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Petzl NAO Review

   

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  • Currently 3.6/5
Overall avg rating 3.6 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: September 26, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $140 - $185 | Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros:  Perfect 10's for trail finding and close proximity, cool technology, charge off any usb plug
Cons:  Abysmal battery life, Reactive lighting can be as annoying as useful
Best Uses:  Short hikes and trail runs
User Rating:     
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  • 5
 (4.3 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (2/2) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Petzl
Review by: RJ Spurrier ⋅ Senior Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ January 8, 2014  
Overview
This was the only headlamp to score perfect 10's for both trail finding and close proximity. The beam quality and power are all you can ask for in a light. That said, three things kept it from getting an award: it has abysmal battery life, the re-active lighting can be frustrating, and it is 3-5 times the cost of many lights that scored higher and are much lighter. If you love Reactive lighting, we would likely go with the Petzl Tikka RXP which is much less expensive, lighter and has a much longer battery life.

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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Performance Comparison
Click to enlarge
Credit: Shellay Glatz
Trail Finding
This headlamp has a near perfect trail finding beam and scored a 10 of 10. The light is even over distance and powerful. In the beam comparison photo with the Coast HL7 below, you can see the difference between a beam that just goes far (Coast), and a beam that evenly and fully lights over the same distance (NAO).

Beam Distance Photos


Petzl NAOCoast HL7

Close Proximity
Another 10 score here. Below the NAO casts an even beam across the target where another 10-scorer for trail finding, the Fenix HP11 concentrates too much light in the middle.

Close-proximity Beam Pattern


Petzl NAOFenix HP11

Battery Life
The NAO was one of the only headlamps to score a 1 for battery life. In high beam mode, as shown in this battery life vs. beam distance graph, the NAO beam power falls off a cliff after an hour and is gone after 2. The Coast HL7, which only scores a 3 for battery life, is still dramatically better than the NAO. One hour of high beam, for such an expensive and heavy headlamp, is a bit hard to swallow. Yes it's cool that you can charge the NAO from any USB source, but if you only get a few hours of use between chargers, that power source better be handy!

By comparison, the newly released Petzl Tikka RXP lasted 5.2 hours in our test for ANSI measured high beam test (to learn more about ANSI, check out our Headlamp Review). This battery life vs. beam distance graph shows just how much better the RXP does over the NAO.

Click to enlarge
Battery recharges with USB connection
Credit: Shellay Glatz

Brightness
With a measured max beam distance of 103 meters, the NAO is powerful but not particularly noteworthy. The Coast, costing over $100 less shined 128 meters.

Weight
At 190 grams (6.7 ounces) this is one of the heavier headlamps. The unique headband carries the weight well, but we still feel this headlamp is more weight than most people want to run with, especially considering good trail finders like the Black Diamond Spot that are less than half the weight.

Ease of Use
The Reactive technology is very cool in theory and not other manufacturer in our tests offered it. Turn on this mode, and the light chooses the best brightness for your needs: high beam for trail finding and low beam for close proximity and battery saving. In practice, this technology can be as annoying as it is useful. For starters, this and the Petzl Tikka RXP (which also uses Reactive lighting) are some of the few headlamps we felt we needed the manual for to operate. Once through the learning curve, the Reactive technology was frustrating around camp. As you mill around people, the kitchen and campfire, the lighting mode is constantly changing and not always where you want it to be.

Best Applications
This is hard to recommend for trail running because it is so heavy. So many lights with almost as bright a beam are half the weight. With the short battery life, this is really for short excursions near and usb charging port.

Value
This $175 light is one of the most expensive tested. You can almost buy one of every award winner for just a little bit more. This would be OK if the Reactive lighting was a game changer and there was some decent battery life, but this is not so.

Other Versions and Accessories
The Petzl e+LITE, $30, is the size of a small stack of quarters and is the lightest headlamp we know, by a large margin. It wins our Top Pick award as the best lightweight headlamp and does so by a good margin.

Petzl Zipka Plus 2, $45. Like most Tikka headlamps, it's compact, durable and has an above average battery life.

The Petzl MYO RXP, $95, delivers great close proximity lighting and has more beam power levels than any light we tested. The extra "R" in RXP stands for "regulated" as you there are three lighting modes, for each of which the user can select the power from among ten possible levels, from 8 to 140 lumens.

The NAO Rechargeable Battery Pack, $60, can be used as a spare battery. This battery charges via a USB plug on the battery pack. The NAO Belt Kit, $33, can be used to attach the rechargeable battery to a belt, a pack, etc.

Conclusion
This is one of the most innovative headlamps ever designed. Everything about it is cool from the look, the headband, the built in USB plug and the Reactive lighting. Unfortunately, its hard to recommend this headlamp because the battery life is so short and it is dramatically more expensive than many headlamps that scored higher. The Coast HL7 is much easier to use, lighter, has a longer beam distance and is a 5th the price. For just slightly less beam performance, the Black Diamond Icon has a bright beam that lasts about 10 times longer for half the cost. If you do love the Reactive Technology, check out the Petzl Tikka RXP which is half the cost and weight but has triple the high beam battery life.

RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 26, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.3)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 50%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Sep 26, 2014 - 04:14pm
Cooptronix · Colorado
First, I want to say "thank you" to O.G.L. for the way you test headlamps. Standardized and scientific. Love it.
Now on to my review. I've had the Nao for 9 months and use it exclusively for mountain trail running at night. After using my Petzl Myo XP, I felt I needed a major upgrade after seeing how much light mountain bikers were packing and how it didn't slow them down, and this seemed to fit the bill. I find that it is the right tool for the job. No more heebee geebees on the mountain when I spot large wildlife. The beam pattern is great for long distance viewing when I look up (reactive mode) and has a wide spread beyond the single track. I personally like knowing what's at my periphery at night on a mountain. As for the Reactive component- I love it. It just works so well for the kind of outdoor pursuits I like to do. I don't have to compromise my ability at night. It just lights everything up. ( I nicknamed it 'Eye of Sauron'- as it sees everything). Some people have complained about the Reactive component but once you understand it, I think it works very well, to give you the right amount of light where and when you need it. If things get a bit squirrelly, I just pop it onto full beam constant mode. Battery life in Reactive mode is excellent (well beyond the 1.5 hours at full power constant output mode-you just don't need full power all the time with this lamp-I think that point is lost in the main review)plus my night trail runs are sub 2 hours, so I haven't had any issues running low on power. Basically, don't be put off by the 1.5 burn time in full mode until you understand how Reactive lighting really works.
I think cost of ownership should be mentioned. You will always pay more for a lamp with an Li battery, $40-60 more, but over the life of that battery, the lamp will be less than the cost of lamp that uses throw away batteries, and ecologically a better choice. (I did the math against owning a Coast HL7 for the same time as the battery in this lasts- The Nao is cheaper). Plus you get a very technological headlamp that can be tailored to your needs through its software profiles. Am I a Petzl fanboy? maybe a bit. I am PO'd that the NAO 2 is so much more powerful, but such is technology these day. I look forward to seeing a test on it.
My final word- Personally, it is not heavy or uncomfortable to trail run with (it has a top strap that reduces the weight, plus you can get a belt pack) and the reactive component, plus light output, is astounding-even at the price. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it if you have the funds. (its less than $150 on Amazon now that the Nao2 is out!)
Happy trails!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 22, 2013 - 11:12am
Jeremy Bauman · Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab
I got the Nao as a gift after using the BD Icon for a few years. After getting used to the functions, I absolutely love this lamp! The reactive technology works very well and definitely extends the battery life dramatically. It's awesome to be walking on a low setting, then look up and see everything. Its very easy to switch to constant output lighting if you want to and its easy to program all the settings so that it will perform however you need it to. The capacity to use AAA's in a pinch is huge and still yields a bright usable headlamp (idk how well the battery life is with AAA's however).
On that note, this light is bright! I've been downhill mountain biking with it and was very pleased with the output, this thing blows the old Icon away.

There are a couple things that could be better, but in my mind they are minute.
  1. It can be difficult to fit the lamp onto a helmet when you are wearing gloves.
  1. They could have made a smaller USB port.

If you can get over those two things, this lamp will blow you away.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 2, 2012 - 12:47pm
Sloper · Climber · Amsterdam
Since my MYO XP broke down I thought let's give Petzl's NAO a try. So far I think it is not that great. Yes a lot of light, best use for running at night? Quite heavy though. So far the battery life is enough for one long night out, so that is positive. To attach it on your helmet in the dark is quite something. Mind it is still warm here, but later in winter with gloves I fear that the thing may catapult down the hill in the dark. A single belt system is easier to handle. I am also not so sure if the dimmer will work in heavy snowfall. So I am back to a Tikka XP 2 to be safe at least for winter climbing.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Aug 2, 2012 - 06:41pm
 
Eppo · Other
Het had zo'n mooi concept kunnen zijn, een hoofdlampje dat automatisch zijn lichtsterke regelt.
Maar de Petzl nao hangt van bugs aan elkaar.
Hoe je de lamp nu instelt, de lamp komt nooit boven de 30% lichtsterkte tenzij je de automaat uitschakeld of de lichtcel met je vinger afdekt.
Verder heeft het apparaat een flink aantal andere bugs zoals het aan en uitschakelen, het enorme stroomverbruik en de beetje knullige accu constructie.
Ik heb hier over contact gehad met petz, maar die komen niet verder dan het terug mailen van de franstalige gebruiksaanwijzing want de software schijnt perfect te zijn.
Mijn advies, koop niet de nao maar een van zijn goedkopere broertjes.
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Petzl Nao
Credit: Petzl
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