Our Guide To LED Flashlights
As Summer is arriving and it is the season for camping and being outdoors, you start planning your next trip only to realise you cannot find your old torch. You decide it is time to invest in a new one but where do you even begin looking as there are so many types and brands to choose from. This is where our guide comes in handy to make your decision a little easier!
Torches have certainly come a long way as of late with the continuous improvement and upgrading to new technology that is the LED (Light-emitting Diode). With so many to choose from which one is the right light for you?
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have put together a common system for evaluating flashlights and their performance. This has recently been revised by Portable Lights Trade Organization (PLATO) and the intention of this standard is to compare products on a level playing field. This is a big advantage for a consumer as one is able to compare actual performance through all the market jargon on various products.
Flashlight Specifications & Features
In simple terms, Lumens (denoted by lm) are a measure of the total amount of visible light (to the human eye) from a lamp or light source. The higher the lumen rating the “brighter” the light will appear. For example, 1-300 lumens is perfect for reading and everyday tasks whereas 1250-2500 lumens is used for hunting or by the military.
Another feature that people look for in a flashlight is the beam distance or ‘Max Throw’. This is measured in meters and is the distance the flashlight can emit useful light. When finding a flashlight, you’ll find some that provide a wide area of illumination and others that have a small, targeted illumination.
This is the time it takes for the flashlight to only output 10% of its initial brightness. This is conducted with new batteries and is measured in hours. Note that high lumen lights have reduced run times than those with lower lumens.
This is measured using an IP rating (Ingress Protection Rating). This rating is derived from various tests ranging from temporary submersion in less than 1m for up to 30 minutes (IPX 7) to prolonged submersion at greater than 1m up to four hours (IPX8). If you are going to be spending time around bodies of water you will need to make sure your flashlight is waterproof.
This is once again rated using the IPX system and is more related to splashing water or rain, not fully submerged. The flashlight will be rated with IPX4 or higher if it is water-resistant.
This is the resistance to damage when dropped on a solid surface, thus indicating the robustness of the product. This is found more in the tactical outdoor units.
Now you know some technical features that are found in LED flashlights, we can now look at ones that are more tailored to personal preferences.
If we look at the types of torches that are available nowadays, they are usually broken up into a few different categories depending on the size you are after or the features they hold.
These are small and compact flashlights that are easy to travel with and usually fit easily in your hand.
These are aimed at the military/ law enforcement, outdoor adventurers and hunters as these torches tend to be more durable and rugged and have higher lumens meaning a brighter light.
Headlamps are used for when your hands need to be free whilst lighting the way. For example, if you’re traversing up and down steep terrain or working on a car motor.
Aimed for everyday uses like reading or looking for a lost item as it’s compact and easy to use/carry.
Size and Weight
Torches come in a variety of sizes depending on the intended use and this may come down to more of your own preference. Most people like a compact torch that can easily fit in their pack or glove box of the car, ready for when you need it. With today’s technology, it may be small but it does not compromise on capability.
Take the Olight Warrior Rechargeable LED Flashlight for example. Not only is it a compact flashlight perfect for everyday use, but it also packs a maximum output of 2300 Lumens with a 6 mode side switch. If you are after something a little less expensive that still packs a punch for its size, then the Olight Warrior Mini 2 is a perfect choice. It’s features 1750 lumens with a 220-meter beam distance and has a run time ranging from 250 minutes to 45 days depending on the settings used.
Types of Battery
A lot of modern torches use either NiMH, Alkaline M or Lithium-ion batteries. Your intended use would have an influence on what battery type would be best for you. You may also want to look at the battery charge times when making your choice. If the torch is something you will only use every now and again or if you’re off the grid and don’t have a way of charging your flashlight, then choosing a torch that uses disposable batteries would be the answer. It is also a good choice to have one of these ready for a power-out situation as a rechargeable flashlight won’t be so useful. You could reach for a flashlight like this Olight I3T as it uses two AAA batteries and is a compact flashlight, perfect for everyday use.
Alternatively, if you intend to use the torch more frequently and have a way of charging it then looking for a rechargeable unit will be the better choice. The Olight SR2 Rechargeable LED Flashlight is a great option as it is compact and features an output of 1150 lumens. It is powered by a 3200mAh 18650 rechargeable lithium battery that you can charge magnetically through a charging cable.
Although durability may not be that high on everyone’s list, if you are going to spend a decent amount on a new torch, you want to make sure that it will be able to withstand tumbles and adverse weather if you’re taking it outdoors.
A number of torches these days are constructed from aluminum alloy giving the balance between durability and weight. This can be seen in the Olight Warrior X3 Rechargeable Tactical LED. The body is made of aerospace-grade aluminium alloy with a hard coat anodising, nonslip knurling and 3mm tempered glass lens. It is also resistant to a 2-meter drop and rated IPX8 waterproof. If you’re after a smaller, yet still durable flashlight, the Olight i5T is a perfect pick. This tiny but powerful tool is made of lightweight and durable aluminum alloy that is treated with a black scratch-resistant hard anodised finish and also has an IPX8 rating and is drop resistant to almost 1.5 metres.
So if you are in the market for a new torch, start by looking at the various qualities and features that will best suit your needs and the purpose of use.
Check out the full Olight range here!