[Review] Nitecore HC30 Headlamp ... hands-free walking + EDC

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CivilGearReviews's picture
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Location: San Jose, CA
[Review] Nitecore HC30 Headlamp ... hands-free walking + EDC

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OK, so do you like the idea of a headlamp but not so sure about the headgear and may change your mind later and just want an EDC? Are you a night jogger or trail runner (or want to be)? Are you walking around and inspecting or closing up a construction site at night? If so, then say hello to the Nitecore HC30 headlamp!

Quick Specs

Here is the spec sheet from Nitecore.

LED Specs

Type: (1) XM-L2 by Cree @ ~1,000 lm
Color: “Bright White” (description by Nitecore) (also available in "Neutral White")

Beam Profile

Nitecore advertises the total beam angle as 100 degrees but I think it's closer to 80 degree spill with the hotspot having about a 20 degree angle. This headlamp is definitely not for reading books in bed Wink


Nitecore provides a 5-year warranty! Make sure you buy from an authorized dealer or you will waive your rights to the warranty. Also, take care to store your light properly, as the warranty does not cover damages caused by batter leakage. Check their website for their full terms of service.


I'm still a novice youtuber, but here's a little overview plus the user interface.

Primary Mode

Turn ON Primary Mode: The primary mode can be started with a single click, or a long press.
ON with "Mode Memory": long press
ON with "ULTRA LOW Mode": single click
INCREASE output: when ON, single clicks increases the output; after the TURBO mode is reached, it will cycle back to LOWER mode.
DECREASE output: no direct option, but you can begin in the LOWER mode by turning OFF the light with a long press, and turn ON to LOWER mode with a single click.
Turn OFF: long press turns off the light no matter what mode you are in.

Hidden Modes

Turn ON Hidden Modes: from OFF, double click to enter HIDDEN mode user interface
NEXT Hidden Mode: when in the hidden mode interface, a single click advances to the next hidden mode. After the the last hidden mode is reached, it will cycle back to first hidden mode.
PREVIOUS Hidden Mode: no option, but not a disappointment with only 3 hidden modes.
Turn OFF: long press turns off the light no matter what mode you are in.


Right Angle Design

  • The right angle head allows use as headlamp or hand-lamp. With the included belt clip, I finally have a vest light that lights up my plans while I look around inspecting and won't be temporarily blinded each time I look down at the plans.

Jogging/Trail Light

  • Very light weight which allows this light be used in jogging activities. I'm not very outdoorsy but for the sake of this review I went for a night jog with this on and now I can't wait for the next time! I do suggest to keep a proper amount of tension on the straps to keep it from bouncing around. Additionally, I experienced a strange sensation/disorientation when there was a slight fog, that which ever eye is closest to the light can see the beam while the other eye cannot; just takes a little getting used to.

Other Pros

  • Compact form almost tempts me to use it as my every day carry flashlight
  • Still works great while using medium-duty gloves
  • The belt clip is very secure
  • Smooth knurling makes this light very safe on pockets and fingers
  • Anodized threads allows for smoother screwing and prevents metal flaking, plus lockout capabilities
  • Great tail stand since it has a completely flat tail cap
  • Head shape makes it anti-roll without additional knurling
  • Temperature regulated, so the light never reaches the point of melting the internal circuits or burning out the LED
  • 3400 mAh Nitecore battery fits in perfectly; prior, it was a little too snug of a fit for the HC50.
  • Strobe mode is easily accessed by double-clicking the light. This would more of benefit is you are using the HC30 as a hand-light.

Room for Improvement

  • Most performance LEDs get hot, and thankfully most Nitecore lights have temperature regulators, not based on time, but actual temperature. These regulators are set at 120 degree F (or 50 degree C) which is just below the threshold of actually getting a burn. I'm not usually concerned about temperature but since the switch is right where I want to grip the light to operate it, I wanted to express I had a little discomfort operating the light and I would have been willing to sacrifice a little max output time for tiny bit lower temperature.

To get around this you can just wear gloves all the time right ;-)?



  • OK so so heat aside, I am currently used to how I operate the Nitecore HC50, by griping the end between my index and middle finger and pushing the switch with my thumb, for a pretty comfortable one-handed operation. For the HC30, this method doesn't work as great, especially if you plan on using turbo mode a lot, because while operating the switch, the bright light can reflect off your hand and into your eyes, not very fun if you're in TURBO mode. It is possible that having the button on the side instead of the very top could have helped with the hand positioning, but likely the head unit would have to be bigger, probably a no go for the EDC points.

    Light can bounce off your hand and into your eyes when operating the switch.

    • To get around this I suggest a few options:

      • First, if you're right handed, flip the light 180 degrees so the switch is on your left site, then with your right hand, put your thumb on the tail and reach over the light and operate the switch with your index or middle finger. This allows the palm to be mostly out of the way and keep the light stable, but can put a cramp in wrist after a while.

      • Second, use two hands to operate, one hand holding the tail cap end while the other hand can use a single finger to depress the switch. Question, if you are wearing a headlamp, do you really have two hands available? Likely not.

      • Last, you can just straight up try to operate it with a single finger, but likely the light will have to be re-centered and might make you a little frustrated, but it is doable.

Other Observations

  • The head of the light can become loose while rotating the light on your head and loose contact. I'd recommend rotating the light on the tail cap side to avoid this.
  • The head strap can loose tension over time and does not easily work on hardhats. You may want to look for a strap with silicon or rubber so it will grab on.
  • Although the headband will not stay tight on a hardhat, there are accessories out there that can help retain the headband to your hardhat.
  • The main battery tube of the body seems strong enough but I would hesitate to store this light empty in the trunk or in your toolbox because if you accidentally dropped a heavy tool on it, it may get dented. May want to pick up a hard shell case for storage.

In the Field

Once I started using the HC30, I realized this light is great for lighting up the ground whereas the HC50 was perfect for actually working with my hands. Not all of these picture are technically "on-the-job" but many are intended to simulate situations I have found myself in before or perhaps in the future.

Inspecting storm sewer manhole. (Turbo mode)

Inspecting extra materials at the temporary construction yard. (Turbo mode)

Inspecting make and model of asphalt grinder.

Traffic signal paint markings. (Mid mode)

Vacuuming house exhaust vents. (Turbo mode)

Going for a night jog! (Turbo mode)

Inspecting temporary pedestrian detour. (Mid mode)

Thoughts and Wishes

  • I wish the user interface for turning on light was reversed such that, from off, a single click would turn on the light using mode (brightness) memory and that, from off, a click and hold would turn on the light in low mode. I think that most users are coming to expect mode memory at on with a single click.
  • I thought it would be hard getting used to an off-center headlamp, but it is hardly noticeable, yay! Just may feel weird the first time you use it in the fog.
  • Since both the head and the tail come off the tube, make sure that both the ends are screwed on tight. The first time I turned on the light, there was no light and I started to panic; if this happens, be sure to check the head is on tight. I don't think the head coming off is that useful and wish there was a dab of thread lock.
  • Still wish the head strap had a silicon bead so that it wouldn't slip on a headlamp.
  • The switch is a little flat but still is tactile and depresses in just enough for me.
  • I wish that the tail cap had a magnet, so you could position it on metal objects like a car hood.
  • Since the switch is so close to the emitter, I wish the temperature was regulated to 110 degrees F (40 degrees C) so that I would burn my hand when operating.
  • I'm concerned that in the future I may accidentally damage the rubber headlamp mounts and won't be able to buy a replacement as Nitecore does not advertise this service.
  • The belt clip has a very secure grip on the light but I wish the pinch-point type bump near the top of the clip was lowered about a centimeter and made contact with the battery conpartment body so it could clip easier to thicker straps as well as thin shirt pockets.
  • Threads are a little fine but still work well, just may want to keep it well lubricated with silicon grease.


Just for fun, here is a quick side-by-side comparison between the HC30 and the HC50.


The HC30 is generally around $55 USD but be sure to check amazon for current prices.

Nitecore HC30 1,000 lm Headlamp


Other Recommened Accessories

Nitecore 18650, 3400mAh 3.7V NL189 Li-ion Rechargeable Battery

Nitecore UM10 USB battery charger + Nitecore 18650, 3400mAh 3.7V NL189 li-ion battery

Thanks for Reading!

Feel free to leave comments or questions below. What light gets you outdoors? If you've got the HC30, does the heat get in your way or are you able to work around it?


  • CivilGear Reviews received this product from Nitecore at no cost for testing purposes and to provide honest feedback.
  • 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 amazon.com
Edited by: CivilGearReviews on 06/03/2016 - 11:35
jhalb's picture
Last seen: 5 years 10 months ago
Joined: 03/23/2015 - 21:24
Posts: 1349
Location: California

Spectacular review!! I'm sold!smile

The Miller
The Miller's picture
Last seen: 7 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 12/14/2015 - 12:08
Posts: 9881
Location: Charente France

Very nice review!
funny pic you showing the hand bounce back light

CivilGearReviews's picture
Last seen: 2 years 9 months ago
Joined: 04/06/2016 - 12:55
Posts: 84
Location: San Jose, CA

Haha, thanks glad you enjoyed it! If you look at that pic too long, it looks like I have an Iron Man hand that is lighting up my face lol.