The Bottom Line: The best gear is that which you don’t notice working. Whether it’s running, skiing, and especially climbing in the wee hours, this bombproof light always displays the right amount of light without the need to play with buttons thanks to the Reactive lighting. You can eye up that tiny hold in front of your face, and then look down at your feet, never being blinded by too much light, never needing more. The light is plenty bright. The 300 lumens of the REACTIK is way more then I need. It works great for night skiing, even at speed. If you're thinking of getting the REACTIK “+” version, the “+” has a lens that casts a more focused beam that goes much further than the broader diffused light of the REACTIK.
I’ve used some variant of the Petzl Reactive system since it hit the market four years ago. While the lumens have changed, the batteries, photoreceptors, and technology hasn’t. My headlamps in their various forms have been used on a 26-hour day mountaineering. They have gone on night ski runs down the Bow Glacier at -32 Celsius. Countless alpine starts, night ice climbs, heavy monsoon rain storms, salt water paddling trips, and an owner who is hardly careful with gear. The REACTIKs have experienced the full breadth of North American mountain sports.
I’ll be upfront. I am a Reactive fan boy and have been since day one. I am pretty good at finding niggling little details to be upset about with a product, and this REACTIK+ is one product I just can’t really find fault with.
Reactive lighting is a system of LEDs and a photosensor that work in tandum. When the photosensor picks up too much light, it drops the brightness down. Practically speaking, this means that you can have it full blast looking out over a valley at details 100 meters bellow you, but when you turn back to read your map, the light snaps back to five lumens so you aren’t left blinking stars out of your eyes. This has a secondary benefit of only using as much power as is required, so the batteries last longer. The light has three light mode groups: Reactive, Constant, and Red. Reactive and Constant have three brightnesses each. In Reactive mode, the mode determines just how bright the light will go. In practice this normally means you have it all full blast when needed, or you have it in a battery savings mode where it never gets brighter than 50 lumens. But you can easily move it to the higher category if needed.
These modes can be adjusted either by connecting the battery to your computer or via Bluetooth. I’ve discussed the app in another review, but the short and sweet is that this is convenient when you want to make a change in the car, but that almost never happens, so it feels extravagant. I’d have rather shaved $10 or $20 off the price.
The fit on the light is superb, which seems unlikely. Coming in at 115 grams it’s a heavy light to have all the weight on your for head. But the microfiber wide strap and the double strap at the back is superb. Even while running down a steep path on night training laps, I’ve never noticed the REACTIK+ moving at all. I’ve also strapped it to a variety of helmets (the Sirocco, Half Dome, and the Salomon MTN Lab Ski Helmet) and had no problems with slippage.
In terms of battery life, I’ve been impressed. I once had an ill fated 26-hour day, which led to the light being turned on for 15 hours straight. I mostly kept it in its lowest mode with occasional bursts to aid navigation. Before finally giving out, it did give me a couple of burst pulses informing me that it was dying. One thing I love about rechargeable lithium ion batteries compared to alkaline is that you can access a lot more power right until the end. I was able to get a couple of seconds of full blast to get a fix on where I was, before it died. Disappointingly, the 5 lumen emergency backup didn’t kick in. Luckily, I only had 20 minutes until the sun began to rise. I have since tested and ensured my battery is programed to keep the 5 lumen in reserve for 40 hours. After this I also purchased a second battery pack. I was temped by the alkaline case, which you can pop in, though you loose Reactive modes, but the Lithium pack weighs two-thirds as much. And you get way more power.
One problem I do have is that the light loves to turn itself on in a tight pack. I normally remove the battery when traveling for this reason. It’s a bit frustrating when it’s dark and you need to fish it out. You can also strategically place it in your pack somewhere where the button won’t get bumped.