Nitecore HC65 review – why you should NOT buy the HC65


This Nitecore HC65 review will cover everything important when searching for a new headlamp. To be up front – I really like this light and think the quality is great, however there are huge reasons why you should NOT buy the Nitecore HC65, and I’ll get into why in this review.

Nitecore HC65 Amazon link

Light quality

This is where the Nitecore HC65 really shines.

So to start you have the main white beam, you have the red beam, and you have the auxillery/firefly mode.

The main white beam has 5 settings which range from very low to blisteringly bright. Unfortunately the steps from 1-2-3 are a bit too wide and from 3-4-5 a little too narrow – I would prefer a little better balancing of the main light modes as I find 2 too dim and 3 too bright when cycling at night.

The red mode is great for campsite & nighttime and is fairly powerful. For less power I would hit up the firefly mode.

The firefly mode/auxillery light is very dim, a nice orange tint, and makes great for reading and nighttime campsite stuff too. It’s a perfect setting and one of my favorite for campsite duties where you need just a little luminance.

Build quality

Nitecore HC65 failure
Nitecore HC65 failure at the threading… zip ties and tape anyone?

Overall, the build quality is nice – the metal is sturdy, it’s well-constructed, water-proof, and the headband is solid. There is no magnet but I’m okay with that.

However, if failed horribly. The threading on the cap where it covers the battery failed within 2 weeks due to the very thin threading. How on earth this passed the beta testing stage is beyond me. Maybe it’s a faulty unit, but their atrocious warranty/service really kill it for me.

Now, I had to rig up duct tape and zip ties to keep the connection secured and have the light work… It’s super jank and while it works ‘fine’, it’s 100% unacceptable for a light which cost me nearly $100 CAD.

The Nitecore HC65 problems

Before we hit up the ‘Nitecore Worldwide Warranty Program’ service, lets talk more problems with the HC65.

  1. Passive battery drainage – This light is terrible for it. Nothing worse than when you have to bike and work at night and yet the light is completely drained, essentially needing revival from a charger. This is terrible and after a few days of stand-by, the cell is dead.
  2. Proprietary 18650 – It only works with Nitecores special 18650 protected cell. It’s a good 3400mAh one which has worked in all temps and conditions, but the fact I can’t use it with any of my 12 different 18650 batteries is complete trash.
  3. Charging – Internal charging is very slow. It takes ~7 hours (feels like 0.5A charging rate) and the included cable is meh. Also, MicroUSB instead of USB-C is meh..

For those reasons alone, I would recommend not to buy a Nitecore HC65.

Nitecore HC65 18650 battery
the Nitecore HC65 18650 battery is a little bigger than most 18650s, so they won’t work in the HC65

As a headlamp

When it’s working, it’s great! The light is plenty powerful, has great coverage and penetration, and overall I’m very impressed by the power. It gets pretty warm though and occasionally emits a hum which also sucks.

Since I can’t use it with their nice headband due to my zip tie fix, I can’t use it as a headlamp. It’s a glorified necklace/handheld light with my other headlamp strap and well, I feel jipped.


Nitecore warranty service is useless if you’re in EU, maybe elsewhere too.

This is where they really failed. I was enticed by the ‘Nitecore Worldwide Warranty Program’ and that I could get it fixed/replaced easily from anywhere in the world.

What the Nitecore program really means is “send it to China and we’ll send you a new one”.

Okay cool, but shipping to China is $40 so now I’m spending $140 on a light and need to wait a whole month for shipping back and forth. I really need a strong light for my work and this is unacceptable. In a series of e-mails they offered to send me a new light for $50, but I’ll pass on that ‘deal’…


So yeah, their warranty service is bunk, the product if broken is jank, and even if not broken, you’ll be frustrated by parasitic power drain and incompatibility with other 18650 cells. I used it in my Vogelsang Nuclear Bunker mission and it worked great, but yeah, it has its problems.

I don’t know which light to recommend and I’m currently shopping for a better one, so if you have any 18650 headlamps which are USB-C compatible or would like to send me one, please leave a comment or contact me!

Also, check out my Nitecore HC65 review video to see these thoughts summarized in speech. Anyways, have a good one and peace! πŸ™‚

  • Nitecore HC35 vs Petzl Tikka vs Beal FF120 – showdown

    Nitecore HC35 vs Petzl Tikka vs Beal FF120 – showdown

  • Bike setup 2022 – Bikepacking, groceries, fun stuff.

    Bike setup 2022 – Bikepacking, groceries, fun stuff.

  • (2023) Best ‘digital nomad’ gear – Work, camp, & play setup.

    (2023) Best ‘digital nomad’ gear – Work, camp, & play setup.

Nitecore HC65 headlamp
Nitecore HC65 review

Excellent headlamp with terrible service, proprietary protected top 18650 battery, rapid passive drain, weak threads.

Product Brand: Nitecore

Editor's Rating:


  • Excellent beam types
  • Removable 18650 battery
  • Red light


  • Terrible service
  • Faulty threading
  • Dangerous battery drain

Leave a Comment

FREE things giveaway

I got about $1,500 in products from hammocks to barefoot shoe vouchers or adventure backpacks

I have too much stuff, so, I’ll give it away randomly to those on the list!

Simply enter your e-mail below to enter πŸ™‚

(I will not share or sell your e-mail to anyone!)