PETZL NAO Headlamp Review – April 2017 | Headlamps101

Petzl Nao 2 outdoor headlamp with 575 lumens of brightness. Can buy in 2017.
For most of you, you’ll be looking at either this headlamp at $135-150, or the newer model that just came out and is available in 2017, for $185. They are both top of the line outdoor gear!

[Page updated: 7 April 2017]

We’ve used this Petzl Nao headlamp the longest of any we have, for over a year, and we love it. That said, there are still just a couple things we’d love to have fixed. The price for the Nao in January 2017 is very close to the newest iteration – the Petzl Nao+ Plus. If You don’t mind spending $185 vs $150 to get an even better light, let me point you to the Nao+ here. Please don’t confuse this headlamp with the original Petzl Nao – which only had 355 lumens. They are still selling online, and they are also called just Petzl Nao Headlamp. We sometimes call this one with 575 lumens the Petzl Nao 2 just to differentiate. We don’t review the Petzl Nao with 355 lumens here.

The comprehensive Petzl Nao Headlamp Review follows. You can read it, or scroll down to the bottom of this page to see the 25 minute video! 

PETZL NAO HEADLAMP (E36AHR – 575 LUMENS) (NAO 2)

DESCRIPTION

Petzl has really built a name for themselves over the last decade. A large part of their customer base is the ultra-runner community who need high quality headlamps which won’t let them down in the middle of an all night race.

Climbers also use these well-built headlamps because really, they can’t be beat. The cost is rather high, but I’m paying it. You’ll probably pay it too once you see what is out there. There are plenty of cheap headlamps you can get for under $50. Probably they are all junk. Petzl has a solid product. If your need is something beyond simple recreation, you should buy one of the Petzl lights. You’ll be happy you did.

This headlamp was our Top Headlamp Choice in 2016. In 2017, we chose it’s successor, the Nao+. With either one, you cannot go wrong, but the newest 2017 model has some extras that make the $35 difference well worth it.

Let’s get started with the PETZL NAO HEADLAMP REVIEW!

SPECS

  • Dimensions (longest): 6.3cm x 3.8 cm x 3.8 cm (2.5″ x 1.5″ x 1.5″)
  • Weight: 187 grams (6.5 oz.). Battery pack: 95 g. (3.3 oz.)
  • Bulbs: Two Cree LED’s. One flood, one spotlight. Life – 50,000 hours.
  • Red Light: None.
  • Lock Feature? Yes, just reverse twist the beam selector. to show the padlock.
  • Redundancy for Beam Failure? If one burns out, you have the other.
  • Power Modes: Manual and Reactive Lighting Technology.
  • Max Lumens: 575, and lower power 40 lumens.
  • Max Beam Distance:  135 meters (148 yards)
  • Run-time Range: 1.5 hours to 12 hours.
  • Battery Rating: 2,600 mAh rechargeable 18650, proprietary
  • Recharge Time: 4-6 hours empty to full
  • Water Resistance Rating: IPX 4
  • Warranty: Bulbs – 3 years. Battery – 1 year.
  • Tilt Range: 75°
  • Number of Tilt Clicks: 6 (12.5° per click)
  • Special Technology: Reactive Lighting Technology (RLT). Chip automatically brightens or dims light depending on what you’re looking at. Look at something close, like a map, and the light falls off to around 120 lumens. Look at something far away – 30 yards (meter), the light cranks up to brilliant radiance so you can see around 100 meters away. This technology extends battery life substantially, and works well for a lot of different activities.
  • My Petzl Light Mobile Software: None. There is a software program that is supposed to connect your computer to the Nao 2, but I have never got it to work with my MacBook Pro. The new light, Nao+, has a new mobile app that connects easily and offers easy adjustments to your beam profiles.
  • Price at Petzl.com: Unavailable.

Price at Amazon: $135-150 – Buy at Amazon here ->Petzl – NAO 575 Lumens

LET’s SEE WHAT WE’VE GOT – Detailed Images

Petzl Nao headlamp back view (Nao 2).
This is the back view of the Petzl Nao 2, showing the battery compartment. There is no flashing red light here to help people behind, see you. That is only on the Nao+.
Petzl Nao Headlamp Beams and RLT Sensor
The top surrounded by orange triangles is the light sensor to judge how much light to shine when in Reactive Lighting mode. The right side of this image shows the flood beam (wide) and on the left is the spot beam (tight).
Battery compartment for Petzl Nao 2, showing two AAA batteries installed for emergency use.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery is removed here and the photo illustrates that the Petzl Nao can take 2 AAA batteries in an emergency.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When I first unboxed this headlamp over a year ago, I was sure it would disappoint me in some way. It just looked too good, and was too expensive for my tastes, but I really needed a great headlamp I could rely on as I look for snakes and other wildlife in the rainforests of Thailand at night. I took a chance. I’m so glad I did, because Petzl has become my favorite brand of headlamp. The look of this headlamp is modern and high tech looking. It’s light, and I have run with it, though the adjustment straps have to be just right so it doesn’t slide around my head.

There is no red light beam or red flashing light in the back, but at the time I wasn’t too concerned with that. Now that I know I can have the flashing red light on the reverse of the battery pack with the Nao+, I’m anxious to get it and see how visibile it is. I don’t run at night often, but it will come in handy occasionally.

One additional piece of gear that comes with this headlamp is the top strap which you don’t see in any other images. The package says the Nao 2 strap is for technical activities.

MATERIALS – CONSTRUCTION QUALITY

All the higher-end Petzl headlamps are built to last. They’re solid and appear to use quality materials. Their molds are smooth, no rough edges. Their lights seem to last, and I have had no issues with mine in over a year. That said, my Petzl Tikka RXP light, a cheaper option, has a dead battery after just under a year of use.

The selection knob is large and square for an easy grip – with, or without gloves. To select a brightness level – you twist the selector forward and then let go. That gives you the first brightness level. To get other levels you can twist again, or twist and hold for 2 seconds, and get into the manual lighting options. The head-strap is strong and made out of durable nylon, but without elastic cords like the Nao+ has.The cord straps are very strong, and though I thought they’d not be comfortable, but as I said, when the straps are adjusted perfectly – it feels good. Lightweight enough to forget it’s there.

The battery in the back and the light unit in the front are well-balanced, I don’t even notice the lamp on my head. It’s 2 grams heavier than the Petzl Nao+. The swivel is strong, and will not accidentally move as you’re running. It’s quite firm. The rubber cable running from the battery pack to the headlamp triangle is solid and doesn’t get in the way. The battery pack is solid, and looks great with the red flashing light on the back, and the battery power indicator available at the push of a button.

Overall impression? IMPRESSED!

WATERPROOFING

These headlamps have some water resistance, but  rating of the previous iteration – IP X4. This means resistant to rain (splashing water) for 10 minutes. I’ve used mine in heavy rain for an hour before and had no problem with it. I have yet to have one of my Petzl’s almost fail from water getting into the case. Do be careful your battery compartment is closed properly before you go out.

BATTERY LIFE and OPTIONS

The Nao battery (E36200) is a proprietary implementation of a 18650 size battery with 2600 mAh of power.

There is a substantial difference (night vs. day) between junk 18650’s and good ones. The Petzl batteries are well-built – great, really. Are they $60 great – which is what a replacement cost?

I don’t think they’re worth that much. It’s a gimmick for the company to make more money. There is no reason in the world the battery has to be proprietary, except to make Petzl more money. So, while that sucks, the battery is excellent, and I’ve yet to find any better headlamps – so, like Apple products, I just deal with it and keep buying these Petzl Headlamps so I’m not stranded in the forest without adequate lighting.

Petzl Nao 2 battery life chart in at different settings.

One thing I just can’t understand is the implementation of using AAA batteries as an emergency backup. When you remove the rechargeable battery, you can see a couple of metal contacts where you can put two AAA batteries you buy in the store, or other AAA rechargeable. Batteries must be alkaline or Lithium to power the unit. Ni-MH and Ni-Cd rechargeable batteries are not compatible. Using two AAA batteries will degrade performance significantly. I’m not sure how Petzl could even include this as a valid option – it isn’t. The light becomes extremely dim, and I think it’s worthless for everything but reading. Burn time is 24 hours in this mode (non-regulated) using AAA batteries, and the battery meter doesn’t work. See chart below for how to insert batteries.

Petzl Nao AAA battery use
With this option, the Nao+ puts out about as much power as a lit match. Really, it’s not going to help you run or even walk down a mountain. Pray for a full-moon! Oh, and don’t even think about putting some Eneloop Pro’s in there, you will have a hard time even noticing if the light is on!

Need a brighter light for more hours? The Petzl Ultra Rush is your headlamp >

BEAM QUALITY

There are two beams, a flood on the left side of the headlamp (as worn) and the spotlight on the right side. As in the Petzl Tikka RXP and Petzl Nao+ (Plus), the beams blend together without harsh distinction where the center beam is. This creates a really nice effect which is ideal for running, hiking, biking, or whatever sport you’re doing outside.

There is no red-light mode, or red flashing light on the back of the battery pack on the Petzl Nao 2.

SETTINGS OPTIONS

The manual, which is supposed to show the process for setting the beam options is either ridiculously weird, or I am. It took me a while to figure out how exactly to select the correct lighting mode I want.

Here’s how to do it.

Twist the selector knob once and let go to get the high power with RLT. In this mode the headlamp can crank up the brightness to the full 575 lumens for brief instants if you’re looking far away and the sensor thinks you need full-power.

Twist again and let go, and you will be in Low Power mode with RLT. The difference is that the unit won’t light up so bright at max. You won’t get 575 lumens in this mode, you will get 290 lumens max.

Twist again to shut off.

To enter manual mode, at any time just twist and hold for 1-second and let go. This will be High Power manual mode. The light never dims, until the battery drains. You will get 430 lumens in this mode.

To enter Low Power manual mode, while in High Power manual mode, just twist again and let go.

 

can’t figure out what the graphics are telling me to do. Sure, I know to twist the selector knob and to twist and hold for another option, but, in the field I just cycle through all the options until I get the beam I want. It’s annoying that they can’t just say in very simple terms – twist selector 1 time for this mode. Twist it twice for this mode. Twist again for off. Then, twist once, and then twist a long and hold it for this mode… etc. Let’s see if you can make any sense of this graphic:

Petzl Nao+ (Plus) light mode instructions (chart) for cycling through options
The left side of the graphic seems simple enough. After that, I’m lost.

There are 4 lighting modes you can select with the knob on the Petzl Nao headlamp.

The two lighting modes (with low and high in each) are:

  • Reactive Lighting – automatically adjusts beam strength depending where Nao is pointed, saving batteries.
  • Constant Lighting – manual control of lighting – either high or low beam power. Petzl calls the high power beam “Max Power” and the low power setting “Max Autonomy,” regardless which mode the headlamp is in.

AUTO ADJUSTING BEAM (RLT)

The Reactive Lighting Technology (RLT) works pretty well. It sometimes stumbles, but that is to be expected with the first to second iteration. When I notice it dims the light quickly is when moths fly in front of the sensor. It isn’t often, but just FYI. I think the Nao+ will have it sorted out pretty well. They probably tweaked the algorithm a bit and made it even more efficient.

WHICH ACTIVITIES IS THE PETZL NAO BEST FOR?

The Petzl Nao headlamp is best used to its full capabilities in the outdoors. The constantly adjusting beam, if appropriate for what you’re using it for – gives you around 6 hours of battery, instead of manual high setting – which drains the battery in 90 minutes. Quite a difference using this Reactive Lighting Technology. I think it is best for these activities:

  • running
  • hiking – trekking
  • cave exploring (spelunking)
  • working oil platforms or other heavy industry work
  • adventure climbing
  • skiing
  • bicycling
  • temporary replacement for a motorbike headlamp!
  • wildlife excursions at night – it’s perfect!

SPECIFIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN NAO and NAO+ (Plus)

  • Nao+ is 2 grams lighter.
  • Nao+ has 750 max lumens vs. Nao 2’s 575. This is using the RLT option. Neither light can hold their max lumens rating in manual mode, just for very short bursts. (** important to note!)
  • On Max manual brightness the Nao+ goes 90 minutes at 530 lumens. The Nao 2 got 90 minutes at 430 lumens.
  • Nao+ has Bluetooth connectivity options – Nao 2 had USB to computer and a very poorly implemented software program that was supposed to allow control of the light power output via programming. I never did get this option to work on my new MacBook Pro notebook.
  • Automatic red flashing light on reverse of Nao+ ensures some visibility from behind for runners, bikers, and well, anybody.
  • Programmable strobe option to flash a message in morse code in case of emergency. Requires Bluetooth connected phone – Android or Apple.
  • Orange cord band on Nao+ is elastic. Nao 2’s band had no rubber inside.
  • “My Petzl Light” – new mobile connection software – a considerable upgrade from the last iteration.

CUSTOMER RATINGS

This light has been around since 2014, so it has had enough time to get some ratings from customers. I’ll rate the light myself below after this Petzl Nao Headlamp Review, and then add some other ratings I find online as well.

Headlamps101 Ratings

  • Quality of Build – 5 Stars ***** Lightweight and very strong. Straps don’t rot and nothing breaks.
  • Beam Brightness – 4 Stars ****
  • Beam Quality – 5 Stars *****
  • Battery Life – 3 Stars *** This headlamp really needs a stronger battery because many users would love to use it on full manual power for hours at a time. Ninety-minutes is just not enough for many outdoor activities.
  • Water Resistance – 4 Stars **** As I said, using in a hard rain for an hour was no problem, and this is on multiple nights this past year. Well-built.
  • Price – 4 Stars **** A few years ago I balked at spending over $100 for a flashlight to wear on my head. Today, $150 seems reasonable because I know the level of quality Petzl maintains with their headlamps. Sure, it’s still expensive, but if you NEED a quality light that cannot let you down – you’ll want to go with the Petzl brand, and one of their Nao or Ultra Rush lights.

Amazon Ratings for Petzl Nao 2

Petzl Nao Headlamp overall ratings at Amazon.

Review of Petzl Nao Headlamp (Nao 2) at Amazon.

PETZL NAO HEADLAMP USER MANUAL – PETZL NAO Headlamp User Manual (PDF)

PRICE and AVAILABILITY

The Petzl Nao – 575 Lumen Headlamp is available at high-end sports locations online, EBay sometimes, and Amazon. If you are like me, the comfort of knowing that you’re actually going to receive the items you order – is very important. There are very few places I trust when ordering items over $50 or more. I use Amazon for everything I can. If I can’t find it there, I’ll try to find the item at some other online chain, but I can almost always find everything I need at Amazon.

Here are some of the Petzl Headlamps at Amazon… maybe browse around there and see if you can get this headlamp for about $150 – which is how much I paid for mine a year ago. Or, spend the extra $35 and get the upgrade – the latest model of this light – the Petzl Nao+ (Plus).

Headlamp buy button.

I usually see this one for $150, but at times it is dropping down to $135. Either is a fair deal, and using Amazon, you know it will be coming in the mail.


Petzl Nao 2 Headlamp Review Video

NOTE – In this video I say that in High Power manual mode you cannot ever get more than 290 lumens. That’s incorrect. You will get 430 lumens. Using RLT in Low Power mode you will only get a maximum of 290 lumens.

See Comparison of our Top 4 Headlamps HERE >