I'm not one to use those obnoxious abbreviations in texting. I'm proud to say that I've never sent a text message or instant message with "LOL" in it. However, after firing up the Petzl Ultra Wide outside my remote log cabin last night, all I can say is OMG!
As a member of one of Utah's busiest Search and Rescue groups for nearly 20 years, I might be out hiking in the wilderness on any given night in less than desirable conditions. Through the years, I've used just about every higher-end headlamp from Petzl, Black Diamond, Brunton, etc. I always kept buying the next newest thing, hoping it would be better. The newer designs were most often an improvement, but very few were bright enough. Very few had optimum beam patterns. Very few had intuitive controls. The Petzl Ultra Wide has it all.
The brightness of this light is astounding. In Mode 2, one click up from the lowest setting of 1 and still two steps below the brightest mode, it seems brighter than any other headlamp in my collection and offers a 9-hour burn time according to Petzl. Hiking on most trails would be comfortable at the lowest power setting, which provides a 25-hour burn time and a brightness comparable to many standard headlamps.
Using a light meter to measure output, the Ultra Wide measured more light output in the lowest power mode than my Petzl Myo 3 did at its highest LED setting. The Myo 3 had been my SAR headlamp of choice for the last couple of years.
In Mode 4, the highest setting, the light blasting from the Ultra Wide is impressive. It has a high OMG factor. Before ordering, I had a hard time deciding between the Ultra (350 lumens) and the Ultra Wide (a paltry 300 lumens). I'm glad I got the Ultra Wide. The 180-degree beam pattern lit up an area from my feet to the tops of 80-foot tall trees a hundred feet away, and almost 180 degrees from left to right. The only reason to purchase the Ultra rather than the Ultra Wide might be if you planned to use it as a headlight on your road bike, ATV, or 200-mph sports car. For hiking, the Ultra Wide is as good as it gets.
With almost every other headlamp, light fall-off, beam pattern, or inadequate tilting mechanisms required me to tilt or turn my head excessively to light the area where I was about to step, especially on more technical trails. Like Data on Star Trek, I had to move my head rather than my eyes. With the Ultra Wide headlamp, a light finally covers the full range of eye movement so I don't have to compensate with unnatural head movement. That's a good thing when you are maneuvering along a wet, slippery sandstone ledge at 2 a.m. Hiking with the Ultra Wide is comfortable and natural. It's like walking in the daylight, even at less than full power. I can't imagine using full power that often, but it's nice to know that it's available when needed.
The brightness to battery-life ratio is acceptable. As stated, I can't see the need to keep it at full power for more than a few moments. It's like turning on a floodlight. One drawback, probably because of the wide beam and brightness, is that I was instantly surrounded by bugs and bats. That did not happen with either of the other headlamps I tried on last night for comparison. Battery life is only about 90 minutes at the Mode 4 power setting. The Mode 3 setting allows for nearly 5 hours of burn time and is far brighter than any other headlamp I've ever used. The included $125 ACCU 2 Lithium-Ion battery will probably need to be replaced in a few years. From the manual: "The Lithium Ion battery loses 10% of its capacity per year. It can be recharged 300 times. After 300 times, it still has 70% of its original capacity."
And someone finally got the control right. There are no tiny buttons with obscure menus requiring 4 short presses for this amount of light or 3 long presses for that amount of light. You don't have to turn the headlamp bezel a specified number of times this way or that way, like the combination knob on a bank vault, to control the light intensity. (The Myo 3 requires the user to turn the headlamp on and off 2 or 3 times in quick succession to access the brightest LED setting.) With the Ultra, there is simply a large, easy to manipulate rotary dial. Turn it one click for the lowest setting. Turn it another click for more light. Turn the dial the opposite way and the light grows dimmer or turns off. Simplicity rules.
The tilt mechanism is the best design I've seen on a headlamp. It clicks smoothly and easily through 90 degrees and is perfect for map reading with the light set at its lowest intensity. The soft beam pattern provides a comfortable map-reading light with no harsh hot spot.
Simply put, the Petzl Ultra Wide is, by a huge margin, the best and brightest headlamp I've ever used. Despite the comically outrageous $430 price tag, I hope it will end up saving me money in the long run. I will no longer have to buy a headlamp or two every couple of years in pursuit of perfection. I've found it.
As usual, Backcountry.com's shipping was "wicked fast," as they promise. I ordered the headlamp at 7 p.m. one night, and it shipped that evening. I had it the next day.