I was never a huge fan of headlamps until I went to live in a cabin in the woods off the grid for about a year. My sister, the survival expert, told me to take at least one headlamp with me. I said “why do I need a headlamp when I have 100 flashlights?” and she said “because none of them are hands free, and you’ll need that to work in the dark.”
And boy, was she right. From doing dishes in the outdoor kitchen at night, to bringing in groceries in the dark, it was something I used every day. Sure, I had a few small flashlights with reversible clips to clip onto a ball cap, but those don’t really have the output or run times. Good for a last resort but not day-to-day.
So, when Olight provided these two headlamps for review, I already had a good idea of what I like in a headlamp, and things to look for. This review is for the Olight H1 Nova and H1R Nova rechargeable headlamps. They are essentially the same light, with the H1R having a different tail cap with a built-in charger. They also come with slightly different accessories. The H1R I received is the NW (neutral white) version, and the H1 has a CW (cool white) emitter.
Price: About $55 online for H1 and $65 for H1R
These are both pretty much the same light. Both the H1 and its cousin the H1R are CR123A sized headlamps that feature a Cree XM-L2 LED emitter, compact size, TIR lenses, included headban, electronic switch and optional tail clip.
Both these models can use either CR123A lithium primary cells, or rechargeable RCR123A or 16340 lithium-ion cells. The H1R comes with an Olight branded RCR123A.
Whether using an included reversible clip or headband, both these models seem to be good output for their size. Both these models also use a TIR (total internal reflection) type lens with a built in diffuser, and thus they are designed for closeup work, versus seeing things at a distance.
I believe the H1R is just an upgraded version of the H1, because I don’t see the H1 on their web site.
Official Specs (H1R)
- Rechargeable through the USB port on the magnetic tailcap
- Powered by a customized 650mAh rechargeable RCR123A battery with a maximum output up to 600 lumens
- Olight USB magnetic charging cable included (compatible with S1R/S2R/S10RIII/S30RIII)
- Compact and handy with multiple use options: headlamp, pocket light, clip to a bag, etc
- Utilizes CREE XM-L2 LED (NW/CW) paired with bead TIR optic lens, giving a perfect close-range illumination experience
- Gradual brightness changes. When turned on/off on medium, high and turbo modes, it will light up or fade gradually to protect eyes from the stimulation caused by sudden brightness changes
- 180 degrees smooth vertical rotation for the light on the silicone mount
- SOS mode available for emergency uses
- Head Strap with Silicone Mount
- Customized 3.7V 650mAh RCR123A • Stainless Steel Pocket Clip
- Magnetic Charging Cable
The H1 Nova arrived first, with the H1R about a month behind it. I’ve been super busy lately so I opened them up both at the same time, and have been working with them side-by-side even though the H1R is the upgraded version, and I assume the H1 is discontinued.
The H1 Nova comes with a nice little zippered case, which I wish they would’ve included with the H1R, which only came with a nylon pouch. Both have an included headband and reversible clip, which I like a lot.
My first impressions of these lights were, wow, they seem to have everything I look for. I’m a huge fan of electronic switches since they are so much more durable than a mechanical switch. This type of switch is also more compact, which I’m sure plays a part with these lamps being so compact. So, electronic switch, check.
The unit itself isn’t much bigger than the battery, due to a combination of the side-mounted reflector and the switch I already mentioned. The only concern with something this powerful and compact is heat. There’s no way something this compact can put out 600 lumens for any length of time without melting, and both these models have an automatic step-down from turbo. So, compact without melting, check.
The very first thing I did was take the H1 out of its headband and snap the clip to it. I’m not a huge fan of snap-on type clips, but this one fits pretty tight. Also, it’s hard to find fault with a snap-on clip when the model is being sold as a headlamp–it’s just an extra benefit.
Playing around with both lamps, my first thought was that these would be great for EDC (every day carry) and not just as headlamps. And that’s exactly where most of my time with these units have been spent.