Petzl designed the Ultra Wide headlamp for “activities like caving.” I’m not a caver, but I’ll tell you what this headlamp is awesome for: Night biking. Especially night mountain biking. Also night hiking and scrambling, or any night activity that would be more comfortable with a huge box of light projected in front of you.
The Ultra Wide isn’t Petzl’s brightest headlamp – the Ultra is, by 50 lumens. The Ultra Wide was built with a frosted lens to diffuse the beam and give a wide swath of light, 180 degrees to be exact. So when you stand on a dark mountaintop and turn the Ultra Wide up to its highest setting, you can see a perfectly straight line cutting across your boots where the Ultra Wide lights up the ground.
It’s great for night activities where you want to see under your feet as well as what’s ahead of you, which is pretty much everything at night, besides walking on a smooth trail – think scree-hopping, rappelling off a climbing route, search and rescue. For the activities I do in the outdoors – climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing – the peripheral lighting is more valuable than the ultra-long beam out front.
The Ultra Wide’s adjustment dial switches it easily between four modes, three of which are way brighter than most average headlamps: Low is 24 lumens, then 84 lumens, 140 lumens, and the highest at 300 lumens, which starts getting you into the neighborhood of “ultra-bright” bike lights used for night trail riding. The Ultra Wide is a little more expensive per lumen than bike lights, but has the functionality to pull double duty as a real headlamp for all those other activities I do.
It works on top of a climbing helmet, and the battery pack is removable if you would rather carry it on a pack strap or belt (but that requires buying the optional ULTRA extension cord). It also mounts to a bike handlebar or bicycle helmet with additional accessories. The design is stable enough for trail running, but still comfortable.
The rechargeable battery pack, which promises 25 hours on the lowest setting and only 59 minutes on the highest setting, has a meter so you can check how much juice you have left in the field, and the charger AC has indicator lights to let you know when the battery is full.
I had a blast with this headlamp, especially when I took it on a night hike with my girlfriend, and she asked, “Do I need to bring a headlamp?” No. Really, you don’t.
Brendan is a writer, climber and urban cyclist based in Denver. His work has appeared in Climbing, The Dirtbag Diaries, Mountain Gazette, Adventure Cyclist and other publications, and on his web site, www.semi-rad.com.