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On Foot, Off Grid: Ultralight Lighting Combo

When it comes to backcountry light sources, I like redundancy but when it comes to hiking or bagging peaks, I dislike weight. Two lights are heavier than one. You can see my dilemma. Maybe you have wrestled with it too. Fortunately, I have found an ultralight, extremely useful combination of lights that keep weight to a minimum has built-in redundancy, recharges via the USB power bank I am already carrying, and won’t break the bank. In fact, this combo weighs less than most tactical flashlights.

The combo consists of two very compact and lightweight lights: the Streamlight Microstream USB which we have already reviewed and the utterly incredible Nitecore NU25. Both of these lights together weigh in at 3 ounces and the pair will set you back only about $65.

Before I get into why these lights work so well together, I’ll share a few thoughts on the Nitecore NU25 – a lightning review of sorts. This headlamp is a darling of the ultralight community and it is easy to see why. It has well balanced beam shape and plenty of output along with long-running low modes. The separate high-CRI flood beam is great for reading maps in true color and the red output is actually well-executed enough to be useful for tasks like finding your beanie in a cold tent without overwhelming your dark adjusted vision. It even has an easy to deal with lock-out function which is great for a light that will spend most of its time bumping around in your pack. It’s an incredibly functional headlamp that weighs in at just 1 ounce and costs only $35. That is, frankly, incredible.

Nitecore NU25 shown with a legacy headlamp. We’ve come a long way.

The Streamlight Microstream and Nitecore NU25 are even better together. I use them in two situations that cover 80% of my backcountry use case. They are my go-to lights when I am NOT PLANNING on being out past dark but want to carry lights just in case and they are ideal for warm weather overnighters/multinight trips. They could be pressed into cold weather but I would prefer lights than can take lithium primary batteries for this (see this article). I have found several reasons why they work so well together:

Common Rechargeable Functionality – They are both rechargeable via micro USB. I always carry an Anker Power Bank (see the previous review) so it is easy to keep both lights up and running. When one is charging, I can use the other. No muss, no fuss.

Extreme Redundancy – These aren’t just redundant because they are both potential light sources. They take redundancy to another level due to the fact that the Microstream can stand in as a headlamp thanks to its two-way clip that allows it to be clipped to a hat brim. They can also leverage the same power source.

Extra Functionality – The NU25 is especially useful for backcountry use. It has red output for use in dark conditions where you don’t want to wreck dark adjusted vision. It has a high color rendition output for use in reading maps after dark. It can even be powered directly from your power bank which is great if you want to use it as a tent light!

Lightweight and Compact – Both lights are also extremely lightweight and compact. Lightweight is obviously nice when your pack is already full of 40 pounds of other lightweight gear. However, compactness is an often overlooked but desirable attribute in electronics. I can fit both of these lights AND the power bank in the same pocket of my shell to keep them warm in case conditions get cold above tree line. Emergency lights aren’t useful if the cold has drained their batteries.

It would be hard to find two lights that cover more bases, provide more redundancy, are more affordable, and better quality than these. They are a worthy addition to any kit.

Where to Buy

I have never been able to find either of these lights in a brick and mortar store. However, some of you may be able to find the Streamlight without much trouble. I just purchased mine on Amazon:

Nitecore NU25 Headlamp on Amazon

Streamlight Microstream USB on Amazon


Do you have a gear or concept recommendation that fits the On Foot, Off Grid series? Do you have strategies for dealing with cold weather? Tell us about it in the comments below or drop us a line on the Contact page.

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