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Gear Reviews

7 Surprising Things You Can Do With a Headlamp

Petzl’s new IKO CORE headlamp innovates on the old “elastic band” setup to create a do-it-all portable light.

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Ever since Petzl invented the modern headlamp in 1973, these wearable lights have followed a tried-and-true formula: attach bulbs and batteries to an elastic band that hugs your noggin. But a stretchy headband limits what these lights can do—as you already know if you’ve ever tried to balance a floppy headlamp on a table for area lighting. Only when worn on the forehead do these lights work well, and even then, they have drawbacks, like being headache tight or alienating your companions, who get blinded by your glance in camp or in the tent.

Woman with headlamp on.
Easily change the lighting level with your thumb since the IKO CORE’s button sits on the bottom of the light.Chet Strange

So it only makes sense that Petzl—the original headlamp innovator—is the company that’s reinventing the category. The new IKO CORE features a patented, semi-rigid AIRFIT headband that rests on the head like a crown. The design stays snug without the temple-squeezing compression that’s exerted by elastic bands. Plus, the frame folds into a sturdy base that lets the light serve as a lantern. And that’s just one of the many ways that adventurers have used the multi-purpose, 2.8-ounce IKO CORE—which just might be the last portable light you ever buy for camp and home. Here’s what it can do.

1. Make your camp lantern obsolete.

Woman sitting in tent doorway with headlamp lantern.
Put the included carry bag around the LED bulbs and set the headlamp down to move from spotlight to ambient light. Chet Strange

Folding out the battery pack on the frame turns the IKO CORE into a tripod that supports a 500-lumen lamp. That’s too intense for most tabletop uses, but the headlamp’s white nylon storage sack doubles as a shade that diffuses the light and creates the perfect lantern for a tent or picnic table. One dad parked this configuration near his tackle box so he and his kids could easily access their shared fishing gear during a sunset session at the lake. 

2. Welcome sous-chefs to your camp kitchen.

Women using camp cook-wear at night with headlamp around her neck.
See what you’re doing without blinding others by wearing the band like a necklace and tilting the light to point where you need it. Chet Strange

When it’s time for dinner, wear the IKO CORE around your neck and tilt the lamp so it’s aimed at your hands. That way, the light stays fixed on your cutting board and camp stove—and lets you glance at your buddies without nuking them with 500 lumens. 

3. Light up caves and tunnels.

Woman creeping through trees with headlamp.
When headroom is an issue, drop the headlamp down to neck level without losing control of where the light points.Chet Strange

Hikers and cyclists sometimes encounter dark caves and tunnels where hands-free lighting is handy–but a forehead mount is too erratic for exploration. By wearing the IKO CORE as a necklace, hikers can look around a deep alcove or cave lit by steady, ambient light that doesn’t zig and zag with every turn of the head. The necklace mount also proves useful in rail-trail tunnels (which sometimes extend for two miles or more). During one of those long, dark passages, one cyclist wore the IKO CORE around his neck and exploited the pivoting lamp’s 180-degree range to light the path for everyone in his group. 

4. Move through the night in peace.

Woman trail running at night with headlamp.
Enjoy an evening run in comfort with the lightweight, balanced, stable-fitting IKO CORE. Chet Strange

Or, simply enjoy a nighttime run without feeling your headlamp bob up and down. The IKO CORE’s super-thin, rechargeable battery is situated at the back of the head, where its scant weight balances the ultralight lamp on the forehead. Wires between the two are internally routed through the frame, not along the exterior, so they don’t get snagged on tree branches. Thus, the headlamp stays firmly in place, even when your head zips back and forth during an after-dark workout or nighttime dance-off.

5. Take better photos.

Up close photo of woman holding camp mug at night.
Position the headlamp off camera to light up shots at night. Chet Strange

One climbing photographer used the IKO CORE in its lantern configuration as fill lighting for a photo shoot: Perched on a rock shelf beside the climber, the beam spotlit the athlete and eliminated the shadows that would’ve marred the shot. The light can also substitute for a ground-level reflector to brighten hikers’ faces when they’re wearing brimmed hats.

6. Banish darkness during power outages.

hand holding headlamp in the dark.
A battery-life indicator (red or green) let’s you instantly check power before heading out.Chet Strange

A battery life indicator makes it easy to know when to plug in the IKO CORE for a recharge, but when time is scarce—or when a power outage calls for alternative juice—the headlamp works on three AAA batteries, when brightness is reduced to 350 lumens (more than enough for book-reading).

7. Hang a backcountry chandelier.

headlamp hanging on pine tree branch.
The IKO CORE’s battery pack snaps into the lamp, so you can wrap it around a branch for overhead lighting at camp.Chet Strange

Sure, you could pack a battery-powered pendant lamp to create IG-worthy ambiance in camp—or you can simply wrap the IKO CORE around a tree branch or roof rack and pivot its beam to the desired spot. If only installing track lighting was this easy.

Want to see if you can find other uses for it? Head to to purchase yours.

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