Nitecore NU32 Rechargeable Headlamp Review

Nitecore NU32 Headlamp Review

The Nitecore NU32 is a high powered (max 550 lumens) rechargeable headlamp with white and red lightning modes. It has two control buttons and fairly straightforward control logic, that cycles through its different options so you can actually remember how to use it in the field. But the feature I like the best about this headlamp is that it has a large 1800 mAh lithium-ion battery, the equivalent of 9 AAA batteries, so you have to recharge it far less often. That size battery is rare on headlamps that store their power in the headlamp assembly and not in a remote power pack.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 3.2 oz (including headband)
  • Battery: 1800 mAh, Li-on
  • Max lumens: 550 (CREE XP-G3 S3 primary white)
  • Two additional white LEDS with high color rendering capability (19 lumens)
  • Two additional red light LEDS (9 lumens)
  • Beam: Flood beam profile with 60 degree angle adjustment
  • Modes: White and red
  • Digital lock: Yes
  • Power Indicator: Yes
  • Micro-USB charging cable included

The Nitecore NU32 is a high-powered rechargeable headlamp fitted with five LEDS including white and red lighting modes. It has a maximum light output of 550 lumens (for up to 1 hour), although the high setting of 190 lumens is also quite bright and much longer lasting (17 hours). A digital lock prevents accidental discharge when the light is not in use while a battery meter notifies you when recharging is necessary or has been completed. The headlamp has an easy to adjust elastic strap with a 60 degree angle of illumination so you can easily aim the light to where it’s needed most.

Control Logic

The NU32  has two buttons on top of the light housing, a power button to control its white light functions and the other to control the red light. They both make a clicking sound when pressed and are large enough to use while wearing gloves, which is one of the things I like best about this light.

Center Spot Beam Profile
Main Center LED Beam Profile

The white light has four modes: turbo (550 lumens), high (190 lumens), mid (33 lumens) and ultra-low (1 lumens) with burn times ranging from 1 hour on turbo,17 hours on high, 50 hours on mid, to 330 hours on ultra-low. The turbo mode turns is self-regulating, so it will begin to lower in intensity to avoid overheating the light after 30 seconds of burn time. I checked with the manufacturer and they could not explain how much the lumen output of the turbo diminishes over time or what the dimming algorithm is. I think the turbo mode is basically hype although it could prove useful in a limited fashion. I just ignore it and use the high setting when needed, which generates plenty of bright light, and has a long 17 hour burn time.

Pressing the white power switch repeatedly cycles through the modes and is dead simple to use  (although you can always take a photograph of the directions with your smartphone and refer if needed.) If the headlamp is on and you hold the power button down for 1 second, the turbo mode turns on. Pressing the power button when no action is taken for 3 seconds powers the light off.

To turn on the two auxiliary white LEDS with high color rendering capability, simply hold down the power button for 1 second, which displays them on a diffused flood light pattern. These are good for reading colored maps at night in your tent. Pressing the power button again turns them off.

The red light switch is marked with an R on the button. With the light off, pressing the R button will turn the red light (9 lumens) on. A second press with 3 seconds will make the red light flash. If the button is pressed after the 3 seconds, the light will turn off. Very simple.

The NU32 also has the requisite special modes, an SOS and beacon. These are entered and cycles by pressing the power button for three seconds when the light is off to repeatedly cycle through the modes and off.

More diffuse red LED beam profile
More diffuse red LED beam profile

Beam Profile

The NU32 has five LEDs, the main white one in the middle and two pairs of white and red auxiliary lights on its sides. The main center light creates a focused beam, while the lower powered white and red auxiliary LEDs display a more diffused flood light pattern for close-in activities like reading or cooking.

Power Meter and Recharging

The NU32 includes a micro-USB cord. To recharge the light, you pull back the small piece of plastic covering the micro-USB port and plug it to a power supply. There is a power indicator under the white light button that turns green when the light is fully charged. When the light is charging, it is red.

You can also test the power level of the battery when it is not charging. With the light off, press the power button once. If the power meter blinks 3 times, it means the battery is greater than 50% charged, 2 blinks represent a battery level below 50% and 1 blink means there’s less than 10% power left.

You can use the NU32 while it is charging, which is a nice capability to have in the tent at night or in camp if you run low and want to recharge while you cook dinner. It’s a fairly rare feature, so it’s a real score on such an inexpensive headlamp.

NU32 technical data
NU32 technical data

Lock Mode

The Nu32 has a digital lock to prevent accidental activation. To lock the device you push both top buttons at once until the built-in power meter flashes. To unlock, push both buttons until the power meter flashes again. I consider digital or analog headlamps locks to be a must-have feature. The last thing you want is a dead headlamp because it turned on accidentally in your backpack.

Comparable Rechargeable Headlamps

Make / ModelLumensLockRed ModeWeightPrice
Biolite 330330YesYes2.4 oz$50
Knog Bilby400YesYes3.2 oz$60
Fenix HM50R500NoNo2.8 oz$60
Petzl Bindi200YesYes1.2 oz$60
Nitecore NU 32550YesYes3.5 oz$40
Nitecore NU 25360YesYes1.85 oz$37
Nitecore NU 20360YesNo1.82 oz$30
LEDLenser SEO7R200YesYes3.3 oz$40
Claymore Heady600YesNo3.7 oz$80
Petzl Tactikka450YesYes2.8 oz$70


The Nitecore NU32 is a great rechargeable headlamp for the money with easy to use control logic, a battery power indicator, digital lock, and white and red lighting modes. It has a high capacity 1800 mAh lithium-ion battery which has the equivalent power of 9AAA batteries, giving you a long burn time, even when using the headlamp on high (190 lumens for 17 hours). The lithium-ion rechargeable battery is also good for cold weather use because it won’t freeze. The combination of a spotlight and floodlight beams provides maximum versatility for nighttime activities, whether you’re on the move or in camp. The NU32 is also available in multiple colored cases and straps, if that kind of thing is important to you. Besides the huge battery, I think my favorite feature on this headlamp are the two top control buttons, one for the white light and one for the red. They simplify the control logic compared to single button headlamps, while providing excellent tactile and sound feedback each time they’re depressed.

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Last updated: 2021-04-09 06:04:48

Disclosure: Nitecore provided the author with a headlamp for this review.

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  1. Thanks for the great in-depth review!, I have the nu25 but I’m thinking about upgrading to this , the 25 is a good headlamp but the burn times are not so good and might be doing some winter hiking soon, how is the comfort level, seems to fall in line in oz. with most black diamonds which I’ve noticed are going to a 2 button design to be more user friendly, but for the price and all the features the 32 checks off seems like you can’t beat it

    • Nitecore headlamps can’t be beat. The comfort is right in line with the lighter Nitecore headlamps even though this is heavier. I really like the fact that you can run this on high for so long (and recharge it in the car between hikes).

  2. How would you compare this lamp to something like a black diamond spot loaded with lithium aaa’s for cold weather conditions? Did you notice more drain in the cold?

    • I didn’t detect any more drain in the cold (or any drain for that matter) and I like the fact that I can recharge this one. The battery is huge! I used a BD Icon for many years (heavy, remote battery pack, 4 x AA batteries) and a BD Spot before that. Never again. Lithium-ion batteries doesn’t have any water in them like alkaline batteries, so they don’t freeze.

  3. I had/have an nu-30, which appears to be the earlier version of the 32. My major issue with it is that the bracket that controls the tilt angle broke after one trip. I super glued it in place and that worked for a bit until the piece the head strap slides through broke which made it no longer usable.

    I have since gone to the nu-25 which is lighter and still lasts a long time and provides plenty of light.

    I did not contact nitecore about the nu-30. I figured for the price and the fact I wanted to go lighter, it wasn’t really a concern.

  4. I’ve been looking to finally upgrade to a rechargeable lamp and this seems unbeatable for the price and functionality. Great review

    • Rechargeable is totally the way to go.

      • Yeah I know, I’ve been reluctant to upgrade because I have 2 perfectly good Spots that I kept in my car and packs. Plus my older camera and an old speaker also used AAA batteries. But since I broke that camera and no longer use that speaker I have no use for backup AAA other than the headlamp, so now they’re usually dead weight. For $40 this is a much better price than similar models.

  5. It’s a nice headlamp, but their battery life estimates are WAY off. On the “mid” setting (the minimum I need for moving at a good clip on a technical trail), you’re supposed to get 50 hrs. In multiple bench tests (indoors, room temp), I get less than 20 hrs (to the point where it’s very dim, and the power indicator says <10%). That's still not bad, but if they say 50 hrs, you should get 50 hrs.

  6. That’s a good concern
    Statement must be align with fact, otherwise everyone would claim anything they want without responsibilities

    Is there any warranty related to the duration?

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