The Nitecore NU31 is a 550-lumen LED headlamp with red and white lighting modes and an 1800mAh li-ion battery pack. That’s a huge battery and it is one of the key features I look for in a headlamp because I don’t want to recharge it on a backpacking trip or run out of power in an emergency. But the NU31 is also loaded with other features including a power meter and an electronic lock to prevent accidental drainage. Best of all, it has a simple control sequence that you can figure out on the fly if you only use the headlamp occasionally for an overnight backpacking or camping trip.
Specs at a Glance
- Lumens: 550 (max)
- Light Color: White Light + Red Light
- Weight: 95.5g (3.37 oz) incl. headband and tilting bracket
- Battery: 1800 mAh Li-ion
- Power Indicator: Yes
- Lockout Mode: Yes
- Charging: USB-C
- Waterproof: IP66 rated (suitable for use in rain)
The Nitcore NU 31 is just about perfect for my needs. It has a powerful and long-lasting battery so I rarely need to recharge it in the field with my portable power bank (which I’d rather reserve for recharging my Smartphone.) The resulting run time is also long enough to stay lit in case I have an accident and need to wait for help or I need to help a search and rescue crew evacuate an injured hiker. I also like the fact that it uses USB-C cable for recharging, the same as my Garmin inReach Mini2, both for its fast charging speed and because it reduces the number of cables I need to carry.
The NU31 has an easy-to-use control sequence which I find important because I don’t use it often enough to memorize it. The light comes with two buttons: a power button which is used to turn the light on and off and adjust brightness levels and a mode button, which is used to switch between light sources. In other words, the operational logic is easy enough for me to figure out by pressing the buttons, each time I use it, without having to re-read the directions.
There are three light sources: a primary white light, an auxiliary white light, and an auxiliary red light.
- The primary white light has three brightness levels: 550 lumens, 200 lumens, and 60 lumens. There are also 550 lumen strobe and beacon settings.
- The auxiliary white light has two brightness levels: 50 lumens and 6 lumens.
- The auxiliary red light has two brightness levels: a constant-on 5 lumens and a slow flashing 10 lumens, good for cycling.
While the NU31 has a retina-searing 550 lumens maximum brightness level, I mostly use the 200 lumens or 60 lumens levels because that’s really all I need in camp and to preserve the life of the battery. For example, the light is rated for 38 hours at 60 lumens, which is more than enough for me to use at night on my short trips, which typically last 2-3 days in length.
Expected run times by brightness level
- 550 lumens – 5 hours (primary white)
- 200 lumens – 8 hours (primary white)
- 60 lumens – 38 hours (primary white)
- 50 lumens – 42 hours (auxiliary white)
- 6 lumens – 147 hours (auxiliary white)
- 5 lumens – 80 hours (auxiliary red)
- 10 lumens – 50 hours (auxiliary red in flashing mode)
The headlamp has a titling bracket so you can adjust it to illuminate your path at night, whether hiking or running. There’s also a built-in power meter that illuminates four lights to show you how much power is left and an electronic lock so you can prevent having the light come on inside your backpack and drain. A frosted plastic cover is also included with the headlamp and acts light diffuser, perfect for use inside your tent at night when you want indirect light and not a focused beam.
The comfortable reflective headband is removable and can be easily replaced with some shock cord if you want to shave an ounce of gear weight, but frankly, I find it far more comfortable as is.
Of all the headlamps I own, the ones from Nitecore, including this NU31 rechargeable headlamp, have been my go-to for many years because they’re reliable, fully featured, and a good value for the money. They’re much less expensive than comparable rechargeable headlamp models from Black Diamond or Petzl and just as powerful and well-featured.
Note: If you’ve never watched a Nitecore product overview video. They are hilarious. See below.
Disclosure: Nitecore donated a headlamp for review.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.