Petzl TACTIKKA headlamp - The Original

The Petzl Tactikka Headlamp, the original, is likely one of the most beloved pieces of kit that sadly is no longer in production. Undoubtedly, many other service members share the same sentiment.

The Tactikka set itself apart from others with its simplicity, reliability, and durability.\

Its function is perfect. A red lens diffuser manually slides over the white LED. The lens diffuser has an extremely tactile edge, and there is a noticeable bump when the lens is fully engaged. Activating and verifying its engagement at night is easily done by touch alone. In the military, this setup was ideal for avoiding white light accidental discharge in the field, thus preventing any trouble.

Another standout feature of this headlamp is its lack of complex multi-press taps and holds commonly found in newer lights. It boasts a single LED, instead of multiple ones.

The headlamp has two buttons. The primary button, with a single tap, allows for switching between low, medium, or high modes. The secondary button works as a momentary ultra-high, or "boost," mode that activates only when manually held down, turning off upon release. This feature is excellent when you need just a little more light or to briefly illuminate something in front of you without leaving it on. It proves ideal when walking through the woods without night vision, while maintaining light discipline. Furthermore, this feature likely contributes to its incredible battery life.

On the side, there is a small and dim green light that blinks intermittently at various tempos, indicating the remaining charge of the 3 AAA batteries. The light's programming ensures it almost never completely dies. As the power levels decrease, the brightness scales down. It rarely, if ever, leaves you completely in the dark.

Over time, the elastic band may wear out, but that is to be expected. The band also has a small storage unit for an extra colored lens (such as blue, green, or a white diffuser).

This light holds a special place in the author's heart and is a beloved piece of equipment. It is incredibly dependable and has been a constant companion throughout the author's military and police service. There is something unique about the bond formed with this piece of gear. The relationship was further solidified by the heavy reliance on it during critical moments in military school, where failure was not an option. If this light failed, it could have dire consequences.

The author's memories instantly transport him to the early and formative years of his career, particularly the times spent at Fort Benning and Fort Lewis during his initial infantry training requirements.

At Fort Benning, it lit the way during many ruck marches or when writing a quick OPORD for a patrol. On the land navigation course, this lamp proved invaluable when searching for points through thick scrub. It also accompanied the author during his time at Fort Lewis. Walking through the woods at night, the emitted red light would be swallowed by the triple canopy, resulting in another Cadet suddenly appearing no more than 4 feet away.

The headlamp worked great for patrolling without night vision, thanks to its wide and diffused red light and the ease with which it could be momentarily turned on and off (boost mode). It was extensively used to briefly illuminate the area directly in front, ensuring one would not step into a hazardous pit and sustain a leg injury. This sense of comfort is why the headlamp continues to be revered in present times. It was almost always hanging around the user's neck at sundown, ensuring it would be readily available when needed.

The beam pattern of this headlamp is notably different from what is offered today. It is tight. When using the white light on a map, the beam is only around a foot wide. On the red diffuser, it is much wider but remains uniform. This design has its advantages. The low setting is excellent for seeing what is needed with a uniform light that doesn't splash excessively. When using the white light in a tactical environment, it always feels more tactful. The beam is always focused on exactly what the user needs to see, rather than unnecessarily flooding the area with excessive brightness. Unlike newer models that can blind an entire squad with their sun-like intensity, this headlamp allows for focused illumination without compromising night vision.

Its attributes also make it excel in rural police work. When searching cars with the white light, the uniform illumination from the single LED helps identify inconsistencies in carpets, seats, and other areas. The focused beam aids in maintaining concentration on the specific object being examined, thus increasing the thoroughness of the search. During K9 tracks, the headlamp is worn around the neck, just as in the military. The red light serves the same purpose, ensuring the author does not injure himself by stepping into a hole or ditch.

Currently, the light is mainly used for light-duty tasks as part of the author's everyday carry kit when traveling. It occupies that spot because, in that role, if it is needed, it will be needed badly, and there is no doubt in the author's mind that it will be there when needed. To the author, its value has grown over time, like a fine wine that improves with age.

When it was announced that the light would be discontinued, many were undoubtedly bewildered by this decision. The author knows many who went out and bought a few extras to have as backups. The new models simply did not measure up to the original Tactikka. Therefore, if you still have the privilege of owning one, take care of it and use only Lithium batteries, as a battery explosion would likely render it permanently unusable. The author hopes that Petzl may develop an upgraded version of this headlamp while retaining all of its original qualities, perhaps even adding an easy-to-use lockout switch.

The original Petzl Tactikka - its function and performance - has stood the test of time. It continues to outshine newer models that hit the market. Perhaps it is due to the author's profound memories associated with this light, but more likely, it is because the light is simply exceptional.

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