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The Best Lightweight Backpacking Headlamp

The best headlamp for thru-hiking and backpacking?

Nitecore NU25, the best headlamp for backpacking and thru-hiking

It is rare that one product fits so perfectly into an activity that it is easy to recommend as the “best,” But the Nitecore NU25 is that headlamp. It is lighter than most competitors, more affordable, smaller, and surprisingly durable. The brightness and battery life are precisely the specs that a backpacker would want, and the rechargeability makes it more efficient and cheaper than continually worrying about space batteries. The Nitecore NU25 is our go-to headlamp for backpacking.


  1. Compact and Lightweight

  2. Acceptable Light Output at 360 lumens

  3. The battery life of the Nitecore NU25 is exceptionally long compared to heavier competitors.

  4. Rechargeable

  5. Durable and Waterproof

  6. Great wide light coverage


  1. Limited Range: The light beam of the NU25 is a little shorter than competitors

  2. The strap on the Nitecore product is usually the first to fail.


The NU25 has a sleek and compact design that makes it easy to pack and carry. An adjustable head strap is comfortable to wear and stays in place, but we also felt was the one aspect of the headlamp that felt cheap. The Nitecore NU25 is waterproof and holds up really well over multiple thru-hikes and backpacking trips.

Light Output

The NU25 provides a maximum output of 360 lumens, making it bright enough for backpacking or thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. But, if trail running is the goal, we found this headlamp a little dim for moving faster than a brisk hiking pace. The headlamp also has multiple modes and brightness levels which are beneficial in conserving battery life and especially around camp when the red light mode will spare fellow campers from a bright light shining into their tents. The wide-angle beam balances distance and peripheral lighting which really helped open up visibility compared to some small tunnels of light from other headlamps.

Battery Life

The NU25 has a long battery life, lasting up to 46 hours on the lowest setting. This is the biggest selling feature of the headlamp. For thru-hikers, the headlamp battery should last between resupply locations if you don’t night hike substantially. But, if you do use up the battery, the headlamp is rechargeable and very easy to keep charged on the trail with a simple battery pack.

Ease of Use

The NU25 is simple and intuitive to use, with an easy-to-use button that allows you to switch between modes and brightness levels. Charging the headlamp is very straightforward and even seeing how much battery life is left in the device can be done fairly simply. Furthermore, the headlamp can be locked so that it does not come on while buried in a pack.


I would highly recommend the Nitecore NU25 for thru-hiking. The only reason to go with something different is if you were looking for something a lot brighter (and more expensive). With the Nitecore NU25’s compact design, long battery life, and bright light output make it a great choice for anyone looking for a reliable and durable headlamp for their next backpacking trip or thru-hiking.

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