Review: PETZL CORE Recharge System

by George Privon / @PrivonG

I end up doing a lot of things in the dark… cycling home from work, getting a few extra miles in on the Friday night of a weekend backpacking trip, rock climbing under the light of the full moon, and the list goes on. Up until now my primary lighting source has been a Petzl Myo3 light. It is heavy and getting up in age. So I jumped at the chance to upgrade to the smaller LED-only Petzl Tikka2 and the optional CORE battery pack.

The Tikka2 is an excellent all-around headlamp from Petzl. It features a white LED with dual-brightness settings and a strobe, and a red LED with strobe. It is also fairly compact, making it comfortable to wear on your head. The white LED is bright enough to use for some route-finding, while the red LED really excels when you need to see but do not want to destroy your night vision. There is a single button controlling all the lighting. Short presses cycle between “Maximum”, “Economic”, and Strobe mode for the white LED. Holding the button down for a few seconds switches to the red LED where there’s a constant lighting and a strobe setting.

The CORE is the real gem. Its obvious use is as a battery pack to replace the AAAs the Tikka2 requires. That alone would make it a nice piece of equipment, a battery pack you can plug into your laptop to recharge that can be recharged up to 300 times. But there’s another killer feature:

The Petzl CORE interfaces with the freely downloadable “core OS” which allows you to customize the behavior of the headlamp, both in terms of how it discharges and the light output. This provides a great degree of flexibility, allowing you to select optimal lighting for your favorite activity. But how do you do it?

The screenshot below shows coreOS with my CORE plugged in. The two tabs on the top “Maximum” and “Economic” let you select which mode you are editing. To the upper right of the graph is the choice of “Regulated” (constant light output) vs “Non-Regulated” (light dims steadily as the battery drains). When “Regulated” is selected you can adjust the slider bars to either select a brightness or a battery life. Note that these only apply to the white LED. The red LED is fixed brightness.

Click to enlarge


The “Regulated” setting gives you the following extremes of brightness / battery life (for the Tikka2):

  • 5 hours at 100% intensity (27m visibility)
  • 110 hours at 4% intensity (5m visibility)

While the Non-Regulated option gives:

  • 12 hours burn time for maximum brightness
  • 65 hours burn time for the “Economic” setting

I connected my CORE, set the “maximum” setting to regulated and cranked it to the maximum brightness. This would come in handy for route-finding, but I got most of my testing using it as my primary headlamp for bicycle commuting at night. The economic setting was left as un-regulated, and off I went.

I used the Tikka2+CORE combination many times over the past 2 months. All of the activities took place in below freezing temperatures and I had no issues with it in the cold. The light was sufficiently bright to do tasks close at hand (using the economic setting) or for use as a primary light source while bicycle commuting (maximum setting). While not specific to the CORE, the red LED was very useful for Astronomy events. I was able to shine light on telescopes to show people where to look without disrupting their night vision. The combination of the Tikka2+CORE provides a very versatile lighting system in a fairly compact package.

Pros: customizable lighting, works for 300 charges (no headache of finding AAA batteries), built-in battery charge gauge, USB charging cord gives you options for recharging

Cons: slightly bulkier than batteries (but this won’t matter in practice as the headlamps are pretty small), charging cord is a little short.

Verdict: Go get one. The flexibility in lighting allows you to better adapt the headlamp’s output to your favorite activity. And its use as a rechargeable battery pack means you won’t be scrambling to find those AAA batteries you bought 6 months ago and put in a drawer somewhere…


George Privon’s “day” job is doing Astronomy research as a graduate student attending the University of Virginia. While not looking at galaxies he enjoys ice and rock climbing, bicycling, and generally being outdoors. He writes about Astronomy, Travel, and the Outdoors on his blog and twitter account.

George is currently raising money for Big City Mountaineers to support their mission giving at-risk teens outdoors experiences in a positive mentoring environment. He has committed to raising $4500 through the “Summit for Someone” fundraiser and would appreciate your support. If you would like to donate please visit his Summit for Someone page.

Buy the PETZL CORE battery for Tikka 2 family lamps online now,
or visit your local Petzl retailer to check them out.

3 responses to “Review: PETZL CORE Recharge System

  1. I love the addition of the core to my tikka. The best thing is the usb charging option. This allows the headlamp (along with another myriad of gizmos and gadgets to be charged from a mini usb cable. I use a Goal 0 Nomad 7 ( charge my headlamp. Light charges light. Gotta love it.

  2. The feature that allows you to choose how to dissipate the charge (regulated vs. non-regulated) sounds very cool! But do you think it’s worth the extra money? I currently just use rechargeable AAA’s in my Tikka. Don’t know if I can justify $30 or so for a specialized battery pack.

  3. Gif, as a shill for Petzl, let me make a case for the CORE vs rechargeable AAA’s:

    You’ve clearly identified the primary benefit – choosing between regulated and non-regulated output as well as the ability to completely customize the light level and burn time. (You can even set the first light setting to regulated mode, at X% of max power. And then set the second light setting to non-regulated mode for a much longer burn time.)

    So that’s cool, and can’t be done with AAA’s. Recharging straight from a laptop/car charger/solar roll via the USB port is nice too – no need to carry the additional AAA charging accessory.

    Along the same lines, recharging the CORE is easy. No need to remove the battery from the headlamp – you just plug the whole unit into the wall to top-off for the next evening run.

    The lithium ion CORE is lighter than AAA’s, and will perform better in the cold than alkaline batteries.

    I find the burn time in my rechargeable AAA’s to be unpredictable, and always less than I expect. Not a big deal in my electric razor, but I don’t want them to die on trail.

    Rechargeable batteries – especially in a headlamp – are the superior and ethical choice over disposables 99% of the time. No one should be burning through batteries and tossing them into a landfill! But I’m convinced the CORE’s advantages over generic rechargeable AAA’s (designed specifically for this application, user-programmable output) are compelling and worth the extra investment.