Review: Petzl TACTIKKA+RGB headlamp

We put Petzl's hunting and fishing headlamp to the test
petzl TACTIKKA+RGB hunting and fishing headlamp
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

Outdoor lighting options for backcountry adventures were limited back in the day. For illuminating a campsite, my family leaned heavily on a green Coleman kerosene-fueled lantern with its wispy-webbed mantles and clanking handle. Despite its cantankerous temperament (which often led to Dad sharing his colorful vocabulary with the moon and stars) and knowing there was the slim possibility of camp-consuming fireball, the comforting hiss of a pump-primed Coleman is still one of my favorite lullabies from childhood.

Our options for strategic lighting ranged from cheap “C” cell flashlights that always seemed to get water inside, guaranteeing their death by corrosion, or those six-volt “lanterns” that were about as big as a coffee can and came in all of the primary colors. It seems like I got a red one for several of my birthdays.

Those lighting tools served the purpose, sure, but they lacked power. Rarely could we see anything at all beyond 10 feet with the Colman while the focused beams of handheld lights might reach out to 25. They also had rigid demands for handling. You had to have a free hand or, for the flashlights, a light with a handle small enough to hold between clenched teeth. The lantern required a hand as well or at least a branch at just the right height. All of this added unwelcome degrees of difficulty to chores after sundown that demanded two hands. Gathering wood, baiting a hook, or pitching a tent required either a partner, a convenient tree, incredible finger strength and dexterity, or a big mouth.

Even back then I knew that raccoon hunters and frog giggers often used a bulky headlamp for hands-free lighting. But it wasn’t until sometime in the 2000s that I discovered a much lighter and brighter lamp better suited to my outdoor pursuits. I never looked back, and since then, the options have only improved.

Over the past year, I’ve used the PETZL TACTIKKA+RGB headlamp extensively and it has illuminated my nighttime outdoor activities with ease, convenience, and comfort.

PETZL is a familiar name in outdoor lighting. The company has been around for 50 years and it literally came out of a cave. Seriously. The Petzl family’s need for quality spelunking equipment in France is what led to the TACTIKKA+RGB being strapped to my noggin for numerous trips through dark Arkansas woods this past autumn and winter.

What Works

Bright, Light, and Rechargeable
Why the TACTIKKA+RGB? Well, it’s lightweight (less than three ounces), it’s weather-resistant, and it comes with the rechargeable CORE system so I can save some coin on batteries, though, I can pop in three AAAs if I’m far from an outlet. It’s plenty bright with three levels of illumination for white light maxing out at 350 lumens, which is more than I ever needed for my travels in the dark for hunting season. I don’t think I ever moved beyond the dimmest setting. In a pinch, I also used that dimmest white light setting as I would a lantern by suspending it from a rope overhead. It worked brilliantly.

But the main reason the TACTIKKA+RGB accompanied me on hunts and will ride my head on predawn hikes to the creek this summer is the RGB. The letters stand for red, green, and blue lights. Each colored beam is a tool. All three save my night vision, but red and green also provide a stealthy approach to treestands, blinds, and creek banks while the blue light makes map lines and writing easier to read in the dark when I’m not sure about where I am. There’s also a strobe option for when I absolutely don’t where I am.

The TACTIKKA+RGB has a 160 hour burn time for lowest-level (6 lumens) white light, 60 hours for the colored lights, and 2 hours for maximum brightness. And the strobe is visible at 700 meters for 400 hours. Surely they could find me before the batteries konk out.

The TACTIKKA+RGB has one button. No extra gadgets for the appearance of complexity. No hunting with fingertips for different shapes, sizes, or textures. Just one button for selecting brightness or light color. It also features a quick-release buckle on the headband, and that headband is detachable and washable.

An MSRP of $59.95 seems like a bargain with this array of features and especially since it’s backed by a five-year guarantee.

What Doesn’t

Is It Too Light?
After heavy use under trying circumstances, I have one complaint about the TACTIKKA+RGB. It is so lightweight that sometimes when I turned it off I forget I was wearing it, which led to frantic scrounging through my pack and then the inevitable concern about being a moron when I rediscovered it on my head.

Not Waterproof
Okay, two complaints. I’ve not had a problem yet, but I wish it was truly waterproof instead of just water-resistant.

Final Word

The PETZL TACTIKKA+RGB is the hunter/angler headlamp and it has become an integral piece of equipment for my outdoor pursuits.