACTIK is a HYBRID headlamp that is also compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery.

  • Price: £40
  • Output: 300 lumens max
  • Distance: 90m max
  • Burn time: 260hrs at minimum output; 60hrs at max output
  • Weight: 81g (including CORE battery - our measure)
  • Two beam patterns - wide or mixed
  • While light modes: 10m, 45m or 90m
  • Red light modes: 5m or strobe
  • Strobe visible at 700m for 400hrs
  • Red lighting preserves night vision
  • Reflective headband helps you to be seen, and is equipped with an emergency whistle for rescue situations
  • ACTIK is a HYBRID headlamp: 3xAAA/LR03 batteries (included), and also compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery
  • CORE battery price: £20
  • Battery compatibility: rechargeable Ni-MH or lithium
  • Watertightness: IP X4 (weather resistant)
  • Guarantee: 5 years

ACTIK prod shot, 197 kb

For more info see petzl.com

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