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Petzl Zipka Review

A good solution for backpacking, balancing small size and weight, with good-enough performance
Petzl Zipka
Photo: Abriah Wofford
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Price:  $30 List | $29.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Compact, lightweight, offers good performance, easy to use
Cons:  Expensive for its performance level, below average flood lighting
Manufacturer:   Petzl
By RJ Spurrier ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 28, 2018
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57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 27
  • Trail Finding - 35% 5
  • Close Proximity - 20% 4
  • Battery Life - 15% 6
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Petzl Zipka is a unique headlamp that is well suited for backpacking. It packs small due to its innovative retractable cord headband, and is relatively light in weight at 2.3 oz or 64 grams. It is very easy to use, and offers considerably more lighting power than the ultralight 1 oz (27g) Petzl e+LITE; better battery life, and a much better spotlight beam, for only a little more weight and size. It also stacks up well against the Black Diamond Ion 1.9 oz (53g), with similar size, weight and battery life, but offering superior lighting in both spot and flood modes.

Ultralight fans will find the tiny Petzl e+LITE a better choice for backpacking, but for a lot of people, the extra punch of the Zipka is worth the extra weight.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Petzl Zipka
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Petzl Zipka
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $29.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$39.95 at REI$29 List$19.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$19.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros Compact, lightweight, offers good performance, easy to useExcellent spot light capability, wide evenly lit flood beam, above average in most waysGood performance for the price, 94 meter beam throw, easy to useSuper easy to use, inexpensive, solid performance, compact, and reliableLightweight, small size, excellent flood beam, great price
Cons Expensive for its performance level, below average flood lightingBelow average battery life, claimed battery life is wildly misleading, single button hard to use, lame waterproofingAverage in most waysGood but not great spot beam for trail finding, slightly below average flood beam opticsToo weak a beam for trail finding or distance viewing
Bottom Line A good solution for backpacking, balancing small size and weight, with good-enough performanceA quality, durable, and bright light that hits the sweet spot for most people's needs, despite dubious marketing claimsThe Yalumi is a good light, at a good price, that provides basic functionalityFor $20, the Tikkina offers impressive performance at a great price, that will meet most people's needsOffers great close proximity lighting at a budget price
Rating Categories Petzl Zipka Black Diamond Spot Yalumi LED 140-Lumen Petzl Tikkina Black Diamond Astro
Trail Finding (35%)
5.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
3.0
Close Proximity (20%)
4.0
9.0
5.0
4.0
7.0
Battery Life (15%)
6.0
4.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
Weight (15%)
7.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
8.0
6.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
Specs Petzl Zipka Black Diamond Spot Yalumi LED 140-Lumen Petzl Tikkina Black Diamond Astro
Measured Beam Distance 62 m 94 m 94 m 62 m 38 m
Claimed Distance 60 m 80 m 90 m 55 m 35 m
Measured High Mode Run-time (ANSI) 5 hrs 2.9 hrs 4.3 hrs 3.5 hrs 4.8 hrs
Claimed High Mode Run-time 60 hrs 30 hrs Not specified 60 hrs 20 hrs
Measured Low Mode Run-time 141 hrs 9.7 hrs 47 hrs 223 hrs 95 hrs
Claimed Low Mode Run-time 240 hrs 175 hrs 100 hrs 220 hrs 80 hrs
Measured Weight 2.3 oz, 64 g 3.1 oz, 89 g 2.7 oz, 77 g 2.9 oz, 83 g 3 oz, 86 g
Battery Type 3 AAA 3 AAA 3 AAA 3 AAA 3 AAA
Water Resistance IPX4 splash proof Splash proof (dubious IPX8 claim) IPX4 splash proof IPX4 splash proof IPX4 splash proof
Manuf Claimed Lumens 200 lumens 300 lumens 140 lumens 150 lumens 150 lumens
Beam Type flood/spot flood/spot flood/spot flood flood, dimmable
Red Light yes yes yes no no
On Switch Lock no yes no no yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Petzl Zipka uses the most innovative headband system of any headlamp we tested: a string that retracts into the back of the light. Otherwise, the Zipka is essentially the same light as the Petzl Tikka. The innovative headband gives it lower weight and a smaller packed size, which can be an advantage for something like backpacking were size and weight are key.

Performance Comparison


Photo: Abriah Wofford

Trail Finding


The trail finding score was OK in general but pretty poor compared to top-performing lights that also list for $30, such as the Black Diamond Spot. But, the Spot is 0.8 ounces heavier (25g) and doesn't pack as small.

A more fair comparison is probably looking at the Zipka versus the Black Diamond Ion, which is similarly small and slightly 0.4 oz lighter than the Zipka. As you can in the beam comparison images below Zipka offers a much brighter and wider spotlight beam than the BD Ion.

Beam Distance Photos
Beam photo of Petzl Zipka
Beam photo of Black Diamond Ion

Petzl Zipka
Black Diamond Ion

Another alternative worth comparing to, is the Black Diamond Spot, which sells for the same price, only weighs 0.8 oz more (25g), and delivers much stronger lighting performance, for both close proximity and as a spotlight, as can be seen below:

Beam Distance Photos
Beam photo of Petzl Zipka
Beam photo of Black Diamond Spot

Petzl Zipka
Black Diamond Spot

Close Proximity


The Zipka is below average in its flood mode lighting, with a score 4 of 10. While it is perfectly functional, it lacks the wide even lighting of the BD Spot or the ultralight e+LITE.


Photo: Abriah Wofford

Battery Life


You are likely to rely on a light like the Zipka primarily for close-proximity flood lighting, and it offers impressive battery life for that application, much better than the e+LITE, and about the same as the BD Ion,


Photo: Abriah Wofford

Weight


By design, the Zipka is one of the lighter headlamps, although certainly not the lightest.


Ease of Use


The Zipka is quite easy to use and has the same intuitive one button activation as the rest of the Tikka line. However, the string headband makes it hard to use when wearing gloves. In addition, you should be careful if you plan to use this with a climbing helmet. Without a wide elastic headband, the Zipka does not attach as well to helmets. Also, if you're running and bouncing, it's not as easy to get the Zipka really cinched down hard around your head.


Photo: Abriah Wofford

Best Applications


The Zipka is at its best for an application like a 3-5 day backpacking trip, where weight and size matter, but so much as to mandate the most ultralight solutions like the Petzl e+LITE. For a weekend backcountry trip, the Petzl Tikkina or BD Spot might be a better choice, since they weigh only a little bit more, and offer much superior performance as a general purpose light in the long-run.

Photo: Abriah Wofford

Value


In the current headlamp market, $30 is a price that needs to deliver a lot of performance. The Zipka is kind of a special purpose solution, in that it is not the light we'd choose for general-purpose use, which means buying it involves a compromise on performance in the long-run, to gain its lighter weight and smaller size. The beam power and other lighting metrics are just not that impressive for the price of this light.

Photo: Abriah Wofford

Conclusion


It the size and weight of the Zipka meet your needs, then it might be a good solution. But, we see it as straddling two worlds — not light or small enough for the ultralight backpacker, but not offering enough performance to be a good option for general purpose use (and the occasional backpacker, who does shorter trips, might not be so obsessed with weight and size to want to make the Zipka their primary headlamp).

RJ Spurrier