The Nitecore NU20 is very bright, lightweight rechargeable headlamp that’s ideal for backpacking and hiking. Weighing just 1.66 ounces, including a comfortable head strap, it has 4 brightness levels, ranging from 1 lumen to 360 lumens on full power, in addition to two special modes: a flashing SOS and a Beacon Mode that’s good for guiding people to a location in the dark.
In all honesty, I was hesitant to try this headlamp because it is rechargeable and doesn’t take the external batteries that I’ve carried for years, in case mine run out. But it was recommended by my backpacking friend Martin Rye from the UK and I decided to give it a go. Martin’s recommendations are usually spot on when it comes to backpacking gear, cameras, and electronics.
The NU20 is recharged using a micro-USB plug so it’s compatible with the 8000 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery I carry on all my hikes to recharge my smartphone if I use it for GPS navigation. I’ve also started using a new USB rechargeable camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7 (awesome camera), which means I can eliminate a lot of the spare batteries I routinely carry in my pack and recharge on the go if needed. I like the idea of using a rechargeable battery because it’s less wasteful, I don’t need to carry a bunch of different device chargers or batteries on long trips, and it makes resupply a lot less complicated between my frequent trips. I rarely use more than 25% of the charge on my backup battery and feel that I still have plenty of extra capacity to recharge these extra devices if needed.
The NU 20 is a very comfortable headlamp to wear, the headband is easy to adjust, and the lamp is super lightweight so you barely notice that you’re wearing it. I’m not a night hiker by habit, so I mainly use the 1 lumen and 40 lumens settings around camp instead of the 200 and 360-lumen settings, although I can see them useful for winter hiking.
Operation of the headlamp is intuitive with button presses to rotate through the different light intensities. The headlamp also has a built-in battery indicator to indicate how much power is remaining and when the light is being recharged.
The one thing missing from this light is a lock mechanism built into the switch to prevent the light from being turned on accidentally. That function is handled instead by the bracket that attaches the light to the headband and lets you redirect the beam. There’s a small plastic tab on the bracket that prevents the on-off switch from being activated, provided you rotate the light back into the bracket after using it.
This is an easy habit to remember and it’s something I do whenever I stow the headlamp in the tiny stuff sack that I use to store all of my electronics. Of course, the fact that the headlamp is field rechargeable means that I can top off the battery is if I ever forget, the headlamp turns on and drains itself. So far, that’s never been an issue and I am confident that the risk of running completely out of juice is low anyway. You’re never more than a week away from an electric outlet anymore, even when hiking a remote trail.
Comparable Rechargeable Headlamps
|Make / Model||Lumens||Lock||Red Mode||Weight||Price|
|Biolite 330||330||Yes||Yes||2.4 oz||$50|
|Knog Bilby||400||Yes||Yes||3.2 oz||$60|
|Fenix HM50R||500||No||No||2.8 oz||$60|
|Petzl Bindi||200||Yes||Yes||1.2 oz||$60|
|Nitecore NU 32||550||Yes||Yes||3.5 oz||$40|
|Nitecore NU 25||360||Yes||Yes||1.85 oz||$37|
|Nitecore NU 20||360||Yes||No||1.82 oz||$30|
|LEDLenser SEO7R||200||Yes||Yes||3.3 oz||$40|
|Claymore Heady||600||Yes||No||3.7 oz||$80|
|Petzl Tactikka||450||Yes||Yes||2.8 oz||$70|
I’ve been using the Nitecore NU headlamp for over 2 years months and really like it. I like its lightweight, the adjustability of the strap, the light modes it provides, and that it’s powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a mini-USB connector. Being able to replace all the spare batteries (in different sizes) that I used to carry and replace them with the single rechargeable battery I already carry is also a big win.
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