Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Petzl Ultra Headlamp--Is It Worth $500?

The Petzl Ultra

Some of you might know that for a long time, I have been a big fan of the 85-Lumens Brunton L3 headlamp. I do a lot of night running and after trying out several headlamps for last year's Tahoe Rim Trail record attempt, I settled on this mega-headlamp as the lamp of choice to light up the trails in the dark. The only downside of the Brunton is that it is a bit heavy and that it does not come with a top head strap to distribute the weight more evenly.

In addition to the Brunton L3, I also wear a custom-made Brunton runner's belt with two bright Princeton Tec lamps. I find that the waist lamp gives you better depth perspective and the combination of these three lamps has kept me going smoothly on many night-runs. One additional advantage of running with multiple lights is that you have a backup plan in case one of your lights fails.

My Current Setup: Brunton Headlamp, Customized Runner's Belt, and Princeton Tec Quad Waistlamp

And then there was light.

I recently browsed the headlights section at REI recently and was shocked to find that there was a new, superbright 350-lumens headlamp--the Petzl Ultra. Initially, I was shocked by the fact that this new lamp packed so much more power than mine, but then I was shocked, again, by its equally stunning $500 price tag.

Mind you, this light monster was not on display with the regular headlamps (I found this information in REI's headlamp comparison brochure), but that's probably because REI still has to install a glass security case for this new breed of headlamp.

At first I thought the $500 price-tag must have been a typo, but some further research showed me that it wasn't. Sure, Amazon sells them for about $450, but still that is about $300 to $350 more that all the other high-powered headlamps on the market with the possible exception of the Silva Alpha 6, which does not seem to be available in the US. And then there are still some additional assecories, like spare batteries, a custom harnessm and more. Adding those can make the price rocket up to around $700. Wow.

Total Price: $445 + $49.95 + $125 + 49.95 = $669.90 (Add $64.95 for an Accu 4 Battery Pack).

So now the big question: is it worth it? Despite the outrageous price, I might still consider buying this headlamp if it was truly that much more powerful. The truth is that in night-running, more light translates directly to a faster time. Then again, 350 lumens vs. 85 sounds like a lot, but I don't know what that really works out to in reality and, unfortunately, I could not try the headlamp at REI.

Has anyone tried this headlamp? Please post a comment if you have or if you have tried out some other killer headlamps lately. Or simply let me know if you would consider buying this lamp if it would give you a significant edge in a night running race.

Petzl: I'd be more than happy to write up an elaborate ultrarunner gear review if you send me one to try out during the Tahoe 72-Mile Ultra, which starts at 10 p.m. this year (an additional two hours of night running)!


Donald said...

They should sponsor you - it would work out great for both you and the company, assuming it works as well as advertised. Good luck.

Mike Scammon said...

Hey Peter!

I say- forget it! More is not better;
especially at $500. That's nuts. One question I ask myself before "upgrading" anything is this: Will it give me a better experience? I only need to see about 10' of trail before me and my little lights are great. Only set me back $100. My 2c.

Gretchen said...

I can only think of one activity where this headlamp would be necessary: Dogsledding. Seriously, you need some major power to light up 12-15 dogs, plus the trail in front of them. I wonder how many Iditarod mushers use this light?

But trail running? I'm thinking "no."

Anonymous said...

I think $500 is a bit much for any trail running light. Probably the law of diminishing return kicks in somewhere around 50-100 lumens.
My current running combination is the Princeton Tech APEX (which has just been upgraded to 130 lumens) and a handheld Fenix P3D (putting out 53 lumens' for 13 hours on the medium setting). This monster light can put out 215 lumens for 1.8 hours, if required--helpful for spotting those trail markers way down the trail but far more light than you need to run with.

Both of these lights run on CR123 batteries which can be purchased in bulk for $2.5 or less per battery, but well worth it.
--Dave Jr.

dyana said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gene said...

This headlamp rulz! The best once it's offset with the belt cable, posing the battery into a small hydro pack etc. 500 is not much knowing it will always be there for the action. Accu2 battery pack plenty of punch for a long run or days walking the trail. I give it 5 stars.

Anonymous said...

I use this light for caving and night time mountaineering. It will be a waste to use it for running and biking.

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