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One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Petzl Tikka Plus Headlamp: A Lightweight Beacon of Quality
Posted on: January 22, 2008
Weight: 78 grams (less than 3 ounces)
I recently climbed the northeast buttress of Johannesberg Peak, a technically easy but scrappy 5,000-foot line I had pondered for more than ten years. A Northwest choss classic, the route is solidly grade V, and heavy on bushwhacking and loose rock. The sheer size of "J-berg" forces one-day aspirants to select clothing and equipment carefully and minimally; any item carried must be featherweight and 100-percent reliable. A headlamp is essential if the complicated Class 4 descent runs into night and needs to be powerful enough for route finding in complex terrain. Due to their size (small) and weight (almost none) LED headlamps give climbers the option of carrying a possibly un-needed light on long trips, without adding much bulk or weight to their pack.
For "J-berg" I grabbed the Tikka Plus, which is an all LED headlamp, and operates on three AAA batteries. It has three light-intensity levels, plus a strobe mode and an advertised battery life of 100-150 hours, depending on which lighting level you select. I typically use low, switching to high only in cruxy sections, and find that I get a really bright light for 10-20 hours, then a duller but usable light for days (yes, days) longer. I like the fact that I always can count on having some light no matter how drawn out a particular effort becomes.
The strobe lasts a reported 400 hours. It's the one function I have never needed. The theory is that it can serve as a long lasting beacon. I know a guy named Joe who likes to lock himself in his pitch-dark basement, crank Guns and Roses, turn on a strobe and dry tool for hours in a cramped bouldering cave named "the hell box." I suspect this is not what Petzl had in mind for the strobe function, but it's another possible use.
This is my primary headlamp for dark approaches, late exits, and occasional epics; it generally stays in my rock or ski pack full-time. Weighing less than 3 ounces (78g), the Tikka Plus is so lightweight that it is hard to justify leaving it behind. The beam can be tilted up or down, which is nice on variable terrain. If rock- or icefall lurks and I want the ability to spot falling objects, I carry something brighter than an LED headlamp (I'm partial to Halogen). These are necessarily heavier and harder on battery life—reducing battery life to hours vs. days. Some of these bigger units are fully waterproof, which the Tikka Plus is not, though it weathers everything but a lake dunking quite well.
Probably the only thing I don't like about the Tikka Plus is the fact that it can be hard to open when replacing the batteries. I have always been able to do it but occasionally struggle with cold fingers. Usually a coin, or the edge of an ice axe, will succeed in popping open the very secure case—a minor but present hassle in this otherwise perfect lightweight headlamp.
Pros: Lightweight; small; weatherproof; reliable; multiple brightness settings, including a strobe function.
Cons: Opening case to replace batteries can prove difficult.