Petzl Iko Core Review

An in-depth review of the Petzl Iko Core headlamp.

By on January 14, 2023 | Comments

We’ve found plenty to love about the Petzl Iko Core ($100), which is why we picked it as our favorite headlamp for trail runners for our Best Running Headlamps guide.

Weighing just 2.4 ounces and producing up to 500 lumens of clean, cool white light, this headlamp is ideal for our daily trail running needs. While it definitely checks all the right boxes for weight and performance, it made the top of our list because it’s also super comfortable with its innovative band and even distribution around the front, sides, and back of the head.

Shop the Petzl Iko Core Headlamp
Petzl Iko Core - sideview

A side view of the Petzl Iko Core. All photos iRunFar/Meghan Hicks unless otherwise noted.

Petzl Iko Core Features and Specifications

The Petzl Iko Core leads the market in technology, innovation, and comfort. This lightweight headlamp is built with a thin, adjustable panel of LED lights on the front, an ultralight but sufficiently rigid Petzl AIRFIT silicone band to hold it in place around the head, and a battery pack on the back to balance the weight.

The light has three brightness levels of six, 100, and 500 lumens and both flood and mixed beam settings. It’s operated with a single button below the LED light, which can also be used to lock or unlock the light.

The headlamp can be powered with its included 1,250-milliamp-hour Petzl CORE lithium-ion rechargeable battery or three AAA/LR03s batteries. It’s worth noting that the light functions better when running off the Petzl CORE rechargeable battery than AAA batteries, namely in that the maximum power setting yields 500 lumens with the rechargeable battery and just 350 lumens using AAA batteries.

For storage, the headlamp can fold up into itself. Additionally, it can be configured with its storage pouch to serve as a lantern — not a feature that’s super functional for trail running, but it could come in handy at camp or on a fastpacking trip.

Petzl Iko Core - front view

A front view of the Petzl Iko Core.

Petzl Iko Core Performance

While it may not be the lightest headlamp available, at an actual weight of 2.4 ounces, the Petzl Iko Core is plenty lightweight for our trail running needs.

We found the silicone band, which is adjustable using the orange elastic band, to be ridiculously comfortable, and we could barely even feel the LED light on the front. The band and overall low profile, streamlined design are the best — and most innovative — parts of this headlamp, hands down.

While we appreciate the lowest six-lumen brightness setting of the headlamp, trail runners will most frequently use it at either its middle 100-lumen setting or its brightest 500-lumen setting. However, six lumens offers enough light to faff around in your car’s trunk before or after a run, to fuel up in an aid station, or to make your way around a fastpacking campsite.

We’re living in a headlamp era where companies are constantly trying to make brighter headlamps, but we believe that more is not always better. We’ve found that long nights of running with super-bright headlamps lead to more eye strain than using an appropriate amount of light for the conditions.

As such, we’ve found that 100 lumens is enough light for normal-speed trail running on a well-developed and marked trail. Thus, the medium setting of the Petzl Iko Core gives you plenty of light for typical night trail running.

However, there are times and places where more lumens help, such as when the trail is technical, you’re looking for far-off course markings, or conditions are poor. More light also helps when you’re looking to run fast and want to have a longer stretch of trail illuminated in front of you. The 500-lumen setting of the headlamp offers more than enough light for most difficult situations like this, but not for a lengthy period of time.

If you’re looking to run for more than a couple hours with a really bright headlamp, you’ll either want to get adept at switching out the batteries on the Petzl Iko Core, or you’ll need to look for a headlamp with a bigger battery.

Our only gripe with the system is that changing the batteries is awkward, especially while sleepy, cold, or otherwise experiencing the effects of a long night on the trail. If the batteries were easier to change, we’d absolutely be using this headlamp for full overnight trail missions.

Petzl Iko Core - back battery pack

The back battery pack of the Petzl Iko Core.

Petzl Iko Core Overall Impressions

We love the comfort, functionality, and versatility of the Petzl Iko Core, which is why we picked it as our favorite headlamp for trail running in our Best Running Headlamps guide. While we’d like the battery change-out to be a bit easier, we’re blown away by how comfortable this headlamp is for everyday trail running. Additionally, at 100-lumen and 500-lumen settings, it offers sufficient light to help us see the trail but is not so bright that it strains our eyes. We love how easily it folds up and stows when the sun comes up and that it can double as a lantern at camp. Finally, we appreciate the rechargeable battery, which makes the headlamp an easy choice for trail running adventures that start or end in the dark.

Shop the Petzl Iko Core Headlamp

Call for Comments

  • What’s your favorite headlamp for trail running?
  • Do you always use the same light, or do you have a daily headlamp and an ultrarunning-specific lighting system?

​[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

Petzl Iko Core - product in use

iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks using the Petzl Iko Core on a dawn run. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Tagged: ,
Alli Hartz

Alli Hartz is a member of the gear review team at iRunFar. She’s been writing about outdoor gear, outdoor adventure, and adventure travel for 10 years. Aside from iRunFar, Alli contributes gear reviews and adventure stories to Switchback Travel, Travel Oregon, and other outlets. She also works as a ski guide during the winter season and has dabbled in run-skiing on the Cascade volcanoes. Alli is based in Bend, Oregon, where she loves to run from her front door up into the Three Sisters Wilderness.