Review by Tony Lourens
Oh great, a new headlamp from Petzl to review for the next issue of SA Mountain. I know. I’ll take it with me to Norway. What better way to test a piece of gear than on a five-week climbing trip? Brilliant idea! NOT! What I hadn’t factored in was that during the height of summer Norway gets about 25 minutes of twilight per day. So there I was with Petzl’s newest and brightest, but nowhere dark enough to use it. So here I am back in the middle of a rainy and gloomy Cape Town winter, running up and down dark mountains, testing the new Swift.
Petzl’s latest creation, the Swift RL comes on the market boasting a light that is capable of emitting a beam of 900 Lumens. And for those not up with the terminology, that is extraordinarily bright and piercing. So bright, that the headlamp comes with a small cooling vent to reduce heat build-up on the battery compartment.
Okay, so it’s a bright headlamp. In itself that is no great shakes, but what sets the Swift apart is the built-in Reactive lighting. This means that the headlamp will assess the ambient light and only cast a beam bright (or dim) enough to give you a decent a workable pool of light. This of course will have a direct bearing on battery life. But of course, the lamp can also be set to standard lighting, so you can control the brightness of the beam no matter what the ambient light.
Okay, so this is how it works: When you hit the on/off button, the lamp automatically switches on in Reactive mode, as most of the time you will be using the light to do menial tasks, and this can be brightened to two slightly higher settings by hitting the button again and again.
But if you need brighter light for whatever reason, then simply hold the button down and the lamp will switch to standard mode, giving you three settings in that mode as well, the third being the business at 900 lumens. Of course at this constant brightness, your battery time is reduced to between 2 and 3 hours. But another nifty thing is the Swift comes with a reserve tank – when your battery energy is running low, the lamp will blink several times, then automatically drop to a standard low beam good enough for simple hiking, which will last for approximately 2 hours.
The Swift also comes with a lock on the on/off switch, by simply sliding it across, and a battery gauge, which tells you how much power you have left. The removable lithium ion battery pack is USB rechargeable, which can be charged attached to or detached from the lamp and can take up to 6 hours to fully recharge, so it is advisable to have a back-up battery if you are out in the sticks.
The other thing I like about the Swift is its helmet-compatible padded headband, which also comes with double adjustment bands at the back for extra comfort and easy size adjusting.
Weighing in at only 105 grams, this relatively compact headlamp, is one of the brightest ‘small’ headlamps on the market, which is great for all kinds of mountain use, and recommended for dynamic sports such as ski mountaineering, running and general mountaineering and climbing where good and reliable lighting is a necessity.