The ubiquitous flashlight is such a part of the modern world that few give it much thought. Except for select professions such as law enforcement, the military, or certain trades, most people only think about flashlights when a storm is coming and they realize that the batteries are dead. That there are so many configurations, switches, and uses, makes this common tool an excellent gift choice. With some solid knowledge, you can choose the right light for anyone and give them the perfect gift they never knew they wanted.
Let’s discuss some basic terms that are used to describe a flashlight's performance. The first is Candlepower. This is exactly what it sounds like: how many candles would it take to make a light as bright as this or that light? Unfortunately, it’s a pretty subjective number and there’s almost no way to test or prove any claim. A more accurate, but not perfect, measurement of output is in Lumens. While there are quantifiable tests to determine lumen values, there may be small (and in some cases large) variation in lights with seemingly equal lumen values. An inexpensive light you pick up at the corner store that reads “15-lumen output”, may not perform the same as the Fenix TK35 U2 flashlight discussed below.
Additionally, much like you wouldn’t buy a car based solely on horsepower, you shouldn’t buy a light based only on lumens. You may want to consider features like how they switch, where the switches are located, how many output options they have, and the materials used in their construction. This becomes especially important if you are comparing, for example, a single-output specialized light with 400 lumens, to a more versatile variable-output light with a range of 15 to 350 lumens. For a certain person, having more features with fewer lumens might be the better choice.
Special features on a flashlight might include multiple color outputs, clips, waterproof ratings, or built-in filters. Dual-output lights might be beneficial to a telescope user when they need a bright white light for setting up, but want to have low-output red light to preserve night-adjusted vision when they need to find a filter or eyepiece. Utility clips might help an outdoorsman or someone in the trades who can use the clip to attach it to a hat or jacket for hands-free use. Finally, there are special dive lights that are rated to go down hundreds of feet with filters to see better in different-colored water.
I touched on construction as a consideration, and I feel it deserves a bit more of an explanation. Many people will say that an anodized aluminum housing is the best; it’s light, tough, sturdy, will take a beating, and last for years—and in many cases, they would be right. But for some people, having a metal light might not be the best choice. Nitrolon or polycarbonate housings have many advantages that might not seem readily apparent. These materials are resistant to corrosion, temperatures, and are non-conductive. What this means is that a boater won’t have to worry about the salt water corroding the housing. Temperature resistance makes the light stay a comfortable temperature in cold weather, unlike aluminum. An electrician or plumber might prefer non-conductive flashlights.
You will probably also hear a lot about LED versus incandescent lights. LED, or Light Emitting Diode illumination, has become the focus of many manufacturers in recent years. This is because there is no filament, like in a regular bulb, so an LED will last much longer. LEDs are smaller and lighter, and with advancements in technology, they are able to produce very bright lights that were almost unheard of just a few years ago, and take longer to run down a battery. But there are some downsides, the most important being the color of the light. Many deep-dive lights still employ incandescent bulbs because of the purity of the light and its ability to cut through dark and murky water. Industry leaders like SureFire and Pelican still offer incandescent options for several of their lines, for this reason.
Besides the lights and the lumens, you need to know how the person is going to be using the flashlight. Some people rely on their lights the way most of us rely on our smart phones. They require a dependable light that can take abuse day after day. They also need a light that fits the requirements of their job. For law enforcement and military, this can mean the Surefire P2X Fury or E2D Defender Ultra. The Fury's low, 15-lumen output is perfect for reading or checking IDs; while the 500-lumen high setting illuminates the darkest corners during searches—or can temporarily blind an adversary. The Defender, with 5- or 500-lumen output, features a scalloped Strike Bezel and tailcap that can be used for self-defense. SureFire is the industry leader in professional flashlights that are seen by many as an investment, since they are known to last for years. The fact that SureFire offers a limited lifetime warranty makes either of these a great choice.
Other first responders, like firefighters, are often called on to do many tasks on the spur of the moment in all weather and conditions. The ExtremeBeam M4-Scirrako is the light that is up for whatever they can throw at it. This single-output, 315-lumen light features a flash setting for signaling, and is water and shockproof. As mentioned before, just because the lumen rating is lower, the fact that the Scirrako is waterproof to more than 60 feet, is dustproof and has a flashing feature, might make this more preferable to a single-output 500-lumen light that isn’t submersible.
Emergency and military personnel aren't the only professionals who rely on portable lighting. Many tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians, and construction workers require reliable flashlights on a daily basis. These pros, usually wielding tools, often need both hands to get the job done. Brunton Outdoor offers the versatile Glacier 115 headlight. This hands-free light runs on three included AAA rechargeable batteries, or regular alkaline if you forget to charge it. With a maximum output of 50 lumens, this light will illuminate large areas, or small rooms, while leaving both hands free to work.
Though the examples above focus on professionals, this doesn’t mean that the camper and hiker, hobbyist, cyclist, or weekend warrior wouldn’t benefit from one of these lights. Having a flashlight with a strobe for signaling in the woods could save a life. Having a hands-free light to speed setting up camp can help keep the peace with tired kids. And a loved one, walking to their car alone at night, might breathe a little easier carrying a light specifically designed for illuminating and self-defense.
Your average homeowner or do-it-your-selfer might not require the hard-core illumination tools like those discussed above. They might need a light to walk the dog, take out the garbage, or for chores on the weekend. For these people, reliability and ease of use might be more important features. Avangard Optics offers the Stingray C3R compact light. It weighs just 3 ounces, is less than 5 inches long, but has an output of 460 lumens—more than enough light for any chore or household task. With a low output setting for regular use, and a strobe function to scare away raccoons or would-be attackers, the Stingray is a great option. Another all-around light is the E21 R4 from Fenix. This powerful, easy-to-use light works with just the touch of a button. The 54- or 170-lumen intensity levels are perfect for any situation, plus it's waterproof to more than 6 feet.
With a “Storm of the Century” seeming to come every year or so, people are always talking about prepping for emergencies. For those who take preparation seriously, there is the Barska portable USB device charger with flashlight attachment. This multi-tasker has a built in rechargeable 2200mAh battery with a standard USB port to charge many small electronics like radios and phones. This battery pack comes with a 75-lumen flashlight attachment and features an SOS mode for emergency signaling. Since many people don’t know Morse code (but many emergency responders do), when the SOS mode is activated, the light will continuously cycle through the Morse code sequence for them. The charger also comes with adapters for common small devices.
For sheer power and reliability for when it's really important, Fenix offers its TK35 U2 light. This waterproof illuminator is submersible to 6.5 feet, has four output levels from 15 to 860 lumens, plus an emergency SOS signal. It runs on either four CR123 lithium or two 18650 rechargeable Li-Ion batteries to add to its versatility. Following the motto "One is None" the Fenix flashlight and Barska charger (or any of the lights previously discussed) can become the most important items in any prepper's Bug-Out Bag.
These are just a few of the hundreds currently on the market. Now that you're thinking about flashlights in a new way, consider the people for whom you need to purchase gifts, follow this link or the ones below, and start exploring the fascinating world of portable illumination. There truly is a flashlight for every person on your list, no matter who they are or what they do. Manufacturers like SureFire and Maglite produce their products in the USA. SureFire and Pelican offer accessories like color and infrared filters, holsters and lanyards, to expand the use and versatility of their products. Pelican offers a large selection of dive lights and polymer-housing flashlights that are durable and dependable. Fenix and ExtremeBeam offer many aluminum lights that are shockproof and waterproof to depths from 6 to 60 feet.
Giving a flashlight might seem like an odd choice on the surface, but the humble flashlight offers a welcome light in the darkness and can offer security and peace of mind when it’s most needed.
Great info and content...but
Anyway you could summarize this in graphic form..
A plumber who came to my house left a small 6" magnifying flashlight behind. He came back to get it. I don't blame him. On top where the on button is were the stamped on at factory initials LP.
I loved the magnification. But when I looked up LP, on line I got no such brand. Anyone know where I can get one. I have to have one of those..
If it had LP on it, it might be a flashlight from LuxPro. Unfortunately, we do not carry their items at this time. If you haven’t already, you might contact the plumber to see if you can get the make and model of his flashlight. That being said, you might checkout the Vulta Tornado 750 Lumen Law Enforcement LED Flashlight. It’s waterproof and has three different output levels, so would be something a plumber might use. If this isn’t quite what you were looking for, you might consider sending us an email with any other information specs you remember about the flashlight, and we could see if we could recommend something similar. [email protected]
Don't get carried away. A $10-$25 unit with 40Lms is good enough... Keep it in plastic zip bag and don't use it for skindiving...A camera/externnal flash, also in the bag can get a lot of attention from the people who are coming to rescue you. Try one of the small Tough cameras from Olympus/Fuji/Nikon/Canon/Sony/Pantax...
I have about 25 flashlights 10 older models and 15 Leds. What about a new group: FlashLightersAnn.
"The ubiquitous flashlight is such a part of the modern world that few give it much thought."
You're kidding right?
So many great flash lights, but no prices!
Klick on the model names/numbers... HUH?
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My name is Jim. I am a flashlite junky. This is the best piece of flashlite information that I have ever seen. I'm going to read it again and see which flashlites I HAVE to buy.