Nitecore NU25UL Headlamp Review (Tested 2023)

Piers staring into the sunset while he tests his headtorch for our Nitecore NU25UL review.

Headlamps – that’s just Black Diamond and Petzl’s department, right? 

Well, having had the chance to conduct this Nitecore NU25UL headlamp review, I think they might have to welcome a third contender into the night-vision game…

Here are the latest prices for the Nitecore NU25UL:

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Our verdict on the Nitecore NU25UL headlamp

Having put the Nitecore NU25UL headlamp under the spotlight (ahem) for a couple of months now, it’s firmly become my favourite headlamp to use for both single and multi-day overnight trips.

It weighs very little, it doesn’t take too long to recharge, it packs away smaller than comparably-priced headlamps from other manufacturers and, most importantly, it’s very bright. In fact, it’s actually brighter than I’d imagined it would be – so top marks for Nitecore. Well done.

Wilderness Redefined Best Buy Review Award
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  • Very bright – definitely enough for most required uses
  • Similarly priced to other 400 lumen headlamps, but much lighter
  • Good battery life
  • It’s very versatile. Red light, strobe, floodlight and spotlight functions are all included, as well as 3 different brightness settings for the main floodlight setting and 2 for the spotlight.
  • Beacon and SOS functions are very easy to use


  • Minimalist headband not the most comfortable for long periods (though Nitecore have a solution for you – the regular Nitecore NU25 has a more traditional-style band)
Piers testing the Nitecore NU25UL on the South Downs Way.

Who is the Nitecore NU25UL headlamp for?

✅ Regular and irregular campers
✅ Runners (I tested mine a few times while running at night and had no trepidation about the darkness
✅ … those who need a dependable, lightweight headlamp?

❌ Cyclists – I’d go with either a bike-specific handlebar light, or a more powerful headlamp to light the road far ahead

Our Nitecore NU25UL headlamp review criteria

  • Brightness – 9/10
  • Battery life – 8/10
  • Functionality – 8/10
  • Comfort – 6/10
Testing a hiking trail by lighting it up at night using the Nitecore headlamp.
The Nitecore headlamp is SUPER bright at night.

Brightness: 9/10

At 400 lumens, the Nitecore NU25UL is more than powerful enough to light your way in  most conditions that you’d find yourself in whilst out hiking. 

There are eight different settings for the steady white light alone (in addition to its red light and strobe settings). These range from a high-beam spotlight to an ultra-low floodlight – and the spotlight and floodlight can also be mixed together in low, medium and high settings. This gives the user more than enough options for most camping/hiking trips (including long-distance hikes).

When testing the product for the first time in September, I found myself somewhat shocked not only by how many options there were, but how bright the NU25UL was. Comparing it to an old Petzl that a friend of mine used on a recent camping trip really showed the might of the NU25UL.

I mostly use my headlamp for running in the dark wintry evenings, and I’ve never felt in any danger of tripping over a hidden tree root or a pothole (which is something I’ve done before whilst using the much less powerful Petzl E+ Lite).

Battery life: 8/10

I’ve been using my Nitecore NU25UL intermittently for a few months now (including a couple of camping trips and a few nighttime runs), and have only had to charge it once.

When it does run out, bear in mind that as it doesn’t take batteries you’ll have to charge it up – so don’t forget to do so if you’re about to go out for a night or two. To charge my unit from completely empty took about 80 minutes.

The advertised battery life/run time of the NU25UL depends very much upon which setting you use (i.e spotlight, headlight, strobe etc), and at what brightness. The advertised battery life of the headlamp if you’re just using the floodlight setting at low level, for example, is a staggering 45 hours.

This setting would give you ample brightness for walking around a campsite at night, trying to find your things in a dark tent or night hiking with a lower light footprint – giving you confidence to head out on a multi-day trip without having to worry about everything suddenly going dark.

It’s incredible how small Nitecore have managed to make their headlamp – great for ultralight backpackers.

Functionality: 8/10

The Nitecore NU25UL has all the additional functions you’d expect on a headlamp of this size. The red light (while only having one brightness setting) is powerful enough to light up your maps or your journal at night, and the strobe light would surely be powerful enough to have at least a small dance party at your campsite (though it’s probably best not to do this whilst wild camping).

What really makes this headlamp stand out from competitors like the Black Diamond Spot 400-R and the Petzl Tikka Core, though, are the NU25UL’s innovative Beacon and SOS functions – neither of which are seen in the Black Diamond or Petzl lamps. 

The SOS feature, for example, is really easy to activate (just press twice on the mode button), and is a feature that I’m surprised isn’t included on more headlamps.

The mode button the Nitecore NU25UL can activate an SOS feature.
The mode button on the Nitecore NU25UL

Comfort: 6/10

The Nitecore NU25Ul doesn’t have the most comfortable strap in the world. To save weight, the comfy fabric strap from the original Nitecore NU25 is gone, and replaced with an adjustable, stretchy piece of cord that you cinch around your head. Thanks to the fact that this needs to be tight enough to not fall off, I have found it to become a little uncomfortable after prolonged use. 

Hopefully, though, as it’s the nighttime (or early morning if you’re being particularly dedicated), you won’t have to worry about wearing it for that long – as you’ll soon be bedding down onto your Thermarest NeoAir XLite NXT for a comfy night’s kip out in the backcountry.

If the lack of headband is a dealbreaker for you, fear not – Nitecore still manufactures that original NU25 with the comfy band.

Packability: 8/10

Though it’s not as tiny as something like a Petzl E+ Lite, the NU25UL is staggeringly light for the brightness that it achieves.

In fact, coming from a traditional, AAA battery-powered headlamp, it feels like there’s something missing when you pick up the NU25UL – it really doesn’t weigh much at all.

A side by side comparison of the Nitecore NU25UL with a standard battery powered headlamp.
The Nitecore headlamp compared to a standard battery powered headlamp.

Furthermore, the absence of that bulky fabric strap that you’d normally find on a headlamp also means that you’re not having to go through that weird headband folding process which, if you get it wrong, can result in an inordinate amount of space being taken up in your pack for something that might only be used once or twice on a trip.

Instead, you can simply wrap the NU25’s cord strap around the headlamp itself.

Value for money

With online prices hovering around the £45 mark, the Nitecore NU25UL is around the same price as other similarly-powerful rechargeable headlamps from Petzl and Black Diamond.

For that price, you get a headlamp that weighs less, has more cool functions (SOS and Beacon modes, for example), and looks like it could’ve come out a spy film.

Sure, its headband isn’t the most comfortable in the world – but for my money, I’d go for the NU25UL over the competition any day.

Price comparison

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Final thoughts

With a long-lasting battery, very lightweight design and a great set of features, I’d highly recommend the Nitecore NU25UL.

I’ve spent lots of time on long-distance hikes over the last few years, and having had the chance to test the Nitecore NU25UL over the last few months, I’m confident in saying that I’ll be taking it with me the next time I go out for a very long walk.

Other products mentioned in this review

Best ultralight headlampNitecore NU25UL
Best emergency headlampPetzl e+lite
Most affordable 400 lumen headlampEnergizer Vision
Rechargeable headlamp with Micro-USBBlack Diamond Spot 400-R
450 lumen rechargeable headlampPetzl Tikka Core
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