Tested: Petzl Nao

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Ross Worthington roadtests Petzl’s much-anticipated headtorch featuring their innovative ‘reactive lighting’ concept…

Over the years headtorches have come on in leaps and bounds but when we first saw a demo of Petzl’s Nao at the ISPO trade show earlier in the year it was clear that this was another big leap forward. The key feature of the Nao is its ‘reactive lighting’. Basically what this means is that, once switched on, the torch automatically adjusts the strength of the beam it gives out dependent on the surroundings and where you are looking. This has two obvious advantages; firstly, that you no longer have to fiddle around with a gloved hand to adjust the lighting when looking around for a feature or glancing down to look at your map. Secondly it will also conserve the battery life, since a stronger beam is only used when necessary.

Features
The Nao’s design is clean and modern, and Petzl have stuck to a simple approach with its functionality as well. It has one large, square, twist switch on the right hand side of the lamp (sorry to those of you who are left-handed), with a clever locking function to prevent it getting accidentally switched on while in your pack. The lamps are two high-intensity LED bulbs, one with a clear spotlight lens and the other with a diffuser for wider and softer lighting. It scales up the intensity of the beam using a combination of both of these. The battery pack is attached to the headband, like many of the other Petzl models, and is detachable. This contains a rechargeable, Lithium Ion battery, which should be up to the task in all weathers.  The battery is charged via a cleverly- integrated USB plug. If you are worried about this for more remote, multi-day trips, don’t be, as those smart folks at Petzl have also designed this battery to be removed and replaced with AA batteries.

On the outside of the case is a useful charge level indicator, and even the plug connecting the battery to the lamps has been idiot-proofed so that even with clumpy mitts on it can’t be forced on the wrong way and is held with a clip lock system. The whole thing has double or triple seals to ensure it is weather tight.

In Use
I have been using the Nao for a while on some big mountain jaunts and night scrambling and it has performed brilliantly across the board. I chose to introduce myself to it without reading the instructions and this proved to be a pretty straight- forward voyage of discovery as pretty much all I needed to know was in fact written on the torch itself in one form or another. The fit was snug and didn’t give me any concern with pressure points, although the battery pack weight did feel odd initially. With it attached to a climbing helmet I found that the sensor did occasionally get obstructed by the peak of the hood which would affect the light. I’m not sure how this would perform with snowfall at night clogging the sensor. The light intensity and focus is fantastic, though, and the change from one to the other is nearly instantaneous.

Verdict
Overall I was very impressed with the Nao and will be adding it to my kit as my ‘go to’ headtorch. The price may push it out of some people’s range and unless you are spending a lot of time operating in the hours of darkness I am sure that a normal LED headtorch will do the trick for you.  But, for me, this is the new yardstick for other headtorches to be judged by.

RELATED LINKS: www.petzl.com

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