Petzl IKO Core Head Lamp | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Petzl IKO Core Head Lamp | Review

Petzl’s new lightweight, low-bulk headtorch fuses ergonomic design with a very capable 500-lumen light output, while harnessing the power of the brand’s rechargeable Core battery packs

Why We Chose The Petzl Iko Core Head Lamp Lightweight, compact, bright and extremely comfortable to wear

For extended outdoor adventures that take place under cover of darkness, you need a head torch that packs plenty of power. The problem is that any lamp with serious lumens almost always means carrying added weight and bulk. And while that’s not necessarily a major problem when it’s stashed in your pack, hefty headlamps get uncomfortable if you’re forced to wear them for hours on end, especially if they’re bouncing around while you’re trying to cross rough terrain.

The lamp is IPX4-rated”

Which is exactly why we are so impressed with the Petzl Iko Core. It doesn’t look like most other head torches – there’s no bulky light unit at the front, no overhead strap and no chunky elastic headband. Given that it can emit up to 500 lumens, it’s also a lot lighter than most head torches of comparable brightness, weighing in at just under 90g.

Who Is The Petzl Iko Core Head Lamp For?

As the minimalist construction suggests, this is a head lamp designed for ‘fast and light’ night hikers. If you’re taking on something like the National 3 Peaks Challenge, when lots of your ascent and descent will necessarily be undertaken between dusk and dawn, the Iko Core is a great option.

It’ll also work well for sneaky wild camps and spontaneous evening trail runs, if you’re the sort of person who relishes a 5-9 adventure after finishing the daily grind.    

Of course, the headband design means it is less well suited to climbers or bikers, as it isn’t compatible with a helmet, and nor is it ideal for road runners, since it lacks a red rear light.

The lamp is IPX4-rated, so it is splash-proof, but not submersible.


The key to the design is Petzl’s Airfit headband, which foregoes elastic straps in favour of an ultra-thin, semi-rigid frame that is contoured to sit comfortably around your head. It looks something like a crown or even a tiara but feels far better balanced. This slimline frame also reduces contact area with your skin, meaning a less sweaty forehead and fewer pressure points. It’s also hydrophobic to repel sweat and rain, soaking up a lot less moisture than an elastic strap. And despite the fact that the front LED light array is separate from the battery unit, there are no exposed wires to snag or break. This design also makes for more even weight distribution, aiding overall comfort. Rear adjustment consists of a single elasticated pull cord, which works very effectively with minimal fuss (no more fiddling with strap buckles and the like).

Photo: Chris Johnson

Another thing we like about the headband is that because it is semi-rigid, you can prop it up to create a makeshift spotlight for reading in a tent or cooking over a backpacking stove. You can also wear it around your neck, keeping light focused in front of you even if you’re moving your head around. Petzl have also thoughtfully provided a storage pouch made from a light-diffusing fabric with a hanging drawcord. The lamp collapses neatly to fit inside the pouch, which then makes a passable tent lantern.

The beam of each little LED overlaps to give a consistent bright white circle of light”

 The 500-lumen output comes from an array of 7 LEDs arranged in two rows. This offers as much power as a single high-spec LED, without the associated issues of size, heat dissipation, beam pattern, optics, adjustability and power drain. The beam of each little LED overlaps to give a consistent bright white circle of light, in an impressively light and compact unit that is hardly discernible when it’s actually on your head. We don’t think the beam projects quite as far as some rivals we’ve tested though.


The Iko has a flood or mixed beam, plus 3 white brightness levels, all operated by a single tap of the small orange button that is located, a little strangely, on the bottom of the LED array. There’s also a coloured battery charge indicator that flashes when the lamp is turned on or off, for checking remaining battery life. You can also press and hold the button to activate a lock function that will prevent accidental operation (useful if it’s stashed in your pack).

It’s all pretty basic, but also intuitive – no need to pore over the instruction manual with this head lamp. The only feature we really miss is a red-light mode for preserving night vision or low-key use (like getting out of the tent at 3am for a wee, without disturbing a snoozing tent-mate).

It is powered by a rear battery compartment that can take either 3 x standard AAA batteries or Petzl’s own rechargeable 1,250mAh CORE battery pack. Unlike many other systems, the CORE batteries can be removed from the head lamp, so if you have two you can instantly swap out a dead pack for a fresh one. They go from zero to fully charged in about 3 hours via a mini-USB port. They’re also pretty powerful – using the Iko with standard batteries gives you up to 350 lumens, but using the CORE system takes it to 500 lumens.


This slimline, minimalist headlamp is superb in use, i.e. when it’s actually on your head. It gives out plenty of light and has a decent burn time, yet is comfortable and unobtrusive to wear. The placement of the operating button on the underside of the lamp takes a little getting used to, but if you dislike the head-shrinking sensation of tight elastic headbands, you’ll love the ergonomic Airfit system. For those who like to go fast and light, but need a pretty powerful head torch, the Iko Core is a great choice.

Tester’s Verdict

Ellie Clewlow, outdoors writer, photographer and gear tester

“At first glance I didn’t quite realise this was a head torch! It is like no other head torch I’ve seen, with a very compact LED array at the front, the battery pack at the rear, and a sort-of sunglasses-type frame instead of an elastic headband. I wasn’t sure how I would get on with the Airfit headband, so I was pleasantly surprised when it simply sat comfortably on my head. If it wasn’t for a very slight pressure from the light on the forehead, I could almost completely forget I was wearing it. Although the light unit is slim in size, it is impressively bright for its size and weight. I particularly love that the design means you can prop it up – great for wild camps where you don’t want to wear your head torch for hours on end.

“The main downside for me is that it doesn’t have a red-light mode, which is useful for preserving night vision, and it isn’t quite as bright as some other head torches I’ve used, like the Nitecore HC65 and the LED Lenser MH8. But for fast and light adventures in comfort, you can’t beat it.”

Petzl IKO Core Head Lamp

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