Nitecore HC65 Head Torch | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Nitecore HC65 Head Torch | Review

Hiking-specific head torches don’t come much brighter than this, the HC65 from Nitecore

Why We Chose The Nitecore HC65: Durable, extremely bright and highly functional

This head torch and its corresponding portable battery pack managed to pick up a major outdoor industry award last year so it’s been an item we’ve been looking forward to testing out. Now we’ve finally got round to using it, we can see why it was awarded. This thing is super tough, ultra bright and very reliable. It’s got a real built-to-last feel about it.

Who Is The Nitecore HC65 For?

In all honesty, it looks and feels like the kind of thing that would be most at home on the helmet of a Navy Seal operative. Still, it’s aimed at hikers and campers and we can certainly see it having bucket loads of appeal to partakers of such activities. That being said, coming in at 122g with the battery in, this thing might be on the heavy side for the gram-counting backpackers out there.


With its housing made from an aero-grade aluminium alloy that has a military grade hard-anodised finish, this thing is basically as tough as head torches come. It’s also rated at IPX8 in terms of waterproofness which means it’s submersible to 2 metres.

The button for turning it on and off and cycling through functions is located on one of its sides and the side is unscrewed when you want to add or remove its battery.

The casing is as tough as they come. Photo: Mike Brindley

The battery that comes with it is much bigger than your run of the mill AA Duracell. It’s a removable and rechargeable Nitecore NL1834 3400mAh protected cell though you can actually use any 18650 battery with this or you could use 2 x CR123 or RCR123 batteries. In other words, it can run off batteries that you’ll find in most supermarkets.

“There are a number of different modes here, more than you get on most other head torches in fact.”

The included headband has a typical around-the-head strap and then one over-the-top one. That top strap can be removed, however you wouldn’t have a particularly reliable hold, even despite the amount of adjustment potential you get.

Handily, the housing can be tilted up or down to allow for 180 degree pivoting and it will hold in its position securely without shifting as well.

The Modes

There are a number of different modes here, more than you get on most other head torches in fact. First up there are three different lights: the main bulb, the auxiliary red light and an auxiliary white light for short range illumination.

Purchased separately, Nitecore's battery pack offers a number of extra chargers and can be used with other devices. Photo: Mike Brindley
The top strap is required due to the weight of the torch itself. Photo: Mike Brindley
The casing can be pivoted to change beam angle. Photo: Mike Brindley

That main bulb is extremely bright, boasting an output of up to 1000 lumens and a beam distance of 110m. To put that into perspective in our list of the best head torches for hiking, all of the products there are below 500 lumens. It cycles through five levels of brightness, including turbo, high, mid, low and ultra low while the torch also gives the option for a strobe, SOS, beacon or red caution light. These are all cycled through via one glove-friendly button that is fully pressed, half pressed, held or double clicked to cycle between all the various settings. For example, when the head torch is off a full double click will result in Turbo mode, a single full hold will bring the Red emitter and a full click when the torch is already on will turn it off – and so on.


The maximum runtime you’ll get is up to a whopping 800 hours – though that’ll be on its lower, most economical setting. On its highest setting, you’d be likely to get around 2 hours and 45 minutes of runtime off a fully charged battery.

“The user interface, while very simple on paper, does take a little getting used to but it’s a breeze once you’re up to speed.”

Usefully, the battery supplied by Nitecore can be charged while in the head torch via a built-in Intelligent Micro-USB. To do this you just need to unscrew the cap (being careful not to lose it) and plug in the cable.

You can also get one of the F4 charging stations (£25) from Nitecore. This, when plugged into a power supply, will recharge four batteries at once and can then be used as a portable power pack that’s capable of not only charging your head torch but a phone or camera as well. In fact, it can fully juice up an iPhone X in just 2 hours.

Tester’s Verdict

Will Renwick, editor of Outdoors Magic

“The amount of light it gives off is actually quite staggering. If I was, say, going for an evening hike that could run on into darkness, this is definitely the head torch I’d want with me. Come to think of it, it would be ideal on something like the Three Peaks Challenge in the UK, or the Welsh 3000s, where at some point you’re going to be hiking in very tricky terrain in the dark.

“I probably wouldn’t take this on any of my backpacking trips as it’s just too heavy for that – perhaps a little overkill as well. It’s still a very, very impressive head torch though.

Our editor wild camping with the Nitecore in Wales.

“The user interface, while very simple on paper, does take a little getting used to but it’s a breeze once you’re up to speed. The fact that you can set a little blinking beacon light by just a half press is a nice touch that can come in very handy when you’re camping and want to make sure you can find it quickly and easily when you need it. I also like the fact that you get an indication of the voltage when you insert the battery; three blinks plus one slow one shows that the voltage is at 3.1, for instance. Clever stuff.

“I think the charging pack is a worthwhile purchase with this, especially if you’ve got any proper expeditions planned where you’ll want one power pack to support all your tech. Last year I was really impressed by GP Batteries’ Xplor Head Torch and the Charge AnyWay dock it came with and Nitecore are basically offering the same thing here albeit something far more specced up, heavy duty and, well, heavy.”

Nitecore HC65 Head Torch

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