Nitecore HC65 Headlamp Review

The HC65 is a culmination of years of work by Nitecore and almost feels like a capstone on the 1,000 lumen generation of 18650 headlamps. This light has it all pretty much, besides the 1,000 lumens, it’s got red light, high CRI “reading” light, a blue indicator light, USB charging, and a two-stage switch, oh yeah and even comes with an 18650 cell! If that checks enough boxes on your list, then say hello to the Nitecore HC65!

Nitecore HC65 Headlamp Review CivilGear 014
 Link to manufacture product page:


Overall, a great light and has tons of features! It’s a nice beam pattern with pretty good spill for peripheral or close-up work but also has a focused spot for walking. The USB charging is great to see but feels a little awkward to have to take a whole piece off the light and hope you don’t loose it. I like the head mount’s combo plastic body with rubber straps I just hope it stands the test of time.

Quick Specs





  • Length 82.7 mm / 3.25 in
  • Head Size 18.3 mm / 0.72 in
  • Weight 62.7 g / 2.21 oz


  • HC65 light
  • 18650 battery!
  • Headmount + headband
  • USB cable
  • 4 spare waterproffing rings
  • Manual (pdf)
  • Warranty card

Nitecore HC65 Headlamp Review CivilGear 004


This is the only version currently available.


 Current price is about $75 USD but you may find a deal at $60 (buy links at the end of the review)

Look & Feel


The look is definitely modeled off the previous HC60 which has the smoother and thinner body styling of the HC30 but using the 2-stage switch of the HC50. The addition if the both of the secondary lights probably comes from all their work the did in the NU series with their capstone being the NU25 which has almost the exact configuration of the secondary lights. 


The light is easy to open and the end caps are lightweight. The oddity is the ring to take of to charge the light has to come all the way off and in an outdoor environment that would spell danger of loosing the ring.  


The headband and headmount are comfortable and I like the hybrid plastic and rubber headmount and it contours well on the forehead.



LED specs

To repeat, it’s a ubiquitous CREE XM-L2 U2 domed 1,000 lumen LED

Beam Profile

Nitecore advertises the main LED to have a total beam angle of 100 degree and I’m happy to say that is pretty much what my data shows (feel free to click the pictures for enlargements). I also measured the spot to have a total angel of about 50 degrees. The first rectangular graph helps a bit better to see what angle the spill starts at as usually it is quite a bit dimmer then the center. It’s quite possible that a very low lumen outer spill might not register using these methods.

The secondary white and red are much more wider pretty much 180 degrees and diffused. The warm white and the red have pretty much the same beam pattern so I only measured the warm reading light but seems I didn’t hold my hand steady when I performed the test, sorry about that.


Secondary White


The primary output of the HC65 has a cooler spill tint compared to to the Nichia 219B (in NItecore MT06MD penlight) but has a bit warmer spot in the middle. The secondary reading light has a slightly warmer tint than the Nichia 219B, I think that some of the secondary light bounced of the ‘red’ LED but is actually more yellow when not on, and I think there is a shade of yellow in the beam shot.

Primary Light


Secondary Reading Light

Nitecore HC65 Headlamp Review CivilGear 060

Output Levels

I’m pretty easy to please for output levels, but it’s easy to be satisfied when there are a total of 5. Below is a night shot video of me going threw all the output modes. Below that, there are stills of all 5 primary modes.

Modes from: Ultra Low -> Low -> Mid -> High -> Turbo

Outdoor Beamshots

 All the pictures below are taken with the light in TURBO.

Nitecore HC65 Headlamp Review CivilGear 022




The battery is one of Nitecore’s higher-end typical, non-high current cells which usually run about $15 to 20 USD apiece. The NL1834 cell has a 3400 mAh capacity. I’ve also included the list of approved and recommended batteries for the HC65.

Nitecore HC65 Headlamp Review CivilGear 008

Nitecore HC65 battery options


The light has an indicator blue indicator light which is used for checking the battery level, displays during charging, and also has a drop-and-find mode.

Battery Level

You can check the battery level by loosening the tail cap and tightening it again. The indicator will blink out the voltage of the cell, for example 3.7 volts will display as 3 blinks, a pause, and 7 more blinks, then ends.


When the light is in charging mode, the blue indicator light will be constant on. When done the light will blink. If there is a problem the light will blink rapidly. To check the battery level during charging, perform a full press of the switch.


From off, quick half press will turn on the drop-and-find mode. The indicator light will blink about once every two seconds. To turn this off, do another quick half press or turn the light on and off again. I wish that this function persisted after turning on and off the light like the MH23 does. More on this in the UI seciton.


Overall, charging the included battery takes about 7h 40m at a constant current of about 0.5A, which is a little longer than what the manual suggests (7h flat). The cell does test at advertised 3400 mAh as seen in the second graph. I’m happy the charging system uses a regular USB cable. The only down side of the charging system is that it’s a little awkward to have to take the whole protector ring off and leave the lubed threads exposed and either laying down or being preciously stood on end.


Nitecore HC65-USB-NL1834-CAPACITY


Notes on Methods

I measured the light output in relative LUX and I have not spent time yet to calibrated for lumens or factored % of max output. The charts I’ve provided, while are literally quantitative, I suggest using as a qualitative reference for how the output may behave over time; typically lights aren’t left on this long and the max output can be reset. It’s worth to note that the runtime table provided by Nitecore states, “Runtime for TURBO [and] HIGH is calculated based on theoretical arithmetic.” so there isn’t physically reproducible in my tests.

PWM check using a 50 millisecond test period with a sampling rate of 3,000 times per second. For special modes I use a 150 millisecond test with sample rate of x.

Temperature measurement condition is at room temp and currently no fan cooling.

I am still very new at doing these types of measurements so I am no authority on on this subject, but please let me know if things don’t look right or you see anything that I could do to improve for next time.


The below battery was either provided or recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure that you carefully research any cell you are considering using before purchasing.

  • Nitecore 18650 3.7V Protected Li-ion
  • Protected: Internal PCB protection prevents under-voltage at 2.5V and over-voltage at 4.25V
  • Capacity: 3400mAh
  • Voltage: 3.7V
  • Chemistry: Li-ion
  • Recharge: up to 500 cycles


Overall, the light lasted for about 2h 35m in the TURBO mode. TURBO lasted for about 8min before stepping down with is pretty decent in my books. There is something definitely weird going on at the 1h 50m mark where the light ramps back up something I’ve heard about before but haven’t seen in my test so far, I think it’s called battery inertia? Or has just had enough time to rest and then spikes again?


PWM Check

There appears to be no significant PWM on any constant mode.  Below is a sample of the LOW mode and you can see that the level does not dramatically change over the 50ms sample time. For comparison, the second graph shows PWM varying from 0 to 120 lx on the LOW mode on the Nitecore R25 flashlight.


Strobe frequency is about 20hz.



Frequency is 1 flash every 2 seconds, with the flash lasting about 0.11 seconds.



 A max temp of 111.9°F was observed for TURBO. Usually Nitecore’s temperature “limiter” is set to 120°F but maybe it seems they’ve lowered it to 110°F, the manual doesn’t say.

User interface

I really enjoy a 2-stage switch interface as it can be a very “fast” interface to use; generally you tend not to have to hold a button very long to do basic operations like turning on and off the light or switching levels.

Unique to this light are the “triple” outputs which is really more of a quadruple output when you factor in the drop-and-find blue indicator mode. To get into any of these secondary outputs you have to hold the button longer in either a full press or a half press position.

Overall, the UI only utilizes 4 different types of presses making up a combination of 2 different positions (full and half press), and 2 different durations (long and short). If left to myself I’d make this light a little complicated but a standard button push that is lacking is a double click (typically used to activate strobe/special modes). Nitecore has also experimented with 2-stage long presses, where you hold to get, for example, ultra low, but if you keep holding it will jump up to turbo.

With the above in mind my specific comments are:

  • Would have liked full double click to get to special modes
  • Would have liked a full long press to be a 2-stage Ultra Low then Turbo, whether the light is ON or OFF, but I know the rest of the UI would have to redesigned a bit
  • Would have liked a quick way to switch from the primary to the reading light and back, like if you are walking a trail and want to look at a map for a second and then back to walking.



Here is the HC65 next to the classic HC50.



  • Tons of light options
  • Not too bulky
  • Comes with a battery!
  • USB charging available
  • Battery indicator
  • Large tactile 2-stage button, and not as touchy as it is on the HC50


  • Could have cleaned up the UI a little and added some more shortcuts between different light colors
  • No shortcut to low at all, and no shortcut to turbo from off
  • Have to take the protecting ring all the way off to charge
  • The blue indicator for drop-and-find does not come back on after turning on and off the primary, you have to remember to engage it every time, I really like how it works on the MH23


The current price for the light is about $75 USD and if you appreciated my review and would like to support me, feel free to check out this product on amazon using my affiliate link (does not cost you more, amazon gives me very small % of their profit):

Amazon Link:

NITECORE HC65 1000 Lumen USB Rechargeable Headlamp with White/Red/High CRI Outputs


  • CivilGear Reviews received this product for testing and providing an honest review.
  • CivilGear Reviews was not paid for writing this review.
  • CivilGear Reviews is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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