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Petzl Zipka Plus LED Headlamp

Flashlights have gone the way of the Dodo bird when it comes to backpackers' lighting gear of choice.

In May 2006, I came to this realization when I tried to use my trusted Mini Maglite on a pre-dawn hike to the top of Temple IV in Tikal, Guatemala to watch the sunrise over the awakening jungle.

I was staying at the Jaguar Inn, one of the three lodges inside the park…a park that turns off the electricity every night.

I first ran into challenges trying to use the bathroom with just a small flashlight.

The experience was later trumped by having to carry the thing on a 30-minute walk in the dark, followed by a very steep climb of the old, wooden staircase that leads up the temple.

I looked on with envy at my fellow travelers wearing headlamps. I could only use one hand to steady myself on the way up those stairs, while they had both, and far brighter light to boot.

As I continue to gather the few and essential items for my trip around the world, I was excited to purchase an LED headlamp and join the 21st century.

I headed to a local REI store and quickly found plenty of options in the headlamp section.

There were two options by Petzl, which I debated back and forth for 20 minutes. Headband (Tikka Plus), or no headband (Zipka Plus)?

Headband = security (+), adjustable mount (+), $5 cheaper (+), 78 grams/extra weight (-), extra size (-)

No headband (spring-loaded, retractable string) = 65 grams/lighter (+), smaller (+), easily worn on wrist (+), $5 more (-), no adjustable mount (-), questionable durability of retracting mechanism/string prone to fraying (-)

I found it difficult to make a decision, so I fell on the side of less weight is better, and went with the Zipka Plus, which uses a retractable, spring-loaded string to hold the headlamp to one's head, versus a normal stretch headband.

Both headlamps take 3 AAA batteries and are far more efficient than a regular flashlight.

Both models are water-resistant and have 4 settings (maximum – 100 hours life, optimum – 120 hours life, economic – 150 hours life, and strobe).

Below is my not-so-scientific comparison with the Mini Maglite on left, and Petzl Zipka Plus on right:

Luminosity of flashlight Luminosity of Petzl Zipka LED headlamp

____________________ offers the full line of Petzl headlamps and products, including user reviews and detailed expert advice.

The Tikka Plus (headband) retails for $34.95, while the Zipka Plus goes for $39.95.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:


Wednesday 12th of September 2007

Wow - what a difference between the Petzl and your Maglite!

Weird coincidence: I just ordered the Tikka headlamp via Amazon last week. I haven't gotten it yet, but am really looking forward to taking it camping/hiking. They make these things so small and light (pun intended) now that there's no reason not to take one with you while traveling.


Wednesday 12th of September 2007

My 2cents adjustable light is great you can manage battery need and when your reading or packing in the dark you dont need a daylight generator.. What stu was telling you about at rei the us military designed that piece for ww2 it was called a p38 can opener you can usually find them at army surplus (or rei) enjoy


Friday 14th of September 2007

Ideally, it'd be nice to bring a swiss army knife, however as my goal is to carry my backpack as carry-on luggage, I'm going to have to forgo it. I'll have to think about the can opener.


Tuesday 11th of September 2007

aah something I can speak of from a lot of experience :)

if your doing much night hiking the tikka would have been better. the zipka is good but lacks stability. the tikka headband is much nicer. For night reading in hostels etc the zipka is perfectly fine. I dont know if the new zipkas have it or not but I have a blackdiamond that has the middle led as a super bright led, which is much muhc brighter than the standard 3 or 5 led array.

also note, if your night hiking, without the 'super bright' leds, they are useless as they throw a very diffused beam that just smears like fog over everything rather than a penetrating beam.

we have half a dozen led lamps around the house, my black diamond zenix is my fav.

I liked having the zipka around my wrist sometimes, its good for being handheld (kinda defeats the purpose)...

oh, no need to worry about the retraction mechanism or the fraying, my zipka is still going strong after many years (I have the original 3led version, my wife has the newer version)

trust me, when your stuck somewhere and all you can get is a can of tuna... these things are lifesavers!!! (plus only 1.50$)


Tuesday 11th of September 2007

Stu -

The model I got has 4 equally sized LED's. The store was actually sold out of the strongest/biggest Petzl model (also the most expensive) which I think had the larger beam you spoke of. I figure I'll need it more for dark bathrooms than climbing mountains, so I applied the 80/20 rule and took the lighter one.

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