Zipka Plus Night Light Review
A 30" circumference
retractable band allows this unit to be worn as a headband
or mounted many other places.
Measuring only 2¼" wide and 1½" high, and weighing a
mere 2.2 oz, this unit can be taken and
used anywhere and everywhere.
Don't you sometimes feel a bit
self-conscious when you're the only person in the darkened plane
cabin during the overnight flight with your light on, while
passengers around you are trying to sleep and resenting the
light you're shining at them as well as at you.
Or maybe your light isn't
properly aligned, or simply doesn't work. Or maybe you
like to read in bed while your partner prefers to sleep.
In all these cases, this miniature light is tremendously
There are lots more situations
where you also need a light that can be pointed where you're
looking/working and where you can't spare a hand to hold it.
Using very efficient LEDs you
get up to 120 hours of light from three AAA batteries. The
unit sells for
$42.95 from Travel Essentials (see below for details
on our Travel Insider discount).
What You Get
The Petzl Zipka Plus light
comes packed on a display card, and is complete with three long
life alkaline batteries and instructions in five languages
(English, French, German, Italian and Spanish).
The unit carries a generous
three year guarantee.
Zipka Plus Description
The Zipka Plus light is in
two parts. The main unit has four white LED lights, an
orange on/off button, and a battery compartment on the back.
This measures 2¼" wide and 1½" high and is 1¼" thick (dimensions
are at the widest points). It weighs a mere 2.2 ounces -
and that is the weight including the three AAA batteries.
Connected to the main unit
is a small disk inside which there is a spring-retractable cord.
The idea is to pull the cord and disk away from the main unit
and then to put your head or arm or anything else in the 'hole'
created and allow the cord to then retract so as to hold the
unit firmly in place. When the cord is fully extended, you
have a hole 30" in circumference that allows you plenty of
flexibility for where and how you attach the unit.
There is also a non-slip
rubber patch on the back of the main unit to ensure that it
stays securely where you place it.
The on/off switch turns the
light on, and repeated pushings of the button enable you to
select from high, medium, or low power, with a fourth setting
for high power flashing.
The unit is described as
being water resistant. I turned it on and placed it in a
glass of water for 30 minutes (it sinks rather than floats).
Some bubbles came out of the retractable cord assembly, but
other than that, it seemed just fine and the light continued
working perfectly while in the water and after removing it
again. However, when I took it out, I did notice what
appeared to be condensation inside the unit. This
evaporated away over time. So plainly, while water
resistant, it isn't fully water proof.
Using the Petzl Zipka Plus
Using the unit is incredibly
easy, as you'd expect and hope. Put it around your
forehead or whatever else you're using to mount it, turn it on,
and decide which power setting you want to have it set at.
High power is claimed to
give a maximum effective range of 56 ft (the distance at which
the brightness is similar to that of a full moon on a cloudless
night, 0.25 lux. Medium gives a 43' range and low power
gives a 30' range. The manufacturer says to expect 80
hours of battery life on high power, 100 hrs on medium, and 120
hours on low power.
When using the unit to read
a book, low or medium power is more than sufficient, and getting
100+ hours out of three cheap small AAA batteries is incredible.
You're paying only a couple of cents per hour of use, and you
also won't be hassled by the need to carry lots of spare
batteries with you.
This type of battery life is
probably ten times (and possibly more) than you'd get from a
regular type book light unit using incandescent bulbs.
The LED lights are very
efficient and give more light for less power than regular bulbs.
They are also incredibly long lived. No-one is quite sure
how long a LED bulb will last, but Petzl are saying to expect
more than 100,000 hours. A regular light bulb in your
house lasts perhaps 2,000 hours. Or, to look at it another
way, 100,000 hours is the same as leaving the light on,
continuously, for 11 years 5 months.
Or, if you use the unit 5
hours a month, a set of batteries will last you almost two years
and the LED lights will last 1667 years! Amazing.
The unit is very light and
so it is acceptably comfortable to wear on your head for
reasonable lengths of time. The tension of the cord isn't
too great, although I did notice when I removed the cord after
30 minutes of wearing it there was a line where the cord had
been. This line on my skin quickly disappeared, of course.
The unit was firmly mounted
on my head, and no reasonable amount of moving or shaking caused
it to fall off.
When reading a book, I found
the light moderately evenly diffused over the book surface, with
a bit of extra bright light in the middle. It was at first
a bit disconcerting to see the light move every time I moved my
head, but I soon got used to that.
All in all, I'd rate the
unit very easy to use and a great idea.
Comparing the Zipka Plus to a
$10 Rayovac Unit
The Zipka Plus costs $43.
But is it really worth $43? My first guess was no, and so
I bought a $10 Rayovac brand unit from Walmart to see which unit
was the better value and better choice.
The first small difference
was the Zipka Plus comes complete with the batteries, the
Rayovac does not. Okay, so it is only a couple of dollars
to buy batteries for the Rayovac unit, but it is also a hassle
if you forget about the need for batteries, and already the
price gap is starting to close.
And the next problem came
when I went to put the batteries into the Rayovac unit.
The battery cover is secured by a miniature head Philips screw -
if you don't have a special miniature Philips screwdriver,
there's no way you'll be able to open the battery cover and put
your batteries in.
The Rayovac unit was more
than twice the size of the Zipka Plus, but even so was not
offensively or inconveniently large. It was also almost
twice the weight (3.8 oz instead of 2.2 oz) but this is still
sufficiently light for most people.
And, talking about light,
the Rayovac unit had only two LEDs compared to the Zipka Plus
which has four. And it only has a single on/off switch;
you can't vary its power setting.
This is a bit more of an
important issue. The Rayovac's light intensity was similar
to the Zipka Plus at medium power. There are times when
you might want full power (eg to illuminate a path while walking
out at night) and there are other times when you might only want
low power, so as to cause least disturbance to others, and so as
to get longest battery life.
The Rayovac's light was also
less focused than the Zipka Plus, meaning more light would
potentially spill over to people around you, and less was
actually focused on whatever you were looking at. This is
The Rayovac unit is designed
to be hung around your neck, or it has a spring clip to allow it
to clip to various thin things. But it doesn't swivel or
tilt, so there's limited flexibility in directing the light from
when you clip it to something.
The crippling weakness of
the Rayovac unit, however, is when you're using it to try and
read a book. When the unit was hung around my neck, the
light from the LEDs not only shone down onto the book (this is
good) but also shone directly up into my eyes, which is
Bottom line - the Rayovac
looks acceptable on paper, and in theoretical measurements.
But in real world testing, it shows itself to be poorly designed
and impractical to use. At $10, it is not a bargain, but
instead a $10 waste of money.
This testing conclusively
showed that there are important and valuable design features in
the Zipka Plus which justify its extra cost.
Comparing the Zipka Plus to
Other Petzl products
Petzl make a number of
different types of lights. This quick feature explanation
might help you better understand the four different models
Tikka : This unit has only three rather than four LEDs
and has a thick headband rather than a thin retractable cord.
It is heavier, and doesn't have different power settings.
Tikka Plus : This has all the features of the Zipka
Plus, except with a heavier headband rather than a thin
retractable cord. This unit has a pivoting head for more
flexibility on where the beam is directed. $36. Our
second choice after the Zipka Plus.
Zipka : Similar to the Zipka Plus, but with only three
LEDs and doesn't have different power settings. $35
Zipka Plus : The unit reviewed here. Generally
the best unit for most uses. $43.
Petzl make four different
micro-lights. All are small and lightweight, high quality
If you are searching for a
convenient portable light source that gives a powerful light and
offers very long battery life and low maintenance, and in
particular, if you're wanting a portable reading light, then the
Zipka Plus is your very best choice.
The unit sells for $42.95 from Travel Essentials, and if you
type in the discount code 'travelinsider' (without the quotes)
when completing your order, they'll give you a 5% discount.
A recommended product.
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1 Dec 2005, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.