It was a foray into the new age of automation. The Petzl NAO headlamp confidently extinguished the darkness on a midnight hike up the rock-strewn Hidden Valley Trail.
Rather than a sweat inducing wide elastic band, I secured the NAO to my cranium with two svelte elastic bands. Light and comfortable. When I checked the map at the trailhead, the NAO automatically widened the beam while decreasing the light output to what was needed. As I began to pick my way up the trail, the headlamp narrowed the beam slightly and shot out a medium beam. When occasionally I raised my head to check the trail in the distance, the beam increased and narrowed even more.
I didn’t think the NAO out-of-the-box would have my number this closely, but it did, and I had no complaints. If the robot handling the NAO behaves out of your comfort level, you simply download the Petzl software the next time you use the USB cord to recharge. The software allows you to select already configured activity profiles or to custom make your own. If this tech-ness proves to be too much, simply hit the hold the on/off button down for 2 seconds and the light switches to a Constant mode, providing just a high and low beam.
With a twist, button also allows you to switch between high and low Reactive modes. At it’s highest setting, the dual LEDs provide up to 355 Lumens, which will burn up a trail more than hundred yards out for as much as 4 and half hours, far longer than this hike.
At the low setting you can get up to 8 hrs. In the Constant mode you get about an hour and a half in High and up to 8 hours in low. The USB-rechargeable battery is quite small and can be replaced with 2 AAA with a lot less output.
Back at the computer, the Petzl OS loaded easily and offered a number of easy to access menus. I had to remind myself: this is just a headlamp. I also had to admire the way the variable programming provided more than four times the runtime of the constant on mode. And the NAO was truly handsfree. The little robot kept my hands on the trekking poles and my face off the rocks.
Weather proof, but not waterproof. Plugged into the computer it took 5 hours to charge. Using the wall unit, it only took 3.5 hours.