Lighting; Personal Or Vehicle, Whats Really Important & What We Think You Should Consider
You could throw a rock in any direction on Google let alone a variety of brick & mortars and hit a place offering something in lighting. Last minute counter offers at the corner Walgreen's to local hardware stores, less not forget store fronts and shops dedicated to all things dare we say as usual, "Tacti-cool"?
But whats cool may not always be the best bargain or buy for that matter, same could be said for inexpensive options that just aren't often the best bargain for the buck. Good news is not everything has to be platinum expensive or from across the pond junk. Today we're going to go over some personal options, why we chose them, how well they work and where to find them along with some other thoughts you may want to consider if you haven't already. So lets shed some light on the subject shall we? Pun intended indeed...
The ProTac 2L-x from Stream light is one of our favorite no-frills LED lights and if not for the obvious reasons, certainly for these. At 500 lumens this isn't the most powerful light available but for its size, aircraft aluminum housing, and a removable pocket clip that can be attached to a hat or hung from a para-cord line in a ground tent or RTT. It is offering dual power source options either from a pair of CR123A (2) or a rechargeable battery. On its lowest setting of 40 lumens it will last for up to 30 hours without disturbing others, and that can be important.
The other features are its gasket-sealed lens making it reliable in foul weather and from a few drops. A programmable switch also lends priority to your specific use. Its small size makes it forgiving clipped to a hat seen above, in a shirt or pants pocket, or just keeping it close in small but reachable cubbies in your dashboards or consoles.
Another favorite also because of its lower light output is the Coast PX20 which originally I personally picked up the first one at one of the large big-box building center stores. What attracted me was the dual color 155 lumen white/red LED setup which makes for a really low-detection use light. The lower output of the white LED's on 3-AAA batteries is said to be 465 feet but after several years of use, I must admit even with new batteries.. if I could teasingly imply, it may be able to be seen from 465 feet away in your hand.
For me, I primarily used it sparingly for EDC, a quick reach from my Rover sling pack from Redrock Outdoor Gear to check under the hood, grab something out of the back of the truck when trying to stay low key, the tool bag search, or whatever low visibility rummaging I may need to do. The red LED light is great for not throwing your night vision off especially while in the open outdoors or if your next tactical mission might be the outhouse. It is the only flashlight that I have continued to support by feeding it AAA (3) batteries.
My most often grabbed personal light is truly a workhorse for me is my compact Strion LED Rechargeable Duty Light w/Extended Run-time which can be charged via AC or DC power sources. With that in mind this light when on duty usually rides on its USB charger inside the glove boxes of both rigs for quick access and even if depleted of battery power; three hours and its good as new every time!
At a mildly reported 260 lumens, 200 meters sure seems to be further than it sounds as I could swear it outshines its bigger brother.
Using a single lithium battery, its near equal in weight as it is length; 5.2 ounces at just under 6.0" with an anti roll machined aircraft aluminum body with a beautifully robust anodized finish. Depending on what setting may be being used 2-7.5 hrs of run-time seems to cover all the bases. I have used it to walk the properties, check and clear rooms thanks to its tail mounted push button switch and knurled body being comfortable in the hand. The fact I have an extra couple lithium batteries for it is another plus. The charge base is compact and with the snap-in feature can be mounted in any position. The charger even has a digital control circuit to prevent overcharging and its own indicator showing the status of the light itself. IPX4 water resistant operation and 3 meter impact resistance is a must. I could not tell you how many flashlights I have lost to corrosion or water damage in past.
Getting to the Strion big brother.. The Stinger LED High Lumen Rechargeable Flashlight which being larger in lens and with 800 lumens. It also shares a 3 way momentary switch offering High/Low/Strobe functions. A special AC/DC charging base that not only has a snap-in feature of its own, it can also charge a second battery at the same time, both have individual charge indicators as well. Fully charged in 4 hours on 12v input, this light resides on the inside of a Flip-Pac unit on one of the rigs where as another is secured to a side of a pair of HEP's Rear Window MOLLE Panels in a 2 Gen Xterra for quick access in the rear of the vehicles.
At just under 8.5" long and weighing in at a decent sized cheap steak (12.4 ounces), The nickel-metal-hydride battery contributes to the weight. Run-time on high is a shorter 1.5 hrs at 800 lumens and on low 5 hours @ 200 lumens. In addition to the high/low/strobe setting there is also a 2.5hr use at 400 lumens that still offers an intense brightness with a little longer run-time. I think the feature I can say I like most about this particular unit is the dual charging station; where I can constantly rotate in/out a spare battery while using one of the three on standby in either rig setup
What has made all of these lights attractive for use mostly is the USB charging power option and this is why. AAA/AA/CR123A batteries although are or can be powerful and even long lasting. Their added cost factors and weight/care penalties in some cases for having to carry them, often in small to moderate batches does penalize some use along with the typical storage issues especially for those of us in warmer climates in general. The heat damages a battery something horribly - shortening life of the batteries just lying in storage despite CR123A offering a shelf life of near 10 years in many cases.
In addition that is where the USB charging system comes in handy because It charges quick from a battery pack or even a small solar panel collector if needed if not from a 12 volt power source within your vehicle. I don't have to leave a vehicle running in our setups, the added input of a small solar setup works great for keeping a charge on our rigs rather than being a constant drain on resources.
Things to consider when purchasing personal lighting;
What fuels the light; is it rechargeable or do you need to feed it batteries?
Whats more important; battery life or having a portable sun in your hand?
Does it serve more than one purpose?
Can you charge it from USB if its rechargeable or at least a DC circuit?
Installed/mounting options? (is it a cradle or remove just the battery component)
If it must take batteries, what kind? CR123A, AA, AAA, C, or D cells?
Weight of the unit itself
What it's intended use is for; is it a quick grab, tactical use, or is it meant for possible SAR situations?
For those looking for a hands free option. At 90 Lumens and a run time of 6.5 hours. I would be doing everyone a dis-service if I didn't mention the Enduro Headband light.
Two (2) settings, high/low offering a 5.5 to 25 hrs of use with an unbreakable polycarbonate lens. This little gem retails at $23 and we think is a steal. Enough so that having one in your EDC bag, a tool box, or even close by in a center console or glove box it is a tough affordable light that should be worth its weight in gold and even at 46.9 grams that is better than just over a Troy-ounce of gold at current market values.
Are there lesser expensive units out there that work well? For sure, we feel our Coast unit we purchased at the time from a local big box hardware store works great. But there is also as with anything a lot of junk on the market as well and we typically push for quality and service over cost most times.
Check out the links above and or in the pics for more information and of course jump in the conversation below on your thoughts or questions. Keep an eye out for our Part II article soon.
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