I am really amazed how quickly LED flashlights are getting smaller and brighter and more efficient.
I grabbed a Photon light about as soon as I saw them in the early 2000's because I thought it would be the bee's knees. And it was! It was a great backup/area light. I still brought a big ol' MagLite for actual illumination because it threw out about 90 lumens. But in the past few years I've abandoned all of my non-LED lights because now you can get a light at the gas station that is 20 times brighter for $5.
Now that it's staying dark in the mornings, I'm bringing a keychain light on runs for that one very dark sidewalk that cost $20 for three and casts an adequate patch of light. My daughter has a keychain light shaped like a cow that moos and shines a light out of its mouth that is twice as bright as my old Photon. It's a toy, but it works surprisingly well.
Yesterday, I got a new light in the mail that goes to a max of 450 lumens and has 4 or 5 different LEDs on it for front- and side-lighting in different colors and functions. It's the size of my pinky finger. My light truly only needs to go from 'where'd my water bottle go' to 'WHATWASTHAT?'. This tiny thing does that plus far more. The brand I ordered from can't even keep their product descriptions up to date they're moving so fast. I'm going to play with this one for awhile to see if it's tough enough to go on trips.
Since I began researching lights, I've been getting ads for lights that max out at 45,000 lumens. I don't think I need nearly that much power; I'd worry about setting the trees on fire!
I just find it amazing that in only a few years keychain LED lights went from backup/novelty to primary lights and are evolving so quickly. Has anyone else looked wistfully at their MagLite and thought of all the cool stuff it's shown, but wouldn't even consider bringing it outdoors anymore?
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I got into it late in the game, so I skipped the whole Maglite phase. But, yes, the pace of changes is impressive. I can remember when a decent lightweight LED headlamp was out of my price range. And now, I bought one a few weeks ago that weighed 3 oz. and cost $15.
The journey is more important than the destination.
Loc: Portland, OR
I have no nostalgia for any of the incandescent bulb flashlights I used to carry on hikes. They were heavy, ran through batteries and started to dim quickly, and the bulbs would burn out or the filament break at inopportune times. We used them because they were what we had. Now we have far superior LEDs, thank goodness! They are among the better marvels of recent technological progress.
Aw, come on, man. After saving up and driving to an actual store to buy a D-cell MagLite, that thing felt like a lightsaber in your hands! Not to mention the feeling of that thing slapping you on the thigh as you walked around with it on your belt.
And the light flickering was to let you know that the next thing you needed to do was dig out more batteries to feed the beast.
After I got tired of carrying around a brick like that, I got a mini-Mag. I felt pretty cool because I could swap a burned-out bulb with the one stashed in the tailcap --in the dark. My friends always remarked, "Nice work. Can you stop pointing that at my face?"
Agree, the combination of LED advancement, battery advancement, electronic controls and MANY flashlight and headlamp makers delivers us a dazzling (in both senses) array of consumer choices.
Back in the day I reviewed LED headlamps for backpackers, very thoroughly, and today I would not even bother because it would be hard to randomly pick one that doesn't simply work. Do check that it's comfortable, doesn't interfere with glasses if you wear those, has modes you prefer and beam pattern(s) you desire.
Tricky bit today is strategizing spare battery or field recharge, for long trips during which one might find themselves hiking after dark and needing a headlamp for navigation. Otherwise, just toss a 2oz headlamp in your pack (switch disabled) and don't lose it. That's about as complicated as it needs to be.
Carry a little keychain light, lovely titanium, that's 1 3/4 inch long and less than an ounce. Surprisingly bright, rechargeable, bombproof.
I guess rechargeable batteries have come along at about the same rate, now that I think about it. I haven't brought extra batteries for years.
My new light has the ubiquitous mini-USB, so I suppose I'll have to have to nab a little battery bank, which will also be useful for my phone on longer trips. I do have one now, but it's ...a flashlight. And a bluetooth speaker, which I wouldn't use in the woods anyway.
I went through a bunch of squeeze lights but several years ago I got a Maglight Solitaire with a single aaa rechargeable battery, put it on my keychain, and never looked back. I use it almost every day. It's perfect for finding stuff in the garage or under a car seat or hooking up wires to a computer. Once on a poorly-timed trip down from Old Rag in Shenandoah NP it did a fine job helping us stay on the trail and keep from tripping.
It's the LED Solitaire you have? I've got an old incandescent one, which I could covert, but I can't seem to get past worrying that the head will unscrew and fall off.
The current candidate for backpacking is a Rovyvon model that has 4 different color LEDs and more modes than I'm likely to use. I've been testing it out running on dark mornings. It's tiny enough that I can slot it between my fingers so I don't have to twist my wrist, it can be clipped to a hat or held in my teeth momentarily (yes, it tastes like plastic).
So far, it's plenty of light at one of the middle settings, but when something scurries in the bushes the WHATWASTHAT setting is bright enough. I haven't had to charge it yet.
I opted for a warm LED color temperature. Seeing things in color at night is pretty handy when you're actually trying to find something.
My only issues with it so far are that the front light is a little bit more flood-y than others I have. The side LEDs are for flood, so I want the front to be more concentrated. Also, the button is really tiny and can be difficult to feel/operate with gloves on. I guess that's the price of a tiny light.
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