Petzl Tikka Plus, E+Lite, and Zipka Plus Reviewed and Compared

PetzlWhile Petzl has been one of my sponsors since January 2007, I’ve been using the same trusty Petzl Tikka Plus for what must be four or five years now. I long believed that there was no reason for me to try any other headlamp. However, in my waning days on the Montrail-Nathan team, curiosity got the best of me and I ordered a Petzl E+Lite and the Petzl Zipka Plus. Below are reviews of Petzl’s Tikka Plus, Zipka Plus, and E+Lite that may help you choose from among the three.

Petzl Tikka Plus
Petzl Tikka PlusThe Tikka Plus is a workhorse. This light-weight (78 g), 4-LED headlamp provides plenty of light for a full night’s worth of trail running on 3 AAA batteries. Most LED headlamps lose some brightness over the course of a night (or longer) and the Tikka Plus is no exception. (Some larger LED headlamps have regulators that maintain more constant brightness.) As a habit, I doput fresh batteries in my Tikka Plus before each focus 100 mile race to maximize brightness. However, many times I’ve used one set of batteries for the equivalent of multiple nights of running and not thought twice about the brightness of Tikka Plus.

While we’re on the subject of brightness and battery life, you should be aware that a few years back Petzl essentially doubled the brightness of the Tikka/Zipka line (maximum distance went to 32 m from 17) and added 30 hours to the total burn time. According, if you thought your earlier version of a light from this series didn’t pack enough punch, you should take another look these headlamps.

Like all of Petzl’s Tikka/Zipka line, the Tikka Plus is small and flexible enough to fit in many water belt and fanny pack pockets. That said, I tend to where mine on my head even when it’s not in use, as I never notice the weight and it does not bounce around at all. In fact, I notice it so little when it’s in head storage mode…. or even when it’s in use, that I often have to remind myself not to inadvertently fling the Tikka Plus into the woods by thoughtlessly removing my cap.

Consistent with Petzl’s “Plus” model modifier, the Tikka Plus has three brightness levels, as well as having an intermittent strobe light. I would highly recommend the maximum (default) setting for trail running.

One aspect I like about the Petzl Tikka Plus is its horizontal linear array of LEDs as opposed to a single halogen bulb or cluster of LEDs. It might all be in my head, but I feel that the spread of the LED array helps on technical trail by providing better depth perception. Anyone else feel this way? Any sciency folks care to offer an educated opinion? Any psychologists need a new patient?

Petzl Zipka Plus
The Petzl Zipka Plus is essentially the Tikka Plus with a zip cord replacing the Tikka’s elastic band. Identical features of the Zipka Plus and Tikka Plus include 4-LEDs, brightness, battery type, and battery life.

Petzl Zipka PlusThe Zipka Plus does offer two advantages over the Tikka Plus. First, the Zipka Plus is lighter – weighing in at 65 g versus the 78 g of the Tikka Plus. Second, the replacement of the Tikka Plus’s elastic band with a zip cord means that the Zipka Plus takes up less space in a pocket or pack.

In my opinion, the Zipka Plus also has two drawbacks when compared to the Tikka Plus. First, the lack of an elastic band means there’s nothing to act as a sweatband. The lack of a sweatband would not be worth noting if it weren’t for the second drawback – the inability to adjust the aim of the Zipka Plus.

It was only after I wore the Zipka Plus for the first time that I realized (a) I could not adjust how far down the trail the light was aimed and (b) how gosh darn important that is! This lack of aim was complicated by the fact that I almost always wear a hat while running to stop sweat from running into my eyes or dripping onto my glasses. With the lack of a sweatband in the Zipka Plus, I would definitely use it in combination with a hat or visor. Unfortunately, when I put on the Zikpa Plus the LED housing fell partially into the empty half circle of my backwards turned hat. If I edged the housing over the bottom band, the light would point too far down the trail. On the other hand, if I put the housing over the top of seam of the semi-circle, the light shined too close to my feet. These are both problems. (In comparison, the Tikka Plus can be adjusted to five different angles, thereby allowing the wearer to aim at five different spots down the trail.)

Even without the hat issue, I would much prefer to be able to adjust my headlamp’s aim depending on whether I’m climbing or descending, my pace, or the technical difficulty of the trail.

Petzl E+Lite
While sitting around having beers after a trail run recently, someone admitted to having “headlamp envy” for the Petzl E+Lite and I can see why. While the E+Lite is Petzl’s lightest (at a svelt 27 g!) and most compact headlamp, it is more than adequate for night trail running.

Petzl e+LiteWith the E+Lite, Petzl takes all of the essential elements of a headlamp, put them in a trimmer package, and then adds “one more thing,” as Apple’s Steve Jobs might say… except that the E+Lite adds three more things! As far as standard headlamp features go, the E+Lite includes 3 white LEDs with two brightness settings and an intermittent strobe setting, the ability to adjust aim down the trail, and an adjustable elastic head strap.

Now for the cool stuff! Petzl’s E+Lite also includes:

  • An single red LED with a single brightness setting and a strobe setting. This is actually two features in one.
    • The red LED acts as a safety signal; and
    • Red light is preferable for detailed reading (maps, turn sheets, star charts, east of eden) in low light conditions.
  • A clip to attach the E+Lite to a visor. (The elastic band can be removed easily.)
  • The ability to aim the LEDs horizontally, as the LED housing is mounted via ball-and-socket joint. I’m not sure what the purpose of the ball-and-socket joint, as I tend to look roughly where my head’s pointed. Any thoughts on how this might be a feature? Could it just be that it’s easier/more compact to mount the housing via ball-and-socket than another method that would allow only vertical aim variability?

The E+Lite is definitely not as bright as the Tikka or Zipka Pluses; however, I found that the E+Lite’s maximum brightness setting was enough for me to handle the trails. Actually, last night I was using the minimum brightness setting, found it adequate, and then discovered I wasn’t using the maximum setting. Good for the E+Lite, bad for me!

That said, I will not be making the E+Lite my default headlamp for night trail running. The Tikka Plus is still firmly in my lighting sweet spot, but I can see many low light or emergency situations where I’ll be glad to have an E+Lite with me. I suspect that I will most often use the E+Lite for runs that straddle either side of the day/night border. For instance, I sure wish I had the E+Lite at last year’s Holiday Lake 50K. The trails were still dark when Horton unleashed the masses upon the trails. I opted for no light due to weight/bulk considerations, which resulted in me not enjoying the first 20 or 30 minutes very much.

Summary
When it comes to headlamps, iRunFar recommends…

  • The Petzl E+lite
    • As a backup light for fastpacking/adventure runs
    • At races with early starts (Wasatch Speed Goat agrees)
    • To carry when you aren’t certain you’ll hit your crew or drop bag by sundown
    • To wear when headlamps are mandatory, but you can pick up a brighter light before darkness really settles in
    • For anywhere you need to stash an emergency light
  • The Petzl Zipka Plus
    • For the trail runner looking for lightest adequate kit
    • Hatless running on more or less level ground or non-technical terrain (less need to adjust the aim)
  • The Petzl Tikka Plus
    • For gardening at night
    • As the go to headlamp for night trail running!
    • For making shadow puppets

More Information
For more information regarding Petzl’s headlamps, check out this technical chart comparing Petzl’s line of sporting headlamps. The table includes useful technical specifications such as the brightness after various periods of usage and the estimated battery life of each headlamp model at each brightness setting. You can also further explore Petzl’s headlamps at their website or in the Petzl sport catalog for 2008 from which iRunFar extracted the headlamp comparison chart. (Warning: The full catalog is 37 MB!)

Future Lighting Solutions
GoMotionWhile you’re thinking about lighting, check out the iRunFar preview of GoMotion’s LiteVest, LiteBelt, and 3-Watt LED Sternum Kit. We will post a review of the GoMotion Sternum Kit as soon as it becomes available early this summer.

Petzl Ultra headlampYou may also be interested to know that Petzl is launching the Petzl Ultra, a more powerful headlamp that is still designed for active users, such as trail runners, ultrarunners, and adventure racers. iRunFar aims to shed more light (doh!) on the Petzl Ultra in the future.

Comments/Questions
As always, please share your thoughts – good/bad/mixed – about these products with other iRunFar readers.

Have a question about one of the reviewed Petzl headlamps? Ask away! Same goes for questions about the forthcoming products. We or another iRunFar reader may know the answer; if not, we’ll do our best to find one.

You can get Petzl’s Tikka Plus , Zipka Plus , and e+LITE from Backcountry.com.

There are 12 comments

  1. Derrick

    Hey Goat, Great review!Really interesting point about depth perception with the Tikka Plus. Never occurred to me, since I switched to the Tikka XP for more power. Now, I might pull the Tikka plus back out and compare. Thanks.And yes, the E+Lite is great for early morning starts. Just not an issue since it's so small and light.

  2. Keith Knipling

    The E+Lite is unattractive to me since it uses relatively hard-to-find CR2032 lithium batteries. All of the lights that I use rely on rechargeable AAA batteries. Much more environmentally friendly and just simpler. (I always have set of batteries charged and ready to go, that can be put into any of the lights I use).The ball-and-socket joint allows you to direct the light when it is clipped on to something. See the Petzl specs (820 kb pdf).

  3. Trail Goat

    Keith,I can see finding a CR2032 being a problem when out on the trail, but it's the standard watch battery, isn't it? You can get them at any jewelry store or big box store and I think I've even seen them at the grocery story. So I'd agree the other lights are simpler in terms of batteries, but I can't see the E+Lite's CR2032s being a problem when it sees limited action.Do you know if the CR2032 have any advantage over standard or rechargeable batteries in terms of shelf life. I know that Petzl touts the 10-years shelf life of the E+Lite. Also, I thought I'd read that one shouldn't use rechargeable batteries in LED lights… or perhaps it was those high powered batteries. Anyone know what I'm taking about? If can use the rechargeables in the Tikka Plus, I'll make the switch. Thanks for the reminder!I'm still puzzled why Petzl went with the ball-and-socket rather than a semi-circle that would allow vertical aim adjustment, but stop horizontal adjustments. I can't anything is really lost with the ball-and-join, but I'm curious as to the design decision.Thanks for the great comments, Keith. What lights are you using out at Massanutten next weekend?

  4. Keith Knipling

    Rechargeables burn longer than disposable alkaline or lithium-ion batteries, but they are slightly less bright. Rechargeables operate at 1.2 V per cell, whereas the disposables are 1.5 V. Brightness of LEDs is proportional to the voltage.I did six 100-milers last year using rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries — the same ones I use for my weekly night runs. They were bright enough for me. Besides saving the planet, not having to purchase batteries (or figure out which ones are still good) is one less thing I have to worry about now before a race.It is depressing to think about how many hundreds — or thousands — of toxic batteries end up in the trash after a single race. 4 batteries × 150 runners = 600 batteries.

  5. Trail Goat

    Keith,Thanks for highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of the rechargeable batteries. I bet any small drop in brightness due to the change in batteries would be more than offset by the performance enhancements in LEDs over the past few years. I remember reading a bunch about significant gains in brightness in Petzl's Tikka/Zipka line a few years ago. (I'm sure that other lines and brands have seen similar enhancements, I just don't remember seeing any info to that effect.) I've still have and use my many year old Tikka Plus. I think it would be fun to compare it's out put versus the new Tikka Plus with regular and rechargeable batteries, but then I'm that kind of geek.Anyone use rechargeable batteries for their trail lighting systems? How have they worked out? Does anyone recommend a particular brand?

  6. ultrastevep

    I have been using a Tikka Plus for my "backup" light for years. It fits well in the small pocket of my Nathan pack. When you do come run Hardrock someday, Bryon, you will find you need more than the TP (TP?) to see the course markers in the distance. I have heard that the Myo XP does a good job at this….what I've been using for years is the Petzl Myo 5 Halogen and I think it's time to upgrade to the XP. Maybe I ought to look at the Ultra before I get the XP!Steve

  7. Trail Goat

    Steve,Good point re the Tikka Plus and the Hardrock markers. During all the 100s I can remember I've carried a Gerber LX 3.0 in addition to my headlamp. The LX 3.0 is brighter/more focused than the Tikka/Zipka line and does a great job of illuminating trail markers. I really like the headlamp/flashlight combo. The headlamp illuminates a broader field, which allows me to make more gradual adjustments to my line. The flashlight is great for three reasons. First, it's great at checking trail markers. Second, it's lower position gives more depth to rocks and roots. Lastly, the combo allows me to always illuminate the trail right in front of me with the headlamp, while being able to check out turns, markers, cougars, or whatever off trail with the flashlight.I still need to try out the Myo XP. I bought one last year to use as a waist light, but can't seem to find it. I guess that means I should clean my gear shelves, huh?I think the Ultra and XP will be in two completely different leagues. The maximum illumination of the Myo XP is 150 lumens, where as the Ultra busts out 350 lumens at maximum intensity. That extra intensity has its costs – double the weight and five times the cost. Might be worth it for races like Hardrock or Barkley. Probably overkill at Leadville or Western States.

  8. DR

    Hello Friends,Check out this highly effective baseball cap with headlight. It is used by the Hood to Coast runners as their required illumination source. It is fantastic. For more info go to http://www.uniquehats4u.com only $20.00 FEATURES & BENEFITS http://www.UniqueHats4U.com provides a hands-free light source allowing the wearer use of both hands, enabling them to perform at optimum levels. No need to hold the flashlight in your hand. Use this hat anytime you need a light and a free hand too! High quality breathable mesh cap is light weight (only 3 oz.), comfortable and stylish, enabling the user long-term wear with no neck strain and satisfies the fashion minded consumer. Other strap lights and clip on devices can add up to 1/2 a pound. Mesh side panels provide increased breathe-ability and superior evaporative cooling. Reflective trim provides increased night-time visibility and safety. Inner sweatband provides increased comfort and moisture management. Emergency medical alert tag located on the back Velcro closure, this tag alerts medical personnel of important information located on the ID tag inside of the cap. Medical ID tag allows the user to include important information in the event of an emergency including: personal information, contact information, allergies and current medications in order to assist Emergency Medical Technicians in the event of an emergency. Operated by (2) lithium cell batteries offering 20+ times the life of regular batteries and will power the G2 LED for several hours of continuous use. This results in a lower operating cost and a much more reliable light source for emergency needs and outdoor activities. Batteries can be easily replaced. Versatile lighting source can be used anytime you need a light and a free hand too! Suggested uses are: pet walking, running or biking, outdoor recreation (hunting, fishing & camping), and much more. Price: $20.00 (includes tax) For questions or support, please e-mail [email protected].

  9. Ed Bailey

    Hi,

    I am looking to get a running light for my wife – are these lights suitable to wear with a baseball cap with visor facing forward (you mention a backwards facing cap in the review)?

    Thanks.

  10. Vern Lovic

    Nine years later… what are you wearing now Bryon? Meghan?

    It’s hard for me to imagine ultra-runners in the dead of night using headlamps with under 100 lumens back then! I use my headlamps for running at night only a few times a year. The rest of the time I’m trekking through the rainforest looking for snakes. I’ve found the Petzl’s to be ultra-reliable and lately really able to crank out the lumens.

    I got the Ultra Rush and Nao+ Plus the other day and putting them through the paces. The Nao+ I think is probably the best running headlamp out there in 2017.

    What do you think? I looked at Black Diamond. I looked at Nathan and Fenix. There are some decent headlamps, but I guess since I started using the old Nao and Tikka RXP I just came to rely on them. Petzl’s headlamps come at a premium price – but, is there anything better between $100-200?

    So yeah, just curious what you both are using, and if anyone wants to jump in and shout out their favorite headlamp, I’d like hearing that too!

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