Nitecore HC30 Review - Trail running specific.

Rekkie

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Oct 14, 2010
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A light that’s no stranger here on CPF. I’m not going to regurgitate what’s already been said so I’ll try and keep it short and to the point and running related. So let me start by saying, wow! This thing is bright! Especially compared to headlamps usually used for the running i.e.: Ledlenser SEO5/7, Black Diamond Storm/Icon/Sprinter, Petzl Tikka RXP and NAO. So at first glance the HC30 seems a bit out of place with its fully anodized Aluminium body. It looks more like a tactical or caving headlamp than a running headlamp, but I was eager to try it out.

Ok, I just want to get some formalities out the way: the packaging with all that’s included:

Batteries (18650 Lithium cells) are not included, but I don’t see that as a negative as I prefer to use a battery of my own choice. One note on the batteries, you have to use a button op cell as the battery won’t make contact otherwise. And what’s nice is that the tube is long enough for a protected Panasonic cell.

Spacing of the modes is quite nice and the 3 special modes (Strobe, Beacon and SOS) is a welcome feature for trail running as with the NU20. The HC30 has a narrower spill and a tighter hotspot than the NU20.

Control:


Lower = 1 Lumen:


Low = 70 Lumens:


Medium = 210 Lumens:


High = 400 Lumens:


Turbo = 1000Lumens (it gets really hot, really fast, but never too hot):

Runtimes seemed to be very accurate, even considering the ANSI testing method. I used the headlamp on high (400Lumen) for a night run and didn’t experience any sharp drop in light output even after 2hours so I didn’t see the point in doing a runtime test with a lux meter like I did with the NU20. To back it up with some simple math: a NCR18650B gives you roughly 12Wh of power, an XML2 @ 400Lumens is roughly 2.6Wh according to my calculation; so that actually gives you over 4h30min of runtime. Take into account voltage drop under load, driver efficiency etc. I’ll be very comfortable in saying the stated 3h30min runtime will give you the 400Lumens of light for the full 3h30min, assuming you use a 3400mah battery that is. The same applies for all the other modes. Now this I like, A LOT! Because let’s be honest, if I’m buying a headlamp and it says on the packaging: 400Lumens of light for 3h30min, I’ll be pretty disappointed if I have to do the last 50% of my run in the dark. I can’t stress this enough…I like it, A LOT!!

Onto some other things: The ATR (Advanced Temperature Regulation) feature is a very nice to have considering that the LED is driven at 10Wh in Turbo Mode, either this or you’ll need a substantial
heatsink to cool the chip. Now I’ve only noticed the ATR “kick-in” on Turbo mode after about 5-6mins while running in some hot and humid weather. It dims quite significantly; I’d say to roughly 500Lumens as it felt very close to “High mode”. About 2mins later and the light brightened up again after the body cooled down a bit and continued to cycle dim/bright like this throughout the rest of the run.

The IPX-8 waterproof rating (submersible up to 2 meter) is much higher than your typical trail running headlamps. I haven’t had the change to give the HC30 a proper dunk yet (apart from a shallow dunk in the basin), but I’d have no problem swimming through a river if I have to. So I’m pretty confident to say that the HC30 will easily outlast any mainstream trail running headlamp on the market when it comes to the elements.

The switch I found very easy to operate and the UI is easy to get navigate through. What I liked about the HC30’s UI compared to the NU20 was that the light doesn’t turn off when I cycled through the modes. I could cycle from High down to medium very quickly without having to stop in the process. The instant Turbo feature I can’t imagine using during running.

The headband is where the HC30 loses some points for me. Although the soft silicon “bracket” is nice and soft to the touch, it was a constant irritation for me. I could never get rid of the headlamp bouncing on my head. I tightened all the straps, at first thinking and hoping this would solve it, only to present another problem. The soft silicon “back plate” flexes as the headband tightens when you place it on your head. The side pieces of the slots where the headband passes through then sits behind the headband and digs into my forehead. It got quite uncomfortable after only 5mins. The top, over-thehead strap I found did very little in fact, as the headlamp with the battery weighs very little. About the same as my Petzl Tikka RXP actually. So even though the headlamp unit installs and rotates with ease in the two loops of the “bracket”, I feel this should’ve been the only part that needs to be soft and flexible. The Back plate should be a hard plastic? material that will allow the headband to pass through the slots then route around the back of it to have only the soft headband make contact with your forehead.

The included clip came to my rescue, as I continued to run with the HC30 clipped and tucked underneath the chest straps of my hydration vest. And to my surprise it revealed something quite
interesting. Those that know, running with a headlamp gives you the sensation that you have no "depth perception", as you don’t see the shadows of rocks and roots etc. in your path as the light source is so close to your eyes. Having the source of your light some distance away from your eyes (i.e. on your chest) made me see the trail in whole different way. That sense of having no depth perception was completely gone…Ta-Da! The downsides of this was that the heat sink fins now sat horizontally which compromises the cooling but as I mostly used the medium/high modes, the light never got any hotter than “warm”, and the fact that the light now followed the sideways “swing” of my chest which took some getting used to. I’m still dialing in the proper position for it to eliminate some bounce, but I’m very keen in using this method for the longer night runs/races.


Some points:
Weight: 5/5 (very light considering it’s a full metal body)
Brightness: 5/5 (Seriously bright!)
Run time: 4/5 (Long enough that if you manage the modes well you can go all night on a single battery)
Comfort: 1/5 (the silicon back plate of the “bracket” is a no-no for a runner)
Innovation: 4/5 (some very nice and handy features, just wish the spill was a bit wider)
In Total: 19/25

So in conclusion, I think the HC30 is a real contender for trail running use. You get real and accurate run time figures in a very robust package. The use of an 18650 battery I think is a no brainer in today’s age. The headband is a real let down for me but I suppose as the headlamp wasn’t developed solely for trail running I can see past that. The option to mount the light via the included clip on the chest saved the day.
 

Woods Walker

The Wood is cut, The Bacon is cooked, Now it’s tim
Joined
Jun 8, 2008
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5,434
Location
New England woods.
I use mine as a trail runner occasionally though your trails look better maintained than mine. I like to see the woods but that's my nature. Good review.
 

Rekkie

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Oct 14, 2010
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LOL, where I live carrying a camera on the trails is just bait to get mugged.
 

Woods Walker

The Wood is cut, The Bacon is cooked, Now it’s tim
Joined
Jun 8, 2008
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5,434
Location
New England woods.
LOL, where I live carrying a camera on the trails is just bait to get mugged.

LOL!

On the postive side one pro of being a runner is you can run away. Good cardio is like a super power. I like that vest thing. Often when running with a lighter setup I use an Osprey runner but that vest looks really good
 

Blues

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May 3, 2003
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Location
Blue Ridge Mtns
Great review.

Mine gets use 2x daily (this time of year) but solely for woods walking / dog walking. I can see where the headband would be a letdown for running but the light itself has proven to be fantastic in every way for my purposes...walking in heat, cold, rain, snow, hatless or with a hat.

I owe a debt to Woods Walker for his earlier review and video which convinced me to upgrade from some vintage headlamps from Petzl and Princeton Tec.
 

Lamont

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Sep 25, 2010
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5
Nice review. Thanks to tips learned on this forum, I re-routed the strap on my HC30 through the silicone loops that hold the light and that solved my problems with bouncing and the edges pressing into my head. I typically run with a cap or buff headband. I'm really enjoying this light for trail and road running.
 

ThinAirDesigns

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Dec 15, 2016
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What Lamont said above. HUGE improvement. No bounce. No pain. No marks

SkilBand2_zpsev5lijlk.jpg


SkilBand3_zpsafxgkhi8.jpg
 

Rekkie

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Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Messages
53
LOL!

On the postive side one pro of being a runner is you can run away. Good cardio is like a super power. I like that vest thing. Often when running with a lighter setup I use an Osprey runner but that vest looks really good

True, trouble is they work in teams over here. We had an incident during an organized race in the middle of the day, where two ladies got mugged mid-race, and stabbed. So I don't take chances. The Salomon vest is really nice (even for the older version). Need the extra packing space for the long events and compulsory kit.


Good review! Where did you get it from? Local - Celeste?
Thanks! From Nitecore HQ.

That's a very neat trick with the strap, will give that a try for sure. Planning on using the HC30 on an upcoming 100miler which is an afternoon start.
 
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tkew

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Jan 24, 2008
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Rekkie,

Thank you on a great review.

I do ultra trail runs too and I have been using Petzl Tikka RXP, Black Diamond Storm, etc. I like these and they worked well but as you stated they are limited to under 200 lumens but these do allow longer run times. I like to find out from your opinion when using the HC30 with the headband, the fact that the light is off-center did this cause any issues? i.e. when you try to look around the roots, rocks, etc, did you have to turn your head slightly off to accommodate the off-center position of the light?

Cheers!
 

Tachead

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Jan 3, 2015
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3,872
Location
Northwestern Ontario, Canada
True, trouble is they work in teams over here. We had an incident during an organized race in the middle of the day, where two ladies got mugged mid-race, and stabbed. So I don't take chances. The Salomon vest is really nice (even for the older version). Need the extra packing space for the long events and compulsory kit.


Thanks! From Nitecore HQ.

That's a very neat trick with the strap, will give that a try for sure. Planning on using the HC30 on an upcoming 100miler which is an afternoon start.

Wow, where do you live? Sounds like you may need to add some personal defense items to your running kit.

Thanks for the review:thumbsup:
 

dwong

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Dec 28, 2006
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Location
SD, CA
Another good review, I also prefer headlamp at chest or waist height for nite hike, only way to spot those pointy sharp rocks.
So I think a clip for tube headlamp is a must.
 

Rekkie

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Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Messages
53
Rekkie,

Thank you on a great review.

I do ultra trail runs too and I have been using Petzl Tikka RXP, Black Diamond Storm, etc. I like these and they worked well but as you stated they are limited to under 200 lumens but these do allow longer run times. I like to find out from your opinion when using the HC30 with the headband, the fact that the light is off-center did this cause any issues? i.e. when you try to look around the roots, rocks, etc, did you have to turn your head slightly off to accommodate the off-center position of the light?

Cheers!
Not really, it did feel a bit weird at first but I shifted the headlamp slightly to the left...so that the LED is just a little closer to the middle of my forehead, then the beam is centered on my path and no issues.

Wow, where do you live? Sounds like you may need to add some personal defense items to your running kit.

Thanks for the review
South Africa :sigh: Some routes are better than others though, and starting to improve with the increase in popularity.
 

tkew

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Joined
Jan 24, 2008
Messages
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Not really, it did feel a bit weird at first but I shifted the headlamp slightly to the left...so that the LED is just a little closer to the middle of my forehead, then the beam is centered on my path and no issues.

Thank you for your input. Will get it and try out. Cheers!
 
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