The Petzl Nao supposedly is to headlamps what Felix Baumgartner is to Base-Jumping. Pushing the envelope in every dimension possible. Okay, there are lamps with more power (namely Lux). Still the features of the Nao can be characterized as unprecedented.
I bought the lamp after figuring that my old Tikka might not be enough for a ski tour at night (though I tested it and felt like Johnny Utah when he was taken for the midnight surfing – unlike Utah I was hardly able to feel the wave, eh slope).
The Nao incorporates what Petzl calls „Reactive Lighting„. I think this is nothing less than a game changer. An intelligent, cpu-equipped headlamp is just what Mallory has been asking for back in his days. Mountaineering can eventually become the „Star Wars“-like Endeavour it always was meant to be. No, seriously – the changing intensity in power is a great way to save battery power but still not having to worry about switching the intensity manually when looking up and checking the way over the glacier. You do not need the power of a flak searchlight when wandering over a glacier, just focussing on the ground in front of your feet. Still it comes in handy when taking a look up and trying to navigate. This is what „Reactive Lighting“ does.
Nevertheless you can still switch to a constant mode in which the intensity does not change automatically. Personally I use this mode in bivouac or in a hut as I do not like the unsteadiness of the lamp in this situation. When using the lamp outdoors the flickering is not a problem, though. You hardly even recognize it as it always provides the proper amount of lighting ranging from 355 lumen to 9 lumen.
Would you have ever thought that someday your headlamp would come with a Mac/PC-Interface? – Well, neither did I, but the Nao proved us wrong. Here are the screenshots, I’ll explain them in detail below:
The picture on the left shows the overview. You can choose between four profiles of which you can activate one on your lamp. The reactive lighting is then adjusted accordingly (see right hand side). For instance the „Bergsteigen“ profile yields three different intensity levels from which the power is then adjusted automatically. When switching to constant mode the first benchmark distance is set at 89m (the spot then is switched on as well and you get something close to the above mentioned flak searchlight).
22 meters is a nice value to save battery power, sit around in the bivy and enjoy your dinner. Overall, there is no surprise in this. After you got used to the fact that your headlamp needs some digital maintenance these things are just normal.
The battery can be charged via USB, which is pretty nice as you can use the same plug for cell-phone and Nao as long as you bring the cable with you (I have not yet tried charging it with a small solar panel). In case you run out of juice, there is no plug or something else goes wrong, you can also run the Nao with 2 AAA-batteries. The power is lower then, but at least you get some light.
Wearing the lamp
In terms of ergonomics the Petzl Nao is doing a great job. With just 187grams it is not too heavy on the head. In case you head for the trails Petzl optionally sells a pack to wear the battery on your belt. Pouring rain on the trails should not be a problem as Petzl claims that the lamps water resistant. The lamp also perfectly fits on Petzl’s own Meteor helmet (a clear must).
The Petzl Nao might be one of the more expensive head-lamps (selling at 135€ at Bergfreunde.de). Nevertheless, you get a top-notch headlamp that is doing the trick in every situation you can encounter whether it is trail running, climbing our skiing. Personally I do not want to miss the lamp nor go back to the Tikka.
For more info see the Petzl homepage: Petzl.com
For more reviews see the Test Overview page: Test Overview