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.
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.
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.
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.
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 / Model||Lumens||Lock||Red Mode||Weight||Price|
|Knog Quokka||80||Yes||Yes||1.73 oz||$25|
|Biolite 330||330||Yes||Yes||2.4 oz||$50|
|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||1.0 oz||$37|
|Nitecore NU 20||360||Yes||No||1.8 oz||$30|
|Nitecore NU 10||160||Yes||Yes||2.3 oz||$25|
|Claymore Heady||600||Yes||No||3.7 oz||$80|
|UCO Air||150||Yes||Yes||1.6 oz||$30|
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.
Disclosure: Nitecore provided the author with a headlamp for this review.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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