Petzl Nao+ Headtorch | Review
The new Nao+ ups the lumen count for 2017 and adds smartphone programmability to the best running headtorch out there.
'The latest Petzl Nao+ adds more lumens, a rear red light and Bluetooth smartphone programmability to an already impressive package which varies light output automatically to maximise burn times - winner!'
Outdoors Magic: Lots of useable light, great beam pattern, genius reactive lighting tech, easy-to-use control knob, rear light a good addition, comfortable in use, smartphone app programmability.
Outdoors Tragic: Rear light can't be switched on or off without use of the app, some conditions confuse the Reactive Lighting. Full waterproofing would be nice.
Outdoors Grabbit? Probably the best off-road running light we've used thanks to the combination of an excellent beam pattern and that Reactive Lighting tech, which meters the light out effectively and seamlessly. Lighting geeks will love the smartphone app programmability, which works well if you want it, but we're still baffled that the new rear red LED can only be switched on or off via the app - a small switch would make that infinitely easier. Everything else just works and if conditions like fog confuse the smart lighting, just switch to constant mode. Mostly it's well sorted and very difficult to fault.
Reactive Lighting technology with up to 750 lumens output / wide, mixed or focussed beam pattern / 2600 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery with 6-hour recharge time / IPX4 water resistance / pivoting head / charge indicator and bluetooth indicators / Connects to Android and iOS MyPetzl Light app to change user profiles / red indicator light on battery box / glove-friendly ergonomic control / belt-kit available for remote battery mounting
Full Review Below
Petzl Nao+ Headtorch | Performance
There's so much ingenious cleverness going on with the Petzl Nao+ that it's easy to get caught up in and forget that what makes it such a brilliant headtorch is that mostly you can just switch it on and use it seamlessly and effectively for anything from full-pelt technical running through to more pedestrian stuff.
A lot of the Nao+ is familiar from the first two incarnations of the Nao, but there are some changes. First, the maximum light output rises from 575 lumens to a whopping 750 lumens. That sounds impressive on paper, but in the real world, there's not a huge difference.
Check our comparative beam shots and you can see that there's not a huge difference between the two lights. Those cones are spaced at approximately 5-metre intervals by the way.
Other changes include a new red LED housed in the rear-mounted battery box, red-coloured accents on the light itself and new stretchy shock-cord rather than the static cord of previous Nao torches.
Finally, the Nao+ is Bluetooth Smart compatible and can be programmed and tweaked using a bespoke MyPetzl Light app on Android and iOS phones and tablets. More about that later.
Let There Be Light
First and foremost the Nao+ is simply a brilliant, easy-to-use headtorch for moving fast across rough terrain at night. It's not the lightest out there at 191g on our digital scales, but the battery box sits low and the light feels comfortable and stable on the head.
There's an optional belt pack if you want to mount the battery remotely for stability or to keep it warm in cold conditions, but we've had no issues with the standard configuration. It'll fit a climbing helmet too if you want to multi-task.
The switch is super easy to use, even with gloves one, and can be locked off for safe transport. Turn forward once to switch on, again to change mode and again to turn off again. To change from the automatic Reactive Lighting mode to constant, just hold the switch forward for slightly longer.
The Reactive Lighting sensor - the top of the three lenses, detects how much light there is in your environment and adjusts the output to suit. Mostly its brilliant and the changes in light output are so smooth, you're not even aware it's happening.
Look up across a dark field and the light output ramps up instantly, but turn towards a light-coloured wall and it's immediately throttled down. The genius of this is that you only use as much light as you need, which in turn maximises battery life.
Petzl claims 6.5 hours on Max Power setting or up to 15 hours on the more conservative Max Autonomy mode. On the bright setting the light's up for anything you can throw at it up to full throttle descending on technical stuff if you're up for it.
If you're used to 3000-lumen mountain bike lights, you might find it disappointing, but at running speeds we found it excellent with the wide spread beam great for balance and peripheral vision, but enough range to pick out mid-ground features like gate-ways or stiles.
It's a brilliant running light, but there's no reason why you can't also use it for walking, mountaineering or mountain biking and the MyPetzl Light app includes switchable profiles for multi-activity, mountaineering, trail-running, trekking and bivouac.
Petzl Nao+ | Technology
The genius of the Nao+ technology is that mostly it just makes the light easier to use. You don't have to use the smartphone app at all unless you want to tweak the lamp - note that it's the only way of doing it, Nao+ doesn't work with the Petzl OS desktop app.
If you do want to tweak things, you need to pair your light with your phone, and open the app. You then have multiple options ranging from the ability to select one of Petzl's activity-specific lighting profiles to creating your own.
You can also check the light's status, including how battery you have left and turn on and off the rear red LED safety light in constant or blinking mode. You can even reinstall the default Petzl factory settings using the app if you're having problems.
There's enough going on that there's a four-minute Petzl video explaining how it all works on Vimeo. Some people will love the idea, others will simply ignore it. The one big clanger is that the only way of switching the red rear light on or off is with the app. Not really ideal if you're mixing up trails and back lanes say, and want to switch it on occasionally but leave it off otherwise to avoid distracting your mates.
Mostly we love the Reactive Lighting technology, but it's worth bearing in mind that the sensor can be confused by anything that reflects light back at you - that includes fog, snow, oncoming car headlights and low-flying geese or sheep.
It's rarely an issue, but if it does become annoying, it's easy enough to switch to constant mode using the excellent, glove-friendly switch. One thing we would say is that while the Nao+ can do low lighting - there's even a bivouac activity profile - the Reactive Lighting mode is quite annoying to others in group scenarios and it's very much an 'on the move' light rather than a pottering about the campsite one.
Petzl Nao+ | Verdict
Everyone who used the new Nao+ was impressed. It's comfortable on the head, easy to regulate even with thick gloves on and chucks out more than enough light to dance your way down technical running descents at night.
The Reactive Lighting mode works brilliantly on the move too despite the odd glitch and, combined with the activity-tailored beam patterns, makes for a good balance of effective lighting and burn-times. You can, if you insist on running maximum whack at all times, burn through the battery, but there's no real need to do that and with sensible use burn times are decent.
Battery Back-Ups And Apps
Unlike previous Nao models, there's no AAA cell emergency back-up option, but you can buy a spare Li-Ion battery pack for around £50 if you want an insurance policy on longer outings.
One big change from the previous Nao, is that the Nao+ can't be programmed with Petzl OS, instead you have to use the My PetzlLight app. Our experience is that it works well and is easy to use, but it's perfectly possible to use then light without the app.
The one exception to this is that it's impossible to switch the otherwise admirable rear red safety light without using the app, which is just needlessly complicated if you're say, hopping between back lanes and trails and want to switch it on and off frequently. A small switch on the back-box would make more sense we reckon. Incidentally, the Bluetooth Smart protocol seems not to impact on battery life.
Overall though, the Nao+ does an excellent job for fast-moving activities with the bonus of added programmability. Some users will love the geekish app possibilities, some won't, but the good news is that you can use the light without the app and with excellent performance regardless, though you may get a little tired of that blinking red light... Recommended for off-road running in particular.