Petzl Ultra Belt Headlamp

Post by blogger | September 29, 2010      

Petzl headlamps available here.

Every so once in a while I score a piece of review gear from Lou which is better than any amount of roses or chocolates. Such a thing happened this week when the Petzl Ultra, 350 lumens headlamp landed in my lap.

Backcountry skiing and cycling with Petzl Ultra headlamp.

Geared up for chilly fall weather bicycle commuting, lit up with the Petzl Ultra.

I love road riding and I’m fortunate to be able to bicycle commute along a lovely 12 mile path from April thru October. My days at the office start early and often end late, so at this time of year, many of my rides are cold and dark. Wearing my lightweight backcountry skiing gear works perfectly to keep me warm, but I seem to constantly play around with lighting setups. I prefer to keep things light and versatile, so a headlamp is my preference. I get scared when I’m alone in the dark, and none of the ones I’ve tried were bright enough to help me see well enough to feel comfortable.

But now, with the 350 lumens duct taped to my helmet, I see far enough ahead to zip along and feel safe in the darkest morning. As the sun rises, I can easily dial down the power to conserve battery life (a big, glove-friendly dial provides control). The Petzl Ultra battery pack is heavy, but the cord is long and I stash it in a pocket. My helmet doesn’t get weighed down so neck strain isn’t an issue.

The one drawback to this type of headlamp, especially for backcountry use, is that you have to recharge the battery from a wall socket. I’m sure Lou could build a battery pack for the Ultra that took AA cells, and perhaps Petzl even has that as an option. But considering you’ve only got three hours available at the brightest setting with the larger Li rechargeable battery the unit comes with, running the Ultra with disposable batteries would dent your bank account rather substantially.

Petzl Ultra Belt headlamp lights your way for backcountry skiing or cycling.

My rig with all the parts, I'm looking forward to some night time backcountry skiing using this super bright headlamp.

Speaking of battery life, Petzl Ultra runs like this: Two battery options are available. The larger cell will run about 3 hours on bright, 9 on medium, and 34 on the economy setting. The smaller battery option yields about 1.5 hours on max, 5 hours medium, and 16 in economy mode. An easily operated and intuitive “energy gauge” gives you a power reading by pushing a button, so you won’t be mystified about how much light you’ve got left. (Bear in mind this is a lithium/ion power source, so it will age and loose capacity just as your laptop computer battery does.)

While we’ve seen other “flame thrower” headlamps that provided more complex settings and options, I actually like the simplicity of the Ultra. Three settings. Big control knob. Power gauge. Tilt head. That’s it.

So far no big downsides (other than the typical wallet cleaning price of super bright headlamps), though Lou pointed out that the “lock” feature of the control knob is not positive enough for total confidence that the unit wouldn’t get turned on inadvertently while stowed in a backpack. Solution to that is of course simply disconnecting the battery during storage. Meanwhile, we be biking — and seeing well.

Petzl headlamps available here.


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11 Responses to “Petzl Ultra Belt Headlamp”

  1. Johnny September 29th, 2010 7:43 am

    I forget…. which Star Wars movie
    were you featured?

  2. kevin September 29th, 2010 8:12 am

    $430 BUCKS, Ouch. I think you can get a bike specific head lamp for much less. It would evem mount without duct tape. Check out the Magic shine for ninety bucks. Or stick with a Niterider.

  3. Dave B September 29th, 2010 8:43 am

    Awesome photo…..this headlamp must look like a locomotive to your approaching fellow bike commuters.

    Oh and Lou…powder doesn’t work for the spam question? and snirt does…….

  4. Brooks September 29th, 2010 10:53 am

    Check out Ay-up Lights. They are the lightest, brightest, most simple lights available. Over 400 lumens per lighthead, and a 6hour battery is about the size of a deck of playing cards (and about the same weight), and the 3 hour battery is about 2/3rds the size is weighs little enough to mount on your helmet with the battery! I have also had a 3 hour battery last close to 7 hours in a race! They come with a helmet mount, a handlebar mount, and a headlamp strap kit. Have been using them for adventure racing, night mtb, orienteering, etc for years now and can’t imagine using anything else- they are light, bright, and as far as I can tell indestructible.

  5. Shane September 29th, 2010 12:25 pm

    I have to agree with Kevin. And although it was still spendy, my $300 Lupine Passubio XC bike light is plenty bright for any type of night riding from commutes to serious singletrack. AND it can be mounted to a headband for off-the-bike use and has a user progamable hard drive that lets you decide how many brightness settings, etc to run.

  6. John Gloor September 29th, 2010 6:37 pm

    I recently bought a Baja Designs Stryker 700 lumen LED headlamp for $289 and am super pleased with it. They have a long history of building tough lights for offroad usage. Most of the dirtbikes on the Baja 1000 use them. I use my headlight on my mtn and dirt bike and it is incredibly bright with about a four hour burn time. It has a high, medium and low setting. $430 seems a bit steep for about half the brightness. One thing to be aware of with LED lights is that claimed lumens are just a claim.

  7. Lou September 30th, 2010 6:56 am

    Dave, I must have forgotten about powder, I’ll add it in…

  8. Marten Pettersson September 30th, 2010 12:07 pm

    The petzl was state of art 4 years ago. But now are there several headlamps with moore than 1000 lumen. I think this is the most powerful:
    All info in swedish but it is 2100 lumen and the price is about 700 dollar.

  9. Mark W October 1st, 2010 10:38 pm

    I’ve seen that Petzl, and it is BRIGHT. I use a Cygolite that gives about 300 lumens and keeps me going on bike commutes year-round.

  10. jay beaudin October 2nd, 2010 9:18 pm

    So it IS ‘skiable’? No vertigo!

  11. Becca November 5th, 2011 7:55 pm

    I have one of these Headlamps and i love it. It is a must have for night time activities outside. The battery lasts forever so i never have to go without any light.
    I would definitely recommend it.

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