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#290058 - 07/26/18 08:42 PM Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations.
amper Offline
Member

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 187
Loc: US
Hello, everyone! I used to be something of a regular here, but haven't even logged on in several years. If you remember me, I've gotten divorced and changed my name, and I first moved to the West Coast, and am now back on the East Coast. I'm working on updating my gear, and writing gear articles for my blog, and a subject has come up that tends to make me a little crazy: LED flashlights.

I'm looking for recommendations for new single AA flashlights, but I'll come back to this, because I want to rant a little about the differences between "tactical" flashlights and "utility" flashlights.

I am currently using an Inova X1 as my EDC light, which replaced my Leatherman Serac S3, mainly because I wanted a single AA flashlight. However, I can't actually recommend this light (or even the latest version of it), because of one poor design decision that renders it problematic as a utility light: when you turn it on, it defaults to high power mode, and must be shut off briefly and re-activated, for it to go into low power mode. It also means you can't activate the light with one hand, and I wish I'd understood this before purchasing it.

Flashlight manufacturers (and reviewers) all seem to be caught up in the "tactical" hype. In reality, the features that one really wants in a tactical light make that light totally unsuitable as a utility flashlight.

A tactical light is a light that is designed to be used as a weapon or to illuminate a target, and therefore should have the following features:

- Maximum possible brightness
- only one brightness level
- a lock on and lock off feature to preserve runtime and to keep the light on in the event of an accidental drop or disarm
- single-handed operation
- waterproofness enough to withstand rain exposure and possible submersion
- sturdy construction to use as a blunt weapon, if necessary, and to survive a disarm or accidental drop

A utility light, one the other hand, should have the following features:

- maximum runtime/battery life
- lowest practical brightness to preserve night vision and battery life
- always turns on in lowest output mode to preserve night vision
- at least one higher power mode for when that is needed
- single-handed operation
- waterproofness enough to withstand rain exposure and possible submersion
- sturdy construction to withstand accidental drops from at least head (2 m) height.


For the most part a true "tactical" flashlight as I've defined it is completely unsuitable as a wilderness survival tool. And when you are out in the wilderness, the last thing you want to have, if you need to use a light at night, when you are most likely to actually need a flashlight, is for it to turn on in "blind me please" mode.

Not only is this bad for your night vision, it's wasteful of battery power, since the majority of the time I need a light, I need no more than about 5 lumens of light. Almost every time I need to turn my light on, I have to shut my eyes, and cycle through the power modes to get to the lowest power setting.

My 2008 Leatherman Serac S3 (long discontinued) was nearly ideal, with 7/43/100 lumen modes, *in that order*, with runtimes of 36 hrs/4 hrs/1 hr, respectively. It's compact, about the size of a lipstick, takes a single CR123A battery, and meets all other requirements, including being not terrible to hold in my mouth. But, as it's a decade old, its regulator and LED are several generations obsoleted, and Leatherman never made a AA version. Rumor has it these were actually made by Fenix, though I don't know if that's true.

I used to be able to get Rayovac CR123A batteries at a reasonable price from Wal-Mart, but they apparently don't carry them anymore.

My 2014 Inova X1, on the other hand, is the model from a few years ago that had 80 lumen and 11 lumen modes. Inova's marketing literature for this light grossly over-exaggerates its capabilities. It has no real momentary mode to speak of, no real lock-out mode, and their claim of 70 hours runtime on low mode is patently false. Most annoyingly, it always turns on in high power mode, when what I need 99% of the time is low power mode, and it requires two hands to operate. The current version is no better.

The X1 still lives in my handbag as my EDC primarily because it is a single AA light, and I no longer carry the S3, primarily because of the expense of the batteries.

Incidentally, on a whim a couple of years ago, I bought a Bushnell 325L at Wal-Mart on sale, which is nearly a good budget tactical light. It has 325 and 39 lumen output modes, plus a 325 lumen strobe mode with 2.5 hr/25 hr/4.5 hr runtime, a lock on/off, and always defaults to high power mode. What sucks about it is that the machining of the barrel makes it extremely uncomfortable, even dangerous, to use, and its many sharp angles catch on fabric. So, I rarely use it. Mostly, it stays in my truck as a backup.

My exemplar for the tactical type is the ASP Triad series, though later versions have extraneous feature sets. Their current Turbo DF model is their single-mode tactical light.

I have one other light that I commonly use, a first generation CMG Infinity Task Light with a green LED, which has a ridiculously long 150 hr battery life, as I recall. It's very dim, but it's perfect for use at night when you need just a little light and don't want to kill your night vision or attract too much attention. That one I only use when camping.

So, having said all that, I am in the market for a new EDC single AA flashlight and a single AA headlamp for backcountry use, BUT...

while the current Fenix E12 would seem to be perfect to replace my Inova X1, having the correct sequence of low/mid/high modes like the Serac S3, the AA headlamps from Fenix are exactly the reverse! They all go high/mid/low.

I would appreciate any recommendations of single AA headlamps that operate the way I need.
_________________________
Gemma Seymour @gcvrsa

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#290060 - 07/26/18 09:47 PM Re: Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations. [Re: amper]
Russ Online   content
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 4900
Loc: SOCAL
Welcome back. I would recommend the County Comm/Maratac AA Titanium Nichia Flashlight
Titanium body, 1xAA (lithium, alkaline or NiMH) battery powering a Nichia 219 (neutral white) LED emitter. My EDC includes one of those or its copper cousins in either AA or AAA.
Quote:
Low Mode, 5 lumen output for 75 Hours
Medium Mode, 50 lumen output for 4.5 Hours
High Mode, 235 lumen output for 75 Minutes

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#290061 - 07/26/18 10:29 PM Re: Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations. [Re: Russ]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6534
Loc: southern Cal
Zebralight, all the way. I have a model using an 18650 which is just about perfect, in use daily when I read in bed before dozing off. There are several AA models as well as CR123's all of which ramp up from low to high. An AA model is always in my hiking/field pack. I have equipped the wife and darling daughter with similar models. All work quite dependably

I think "tactical"is just mall ninja/marketing hype. It seems to denote a crenelated bezel and implied use of the light as an impact weapon. I believe many, if not most, jurisdictions forbid such use.

There are lots of other decent brands as well (Nitecore, Fenix to name a couple I have used) but others as well. The general quality in headlamps and flashlights is far superior to what was generally available even twenty years ago.
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Geezer in Chief

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#290064 - 07/27/18 12:15 AM Re: Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations. [Re: amper]
LesSnyder Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 1520
Loc: New Port Richey, Fla
FWIW... my EDC key chain light is a AAA Fenix E05 (2014) twist head, my AA pocket task light is a Solar Force Z2 (H,M,L) or Fenix E12 (L,M,H)tail click (all Eneloop powered)

my high lumen is a Solar Force 3x cr123 M3 head in an L2m body with extension

in a P60 size 18650 is a Solar Force L2m with low voltage LC XPG module... my car light is a Sure Fire P60 2x cr123 with Malkoff module

weapons light is a Sure Fire Scout

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#290073 - 07/27/18 04:27 PM Re: Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations. [Re: amper]
wileycoyote Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 03/01/11
Posts: 273
Loc: eastern oregon
as a serious flashaholic, i've tried many over the last 15 years

i refuse to deal with the dangers of Li-Ions rechargeables

disposables only, for me

i currently carry thrunite Ti3 1xAAA for EDC ($13 at amazon)

sometimes a surefire 1xAAA titan-plus (300lm) when i need brighter

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#290074 - 07/27/18 04:44 PM Re: Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations. [Re: wileycoyote]
Russ Online   content
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 4900
Loc: SOCAL
Thanks, I hadnít noticed the ThruNite Ti3 before, neutral white and firefly mode, looks good.

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#290076 - 07/27/18 09:14 PM Re: Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations. [Re: hikermor]
amper Offline
Member

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 187
Loc: US
The Zebralight models all seem to default to high power mode. This is exactly what I do not want.
_________________________
Gemma Seymour @gcvrsa

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#290077 - 07/27/18 09:21 PM Re: Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations. [Re: Russ]
amper Offline
Member

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 187
Loc: US
Thanks. I looked at the YouTube video for the Rev 1 AA, and the switch does go low/med/high. I hope that still holds true for the Rev 2 model.
_________________________
Gemma Seymour @gcvrsa

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#290078 - 07/27/18 09:49 PM Re: Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations. [Re: wileycoyote]
chaosmagnet Offline
Sheriff
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 2927
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: wileycoyote
i refuse to deal with the dangers of Li-Ions rechargeables


I respect this position.

My choice has been to run rechargeables for most uses -- with a big exception being flashlights in kits, where they're subject to long-term storage and often in less than ideal temperature conditions.

LiOn rechargeables, for me, are always used in a single-cell configuration (no devices with multiple cells) and are only recharged under supervision in a quality charger. The idea behind supervision is to put the fire out quickly if one should start.

That's what works for me; "primary cells only" is an excellent choice that is very safe as long as new and used cells aren't mixed.

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#290079 - 07/27/18 09:55 PM Re: Flashlights, bit of a rant/need recommendations. [Re: amper]
amper Offline
Member

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 187
Loc: US
So far, from what I'm seeing, it looks like the ThruNite lights (TH20 headlamp, Archer 1A v3, and T10 XP-L) might be what I'm looking for. I'm a little unclear on the precise switching mechanism, but their "firefly" mode is attractive.

I wish the T10 had something between firefly and 13 lumens, and something between 13 lumens and 252 lumens, though. 13 lumens is good for walking the trail, but too bright for non-task use. I almost never need a 252 lumen utility light. Something around 80-100 lumens is better for battery life and bright enough for most things.
_________________________
Gemma Seymour @gcvrsa

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