Warning: the following review contains terrible light and torch-related puns.
"For, says he, PUNS are like so many Torch-Lights in the Head, that give the Soul a very distinct View of those Images." — Sheridan, Thomas (1687-1738)
With winter bringing the darkness earlier and it being the season for night racing, I was in need of something that would ensure I was kept safe on uneven, boggy and rocky trails in the evenings. In stepped the Petzl Nao Rechargeable Headlamp, an impressive looking headtorch that retails in at around £145, let’s see if I can shed some light on what makes this torch so special.
If you buy this you will likely not need to buy another headtorch again, though the price is hefty it will light up the whole house - you might consider saving the electricity
Upon taking out of the box it was already obvious that this was no average piece of kit, and featured more cables than I had bargained for. Luckily a quick scan of the instruction booklet showed me how to charge the battery before usage (very easy to do – plug the rechargeable battery into a USB port and wait!) and I could figure out how to put it together from there! After an evening of charging the battery, the gauge was full and I was ready to glow!
An early morning commute to work saw me testing the Petzl Nao headlamp for the first time – the torch was easily attached to a cycling helmet, very useful for the safety-conscious among us. Switching the light on produces a variety of choices, flick the switch once for a single (very bright) beam and again for a dimmed beam. Hold the switch for a few seconds for a double (VERY bright) beam, flick it again for a dipped double beam! Couldn’t be easier!
Naturally as this was my first trip with the torch, I chose full double beam, however, it wasn’t long before a car driver flashed his lights at me, it seems I underestimated how bright the beam was and decided on a lower setting for the rest of the journey. Also interesting to note was that as the natural light increased and I kept my beam low – I could still see the light reflecting off road signs from what must have been a few hundred yards ahead of me. 2 hours-worth of cycling, mixed lighting and no sign of battery drain. So far so scintillating.
Here’s where the true test will lie, when it came to crepuscular running trails through the pitch-black woods and forests, I had confidence in a dazzling performance from the Petzl Nao. Each run with the head torch on made running in the dark a non-issue, the worries and careful-treading of usual night racing was forgotten and the whole course ahead of me was lit up in resplendence, with the beam lighting up any direction it was pointed far into the distance. The only intrusion to my path of vision would be other pesky runners using the light to guide their way rather than their weaker torches!
Wearing the torch also eliminates an issue I’ve always had with previous headlamps – bouncing. Whether it came from the easy-to-adjust straps or from the battery pack behind your head balancing out the weight of the torch at the front, the light stayed firmly in place, never sliding up or down my spacious forehead and always remaining comfortable. There is an extra strap available to go over your head if you need extra security but I found it perfectly taut without.
Interestingly, during a night 10k race, I finally managed to wear the battery down. At about 5k in, the light blinked 3 times yet nothing seemed to happen – this was apparently to indicate to me that it was running low. Not being one to pay attention to such things I carried on until it happened again and this time the light switched to the dimmed setting. I realised what was happening and of course, panicked a little – I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of the woods essentially blind! I had been running with the light on full double beam (of course) and didn’t want to risk slipping on anything so switched to full single beam – this still gave me more visibility than I would realistically need. Not long afterwards the light blinked again and I started to see it really dim, so after a making haste to finish the race, when I saw the..something.. at the end of the tunnel I was relieved, to say the least, the torch was just about to give out. I was initially annoyed that I had let it run down in the middle of a race but at the same time impressed that in low battery, ready-to-die mode, the Petzl Nao appeared to give off the same amount of light as an off-the-counter headtorch does on full power when the two were compared.
To put it simply – during a power cut this is the torch that you want to have ready-to-hand. The Petzl Nao will light up your whole house/shed to an extent that you might consider saving the electricity bills and just wear that for the Winter, while also having the technology to adjust the beam brightness itself when you are holding something in front of your face eg magazine (or map if you were competing) so as not to damage your night vision or produce glare. If the fact that a torch will adjust itself based on what you are looking at isn’t blinding evidence of magic in this world then I don’t know what is.
Other runners WILL use your light to see where they are going – try to stay ahead of them.
Shining the light in people’s eyes saying ‘look how bright it is!’ is a quick way to lose friends and, more importantly, drain battery power.
I hope I have enlightened you with this glowing review, while the price is not to be taken lightly, the performance you get from the torch more than makes up for it. If you buy this you will likely not need to buy another headtorch again, this is perfect for anybody who trains, races or even works outside due to the torch itself not being bulky, no cables leading to battery packs that other torches seem to feature and it feels so comfortable that you could wear it on a casual occasion, great for the social-lights among you (sorry).