Monday, May 20, 2019

Petzl Nao+ Headlamp Review - Brighter, Longer Battery Life and Easy App Based Customization

Article by Jeff Valliere

Petzl Nao+
750 Lumens
6.6 oz./190 grams


  • Very bright at 750 lumens
  • High quality construction
  • Reactive lighting
  • Battery life up to 18 hours
  • Easy customization of light settings
  • IP X4 Water resistant
  • Stable on the head/lightweight for the output
  • Battery stow options
  • Ability to change out batteries (if you buy an extra battery pack)
  • White light hue
  • Price

I have been using the first generation Petzl Nao for 4 or so years and it has been one of my favorite lamps, with a very bright beam, reactive technology and reasonably light weight for the output.  The reactive technology is amazing, basically adjusting the breadth, depth and intensity of the beam depending on proximity of surroundings.  The automatic reactive adjustment of light helps in having hands free adjustments to provide adequate light as needed.  This mode also helps extend battery life, as you are not unnecessarily flooding more light than you need when looking down at the ground or forward on a steep ascent for example.  My only 2 complaints with the first generation Nao was that the reactive adjustments of light could seem a bit quick and flickery, which I found to be somewhat distracting at times.  Additionally, even on battery save lower reactive modes, battery life seemed somewhat limited.  The Nao+ now offers 200 more lumens, longer battery life, easily adjustable lighting modes through the MyPetzl Light app. and a red flashing safety strobe on the back of the battery pack that can be toggled from flashing, steady or off at the press of a button within the app..

The Petzl Nao+ is a premium piece of running gear, without a doubt one of the best lights on the market and the best adventure headlamp that I have used.  The Nao+ is not the most feathery headlamp on the market at 6.6 oz./190 grams, but it does fit very secure on the head and feels lighter while wearing, with a very reasonable distribution of weight.  The battery pack, while light, is the heavier half of the Nao+, leaving the light in front to be light enough to not bounce or feel dense/bulky as some headlamps tend to be.  Additionally, for a lighter feel while wearing, you can purchase a belt kit that is basically an extension cord with an optional clip.  This option is especially useful when it is cold, as you can insulate the battery in an inner pocket for increased battery life.

Operating the Nao+ is very simple, as it uses a single square knob on the side that can easily be operated with glove liners, gloves or even mittens.  Just rotate the button forward in increments to turn on/off and cycle through the various lighting modes.  Within each light setting, you can hold the button forward for several seconds to toggle between reactive and constant lighting modes.

The Nao+ has a USB rechargeable battery pack that is easy to disconnect and recharge and extra battery packs can be purchased separately.

The connection is straight forward, but is directional, so if any resistance, just rotate 180 degrees and it will easily insert.  Given that I have an older Nao, I thought I could easily use the old battery as a backup, but curiously, the older battery does not fit the newer Nao+.  Even more curiously however, the new battery fits on the old Nao.  One other minor detail, you can pop the casing off of the old Nao battery pack, unplug the rechargeable battery and insert 4 AAA batteries in a pinch, but this no longer is possible with the Nao+.

The charging cable is somewhat unique.

And by unique, nothing too crazy (though you will most likely not have extras laying around the house), but one end plugs into a normal USB port on a computer or USB wall charger and the other end that plugs onto the battery is a USB (female) plug instead of the micro USB.  This works fine, but I would prefer to have a micro USB port on the side (with rubber tab) instead of having to remove the battery from the headlamp to charge.  It is not that difficult, but perhaps a bit overly engineered.

Conversely, the rechargeable Petzl Actik Core just pops open and you can use a micro USB cable to charge, so would love to see something similar on the Nao+.

For an even greater variety of lighting selections depending on the activity, you can open the MyPetzl Light app. and select from any of the activities such as Mountaineering, Multi Activity, Trail Running, Trekking, Bivouac, Mountain Biking.  Within each one of these selections, you can further customize each of the light settings.

Below are some of the various activity selections and corresponding maximum burn times in each mode.  In the following screens, you can see real time battery charge level and time remaining on each mode.  Also at the bottom, you can toggle the rear safety light from flashing to constant to off, which relays to the light instantaneously.  I find these estimates to be very accurate and helpful in predicting when to charge.

In the two mountaineering screen shots below, you can see the difference in burn times between in reactive mode and constant mode. You clearly will get more battery life in Reactive.

Then the next two, trail running reactive vs. constant.

In live mode, you can slide the bar at the right to raise or lower the brightness in real time as well, the higher you go, the less the burn time and the lower, then burn time increases dramatically.

If you really want to pull out all the stops in the event of an emergency, there is a feature where you can type a SOS message that will relay to the main lamp.

At the top of the light unit is the proximity "reactive" sensor and the lower two bulbs, flood for proximity and a focused beam for long range vision, work independently or in unison depending on the mode.

The Petzl Nao+ is a unique and amazing headlamp, projecting an impressive beam of light that is appropriate for just about any outdoor activity.  The reactive capabilities are unlike any other light that I have used and the Nao+ is ubiquitous in the ultra running/overnight adventure/mountaineering scene, for good reason.  With 750 lumens, long battery life, a wide range of easily customizable settings via the app., relative light weight for the output and easily battery replacement/battery stow options, the Nao+ is a must have for the hard core adventurer or anyone simply looking for a highly featured light that is super bright.  

For shorter runs where one wants good light, but does not need 750 lumens and wants something more easily stowable (like pre dawn or after work winter runs), the Nao+ may be a bit overkill and you may consider a light like the Petzl Actik or rechargeable Actik Core (RTR review) with 350 lumens and 69 grams.  

My only complaint, if I could even call it that is that the light hue is very white and does not bring out the contrast and definition in the trail as a warmer hued light, such as the Kogalla RA Adventure Light (RTR review).  I find that the warmer hue lights help me stay more aligned and balanced on the trail (something I have often struggled with at night).  Either way, I would highly recommend the Nao+!

Petzl Nao+ vs. Gen 1 Petzl Nao - As mentioned previously, the Nao+ is a big jump over the first Nao.  Improvements include being brighter at 200 more lumens, nearly double the battery life, much smoother transitioning in reactive lighting mode (where the original Nao was a bit flickery), a red flashing LED safety light at the back and the Nao+ connects to smartphone via Bluetooth for easy adjustments and transitions between lighting modes and customization of lighting modes.

Petzl Nao+ vs. Kogalla RA Adventure Light - Comparable in lumens with 50 more going to Kogalla, but the most significant difference is the warm light hue of the Kogalla and 5 bulb design that provides an impressively wide swath of light with no jitteriness.  This warmer light hue does a better job bringing out contrast in the trail (see below) that the more common white light found in the Nao+ and just about every other light or headlamp on the market.  Additionally, the Kogalla has a very wide range of mounting and battery options.  If you do a lot of night time adventuring and it is within your budget, a Kogalla RA Adventure light coupled with a Nao+ is the ultimate combination!

Petzl Nao+ vs. Petzl Actik Core - The Actik Core can't come close to competing in light output (750 lumens vs. 350 lumens) or battery life at roughly 1/4 of the Nao+, but it is super lightweight at 69 grams, very simple, easy to charge, easy to stow in a pocket and is still plenty bright enough for pre dawn jaunts or after work night runs.

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he has recently worked in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 8 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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Jeff Valliere said...


Jeff Valliere said...


Ash Green said...

Thanks for such a nice content. Apppreciate it :)
If anyone interested similar one's have a look here thank

RobertMat said...

Thanks Jeff!
I received a spare NAO+ battery before the headlamp and could not figure out what kind of USB cable I needed until I found this article. I went cross eyed looking for a micro-USB port :-)