Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

With the ability to automatically switch between spot and flood depending on where you’re looking and also automatically adjust light output according to the distance that needs illuminating, this smart headlamp from Petzl is the first of its kind. Is it worth its $149 asking price?

The Tikka RXP is a lightweight, 215 lumen, USB rechargeable and programmable headlamp that you can use for almost all of your adventures.

With the included 1800 mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery, this headlamp weighs in at 115 grams, just over 4 ounces. Compared to my previous favourite headlamp, the Black Diamond Storm, that is 5 grams heavier, nothing that you will notice. Unlike the Storm, the Tikka RXP has a secure fitting headband that hugs that back of your head with a split 2 strap design, and an extra 55 lumens.

Its unique selling point isn’t its brightness, run time or weight, however; its Petzl’s new “Reactive Lighting” technology that uses an ambient light sensor to automatically vary output and switch between spot and flood, depending on the distance it needs to illuminate. It performs the later feat by measuring reflected light. Look down at your map and it automatically dims and switches to a flood pattern. Look back up at the trail and it automatically brightens and switches to throw.

Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

It allows you to tailor this performance with a wide variety of user variables you can play with by hooking it up to your computer via USB.

This is a headlamp for anyone who’s serious about outdoor lighting. It’s bright enough to satisfy trail runners, simple enough for casual car campers and has a long enough run time for spelunking. That it can adapt itself to pretty much any task makes it super convenient. It’s as close to a one-light solution as we’ve found.


Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

Subtle features like the hidden cooling fins key you in to the massive amounts of power this little light packs.

Beyond the clever physical design, Petzl has put in a significant effort into the user interface for customising the lamp. Once connected to the computer via the micro USB connector, you can change the different settings for each of the three lighting modes.

You do this by simply selecting the battery life and the software changes the max lumens and conversely the max distance the light will shine. With that said, it works just fine right out of the box, you don’t need to tinker with the light settings, unless you’re a tech geek like me who want’s know how each and every little thing works.

Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

I’ve created a new profile called “Trail Running” with Reactive Lighting settings at 5:00, 3:45, and 2:30 hours. I know that my trail runs, especially at night would never be longer than this, and I can capitalise on the brighter light for a shorter period of time.

Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

The front of the lamp looks busy with the BMW 1200 GS-esque nested spot and flood LEDs, the red LED (top left), and the ambient light sensor (bottom left), but each of these is needed for the lamp to work. The rechargeable battery is quickly removable and replaceable if you decide to buy a spare.

Using It

When you first click the headlamp on and it adjusts the light to fit the scene, you can’t help but feel fancy. Start whipping your head around to look 100 yards down the trail and it brightens up the spot, bring it in close to tie your shoe and it dims the spot light and illuminates the flood. Everything is very smooth and very fluid.

This lamp has helped to save my night vision because you will no longer be reflecting bright lights when brought in towards close subjects.

Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

Even at 9 PM, people were still descending the 99 switchbacks from the summit of Mt Whitney.

There’s three different lighting “technologies” in play — reactive, constant and red — and each have 3 different modes, so it’s difficult to know which setting you are on. The only real way I have learned the cycle is by remembering the startup cycle, and knowing how many button presses away from the red light I am.

When you first click the light on, it will be in Reactive Technology on Max Autonomy. Click the side button once and you are in Constant Lighting. Click it again and you’re in Red Light Technology. Once more and you are back to Reactive. While on each Technology, click the top button to cycle through Max Autonomy – Standard – Max Power. Each of these settings is customisable on the computer so you can tune the light to your needs (computer tuning is not required).

Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

A button on top of the lamp cycles through the 3 lighting technologies, while the button on the side cycles through the 3 lighting modes.

I have mostly been using it in the standard Max Autonomy mode, and when I do need to throw the light a little further, a double tap of the top button provides 15 seconds of the full 215 lumens.

After each adventure, I simply plug it in and let it charge up, that way it is ready to go for the next time I head out. Recharge time is about 4.5 hours from completely dead. It uses a standard micro-USB cable (included) for charging and PC connections.


Through all of the weekend adventures that I have taken this on, I have yet to fully deplete the battery. This includes a 2 AM ascent on Mt Whitney, trail running through the rain before sunrise on the way up Grand Teton, and hours of setup for late night astrophotography.

Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

Battery life varies according to Petzl based on how much you use it and where you’re actually looking, but I have found it to be pretty accurate. The headband is extremely comfortable and stays put, even while running.

Petzl claims 300 recharge cycles for the battery and replacements are only $US30. Each battery has its own charging port, so you can charge them individually if you do end up with a spare; that’s handy!

No Like

There aren’t many things to dislike with this headlamp, but the IPX4 water resistant rating means this thing doesn’t want to stay wet for too long.

The buttons are pretty tiny and difficult to locate if you have gloves on.

Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

It feels a little large on the head, but the low weight is not a concern once you get moving.

There is a slight learning curve to figure out all the different reactive lighting modes and settings, and you can only really try these out once it is dark. Each of these functions has its place though, so it is good to know what each one does.

Petzl Tikka RXP Review: The First Smart Headlamp

If you want to use plain AAA batteries, you can, but you will need to get the optional standard-AAA battery pack, something Petzl should have included.

Not a fan of the neon orange? It does come in a toned-down black and white version.

Should You Buy It?

Petzl Tikka RXP

Price: $149

  • Extremely comfortable.
  • Great recharge cycle rating.
  • Good battery life.
Don’t Like
  • Not especially waterproof.
  • Large size.
  • Tiny buttons.

At $149, the Petzl Tikka RXP does cost significantly more than most other headlamps, but no others offer such a comfortable and convenient package with this light output and battery life.

Are you a runner who despises the end of daylight savings time when the sun sets at 4:30 PM? Someone who doesn’t like to worry about replacing your batteries in your headlamp? Then this lamp is for you.

If it was fully waterproof with an IPX8 rating, this thing would be the unicorn of headlamps.

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