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Running Accessories • November 16, 2020

Petzl Iko Core Performance Review

petzl iko core headlamp

What You Need To Know

  • New AIRFIT headband is a big upgrade from traditional headlamps
  • LED lights are efficient and provide clean light
  • Versatile, can be a lantern, spotlight, etc.
  • We love Batman action noises here at BITR

*Find the Iko Core and other lights on our list of the best running headlamps here

TAYLOR: Back in my skater days, inspiration was easy to find. Skateboarding has a little more room for creativity than running, and it’s easy to see when something different is on display. Rodney Mullen is a great example… if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out his highlight reels on YouTube after reading this.

In a similar way, Petzl is on the scene with the new Iko Core, headlampin’ gone wild! It looks and feels different, and it’s certainly got my attention.

Petzl’s priority with the Iko Core was to rethink and literally reshape the idea of a headlamp. Out with the traditional band. Out with the same big spotlight in front. Out with the idea that a headlamp is just for wearing on your head. This is starting to sound like a millennial’s reformation.


running headlamp


TAYLOR: When it comes down to performance, the new Iko Core is comparable to the Actik Core, a fan favorite lamp from Petzl. The Iko follows that mold, as it’s a featherweight headlamp that packs a solid punch of light.

Standard in almost all Petzl headlamps, the Iko Core has a couple of beam settings (mixed and flood) along with three levels of lighting available. Simply toggle between each level with a click of a button. They’re referred to as max burn, standard, and max light. I regret to report that there is no red lighting option.

LED is a fresh new feature to the Iko. It’s the first headlamp that I have worn that utilizes this type of light. Practically, this means that the light comes from multiple smaller bulbs rather than one or two larger bulbs. Think of the, “many hands make light work” principle. Efficiency is usually a perk with LED, and it provides clean and bright lighting. Initially, it didn’t seem that it reached out as far as some traditional headlamps. I did compare side-by-side with the Actik Core (max light is 450 lumens or lm), and they were very similar in both how broad and far the light reached. 

For the number geeks, this lamp squeaks out a surprising amount of light per hour. There is a little caveat. The numbers here are based on the amount of time until the light wanes to 10% of its maximum power on that particular setting. Once it reaches around 10% of power, the light will automatically change to a reserve setting. Depending on the setting, 2.5-4.5 hours of light (4lm), will help you get out of the woods.

At max burn (6lm) it’ll give you 100 hours of light. That’s enough light for hiking on trails or running on familiar smooth streets. Standard (100lm) can shine all night long at nine hours of light. Max burn boasts 500lm of power and 2.5 hours of light. 

Shop Iko Core petzl iko core headlamp


TAYLOR: As Hoka’s max-cushion shoes were once an oddity and turned staple, I think Petzl’s new Iko Core will be too. A reimagined headband leads the way on this innovative new lamp.

The AIRFIT headband is a mixture of what feels like plastic and rubberized plastic. It holds form yet is adjustable enough to twist into a complete figure-8. 

Why a new system? Think geometry on this one. Instead of being synched around your head via a single or dual-band system, the Iko Core rests on the crown of your head. It feels extremely light (2.8 oz) because of how the weight is distributed. The battery pack stays close to your noggin but rests right under that little knobby bone on the back of your head. I would be shocked if the inspiration didn’t come from the carriage inside a bike or climbing helmet.

Security is the other main factor of this design. I have considered other headlamps as zero bounce, but this is literally zero bounce. None. Zero. Nada. The AIRFIT system has an intricate small bungie that can be used to optimize security. There’s no need to pull too tightly, and you’ll know if you do – you might be staring cross-eyed for a week.

Some folks will be very pleased to know that the AIRFIT headband is water-resistant too. Bring on the sweat and rain.

Shop Iko Core iko core


TAYLOR: The Iko Core headlamps carry the “Core” insignia because of Petzl trademark rechargeable battery system that has a hybrid element. Four AAA batteries can be used to power the headlamp, but being able to recharge the battery with a micro USB cord is truly clutch.

The Core battery is a single battery pack that can be used in any of the company’s Core models. It’s a simple and light pack. Pop it in, pop it out.

I enjoy running trails solo and in the dark. So, I usually have my headlamps on the max lighting setting. I don’t want to be the next viral video being chased by a big kitty. After two runs I will need to charge the battery. Core batteries save me stress and money by always knowing I have charged batteries ready to go. I have a couple of batteries that are purchasable on Petzl’s website for $29.95. I will routinely switch them out and bring an extra one along on longer adventures.

iko core Shop Iko Core


TAYLOR: The Iko Core is a little bit of a hotshot, and it knows it. Versatility is a strength because of the AIRFIT band and adjustability of the light. 

Wrap it around a branch or tent pole. BAM! It’s a freestanding spotlight. Pivot the light upward and wear the band around your neck. KAPOW! A neck light is born. Utilize the provided bag to refract the light. BAZINGA! It’s a lantern.

iko core

Petzl Iko Core Conclusion

TAYLOR: What more could you want from a headlamp? The Iko won’t get many (i.e. not the brightest or lightest). However, it’s very light, uber comfortable, more secure than a well-funded retirement plan, and provides a few levels of clean lighting options. The new AIRFIT headband provides versatility, comfort, and dependable lighting in a way that no other headlamps really can. I hope to see it utilized throughout their active headlamps – cough cough with Swift RL capabilities – in the near future. With a Core/HYBRID battery system, this can easily be a daily go-to running headlamp and adventure companion.

You can grab the Iko Core headlamp for $89.95 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90 day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Iko Core

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Redd says:

    Nice write up for a really sweet looking light. This is definitely not the first Petzl to have LEDs though, they have been using them for at least a couple decades. LED lights can also have massive output from a single LED (6000+ lumens), I think the reason they used multiple LEDs here is more about form factor, keeping the depth shallow. Not trying to nitpick, just sharing interesting info for people like us who geek out on it.

    1. Taylor Bodin says:

      Hi Redd,

      Thanks for your response and insight. I do know that Petzl has done LED lights before, but I do not believe that this type of LED (that effects risk group 1 – what most would identify as LED) in a running headlamp yet.

      And I agree, the different usage certainly was about form factor. It’s nice to see high-quality lights, that are different than the typical, stand out a bit. Hopefully this headlamp will springboard some new innovation.

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