I have a long history with the NU series of headlamps from Nitecore. I have used a number of them, carry one daily in the winter, and have written about them on these pages before. When I was given the chance to check out one of the newer lights in the series, the NU33, I jumped at the chance.
Nitecore’s NU series of lights are all defined by a number of features and design elements. They feature integral USB rechargeable batteries. The lights are generally compact and lightweight while also featuring multiple outputs and, often, multiple types of outputs like white, high CRI, red, etc. They also tend to feature well-thought-out user interfaces. The NU33 checks all these boxes.
The NU33 weighs in at just 3.38 ounces on my scale. This weight includes its aluminum outer construction and integral 2000 mAh lithium battery. It is USB-C rechargeable which is a VERY welcomed change over previous headlamps in the NU series with Micro USB charging. It features three different lighting options: a central white LED, auxiliary high CRI white flood light, and red LED light. Outputs and runtimes are included in the image below.
Observations from Use
I’m not going to share charts, graphs, and pictures of light spots on white walls. Those things can be valuable but I don’t think they will tell the story of just how practical this light is. This light is not flashy in terms of lumen stats but it is exceedingly useful. The care that Nitecore put into making this light easy to live with is impressive.
First of all, check out those runtimes. Nitecore was somewhat conservative with outputs in favor of runtime. As someone who uses a headlamp daily in the winter, I appreciate that. The main white light, in low mode, will provide 60 regulated lumens for a staggering 37 hours dwindling to about 38 hours according to the runtime graphs provided in the manual. To put that in perspective, it wasn’t that long ago that most headlamps topped out at 60 lumens and we were thrilled with that. It is very useful amount of light for a very long time.
Those lumens are made even more useful by the design of the lens/diffuser that Nitecore uses. It provides a perfectly smooth hotspot that throws well while illuminating a large area. Cleverly, the entire face of the light acts like a diffuser so that you have a light cast over a very wide area as well. This means that even with the light angled high to look as far ahead as possible, there is still light being cast at your feet. I have never seen another headlamp pull off this combination of hotspot for distance and diffused light for area lighting so well.
The auxiliary light modes, high CRI and red, are both useful. That usefulness is maximized by the fact that they are both directly accessible when the light is off meaning there is no need to cycle through the brighter modes, which is a truly great feature of a great UI.
The high CRI light is a feature that I grew to love on my NU25. It’s floody, with no hotspot, very easy on dark-adjusted eyes, and it renders colors faithfully which is handy for tasks like map reading. Best of all, it comes on at a nice, easy-on-the-eyes 6 lumens but can be bumped up to 50 lumens. I can tell you from experience that the low mode is more than enough to walk a dark trail or navigate a dark room and you can do this for 147 hours!
The red light could stand to be a little dimmer to be truly useful but it is available directly from “off” which is great. The red LED also offers a flashing mode which could be useful for those who intend to use this for early morning runs where you might be using this headlamp to be visible to drivers more than to see where you are going.
Switching back to discussing the main white light, the spacing on the 60, 200, and 700 lumen modes is excellent with each offering a large step up in brightness and also balancing run times. The 200 lumen setting is perfect for most uses with a generous 9 hour runtime. The 700 lumen mode has enough punch to really look a long way up the trail while still offering 4 hours of runtime which is noteworthy in a world where most lights offer a high output mode that runs for only about an hour. This sort of well-balanced separation between modes is easy to get wrong but Nitecore nailed it.
The front portion of the NU33’s case is made from anodized aluminum. This is nice for both durability and conducting heat away from the light. The body of the light is fairly compact considering the size of the battery that it houses which makes this light easy to carry and easy to wear. I also think Nitecore has improved the bracket design versus previous lights in the NU series like the NU20 and NU25 which have somewhat fragile brackets.
Previous offerings in the NU series of lights had battery meters but they weren’t as easy to use as the improved meter found on the NU33. Now, instead of having to count dim flashes, the battery level displays on a simple four level LED readout. It is far more foolproof.
I am gushing so far but there are improvements that could be made. For instance, many of the NU series headlamps have a clever silicone rubber bead applied to the inside of the head strap. This prevents sweat from dripping down and helps the strap really lock in place. This feature is curiously missing from the NU33 and I miss it. In addition to my gripes with the red light being too bright, I find it annoying that the light flashes brightly when locking the buttons to prevent accidental activation though I do appreciate that Nitecore provides an option to lock the switches to prevent accidental activation in a pocket or pack.
I was already a fan of the NU series of headlamps and this NU33 has solidified my love of these lights. It takes everything that was great with the previous NU series lights and makes improvements to the UI, charging interface, and construction. It also offers excellent, useful modes that are well-spaced and easily accessible. Best of all, it goes hard on useful outputs with useful runtimes rather than chasing impressive lumen claims to print on the box.
This is a truly excellent headlamp that retails under $50!
Learn more at Nitecore.com
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