A good, simple flashlight

8 May, 2012

Coming back from a short writing-break and I wanted to hit on something very “core”, the simple, lowly flashlight: something you should always have readily available. In my opinion, you can’t have enough flashlights. I think you should have one within arm’s reach wherever possible. Keep one at your desk, in the car, at your nightstand, one in the kitchen, maybe one in the garage, and of course definitely one in your get-out-bag and at least one in your shelter-in-place box.

A good light should be very bright, compact, light, and have great battery life. It needs to be durable, shock-resistant, water proof and very easy to use even with gloves on. And, because of the number I feel like we should all have, they should probably be pretty inexpensive.

So based on these requirements I picked up a couple of these “Neiko Super-Bright 9 LED Heavy-Duty Compact Aluminum Flashlight” about 11 months ago, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with them. These are simple-to-use, no-non-sense LED flashlights. Simple, strong aluminum shells and a small form-factor make them nice and durable and the LED “bulbs” are extremely power-efficient, bright and shock-proof. It’s water-resistant, but then so are most of these kind of lights.

It’s not perfect, the unit is compact…very compact. Which is kind of a double-edged sword and I could easily see someone dropping or misplacing a flashlight this small. And yet, it’s not so compact you could just routinely keep it in your pocket. It’s also a little battery-hungry. The batteries will last for a ludicrously long time (thank you LED technology!), but when you need to reload you’ll need to find not one, but THREE AAA-sized batteries.

On the plus-side, as noted, it’s a great little unit and at only $4 a pop they’re one of the cheapest bits of kit you’ll find. For this price you can afford to leave a few of these scattered around your life. It even comes in three colors. What’s not to love?

Okay, that’s great, but how about an alternative? These were good, but is there something else that might be a good second-choice?

A similar product from the same company is this: Neiko Super-Bright 21-LED Flashlight. It’s a little more expensive ($8.50), and is much brighter. But to get that brightness is to trade-off is battery life. According to the company’s own data the average battery life is only 5 hours. Otherwise, it’s a very comparable unit. Roughly the same size, uses the same batteries and is similarly water and shock resistant.

This is probably the best competitor product: Maglite XL100 LED Flashlight.
It’s essentially the same kind of light, super-compact, 3-AAA battery, LED flashlight. Rugged and water/shock resistant. Comes in six colors and carries the MagLite name, which is pretty much the Cadillac-standard for flashlights. As a bonus, it has several light modes including “strobe”, “signal”, “SOS” and “nite lite” (in addition to its normal mode). The downside is that to get those modes and get that brand-name will cost you. The list price for this light is $25. So you could get one of these, or six of the Neiko model.

One last product: This is an example of one I don’t think i could really recommend, but I wanted to include it here as an example of one that *looks* good but has some deal-breaking flaws. Nu-Flare Ultrabright LED Aluminum Flashlight

Problems: It’s eight times the price ($32) of the first model we talked about, uses two rare batteries (though rechargeable versions are available, but then you need a special charger). It’s got a rugged look, but it’s not designed for durability, nor is it water/shock resistant. It’s much heavier, weighing in a 2 pounds according to their stats. It’s just not a good choice, at least for our needs.

As a final thought, I will suggest a little exercise for you: Close your eyes right now…well, wait, finish reading then close your eyes. Now, I want you to find your nearest flashlight, lighter, etc – you’re nearest source of emergency light – without opening your eyes. How hard was it? Did you know where to go? When you found it, did it work? Did it have good batteries/fuel/etc? If not, well, you now know what your homework is for the week. 🙂

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One Response to A good, simple flashlight

  1. 8 May, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I like that the Neiko is threaded for a wrist strap to help offset its small size and “lose-ability”. You could easily upgrade that to a lanyard to hang around your neck.

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