Petzl NAO RL Headlamp Review

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For the past 50 years, Petzl has been producing high quality equipment for the outdoor athlete and professional. With their high standard for zero defects, Petzl released the NAO RL headlamp in June of 2022. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one! From ultra-running to ice climbing in the upper peninsula of Michigan, I was in need of a headlamp that would last long hours, provide even lighting to illuminate trails and ice walls, and be adjustable enough to lower the beam when I needed to. Petzl nailed it with the NaO RL by providing everything I asked for (they must’ve read my mind!). The NAO RL rechargeable headlamp provides 1500 lumens of brightness and weighs just 145 grams.

What comes with the Petzl NAO RL Headlamp

When I opened the box, I could feel the Petzl quality that I have known from using their equipment in the past. Included in the box was the headlamp and detachable rechargeable battery, a USB-C charger cord, an extra strap for the top of your head, and a small white bag for storage. But wait!! I was pleased to learn that the little white bag also doubles as a diffuser that you tighten around the headlamp to make this little gem into a lantern. How many times have you wished for that in your backpacking tent? Genius!

Comfort and Ergonomics

The Petzl NAO RL weighs in at 145 grams (less than 5 ounces). The front light has 9 LED bulbs and is super lightweight. The articulation (approx. 135 degrees) of the light is tight and smooth and prevents any bouncing. The front of the headlamp has an elastic strap which then connects to two elastic cords on either side. The back of the headlamp is vertically long which prevents the battery from bouncing on the back of your head. The padded contact points feel super light and are very comfortable. The battery pack does sit where many people like to wear a ponytail so it may require some repositioning  I found that if I lowered my bun or wore two pig tails, the battery placement wasn’t an issue. Overall, the front light and rear battery provides a very balanced light while running, jumping or just working around camp.

The Operation of the Petzl NAO RL

Let’s start with the battery pack and all of it’s features. There is a small power button on the battery pack that allows you to check the status of the battery charge with a 1-5 bar indicator. A long press of this power button will turn on a red light on the back of the lamp and you can toggle between solid or strobe mode. It is super bright and a great safety feature of this headlamp. The rechargeable battery is easily removable for charging by pressing a small release. Extra batteries are available for purchase and would be super easy to change on the fly. No more fooling with battery covers and disposable batteries.

Also on the back of the headlamp is a small orange “switch” that you flip up to adjust the tightness of the cords on your head. This is a larger switch and was easy to maneuver and tighten while the headlamp was on my head. I found that the branched cords going to the back of my head from the front strap pulled the light nicely against my head. With 3 contact points , the headlamp was very comfortable and secure without feeling too tight across my forehead.

As I moved around to the front of the NAO RL, I found the switch to power the lamp on and off. This switch has the function of selecting one of 3 light output levels and with a long press, you can switch between standard or reactive lighting mode. If you just start pushing buttons, the NAO RL can seem a bit confusing at first but after reading the manual, operation is very simple.

What is Reactive Lighting Mode?

Petzl introduced a patented Reactive Lighting Mode on the NAO RL. The 3 light output levels can either be steady or reactive, where the reactive mode uses a sensor to analyze reflected light, instantly delivering optimal brightness and beam pattern for any given situation.  In the Reactive Lighting Mode, I looked down at the ground and the beam dimmed and broadened. When I looked up and off in the distance, the light intensified into a bright spotlight illuminating far ahead. Using the Reactive Lighting Mode will really extend your battery life.

Lighting Performance of the Petzl NAO RL

With so many variable in the three lighting modes coupled with the variable of Reactive or Standard Lighting, it is difficult for me to tell you exactly how long this headlamp will last for you. I think that Petzl did a nice job in the chart below summarizing how the burn time can vary based on the mode you choose. Most notable, however, is the burn times while in the Reactive Lighting Mode. It will take some time on variable terrain to narrow down exactly how long your light will last. Super exciting is the potential for this light to last the entirety of a week long backpacking trip or better yet through a complete overnight ultramarathon.

Lighting performance as defined by the ANSI/PLATO FL 1 protocol
Lighting Technology Lighting Color Lighting Levels Brightness Distance Burn Time Reserve Lighting
REACTIVE LIGHTING® White MAX BURN TIME 15 to 250 lm 70 m 10 to 64 h 10 lm for 2 h
STANDARD 30 to 550 lm 100 m 5 to 40 h
MAX POWER 50 to 1500 lm 200 m 2 to 24 h
STANDARD LIGHTING MAX BURN TIME 10 lm 10 m 80 h
STANDARD 250 lm 70 m 5 h
MAX POWER 900 lm 140 m 2 h
Rear Red Light Continuous 2 lm 2.5 m 78 h
Strobe Visible at 150 m for 400 h

Like most LED headlamps, the NAO RL has a bright, white light. With the 9 LED’s spread across a broad panel, the light is evenly distributed and minimizing of shadows. The terrain is easy to see and the depth is not lost, but intensified. I found this super important on a night training run in the Rocky Mountain trails of Colorado. That terrain is no joke! I felt safe and confident and could clearly see what was coming at me.

Technical Data on the Petzl NAO RL

  • Brightness: 1500 lumens (ANSI FL 1 STANDARD)
  • Weight: 145 g
  • Technology: REACTIVE LIGHTING® or STANDARD LIGHTING
  • Beam pattern: Wide or mixed
  • Energy: 3200 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery (included)
  • Charging time: 3.5 h
  • Watertightness: IPX4 (weather-resistant)
  • Certification(s): CE

Final Thoughts and Recommendations on the Petzl NAO RL

The Petzl NAO RL has been on my wish list since it’s release in 2022. It is the perfect fit for my running, backpacking and climbing lifestyle. Petzl did not disappoint! The no bounce, super bright, and self-adjusting beam with an excellent battery life were what I was looking for. I have already fallen in love with the NAO RL for running at night. While it’s not quite ice climbing season, I am confident that the adjustable beam will be perfect for night climbs. The NAO RL has outperformed any headlamp I have worn. And, there is a 5 year warranty on the bulbs and a 2 year warranty on the battery. The NAO RL’s performance and quality is well worth the price. If you want to know more about the Petzl NAO RL or would like to purchase one of you own, visit www.rei.com.

Sara Fillman: Sara is an avid ultra-marathoner and outdoor adventurer. Living in Michigan, Sara has ample opportunities for outdoor sports during all seasons. When not open water kayaking on the Great Lakes or backpacking in some distance mountains, she can be found ice climbing in Norther Michigan at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. She is constantly looking for the next big adventure.
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