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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Illumination

Flashlights are a topic that comes up frequently in prepping discussions. Everyone realizes how important light is, but choosing from the legion of lights available can be a bit daunting. Today, I'll try to shed a little light on the topic by discussing a couple of my favorites.

The benchmark for all of our flashlight testing today is the Mini Maglite. I base all of my flashlight comparisons in real life to the little Mini, because it is virtually synonymous with "flashlight". It seems that everybody has at least one stashed in a drawer somewhere, and every maintenance man, technician, or tradesman has one on their belt or in their bag. This makes them a pretty convenient baseline, so that's how we'll proceed.
Family portrait: (L-R) Streamlight Scorpion, Mini Maglite, Ultrafire Mini

Up first is the Streamlight Scorpion. Rated at 160 lumens, it provides usable, gentle light from a single LED. (For reference, the Mini Maglite is rated at 14 lumens.) It has a tailcap switch that allows either momentary or continuous operation, and the head has flats cut on it to keep the light from rolling when set down.

It's too big for me to easily put in a pocket, and to my mind is a bit big even on a belt. However, it rides wonderfully in an EDC bag, fanny pack, purse, or similar conveyance. It does use two CR123 batteries, and while these are less common than AA or AAA batteries, they're growing in popularity and provide long life in a bright light.

Now to the sticking point... It's a $50 flashlight. However, it is very well built from quality materials, and will last for many years. If you have the cash, it's a worthy investment.


On the other side of both the price and size spectrum is the Ultrafire Mini LED. Running off a single AA battery, and featuring a beam that can be focused to a small spot or zoomed out for general lighting, it clips nicely into a jeans pocket. At 300 lumens, this little beastie is stupid bright. Don't look at the beam, especially when zoomed in, unless you enjoy splitting headaches.

The Ultrafire is my pocket flashlight. It rides clipped to my jeans pocket right next to my knife, and is used on a daily basis at work. The beam can be focused down to a point precise enough that I frequently use it to point out items in the same manner as a laser pointer. The tailcap doesn't really allow for momentary use, but that's not really a dealbreaker for the way I use flashlights.

For comparison, this is how they all look, shined against the same wall at a range of about 8 feet:
Mini Maglite

Streamlight Scorpion

Ultrafire Mini zoomed out

Ultrafire Mini zoomed in

In these shots, the room is completely blacked out, and the camera was run with zero flash or additional lighting. You can see that the Ultrafire throws a bright, concentrated beam, while the Scorpion illuminates the whole wall. Any of the three lights is an excellent value, and a vital piece of gear to have around.


Lokidude

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