Headlamp Unlike Any Other: Petzl IKO CORE First Look

Right on the box, the Petzl IKO CORE claims that it’s ‘like nothing else.’ And in that, we have to agree. We put the Petzl IKO CORE through some early testing for a quick review.

When I opened the box from Petzl, I didn’t know what I expected. But the headlamp that I revealed when pulling open the packaging was unlike any I’ve used previously.


I tested the IKO CORE over a weekend of hiking in the Rocky Mountains to get a feel for this new product.

In short: I liked the IKO CORE for its powerful light, versatility, and comfort. But those who like red, blue, or green lighting options take note that the IKO has only a white beam.

Petzl IKO CORE Review

The Petzl IKO CORE is the most modern-looking headlamp I’ve used. With a patented AIRFIT headband, the IKO sits snugly but comfortably around the head. It feels a little less like wearing a headband, and a little more like wearing a hat. And notably, when you first put it on, be sure the battery pack sits in the back.

Push a button, and you get a powerful 500-lumen beam (if using the CORE battery — more on this later). Plus, it’s fairly light given its power, weighing in at 79 g.


Want a lantern? Fold the IKO into an included carrying bag, and it diffuses the light, perfect for use inside a tent. It also easily hangs from branches or hooks outdoors to provide nice ambient lighting.

The IKO CORE claims a power of 500 lumens on high, which proved to be quite powerful while looking over a field of willows at night. I could easily see the claimed 100 m, plenty to check for wildlife before heading to bed.

But usually, I kept the IKO at its standard 100-lumen brightness, which is plenty for around camp. On low, it glows with 6 lumens, enough for close work in camp while saving battery. It runs up to 100 hours on low.

IKO CORE_Studio Photos Out of the box 10 Use only with Petzl logo and © 2020 PETZL DISTRIBUTION Stef Cande_893_20_HD_AL

IKO CORE Hybrid Design

That brings us to a neat feature, the ability to use the CORE rechargeable battery, or three AAA batteries, without any adapters. The IKO design allows you to simply pull out the CORE battery and drop in AAAs.

And its electronics sense which batteries are powering it and adjust the output appropriately. Thus, when using AAA batteries, it only cranks out 300 lumens on high.


For most uses, that’s plenty.

Also, when using medium and high, the light includes a “reserve time” that reduces output significantly. So if you start running your battery low, the light will put out less light but still remain serviceable for quite a while, not leaving you in the pitch dark.

Overall, I like the versatility the light provides. It’s a great option for those who want a powerful light for hiking or camping that will also serve for faster activities like mountain biking.

IKO CORE_Studio Photos Out of the box 3 Use only with Petzl logo and © 2020 PETZL DISTRIBUTION Stef Cande_893_20_HD_AL

My only major caveat is that it has no colored lighting. I’m a big fan of red lights, which helps the user maintain night vision. I use it a lot while hunting and have also used it for ocean crossings on old sailboats at night to keep an eye on the compass and stars at the same time. But if you’re one of many folks who don’t care about red or other color lights, that point is moot.

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This seems like a solid headlamp for many recreational users. You can get the IKO CORE now for $90, which includes a rechargeable battery. If you’re looking for comfort, light weight, and a headlamp that easily doubles as a lantern, this is a good midprice model.

Sean McCoy

Sean McCoy is the Editorial Director of GearJunkie, and 5+ other All Gear websites.

He has been writing about hunting, fishing, trail running, camping, skiing, and more for 15+ years.

Prior to GearJunkie, he was the chief photographer for the Virgin Islands Daily News and former Editor In Chief for GearJunkie. Based in Denver, Colorado, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.