Petzl ACTIK CORE 450 headlamp review

The Petzl Actik Core 450 headlamp is a rechargeable, compact and multibeam headlamp with a dedicated red light mode. Petzl first started making headlamps in 2000, and since then, has modified their design to fit an array of uses (we are still actually using one we’ve had for about 15 years). This headlamp does almost everything you could ask for which is why it features in our guide to the best headlamps you can buy.

Key specifications

LED Color: White and Red
Brightness (Lumens):450
Runtime: Between 2 and 130 hours depending on mode
Weight: 77g
Waterproof Rating: IPX4
Battery Type: CORE rechargeable battery
or 3 x AAA

The Petzl Actik Core 450 comes with the hybrid concept, meaning you can run it either with the CORE rechargeable battery or three regular AAA/LR03 batteries. It comes with the CORE battery, but you can also purchase one as a standalone product (opens in new tab) to use with any other Petzl Hybrid headlamps. One advantage of using the CORE battery over regular batteries is that the brightness will stay the same over its entire burn time. In contrast, the brightness will decrease with standard batteries as they lose their charge. The burn time is considerably less than regular batteries, but of course, the bonus is that you can recharge it, and thanks to the hybrid design, you can choose which energy source best meets your requirements.

Of course, it’s not just a headlamp you’ll need when stargazing, you’ll probably want to pair it with one of the best stargazing tents, best telescopes, or best binoculars. Or, if you’re a photographer, check out our guide to the best cameras for astrophotography.

We have spent the past couple of weeks using the Actik Core headlamp for various activities, including late-night dog walking, sky watching, festival camping and using during wildlife rehabilitation activities. Here’s what we think.

Petzl ACTIK CORE 450: Design

  • Reflective, wide and comfortable headband
  • Single button operation
  • Multi-beams

(Image credit: Tantse Walter)

The Petzl Actik Core 450 is a nice-looking headlamp. A thick, comfortable black and red strap with reflective strips to make you more visible to others, and a ‘traditional looking’ lamp and battery pack on the front. The plastic housing of the LEDs is robust enough but might mark or crack if dropped on a hard surface with a lot of force but it is perfectly adequate for regular bumps and knocks.

As we’ve already mentioned, you can power it with either three AAA batteries or the included CORE rechargeable battery. The battery compartment sits behind the lamp and is simple to open with your fingers when it’s time to recharge but secure enough that it won’t pop open unnecessarily.

Once you’ve adjusted the elasticated strap to the correct size using the easy-to-use slider, the headlamp sits comfortably and snugly (but not too tight), so it doesn’t bounce around, which is essential for runners or those participating in extreme sports rather than sky-watching. It can be completely separated from the headlamp, but this is a little tricky and unnecessary. The wicking fabric can be sponge washed to keep it smelling and looking fresh.

The direction of the beam can be manually adjusted for either close-up focused work or as a flood straight ahead of you.

Petzl ACTIK CORE: Performance

  • Great battery life
  • Extremely bright
  • Versatile usage

The quality of this headlamp is no different from what you’d expect from Petzl, they have long offered some of the best headlamps on the market, and this model is no different.

This thing is bright, kicking out 450 lumens, but all in a surprisingly compact package. It has three brightness levels (lowest, standard, max) and the red light, which can be either continuous or strobing. The red light is beneficial for when we are sky watching at night, adjusting the dials on our telescopes or night vision binoculars, and not dazzling the people we are with. We also used it while feeding juvenile foxes at a wildlife rehabilitation center. Because they can’t see red, we were able to place the food around the enclosure causing minimum distress.

In a festival environment, we used the max brightness mode to find our way across the field to the portaloos and the standard beam to do the camp cooking. We used the dimmest mode to sort out our messy tent after dusk, and the red light while chatting and socializing. It’s perfect for all scenarios, except one. The Petzl Actik Core has a water resistance rating of IP X4. This means it is acceptable for light rain but should you find yourself out in a storm with lots of driving rain, you’d probably want to put it away, and it definitely isn’t submersible.

Petzl ACTIK CORE 450: Functionality

  • Easily adjustable sweat-wicking strap
  • Easy-to-open battery compartment
  • Lockable to avoid accidentally turning it on

Photo of the Petzl Actik Core High-capacity 1250 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery

(Image credit: Tantse Walter)

This headlamp will suit most general use requirements, not just sky watchers. It uses a single button operation that is obvious to the touch and responsive, so it can easily be operated when wearing gloves on those cold nights. The battery compartment is easy to open too, either to change the batteries or to plug it into a power bank using a micro-USB charger.

You can turn on the red lamp without having to turn the white LEDs on by long pressing the button; this is excellent news for astronomers and astrophotographers as this virtually eliminates the risk of ruining your night vision. With some other headlamp models, you have to turn the white lamp on and cycle through to red which isn’t desirable if night vision preservation is important.

You can’t use the headlamp while it is charging, but we’re being picky here. As with most electronic devices, you’d charge them when going to sleep anyway. The CORE battery has a helpful LED indicator where red means it’s charging and green means the battery is full. A full charge takes approximately three hours.

The headlamp can be ‘locked’ by pressing and holding the button down for four seconds before putting it into your pocket or kit bag. To unlock it, do the same again; long press until it comes on. This prevents it from accidentally turning on and therefore stops unnecessary battery drain that could lead to you being caught in the dark.

Should you buy the Petzl ACTIK CORE 450?

We think you should buy this headlamp. Unless you need it to be fully waterproof, we can’t see any reasons to not recommend this product. It’s comfortable, practical and versatile and comes at a reasonable cost, especially given you know you are buying from a trusted brand and it will last for years. It comes with a five-year lamp warranty, and the CORE battery has a two-year (or 300 charging cycle) warranty for even better peace of mind. We think it’s worth every cent. 

If this product isn’t for you

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Say you need a fully waterproof headlamp, an alternative you may wish to consider is the Knog Bilby 400 (opens in new tab). It also offers different light brightnesses and has a rechargeable battery and a comfortable head strap. It is a similar price to the Petzl Actik Core 450 and, like Petzl, Knog has held an excellent reputation as a lighting specialist since 2002.

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