This is where you can find my thoughts on a variety of subjects that I’m interested in. These posts will mostly be ramblings about the controversies I see in EDC and the like. Bear in-mind that these are mostly my opinions, and I am by no means trying to push them on anyone.
What is EDC? A Critical Glance
The EDC hobby has gone mainstream in the last few years, and for newcomers it can be a confusing question: What exactly is EDC or everyday carry? On a literal basis, as the name would imply, EDC consists of the stuff that you carry with you everyday. Most people have an EDC even if they don’t know it; for example, the modern EDC is predicated on a trifecta: Phone, wallet, and keys. EDCs have been a thing since the inception of man, yet we’ve neglected to give it a name until the last few decades.
But EDC is so much more than just the stuff you carry everyday. For many people, it’s a form of individual expression. A person’s EDC can say a lot about them – it’s an extension of who they are. No two persons’ EDCs are the same, and much of the hobby’s fun lies not only with curating your own EDC, but also checking out others’. A well-used watch that’s been passed down through the family, or a memento kept for sentimental reasons are both good examples.
Fundamentally, EDC is also a form of preparation – being able to have control over the things that happen in our life, on no matter how small a level, is reassuring. So to a lesser extent, you could even say EDC is a form of security. This, at least, is the purist interpretation. And yes, there are “purists” like there is with pretty much any other hobby. As a hobby expands and goes mainstream, naturally its framework is equivocated to some extent. And to this effect, the modern EDC hobby is dominated by clout-chasing.
Perhaps you’ve seen some pocket dumps online. Now if I had just one word to describe many of them, it would be “bullshit”. Most of these dumps prioritize aesthetic appeal over practical use. And likewise, being able to purchase the latest and greatest knife or flashlight is a statement, it’s low-hanging fruit in terms of flexing your income. Many manufacturers have shifted to using fancy materials and to abusing limited editions to sate the aforementioned demand. And all this is ignoring the other dumps I’ve seen that look like they came out of enough pockets for several pants!
Such is what the EDC hobby has come to, and while some of my viewpoints might come off as cynical, I do believe there is a lot of truth to them. That being said, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good-looking pocket dump: An apt description for many of the pieces I see nowadays would be “functional art”. And although the hobby’s purpose has strayed somewhat, don’t let it distract you from the fact that there’s very few hobbies as practical as this one.
Understanding the Custom Flashlight World
Let’s talk about today’s topic which is the state of the custom flashlight market. I’ll be covering what you need to understand purchasing a custom flashlight, the current problem with the custom flashlight market, and what I’d like to see going forward. I do think that a lot of what I’ve got to say today is applicable to the EDC game in general, but I’d rather not get too broad and would prefer keep the discussion within the scope of a niche I’m knowledgeable about.
What You Need to Know
Foremost, let’s generalize some of what you need to know going into “custom flashlights”. I say quote-unquote custom flashlights, but I’m just speaking about expensive flashlights in general. To put things into perspective, there are many flashlights out there that will run you well over a grand. Very few makers will design you a truly custom flashlight from the ground up, and most custom flashlights are custom in the sense that you have a small say in the components, hardware, and finish that goes into the torch. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to refer to them collectively as custom flashlights.
The first thing you need to understand about the custom world is that you’re not necessarily paying for peak functional performance. By function, I mean the components themself that generate the light and output. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: It would be better to think of many custom flashlights as functional jewelry. A good number of these flashlights will easily run you a grand because the money isn’t in the function so much as it is in the craftsmanship and materials used. Custom makers use a variety of metals in flashlights such as titanium, copper, brass, and even more exotic metals like mokume gane and damascus. Clearly these aren’t the most practical choices of metal for a flashlight, but they’re desirable because of their unique properties, be it functional or aesthetic. Likewise, custom makers put a level of detail in the machining and assembly of their flashlights that isn’t even comparable to production flashlights.
There are numerous budget flashlights that are functionally on par with or superior to custom flashlights. In fact, the budget flashlight world is synonymous with pushing the envelope in terms of not only cost, but also functionality. This is a stark disparity with the vast majority of products that emphasize upon the former but not the latter. It’s also an issue with the custom flashlight world that I’ll elaborate on later.
Although you generally have very little say in the minute nuances that make a custom flashlight unique, custom flashlights are often designed from the ground-up to be modified and serviceable. That means being able to swap in a new pill, which houses the LED and driver, in the event of failure. Similarly, all moving parts will eventually fail, and it’s often an even simpler matter to swap in a new switch. And because of the build-it-for-life nature of most hosts, the shell of the flashlight, most custom flashlights will last you a lifetime provided you have replacement components.
In essence, custom flashlights appeal to consumers that appreciate something that’s been handcrafted with the utmost attention to detail. In this respect, custom flashlight makers are quite literally artisans of machining and aesthetic design. A good majority of people are shocked by the cost of a custom flashlight, and to them I always make the apt comparison to the watch world or any niche hobby, really, to which the same holds true. If you just want a flashlight that can produce light then you should be looking at budget and production flashlights. Conversely, if you want an heirloom-quality tool that’ll last a lifetime, maybe you should consider a custom flashlight. A custom flashlight is certainly not for everyone, and that holds true for any luxury product.
The Problem with the Custom World
Now that I’ve gone over what I think one needs to understand going into the custom flashlight market, let’s talk about the current problem with it. I’m going to address what I believe to be the elephant in the room: The utter lack of innovation and the perpetuation of the same, much-copied designs.
I know that I’m overgeneralizing when I say this, but there’s two types of custom flashlights, those that use a single-emitter and those that use a triple-LED setup. The former is the traditional orientation that pretty much everyone – even your average joe – is aware of. The latter is an orientation that was pioneered in late 2010 by Mac’s Customs. In case you were wondering, Mac’s Customs is no longer in business, and went rogue after stealing his customers’ money. Regardless, the triple orientation was extremely progressive at the time because 1) it looked wicked cool, and 2) it allowed for much more output and flood which are apt for EDC. The format was largely dead for a while after Macs Customs absconded, but was picked back up shortly after which resulted in the so-called “triple craze”. This became the predominant orientation in the custom market, and still is to this day although the craze has died down somewhat.
To echo a sentiment I made earlier, the custom flashlight market is truly a niche one. Believe me when I say that there are people with collections easily worth tens of thousands of dollars. And as with any lucrative market, there are makers who want in. Custom makers know that the aforementioned people will buy whatever they pump out as long as it’s quality craftsmanship, and they prey upon this foible. They have little incentive to innovate, and we’ve definitely seen the results. There’s been so many new companies and makers in the last few years pumping out the same, tired components with a new, fancy host that I’ve lost count. Although I would posit that the triple market has slowed somewhat, it’s definitely still preeminent. This is predicated most by the insanely inflated secondary market values of torches from certain custom makers. It’s this vicious cycle that has led to the disparity between custom flashlights and budget flashlights that I highlighted earlier.
Budget flashlights have progressively gotten better – and functionally superior – to custom flashlights and the simple answer to that is because they have competition. To draw a more understandable historical analogy, all we need to do is look at the Cold War which pit capitalism against communism. Communism failed because there was no incentive for the people. And so simply put, budget light manufacturers have incentive to innovate. Their target consumer base isn’t willing to buy their flashlights unless they introduce new functions and improved components. I won’t deny that this has led to many a useless gimmick such as overtly programmable drivers, but budget flashlights have beget many a diamond in the rough. It’s sad that the same can’t be said nearly as much for custom flashlights in the last few years. Sure, there’s been exceptions, but they are the far and few between.
It’s not my attention to marginalize custom makers and flashlights. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money and being intelligent enough to target a lucrative consumer base. And I’m well aware that there are many exceptions to what I’ve said, but I’m looking at the market and trends I’ve seen holistically. On that note, I also want to talk about shifts in the consumer base.
The consumer base, and custom flashlight makers in general, have migrated from the forums that used to dominate the hobby: These forums were called CandlePowerForums and BudgetLightForums. The forums reflected the parallel between more expensive, custom flashlights and budget flashlights respectively. And collectively, they represented – and more than ever do they – concerted, thoughtful discussion on flashlights. While both still do exist as avenues of discussion for hobbyists, they are less active than ever, and the hobby has shifted to social media platforms.
Social media is exemplified most by its fast pace, constant updates, and instant gratification. There is no doubt that it has connected flashlight connoisseurs and EDC enthusiasts around the globe more so than the traditional, aforementioned forums ever could, but it has also left a new type of consumer in its wake. And this isn’t the good type of consumer. This is the consumer that has the money (or sadly, sometimes doesn’t and spends money they don’t have regardless), but doesn’t have the basic knowledge to understand the product they’re purchasing. This is the type of consumer that asks the most mundane of questions that they could find the answer to if they’d just taken a few moments to do a quick search. This is the type of consumer that begets drama because their new, fancy custom flashlight stops working and they don’t understand what a mode lockout is. Such consumers detract from the hobby as a whole, and in fact perpetuate the vicious cycle that I outlined earlier.
Once again, I am speaking in general terms. The good majority of flashlight enthusiasts I’ve conversed with on social media are extremely knowledgeable about the hobby – more so than myself in many cases, I might add – and conduct themselves in an admirable manner. It’s the few outliers that have really ruined the experience for me. While social media has certainly brought merits to the custom flashlight world, it’s also brought many new issues. Don’t even get me started on the amount of scammers its given a new avenue to.
What I’d Like to See
At this point, I hope I’ve outlined my general concerns with the state of the custom flashlight world. What it needs right now is a lot more innovation, and in a way, it needs to find its roots. Customs used to be the ones pushing the boundaries of innovation. But as it stands, the custom flashlight market has mostly turned into glorified flashlight jewelry. I’m not saying that that’s necessarily a bad thing, and in fact, I like that the niche exists. It’s brought many new people into the hobby and gave way to a whole new market segment. But the custom market also needs to see more progression on the opposite end of the spectrum, function.
In the end, the consumer base will dictate what happens in the custom flashlight world. As more of the same, much-copied designs are released by new makers it’ll eventually lead to market saturation. People won’t buy as many of their products or will tire of them altogether; this phenomenon is known as diminishing returns. As a result, some of these makers will realize that the competition isn’t worth it and drop out of the game. And if they don’t drop out, they’ll have to innovate if they want to stay in the game. That’s the simple nature of supply and demand, and I look forward to seeing where it takes the custom flashlight market.
All in all, I hope you guys found this article informative. To piggyback on what I was saying earlier about the new type of consumer that social media has beget, I really think that it comes down to being educated about the conventions of the market. By making more consumers cognizant of the role they play in the custom market, we can effectively shape the market for better, more innovative flashlights.
Buy Once, Cry Once and other Problems with the EDC Hobby
In what’ll probably be more of a philosophical post, I’ll be exploring one of the preeminent justifications for the gear that we purchase, and the extent to which this is warranted. Mostly, though, this’ll just be me rambling about all the crap I’m dissatisfied with in the hobby , but if you guys enjoy these types of posts let me know.
You all know the saying: Buy once, cry once. These four words are pervasive throughout the EDC (everyday carry) community, and especially so as the gear you’re looking at enters what most would consider cost-prohibitive.
Understanding the Principle
The premise behind the saying, of course, is that you’ll be better off in the long-run buying that very expensive item now. Why is this? Put simply, things that cost more are generally built to a higher standard than their cheaper counterparts. And ideally, something that is of higher quality will last you through several replacements of the cheaper counterpart, thus saving you money in the long-run. Overall, this aspect holds true for the most part when it comes to EDC.
What’s a lot more interesting, to me at least, is the second reason why the EDC community pushes this statement around: While amassing a collection of EDC tools deviates from the hobby’s roots, no doubt it has become the crux of the EDC movement. As consumers, we’re always on the lookout for that next piece of gear that can be our endgame. And by buying our “grail piece” we can effectively circumvent this cycle, we can cut the pretense. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. As it happens, though, we are innately programmed to want more – more is better, more is satisfying. So if we’re eyeing a new piece of gear, we’ll try to find something wrong with the gear that we already have to justify that next big purchase.
Some Problems with the Hobby
That said, it’s not entirely our fault that we often fall prey to purchasing more than we need. After all, the industry’s success is predicated on making us think that we “need more”. In the EDC world, this presents itself in a couple key instances. Take for example limited edition products. More often than not, limited editions are nearly identical to their production counterpart functionally, but have some minor nuance to distinguish them. People buy into the idea nonetheless, hence the abuse of “limited edition” and that we have seen from many manufacturers in the EDC community. Limited editions exploit the phenomena of FOMO (fear of missing out).
Another good example of how our psyche is exploited comes in the form of the hype train. When we make a purchase we’re happy with, we’ll flaunt our new wares. Example in case: Person A asks for a recommendation, and Person B comes along promoting something totally irrelevant to the scope of what Person A is looking for. We’ve all seen it before, especially on some of the Facebook groups. And when we make a bad purchase, we’ll try to rationalize our purchase nonetheless, thus leading to a circle jerk. This cognitive dissonance is not uncommon, we are fickle creatures.
So far, I’ve made the manufacturer look like the bad guy. But it just isn’t that simple, unfortunately. Perhaps the real root of the problem lies with the chronic flippers who game the system and prey on aforementioned FOMO. I’m sure the term “flipper” isn’t unfamiliar for many of you; however, it definitely takes on some more negative connotations in the EDC community.
After certain products sell out, said products will often hit the secondary market (ie. eBay) right after. And because there’s existing hype for the product, sellers can charge – and people pay – far more than the initial MSRP. The idea of buying in early and being able to make a tidy profit, doing pretty much nothing, is alluring. And what’s more is that it works – admittedly, I myself have done it on more than one occasion. A good example is when I flipped a Steel Flame clip I snagged at MSRP for $195. The clip served no purpose to me – I was simply curious about the hype – and when I learned how much they ran for on the secondary market, well, I flipped it for close to $600.
Clearly, what I did was probably not all that classy in the eyes of many people who find sentimental value in Steel Flame’s products. And to this end, I don’t purchase their products anymore; stealing a purchase opportunity from someone who will genuinely appreciate their products isn’t right in my eyes. But it’s the people who do so every time, thus exacerbating the aforementioned hype train. Think about it. If I see stuff on the secondary market for more than its MSRP, it makes it desirable to me because 1) I know it has good resale value, and 2) it must be in high demand.
How to Make the Hobby More Enjoyable
If you can’t tell already, everything I’ve outlined so far is one big feedback loop that comes at the expense of your wallet. It’s a shame that it needs to be said because it’s common sense, but here it is anyways: Step back for a moment, and re-evaluate your needs objectively. You don’t need three of what is effectively the same piece of gear. Redundancy is important, yes, but only to a certain extent. After all, the whole premise of “buy once, cry once” is to only cry once with that one, big purchase.
Something else easily forgotten is that your “buy once, cry once” purchases should only be for things that you are very passionate about. If it’s not something that you’re going to use everyday for many, many years to come then you’re better off purchasing something that’s cheaper, but will give you a better utility-to-cost ratio in the long run. “Buy once, cry once” isn’t a justification to buy every high-end piece of gear out there.
This also means thinking about your purchases critically both before and after the fact. In terms of before, do your due diligence before making a purchase: Avoid the slick “reviews” that frequent many EDC aggregate sites. Look for reviews that give both solid pros and non-superficial cons. And after you’ve made a purchase, stick with that piece of gear for a while and see how it conforms to your usage applications. Only then is it generally acceptable to flip a piece of gear.
Along those lines, don’t support crappy practices like chronic flipping. And if you are a chronic flipper, well, think about it as breaking the chain. If you, as a chronic flipper, stop inflating prices on the secondary market then the manufacturer loses both clout and profits. Limited editions wouldn’t be such a shit show, and we could effectively dictate what we want from manufacturers. In the end, everyone wins this way: The people get what they want, and the manufacturers keep making money.
Of course, I’m not so naive to believe that all this would happen; this would require an unprecedented paradigm shift on everyone’s part. But as it stands, it’s not us, the enthusiasts, who are taking the most away from this hobby. It’s the manufacturers and chronic flippers that are emptying our wallets. Hopefully, though, you guys can try taking some of the steps I’ve outlined in the aforementioned text to get the most from this hobby without going broke.
It’s worth mentioning that I myself am not immune to the foibles of this hobby. Just the other week, I was highly tempted to purchase a Carbon Fiber Ridge wallet that I saw in-store just because it was there. It’s worth mentioning that I have a perfectly good Dango wallet already, but I was so, so tempted. And this is after I already purged all the other wallets I tried out before settling on the Dango. But when my mother, who was with me, asked me why I needed another $115 wallet when I already have one, I couldn’t come up with a single, good reason. Sometimes, and more often than not, it’s better to just walk away and appreciate what we already have.
On Clones in the Flashlight World
Ah yes, clones, perhaps the touchiest of subjects in the custom torch world (CTW). Be aware that my thoughts on the subject might deviate from some of the conventional, established canon on the matter.
An example of a (very poor) Barrel Flashlight clone.
Clones in the Torch World
The term itself needs no explanation to anyone who is familiar with the knife and watch hobby. But for those of you who might not be familiar with the term, recall that many custom torches have what most would consider a cost-prohibitive MSRP. Not everyone can afford one, and as a result, demand is picked up in the form of clones: Torches reminiscent (sometimes identical) in aesthetic to the original, yet at a fraction of the cost.
In general, I’m not a fan of clones. This is the accepted stance by most individuals in the hobby; those who would beg to differ often find their opinions squashed out by the, shall we say, more enlightened members of the community. To this effect, there is a diehard faction of the CTW that attempts to stamp out any and all mention of clones; this is an exceedingly short-sighted viewpoint.
The Benefits of Clones
Sometimes a maker will abscond as was the case with Mac’s Customs around 2015. Mac was best-known for his Tri-EDC flashlight that sparked the triple LED craze, and the demand for the setup was subsequently taken up by Okluma. The original Okluma DC1 (or TinyDC as it was referred to back then) was pretty much a 1:1 clone of the Tri-EDC in terms of dimension. Over the years, Okluma has added on numerous features to slowly distinguish itself from the Tri-EDC. The fact remains, however, that it is inherently a clone in many ways. Another good example concerns Surefire’s original E-series which was valued for its cross-compatibility. The original E-series has been out of production for well over a decade leaving many users without replacement parts for their aging torches. Lumens Factory filled the void by creating clones of the original components with some improvements to the quality.
In both these examples, manufacturers have taken up the demand for what is effectively an abandoned platform. Yes, they’ve improved upon the original design, but the fact remains that they are effectively cloning. What’s more, this cloning comes at the expense of no one – is that so wrong? Okluma enjoys a lauded (and deserved) reputation in the CTW. Yet, in an instance I’ll elucidate upon further, you’ll see Lumens Factory, which happens to be based out of China, bashed by some individuals who are biased against the country of origin.
Furthermore, as I touched upon earlier, not everyone can afford a $500 custom torch. In lieu of this, clones offer a compelling alternative and can serve to bring someone into the “fold”. Think about it. If a clone is inferior in quality, and most are, a purchaser is more likely to express their dissatisfaction (to the credit of the original) and purchase the real thing. Now if a clone is comparable in quality to the real thing, well, that’s where you have a problem. People will flock to the clone thus undercutting sales of the original. Is this right? Maybe not, but it incentivizes the original maker to step up their design and improve. And like so, clones promote a free market and push the industry to innovate.
A Misconstrued Definition
And oh, we’ve finally hit that magic word: Innovation. Something that the CTW is severely lacking in as I’ve outlined in one of my other posts. Custom torches are mostly predicated on the intensive, near-perfect machining that goes into the host, or body, of the flashlight. Because much of this is done on CNC machines – not manually, although there are some exceptions – it has become increasingly easier to pump out more and more custom torches. Likewise, the competition – clones – have gotten better too. Sure, you can make fun of some of the ones we’ve seen like the horrendous Barrel Flashlight clone. But some have hit levels on par with the better manufacturers, take for example the Titanium Surefire E1E clone.
Where am I going with this? If you can’t innovate to beat the competition, then you resort to more demeaning measures like some of the CTW has. The CTW is predominantly US-based, and there is a slight, (generally) unspoken bias against torches manufactured in countries of other origin. A good case in point is Muyshondt’s torches. There is a very long thread in the Flashlight Fanatic’s FB group that alludes to where they are manufactured (China), and a subsequent flurry of nationalism in the comments. Of course, there’s a bunch of other reasons why they were shit on, like their customer service and marketing, but the fact remains that their torches are generally of high-quality regardless of the origin manufacturer (presumably Lumintop which makes budget flashlights). Furthermore, it’s ironic that Reylight, from China, is similarly pushing the envelope in terms of design and quality. No, his torches are still not on par in terms of quality with many true custom torches. But they’re getting closer, and they’re also much more accessible for the average enthusiast who wants a taste of custom.
As the race for innovation has heated up, some of the canon custom torch makers have doubled down and effectively tried to lock out newcomers. This doesn’t present itself much in the form of the makers themselves, but more so through their respective followings: The word “clone” has been heavily equivocated by many members of the community to generic design elements. Because much of a custom torch’s value is based on the host, a unique bodily pattern is essential in today’s market. Unfortunately, there’s only so many patterns out there, and well, they all start looking the same after a while. And as a result, new makers have been shut down, or called out, for what is effectively the most menial of elements. This same sentiment is equally applicable to the bodily ergonomics of many hosts, torches are being called out for “copying” the venerable hourglass design.
I won’t get into the specifics of where I’ve seen instances of the above with custom torches; however, I will draw a parallel to Steel Flame’s products. I don’t give a hoot about their products which is why I’ll use them as an example. There are many who find them appealing, though, and I can respect that. That in mind, my issue lies not with Steel Flame’s products themselves, but rather how they are thrown up on a pedestal by the CTW. Steel Flame products are most recognizable by their skulls. And naturally, because they are already pricy at MSRP, and significantly more expensive on the secondary market, some makers have tried to emulate them with cheaper, similar clips that also use skulls. Such clips have been shot down by the CTW and not on the basis of quality, but rather the addition of a skull itself. Like, really? Since when was a skull trademarked or patented? How about since never.
Yes, yes, I understand that Steel Flame has sentimental value to many – HGR and all that. Maybe it’s not honorable or respectful for other makers to use a skull, but what defines those values? Is it honorable to game supply and demand like Steel Flame has effectively done, thus jacking up secondary prices? But I digress. This, and the examples that I’ve outlined with the CTW, is clout-chasing at its finest. People are eager to monopolize, justify their claim to high-end gear, and will preclude anything that would usurp this monopoly. Seeing something undercut and rival what you own for a fraction of the cost is unnerving.
For the Record
To reiterate, clones are a necessary component of any free market and they serve to push the industry to innovate. I’m certainly not a fan of clones; however, the CTW has slowly misconstrued the meaning of the word over time to the point where it looks absurd to most newcomers in the hobby. The diehard faction that despises clones will probably find it hard to accept this, and I’d expect no less. After all, the bonds between maker and buyer run deep in the CTW. But they would also be cognizant to recognize that clones have their place, to argue otherwise is bigotry.
Much of this post reads like an unpopular opinion, and that’s because it is. I don’t expect people to change their mindset about clones overnight because of how engrained the mentality is in the CTW. To keep it real, though, clones aren’t going to ever disappear. As long as there exists value in them, they will continue to flood the market. And to those who might posit that clones inherently have no value, their mere existence begs to differ. Now some parting words: Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion, but don’t let the masses dictate your views.
With the predominance of social media, there’s a plethora of information about the hobby at enthusiasts’ fingertips. But more often than not, I see a lot of the same questions being asked. Now, there’s nothing wrong with seeking advice or answers to a question you may have. However, more often than not, the question has already been answered. It’s simply a matter of utilizing the “search” function. The following are some general questions that I see get asked a lot – and with way too many conflicting opinions.
Q: Why is “X” flashlight so expensive, and what makes it better than my $50 light?
A: Once you get into flashlights, you’ll quickly realize that this hobby can get expensive fast! There’s a lot of flashlights, particularly custom flashlights, that can run well over a thousand dollars. Much of the value of these flashlights is predicated on the high-end materials, exclusivity, and tolerances that they are built to. They are (typically) built to much higher standards than a mainstream flashlight. But functionally, it’s a mixed bag. They can be anywhere from sub-par to superior relative to their mainstream counterparts or your $50 light.
Q: Why would anyone buy a kilo-buck flashlight?
A: Like any other hobby – take watches or cars for example – most customs and kilo-buck flashlights are luxury goods. It might seem ridiculous at first, but recognize that pieces of art regularly go for exponentially more than their intrinsic value. To a lesser extent, many custom flashlights can be considered pieces of art which is why they are desirable. So while it might seem absurd at first, it’s all relative.
Q: What is the best flashlight (in “X” category)?
A: You’ll get a wide variety of recommendations if you ask this question, and probably end up more frustrated than you started. Different people have different budgets and preferences. So to put it bluntly, there is no one “best” flashlight – to argue otherwise is bigotry. You should choose a flashlight based on your usage needs. And no, you don’t need a kilo-buck flashlight to be happy or get the most out of a flashlight.
Q: Who is the best manufacturer?
A: See the above question – same answer. There are, however, manufacturers that tend to have better quality-control and warranty support. Unfortunately, this is generally something that you’ll have to find out for yourself, as there will be significant response bias if you ask this question. For example, mainstream flashlights tend to have a higher reported rate of failure than custom flashlights. However, this is attributable to 1) much more volume having been sold, and 2) less support from the manufacturer than a custom maker would normally give. Furthermore, consider that people with a problem with their light are more likely to comment on it than those who are satisfied.
Q: Should I be using rechargeable batteries?
A: Absolutely! In practical use, modern rechargeable batteries are by far superior to their disposable counterparts. They’re more powerful, have more capacity, and will save you money in the long-run. Not to mention the environmental benefits. Disposable batteries should only be used if you’re using your flashlight under extremely adverse conditions or if you’re storing a flashlight for a long period of time.
Q: Are rechargeable batteries dangerous?
A: Only if you don’t know what you’re doing. First, make sure you purchase your batteries from a reputable source – Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba are all no-goes. You’ll also need to make sure that you have a suitable charger. But other than that, it’s mostly plug-and-play. And above all, exercise common sense. The vast majority of fires/explosions that occur could easily have been avoided. For example, don’t walk around with an uncontained battery in your pocket – this is an accident waiting to happen.
Q: How many lumens do I need?
A: This isn’t a simple answer. Your eyes perceive light logarithmically, not linearly, so it takes a significant jump in output for your eyes to distinguish a difference between two outputs. For example, 500 lumens and 600 lumens look practically identical, and the difference between 1000 and 2000 lumens is much less than you’d think.
Furthermore, manufacturers like to prey on the common misconception that “more” is “better”. This has led to what is commonly referred to as the “lumens race” – manufacturers consistently release flashlights that are brighter each year. The problem with this is that it often comes at the expense of other factors like runtime and the LED’s lifespan. And many times, manufacturers will game the ANSI standard (a standard that measures runtime down till 10% output). So a flashlight could have a stated output of 1000 lumens for an hour, when it really steps down to 300 lumens in the first minute and holds that for another 59 minutes.
In essence, you really don’t need as many lumens as you probably think you need. And this isn’t really a concern worth worrying about with most modern flashlights. Unless, of course, you’re into chasing the brightest there is – which is totally cool too.
Q: What is tint and CRI and why do they matter?
A: If you own multiple flashlights, you’ve probably noticed that there is a slightly different color to each beam. These different colors are called the color temperature of the beam. Warmer colors range from around 3000K-4000K, neutral colors from around 4500-5000K, and cool white from around 6000-6500K. These are just rough numbers, and everyone has their preference.
LEDs are also measured on something called the color-rendering index (CRI) for how faithfully they accurately portray the colors of an object. These measurements go from 1-100, with 100 being the best. This can be important in color-critical applications, such as if you work in the medical field or work with wires often. Generally speaking, flashlights that use High-CRI LEDs, as they’re commonly known, have a warmer color temperature and are more pleasant to the eye. This isn’t without a disadvantage, which is namely a small loss in output relative to cooler, non-High-CRI flashlights.
Q: Does warranty support matter?
A: This is applicable to pretty much any product you’d buy, but yes, it absolutely can be a factor. But always remember this: The best warranty is the one that you never have to use. And a warranty is only as good as the business that backs it; if the business goes down then the warranty is moot. So while this might be a factor, it definitely shouldn’t be your main justification when purchasing a flashlight.
Hopefully this has helped clarify, and if not, remember to always utilize the “search” function first. And if all else fails, you can always make a new post. There’s plenty of people happy to share their knowledge.