Expert Review: PETZL - Swift RL Headlamp

Published on 09/04/2022 · 7 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the headlamp, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2018.
Hunter Reed, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Hunter Reed

All photos courtesy of Hunter Reed

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the headlamp, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2018.

My Take

The Petzl Swift RL Headlamp is a good headlamp option that has a red light option, an auto dimming feature, and a really comfortable headband design that stays in place and doesn’t loosen as you move around!

About the gear

  • Model: Petzl Swift RL Headlamp
  • Charging Type: Usbc charging port via electricity

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: August 2018
  • Days tested: 300
  • Used for: Night hiking, car camping, hanging around camp, backpacking
  • Where I’ve used it: All over Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada
  • Seasons I’ve used it in: Summer/Fall/Spring/Winter

About me

  • Experience: 25+

How it performs

Ease of Use

What I was looking for

At the time of purchasing this, I was retiring my old head lamp because it had been used for 8+ years and was starting to have some issues. I wanted a quality headlamp that didn’t use batteries (thought a charger like this would be more sustainable). I wanted it to be comfortable to wear and have a red light mode.

Why I chose this gear

I bought this product because it seemed to have a lot of cool features. It had an auto dim setting that would adjust based on how close it sensed things were, it had a lock setting so that it wouldn’t accidentally turn on in my pack, and it had a charger, which seemed like a better option than batteries to me.

I considered buying a Black Diamond Spot headlamp which is super simple and $100 less expensive. I ultimately decided the Petzl Swift RL was worth the investment given all the features. My previous headlamp had been a black diamond and it always felt like it was sliding down while I was wearing it. I liked the design of the band on the Petzl because I usually have my hair in a bun and it has two separate straps in the back, so thought I could hold that in place better with how I usually have my hair.

What I love about it

  • Durability: I have used this headlamp for a few years now and it still works as it did the first day. I have dropped it a few times and it still turns on and off as it should, and the headband is still just as stretchy and comfortable as the day I got it!
  • Charging Type: The Swift RL uses a USBc to charge via electricity and does not accept batteries.
  • Comfort: The headband is actually super comfortable. It doesn’t slide around, and is really adjustable. It also has some padding so it doesn’t feel annoying or leave a mark even if I wear it for a long time.
  • Fit: The headband is really adjustable via two separate areas on the band.
  • Weather Resistance: I haven’t used it in any weather thats too serious, just light rain and snow, but it has done really well and is rated to handle heavy weather well. There is a silicone gate over the charging port to protect it in weather.
  • Versatility: I think it is in the nature of headlamps to be pretty versatile and this one is no different. It is bright enough to be used as a main form of lighting at camp, it also dims, and has a red light if I want something less intense.
  • Car camping: I use this headlamp for both car camping and backpacking.
  • Backpacking: The Swift RL is light enough at 100 g to be great for backpacking. It isn’t the lightest on the market by any means, but it does well!
  • Brightness: The brightness is adjustable by a dimming feature which works by holding two buttons down as it dims and brightens. There is one button that switches between three brightness levels, and if held on it’s own one of the buttons will change between red and normal light. There is also a strobe mode.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Weight: Though this is light enough to use for backpacking and hiking at 100g, the weight distribution is absolutely terrible. It feels like it is bouncing around on my forehead. I hate running with it because the distribution of weight gives me a headache.
  • Ease of Use: For a headlamp, it is sure not easy to use either. There is a lock button that is supposed to prevent it from turning on and off while in your pack (saving battery life) but it only works sometimes. And if it has decided to work it sometimes won’t turn off so I have to try unlocking it multiple times before the light will turn on. There are also too many buttons and features that make it hard to use when it is on my forehead. There is an standard light mode and a smart light mode. The standard will keep it at one brightness level, and the smart feature will make it dimmer if it senses something close and brighter if it doesn’t. I can never tell which setting it is on without taking it off. It’s also annoying to try to adjust around a campfire because sometimes i think I am turning it off and I am just making it brighter and blinding my friends. There is also an app for it which I don’t understand at all. I don’t know how that is supposed to help me and it’s crazy to think I would use my phone to turn my headlamp to a different setting while I am camping when it would be so easy to just press a button on the actual headlamp.
  • Reliability: Aside from the button issues, sometimes if it is in smart sensor mode, it will die so fast because it is constantly switching in between bright and dark. I have had it die on trails before leaving me in a bad situation even though it was charged before I left home 12 hours before.
  • Features: There are too many features that it ends up not actually working that well to be an actual headlamp.

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moment with this headlamp was when I was on a backpacking trip in Summit Country, CO. My partners and I had woken up at 4 am to pack up and continue on to the top of a mountain for sunrise. My headlamp held up great and lit the way through the dark 6ish miles of hiking before getting to the summit of the mountain. It was totally worth the early wake up call and I could see great the entire time until the sun came up! (photo above)

Value for the money vs. other options

This headlamp retails for $125. I personally would not spend the money on it again. It has a lot of cool ideas, but overall the features are not easy to use and do not function that well. They also make it so complicated that it does not even end up functioning well as a basic, simple headlamp. I would have been better off spending the $25ish on the Black Diamond Spot. I also don’t think I will get a rechargeable headlamp again. I thought it would be lower waste because I wouldnt go through batteries as fast, but it would be way easier to bring spare batteries than a spare charger for a headlamp that may or may not stop working. I will also never purchase another headlamp that has an app that you need to use on your phone, its way more complicated than necessary and I don’t like to keep my phone on while I camp.

Final verdict

The Petzl Swift RL headlamp is a good idea. I like the thought of the motion sensor, and the lock feature. But it is really clunky to use and has caused me more problems than it’s worth. My favorite feature of it is that the headband is super comfortable.

Out of stock
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  • We price match
  • Returnable

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