Petzl Tikka CORE Headlamp Review

Post by blogger | October 1, 2012      

Headlamp with the rechargeable lithium ion battery installed.

Shop for that Tikka Headlamp

After lacking a headlamp while losing the race with night at least once, it’s been my opinion that a lamp is one of the most important pieces of gear you can carry. On a dark night it’s tough to do anything without a good source of light.

On most days in the backcountry, especially long ones, I carry two headlamps, a bright, fairly large one, and a tiny backup. The big one sees a lot of use, and when not in use it bangs around around in my rucksack. Consequently I’ve gone through quite a few headlamps, ranging from cheap Wal-mart varieties to giant flamethrowers. Through the process of loss and destruction I like to think I’ve figured out what works well in a torch, and what doesn’t (for me, anyways).

Petzl Tikka Core XP headlamp

Currently I’m using a Petzl Tikka CORE XP. It’s a mid-size headlamp, based on Petzl’s popular Tikka, with added features. I like headlamps of this size the best. They aren’t too small to provide enough light to ski by, and they aren’t too big or have an external battery pack, keeping the weight down. It also has the option of running on AAA batteries (more on that later), the same as most other electronic stuff I usually carry (beacon, Spot, etc). The Tikka has two brightness settings, a flashing mode, and a small red bulb. It also features a plastic diffuser that can be slid in front of the bulb in order to switch from spotlight to floodlight modes.

One of the coolest and definitely most unique features of the CORE XP is the battery system. It seems the most frequent headlamp malfunctions have to do with the owners forgetting to replace the batteries. Included with the headlamp is a small rechargable lithium ion battery pack that fits where one would normally place three triple A’s. The battery pack can be charged with a micro USB plug. Of course this doesn’t obviate the problem of your batteries running out. However, it does let you top off the electricity whenever you have the chance, eliminating the game of guess-that-charge. If the rechargeable battery runs out, you can simply take it out and replace it with three AAA’s. If every device with a proprietary battery had the same feature, it would save a lot of headaches. By periodically charging the CORE, I’ve been able to avoid buying an army of batteries, saving money (although probably not enough to offset the cost of the lamp).

The headlamp comes apart to change between using normal batteries or the rechargeable battery.

Another interesting but slightly less useful consequence of the battery pack is the ability to plug it in to your computer and adjust the headlamp settings. Petzl’s included computer program mainly lets you adjust the brightness of various settings, and choose whether the LED is “regulated” or not. The regulated setting keeps the LED burning at almost full brightness until the last bit of juice is squeezed out of the batteries, then it quickly shuts off. This can be a little startling when it finally does suddenly turn off, but it’s nice to not have a dim headlamp for the last hours of the battery’s life, as with a normal LED.

I set the Tikka brightest setting to be as bright as possible, useful for navigating and skiing in the dark (as well as blinding ski partners). The maximum 40 lumens setting is indeed retina scorching although it does burn through the batteries fairly quickly. For the low setting, I set the LED to be almost as dim as it can get, maximizing battery life. This custom “ultra low” setting is great for most headlamp tasks, and the battery really does last for ages. I rarely, if ever, use the red light or the flashing light modes. Mysteriously, I’ve never seen the flashing mode used by anyone, and yet it is included on every headlamp I’ve owned, even the five dollar Wal-mart versions.

The diffuser lens can be flipped in front of the normal spotlight lens, creating a softer, more even light. Unlike lights that use separate bulbs for the flood setting, the full brilliance is retained. I usually keep the Tikka on the spot mode for everything but reading. A small, loud whistle is located on the headlamp strap as well. I’ve never used it, but its nice to have since I usually don’t carry one in my survival kit, thus ensuring my gear fulfills the “10 essentials.”

Whistle cleverly hidden in the strap adjustment.

Most people don’t think of a headlamp as essential survival gear, but it is. Underestimations and the lure of one more powder lap have kept me out past dark many a time. The margin between a dangerous epic and a good time can be decided by a good light.

Shop for that Tikka CORE Headlamp


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19 Responses to “Petzl Tikka CORE Headlamp Review”

  1. Jim October 1st, 2012 12:47 pm

    Ever since a Tikka cracked on me, I haven’t use them. I’ve found the Princeton Tec EOS more robust and waterproof. I use AAA rechargeables and a Goal Zero solar panel to recharge. Good system for field use.

  2. Kent October 1st, 2012 1:29 pm

    Thanks for the review. Other info that would interest me (& maybe others) if you can provide it: weight, cost, and battery life on brightest and dimmest settings.

  3. Mia October 1st, 2012 3:05 pm

    I use the flashing when I forget/forget to charge my bike lights. Easy to grab on my way out the door. Not my first choice as there are better dedicated bike lights, but I’ve seen plenty of people in Portland use them to fulfill the legal/moral front light requirements.

  4. Stewart October 1st, 2012 3:48 pm

    Hmm, I wonder if that battery pack would fit in the similar BD headlamp offering that takes 3 AAAs? And if I can buy it seperately?

  5. DRS October 1st, 2012 6:08 pm

    I’ve used the flashing mode before, but only once. Paddled a couple scared Euros who had wandered into our camp after dark back to civilization in a canoe. They had accidently strayed over the wrong pass into on of the wilder canyons in GTNP. My wife stayed in camp and set a head lamp up to flash about the time I was coming back, made it easy to find the right site in the dark.

  6. Mike October 1st, 2012 6:18 pm

    Give the red a chance. It really saves your vision during night-time on-snow approaches.

  7. Caleb from MT October 1st, 2012 7:28 pm

    Great review, thanks. Just a side note, has anyone seen the cheap china headlamps that are black and red and simply say “LED headlamp” on them. You can find them online for about 20 bucks. They are approximately 300 lumens. Ridiculous, but true. I use it for nighttime resort laps and as my emergency backcountry skiing light. I am a cop and this light shines brighter than any of my “tactical” very expensive lights. Just wondering if anyone else out there has seen these. Durability is an issue though, but heck 20 bucks…………

  8. Lou Dawson October 1st, 2012 8:13 pm

    Caleb, those sound insane. I’ve got to get one, or two…

  9. Mark Worley October 1st, 2012 10:38 pm

    Louie, the flashing can be quite useful when biking near dusk when you, the rider, can see, but cars might miss you. By the way, I’ve got a li-ion rechargeable bike light I mount on my helmet. It’s max is 350 lumens. For commuting by bike, it is great. I’ve dreamed of skiing with it, but haven’t. I’ll let you know if I ever try it.

  10. Kyle Duran October 1st, 2012 11:08 pm

    Thanks for the review. I’ve used this headlamp for two years and the CORE Li-ion battery pack for one. Really great product, I’ve had no issues.

    I found the ability to adjust the brightness, thus the length of use per charge, really helpful. No more guessing or fiddling with new batteries in the field, just the piece of mind of a fully charged headlamp in my pack. That’s worth a few bucks.

  11. Oli C October 2nd, 2012 3:37 am

    I’ve got the tikka xp2 which just takes AAA, but i think you an upgrade to the pack. For me they last ages anyway, and I like has been said, I carry spare AAA’s for my transceiver.

    Your right if mobile phones, etc could use AAA’s or something in emergencies it’d be great. Or even a little slot to slide in a watch battery for that 1 emergency call.

    I have just bought my brother a Petzl NAO as a present so it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on with this hi-tech offering. I’ve heard both good and bad things from both sports photographers and mountain guides.

  12. Florian October 2nd, 2012 3:51 am

    After skiing once in a white-out at night I bought a LED Lenser H7R. Has a rechargeable battery as well, same system as the Tikka Core. Supposed to have 170 lumen, don’t know if it’s true, but it is very bright for sure and has a great focus system. And it’s cheaper than a Tikka Core. Reliability has been fine for me till now, but didn’t use it so much yet, so cannot tell how much abuse it can handle.

  13. Elliot October 2nd, 2012 4:35 am

    I had an LED lenser too. However the cord running from the battery pack to the light broke where it joins into the battery back. Be careful you don’t twist this join and keep an eye out for the wires fraying. Just my 2c :). Also a link for the $20 300 lumens light please

  14. Piotr October 2nd, 2012 6:18 am

    I’ve bought one of these recently and was somewhat surprised to find a downside to the nice concept overall – the Core battery is 3.7V as opposed to 4.5V-ish for three AAAs. Consequences are 55 lumens vs. 80 lumens max flux (range of 55m vs. 68m). Capacity also doesn’t seem that great – 85h vs. 190h in economic mode (all numbers taken from Petzl website:
    So, yes – you get some benefits, but at the expense of others.
    Also, the way Core clicks into the lamp seems somewhat fiddly/flimsy, but we’ll see how that works in real life. To me, a blend of Core (USB charging, no hanging cables) and BD NRG (shrink-wrapped, fits into battery comparment) would be optimal…

  15. Biggsie October 2nd, 2012 6:31 am

    Caleb – this the black and red monster?
    Bright headlamp at Amazon

  16. LB October 2nd, 2012 7:24 am

    Thanks for a thoughtful review. Between the epic South America trip and your gear reviews you’ve been adding some amazing content to the site- content that has been both useful and envy-inspiring!

    I totally agree with the headlamp being an essential piece of gear. My go-to piece of gear currently is the Black Diamond sprinter which lacks the red light feature of the petzel but gains a crucial part- a direct recharge port. When I’m done with the headlamp I simply put it in the dock station without having to remove a battery port. The added benefit is that I can always find the headlamp as its in the same place every time!

  17. Caleb from MT October 2nd, 2012 10:46 am

    Biggsie, yeah that’s the one. I had no idea they were offered on Amazon. I can attest that they are indeed super bright. I wouldn’t have thought they would be on amazon. I figured I stumbled onto the dark side of the internet and found this holy grail of a light on the blackmarket. Thanks for the link!

  18. Lou Dawson October 2nd, 2012 10:51 am

    Caleb, thanks for chiming in, found it on Amazon and stuck the link in as it’s an affiliate link and helps support our work here. RE Amazon, it’s amazing the variety of stuff you can find through them, just amazing. Lou

  19. Dave December 2nd, 2014 5:51 pm


    I have been using the core battery for ages and it’s really great, but the battery finally died on me. I’m finding it really hard to locate a retailer for it. do you know if they are still available?

    Does anybody know if the Accu Tikka battery still works with the older Tikka lamps?


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