A lightweight very powerful headlamp

Petzl’s latest headlamp is small, light and powerful. I’ve now used it on several trips and found it very effective. It has Petzl’s Reactive Lighting so the power of the beam varies with distance, which optimises burn time. In Petzl’s range it replaces the Reactik and Reaktik+.

The Swift RL weighs 103 grams, which is light for a headlamp this powerful. At maximum brightness it gives out 900 lumens. It’s powered by a 2350 mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. There’s a five-level gauge so you can see how much battery life is left. Charging is via a USB connection on the base of the lamp. The lamp swivels up and down – the former so it points ahead if worn round the neck. The adjustable headband is comfortable with a soft lining round the forehead.

The Swift is easy to use. There’s a choice of two lighting modes, reactive and standard. A long press of the single button toggles between the two. In each mode there are three settings – maximum burn time, standard, and maximum power. The button can be locked so it can’t be switched on accidentally.

In the maximum burn time in the standard mode the battery should last 100 hours but the brightness is just 10 lumens with a beam distance of 12 metres. I’ve found this fine for use in a tent but too weak for walking. The 900 lumens output is the maximum power with reactive lighting. This throws a beam 150 metres. Battery life is 2 to 30 hours, depending on how you use the reactive lighting. At 900 lumens the headlamp is very bright. I don’t think this much power is really needed for walking and I haven’t used it much. The standard reactive setting gives 300 lumens. The beam distance is 55 metres and battery life 5 to 40 hours. I find this fine for walking. Even on the rough, rocky path alongside Loch Avon on a very dark night it was all I needed. The reactive lighting is excellent. Look into the distance and it brightens, look at where you’re putting your feet and it dims, look at your map and it dims some more.

I like the Swift very much but I do have two qualms. Firstly, the battery takes six hours to fully charge so it’s not practical to do so during a trip, except overnight. A spare battery, the ACCU Swift, is available but it’s very expensive, almost half the cost of the headlamp.  I’d carry a second headlamp instead. Standard batteries can’t be used. Secondly the power button is tiny and can be difficult to operate with cold hands or gloves. Even with warm hands it’s easy to switch the lamp on when trying to lock the button because the movement is very stiff. This of course protects against accidental unlocking. I’d rather have a larger button though.