Flashlights and Other Bright Ideas
If you’ve watched “The Walking Dead” you may have noticed that having a flashlight is extremely important. Having a flashlight that doesn’t chew through batteries every 2 hours is even more important…
We need to start by talking about batteries. The type of battery you choose will dictate the size of your light and essentially it’s maximum brightness and runtime. Here we go!
RECHARGABLES ARE WORTH EVERY PENNY!!!
There, I said it. Hope you recover from the shock. Now listen up, Sparky. Everything you thought you knew about rechargeable batteries is old news (most likely). The new Li-ion (Lithium ion), Li-Po (Lithium Polymer), and Ni-MH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries available today are really amazing. They offer faster charging times, better storage life, and more charge cycles (how many times you can recharge the battery) than ever before. The Sanyo Eneloop batteries are wonderful. Look at some of the chargers from Olight, Nitecore, XTAR, and SysMax. They charge a wide variety of batteries and do everything automagically! Some can also charge different types and sizes simultaneously. Now brace yourself, I’m about to geek out for a second. This is where cool batteries and awesome flashlights meet. If you want maximum brightness and runtime from your new flashlights, look for ones that will run on both traditional batteries (AA,AAA, CR123) and the new higher voltage Li-ion rechargeable. Normal alkaline batteries are usually 1.5 volt, some rechargeable batteries are 1.5 volt or 1.2 volt. Here is the cool part. A 14500 Li-ion is usually 3.7 volt and the same size as a AA. A 10440 Li-ion is also 3.7 volt and AAA sized. Look for flashlights that will use either and you have a win/win situation. This allows you to have more voltage from a single battery than a pair of normal 1.5v batteries. This can give you a brighter light, more runtime, a more compact light, or a combination. You can pick up some Li-ions for daily use. You will have a much brighter light and usually longer run time and still have the ability to use alkaline batteries in a pinch. My one bit of advice from the “done it the wrong way” files… Look for Li-ion batteries marketed as “Protected”. That means they have a little circuit that shuts them off if you drain them down too low. This can damage the battery and destroy its longevity. Buy “Protected” batteries and quit worrying.
I feel the need to come clean about a personal problem I have… I am a Flashaholic. There, I said it. I feel better now that everyone knows.
FLASHAHOLIC: noun –
Someone who appreciates and actively seeks information about portable lights because of an ongoing fascination with them and their development, and whose interest often results in the purchase and/or modification of these lights, very often to the point of distraction, social alienation, drunkenness, impoverishment, and general disintegration.
Yep, that’s me.
Close your eyes… Can’t see much, can you? Would you want to walk around like that? Would you want to defend yourself like that? Cooking dinner, walking the dog, fixing the car, checking the breaker box, building a fire, and many other tasks become exponentially more difficult in the dark. If your power goes out in a storm where are your flashlights? I get up in the morning and put one in my pocket and it doesn’t leave my side until I crawl back into bed. It’s, small, light, rechargeable, and extremely bright for a light that uses a single AAA battery. Do you still own a MagLight, MiniMag, or other “ancient” technology flashlight? Even the new MagLED lights are terribly underpowered. Don’t get me wrong, they are incredibly well made. They are just a slow moving company when it comes to lighting technology. The new elements are smaller, lighter, brighter, and much more efficient. I own a pocket sized Olight S15 flashlight that is not only 3-4 times brighter than my 3-D cell MagLight but it will run for 15 DAYS STRAIGHT on one AA battery. I won’t tell you which lights to buy. I’ll tell you some great manufacturers to try but you need to decide what lights fit your needs. I will tell you that you need several different ones. They will serve different purposes. Look for lights with different output levels. This allows you to fit the brightness to the task. If you get used to using a light at the lowest setting, that still provides adequate illumination, your batteries will last much longer. I will also tell you that if you aren’t using rechargeable batteries you are throwing money away.
Necessary lights –
1. EDC or Every Day Carry –
A pocket sized light that you carry every single day. Do you know when the power might go out? Do you know when an earthquake or other disaster might strike? Having a light within reach to find your way to safety or to signal rescuers may just save your life or someone else’s. Look at lights that use 1-AA, AAA, or cr123 battery. It’s also a good idea to keep at least one spare battery handy. You will be surprised at how often you will use this light.
2. Car light-
This can be a little larger. This will allow for longer throw (beam distance) and longer runtime. Because it can be put in a glovebox or console and forgotten for years I recommend using lithium batteries and keep them WITH the light and not IN the light. Most electronics have a small but continuous drain on batteries and lithium batteries have a 10yr or longer shelf life. I would look for a light that uses 2-AA batteries. A few light manufacturers make lights that DON’T drain batteries when “OFF” but you’ll need to check the specs on that.
3. The Nightstand Light-
This is the big daddy. A thrower king, the Sun in your hand, the blinder of all that is evil! Yep, A defensive light. This one isn’t going to be a cheap light. That being said there are plenty of options that are more affordable. Here you are looking for a light with a larger head diameter and a high “Lumen” output. There is a geek out moment here too but I’ll save you from it. It isn’t that important to this chapter. 500 lumens should be a minimum here. Many lights in the $30-50 range offer upwards of 800 lumens. Solarforce L2 lights are a great affordable start here. For less than $50 shipped you can get the light, charger, and 2 batteries from eBay. I own 3 of these. They are also a 1″ diameter body and offer a pressure switch for weapon mounting. The best options in this category will use both CR123 batteries or an 18650 Li-ion. The CR123 batteries are expensive and not rechargeable but they are available in a lot of stores. They are a lithium battery so they will have that great 10 year shelf life.
4. The Headlamp-
Not just reserved for coal miners and dentists anymore. These are vital to giving you handsfree illumination. Unless you prefer the taste of a good flashlight… The problem is, after a while of holding a light between your teeth, your jaw gets tired and you might drool on your project. Here are some different options to consider.
-Batteries in a belt pack to make the unit lighter on your head
-Red or green LED bulbs to limit visibility, preserve night vision, allow your eyes to adjust more easily
-Various output modes for brightness or to flash S.O.S.
– Velcro or elastic straps for comfort.
-Look for one that uses the same type of batteries as another light in your collection.
-Floodlight or spotlight. Some spotlight models offer a diffuser (frosted plastic cover) to act as a floodlight.
I really like the Olight H15. Great output for its size and an awesome hands free mechanism so you don’t have to touch it with your grubby hands. Another option in the “Headlamp” category is a headband made to hold a flashlight. I have both the Klarus mentioned below as well as the Nitecore. Good option for your EDC kit. It allows you to carry a headlamp without the extra space. The Klarus rolls up to about the size of 8 quarters stacked up.
Some great options are available from Olight, Thrunite, Trustfire, Solarforce, Streamlight, Surefire, 5.11, 4Sevens, Jetbeam, and Nitecore. There are some other great brands out there but I have had good luck with all of these.
Now go buy a bunch of lights! I’ll see you at the next Flashaholics Anonymous meeting
• Recommended EDC LIGHTS
Olight S15 kit (I carry this one)
Olight i3s (this is my backup EDC light)
Thrunite Archer 1A
Fenix LD Series
Nitecore MT Series (I like the MT1A)
Olight Omni-DOK Charger
Nitecore Charger (car power adapter available)
NiteCore Car Adapter
Look for Rechargeable batteries. It will REALLLLLLY be worth it in the long run. Especially for lights that use the expensive CR123 batteries, like the Olight M10
• Recommended Headlamps
Nitecore HC50 (the big light)
Klarus Headband (just add your EDC light)
Nitecore HB-02 Headband
• Recommended nightstand or field lights
Olight SR96 (huge search light)
For those interested in what the chart of specs means on flashlight packaging:
ANSI/NEMA FL 1-2009 Standard
Commonly abbreviated as the ANSI FL1 Standard, the ANSI/NEMA FL 1-2009 Standard is a set of flashlight performance guidelines. Before the introduction of these standards, you may have seen variety of phrases on flashlight packaging, such as these:
“3W LED” was a common term used when high performance LEDs, such as the Luxeon, were first introduced. LEDs have varying efficiencies and rarely operate at the rated power, so this doesn’t really have any meaning.
“1 million candlepower” (or any other multiple of a million), is often seen on lanterns and spotlights. A million of anything is impressive, but how bright is one million candles?
“High-flux LED” is really just a fancy way to say that the LED is bright, but even if you’re an engineer, it still doesn’t have much meaning to it.
With the FL1 Standard, ambiguous marketing phrases are a thing of the past, and direct comparisons can be made between flashlights from different manufacturers. Adherence to the FL1 Standard is voluntary, although the vast majority of manufacturers have adopted the standard. Here’s how the ratings are defined:
Light Output [Lumen]
Light output is a measurement of luminous flux using an integrating sphere. The unit of luminous flux, lumen, is a measurement of energy.
Peak Beam Intensity [Candela]
Peak beam intensity is a measurement of luminous intensity at the middle of the flashlight beam. The unit of luminous intensity, candela, is a measurement of energy.
Beam Distance [Meter]
Beam distance is defined as the distance from the flashlight where illuminance is equivalent to a full moon on a clear night.
Runtime is defined as the amount of time, rounded to the nearest quarter hour, until output drops below 10%.
Water Resistance [IPX Rating]
Water resistance is stated using the IP rating system, and three ratings are used.
IPX4 – water-resistant, or water splashed from all directions
IPX7 – water-proof, or temporary submersion at 1 meter for 30 minutes
IPX8 – submersible, or continuous submersion at some specified depth for 4 hours
Impact Resistance [Meter]
Impact resistance is tested with drops onto a concrete surface at the specified height with all intended accessories, including batteries, installed.