How often have you used a cell phone as a substitute for a flashlight? How often were you frustrated that you cannot see because the cell phone’s light output is too dim? Many have gone as far as to purchase or download “flashlight” applications for their smartphones when the practical solution is to carry a flashlight. Not too many years ago, this would have been a ridiculous statement since the flashlights were too large, too heavy and too unwieldy to carry comfortably on daily basis. This is no longer the case. As you will see shortly, there are some very high quality flashlights that can be worn as a necklace or carried in a keychain.
As you can see from my photo above, I have a fairly decent amount of experience with illumination tools. I cannot proclaim as being an expert in this field; that is far from the truth. However, I believe I am more knowledgeable in this area than the common folks. The goal of this article is to share with you the information that I’ve accumulated over the years. Hopefully, you will learn from my experience, make better purchasing decisions, and more importantly, you will not be left in the dark when it counts. My focus in this article is describe the characteristics that I feel are essentials when selecting an illumination tool for general utility as well as for emergency and survival preparations.
Please note, I either have first-hand experience or currently own most, if not all, the illumination tools that I recommend in this article. This is not to say that there aren’t better and less expensive ones out there. Some of the illumination tools that I recommend may be considered as exorbitant to many people. However, as long as you follow the general principles that I am about to discuss and get the highest quality that you can or willing to afford, then you should have no concerns.
This article is organized as follow:
(I) Features to Consider
a. LED vs. Incandescent
b. Quality vs. Price
c. …And They Say Size Doesn’t Matter
d. Can This Flashlight Run on Blood? – The Bewildering Array of Battery Options
e. Turning Me On For Dummies – Switch Mechanism
Features to Consider
Small, bright, long runtime … pick any two. Similar to purchasing any tools, selecting a flashlight is about making compromises. Below highlights some of the features to consider when selecting your ideal flashlights:
LED vs. Incandescent
This is more of a decision in the past. Less than a decade ago, incandescent flashlights were superior to the LED counterpart because they were brighter and more suitable for general utility. If you had ever dropped an incandescent flashlight while it is on for some time knows that incandescent bulbs are fragile; oftentimes leaving you in the dark at the most inconvenience moments. In addition, battery life depletes rather quickly and the bulb has a short life span.
The LED technology has advanced exponentially over the past few years. Currently, there are some LED flashlights that are capable of delivering over 1,000 lumens; a figure that was once achievable with only High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights. LED is renowned for their efficient runtime and since they have no filaments to burn out, they have a life expectancy of up to 100,000 hours or about 11 years. Recently, many department stores have begun liquidating incandescent flashlights to make room for the new and improved LED flashlights. All these reasons make LED an ideal choice for an emergency / survival flashlight.
Quality vs. Price
It is better to have one high quality flashlight that works, than ten that don’t.
I feel that quality is top feature you should look for. It doesn’t matter whether all the other features described in the other sections below are met if the flashlight is of poor quality. There are still some people I know that still own a $0.99 plastic incandescent flashlight that they picked up in their local supermarket back in the ‘80s with batteries that have never been changed since. Obviously, the flashlight serves no purpose other than for paperweight and dead battery holder.
Some may think that having a high quality flashlight is an overkill. Under normal circumstances, that may be true. If the sole purpose of having a flashlight is to locate your toddler’s missing toy under the sofa, then any inexpensive flashlight will suffice. However, imagine an emergency and/or survival situation … panic everywhere, adrenaline rushing, people pushing and shoving, you’re not thinking straight, etc. In moments like this, when your priority is your family and your safety, would you rely on a flashlight that could potentially fail if you accidentally dropped it or submerged in water? I’m sure you’d have seen it in Hollywood films where a young, beautiful lady is trying to escape from a psychopath, navigating her way in darkness with a flashlight that’s flickering … she drops the flashlight, it goes off, she picks it up, bangs on it a couple of times, flashlight comes back on with the psychopath right in front of her. Of course that is Hollywood, but I’m sure you get the point.
Quality usually come with a price tag, and the higher the quality, the higher the price. Needless to say, there is a point of diminishing return. A $500 flashlight does not necessarily mean that it will perform better than a $100 flashlight. Everyone is in a different financial situation, so my recommendation is to stick with the highest quality that you could afford. I will provide some recommended flashlights along this article, but be aware that by the time you read this, there will probably be newer and better flashlights. The best way to determine whether the flashlight you plan to get is of high or low quality is to do your research. With the presence of the Internet, you could get virtual word of mouth from those who have experiences with the flashlight in question. One of the best places to do your research is in Candlepowerforums.com.
Two qualities that you should look for in a flashlight are:
(1) Waterproof – Preferably to IPX-8 standards. “IPX” refers to Ingress Protection Against Water. The designation “8” means your flashlight is capable to be continuously submerged in water for a period of time. Although the depth and time period varies from manufacturers, it is relatively safe to assume that the flashlight is capable of handling (1-2 meters) 3-6 feet of water for a least 30 minutes.
(2) Drop Proof – Preferably to MIL-STD-810F standards. MIL-STD-810F is term derived from the DOD to determine the “ruggedness” of a device. A series of test is conducted by the manufacturers to determine whether a device is capable to withstand drops, vibrations, dust, water immersion, temperature extremes, etc.
… And They Say Size Doesn’t Matter
Q: What is the best survival / emergency flashlight? A: The one you have with you when it matters.
A MagLite 6D flashlight may sound like an ideal flashlight that could double as a weapon, but are you really going to lug that beast around? Don’t get me wrong, a larger flashlight does have its place, which I will discuss later in this article. For the general emergency / survival flashlights, I will focus on the those that are convenient to carry with you at all times.