Hands-on Gear Review

Petzl Ultra Review

Petzl Ultra is huge compared to most other headlamps  built in a solid/durable manner  and puts out a bright huge beam that we feel is like having a car headlight strapped to your head.
By: RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara  ⋅  May 10, 2015
Price:  $430 List
Pros:  Big, bright & evenly lit beam, like having a car headlight on your head, rechargeable, robust
Cons:  Expensive, heavy, short battery life, dim mode is still too bright for close proximity use
Manufacturer:   Petzl
63
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Trail Finding - 20% 10
  • Close Proximity - 20% 7
  • Battery Life - 20% 2
  • Brightness - 15% 8
  • Weight - 10% 1
  • Ease of Use - 10% 7
  • Gloved Use - 5% 10
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Our Verdict

The Petzl Ultra was discontinued as of January 2015.

The Ultra is like having car headlight strapped on your head in terms of the amount of light it puts out. No other headlamp we tested cast as much light immediately around or was as good at trail finding. All of this does, however, come at a cost. The Ultra is $430, which is 14 times the cost of our Editors' Choice Coast HL7 and it weighs three times as much as the Coast. This is a very specialized headlamp designed for blasting beam power power for a short period of time.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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Performance Comparison


Spot mode light turned on
Spot mode light turned on

Trail Finding


This had the best trail finding score of any headlamp tested and scored a perfect 10 of 10. As you can see in the beam comparison photo below against the Coast (scored 8 of 10), the Coast shines a little farther, but the Ultra illuminates much more of what is immediately in front of you with a more even light.

Beam distance photo
Beam distance photo

The Ultra similarly blows away the Top Pick Black Diamond Icon which scored 9 of 10.

Close Proximity


Surprisingly, the Ultra does not have the best close proximity beam pattern and only scored a 7 of 10. Below, the Icon has a nearly even distribution of light across target whereas the Ultra concentrates much of the light in the center, making it harder to pick out items in the periphery.

Close proximity
Close proximity

Battery Life


The Ultra only lasts . hours in high-beam mode using the ANSI standard (learn more about ANSI in the Headlamp Review ). This is partly due to the high lumen output, and partly because of the rechargeable battery (rechargeable batteries generally only last as third as long as their disposable counterparts). You can turn now the brightness setting on the Ultra to make it last longer, but then what is the point of having a heavy spotlight on your head if you are not blasting a bright beam?

In this battery life vs. beam distance graph, you can see just how much more time the Icon puts out a high powered beam (over 8 hours in the ANSI tests).

Rechargeable battery has gauge to tell you when battery is running low
Rechargeable battery has gauge to tell you when battery is running low

Brightness


This score is surprisingly modest 8 of 10 since Ultra does not concentrate the light in a narrow beam (which leads to a higher score). The measured maximum beam distance as 108 m. That is not bad but falls well short of the Fenix HP11 (173 meters) and the Coast HL7 (128 meters) which are both many hundreds of dollars less expensive. The the Ultra is the ultimate light for seeing what is 10-100 meters away from you. But it is not a top scorer like the Fenix HP11 for seeing what is 150-175 meters away. The Fenix is the lux leader with 469 while we measured the Ultra at 183 lux.

Weight


At 367 grams (12.9 ounces), this is by far the heaviest headlamp we tested and heavier than most climbing helmets. To take the weight off your head, there is an option to remove the battery pack and store it in your hydration pack or jacket and then power the light from a cable. This might be ok in cold weather to enhance battery performance, but otherwise its a pain. By comparison, the Icon is 33% lighter at 230 grams and the Coast HL7 is a third the weight at 124 grams.

Ease of Use


A dial on the side is relatively easy to use and scored a 7. This was one of the easiest headlamps to use with gloves.

Best Applications


Because of the weight and short battery life, this is really only ideal for brief bursts of high-speed activity at night. It would be an ideal night skiing light… for the few people that do that. It might also serve well for mountain biking although many people will prefer a lighter weight option with the same lumens mounted to their handlebars (that costs a lot less).

Value


No other headlamp was even close to this expensive. In fact, you could almost buy two of every award winning headlamp in our review and still have extra money left over for batteries.

Conclusion


This headlamp is impressive but has some serious drawbacks. It is heavy, outlandishly expensive, does not perform great at close distance and has a very short battery life. The upside is you dont need to buy spare batteries and you get one of the most powerful and even trail finding beams in existence.

For only $36, the Coast HL7 is a better fit if you are looking for a bright beam. The Coast is one third the weight, a 14th the cost, has a longer range spotlight, better battery life and much more even beam at close proximity.

Another option is the Black Diamond Icon which is not as good at trail finding or brightness but scored higher in most other categories, is lighter, only $80 and last for 12 hours in bright mode. Lastly, if you really want a blindingly bright beam on a budget, check out the Fenix HP11.

RJ Spurrier and Chris McNamara

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Most recent review: May 10, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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