Was up at CostCo the other day and found not one, not two but three different handcrank/dynamo flashlights for sale…including a four-pack of the things for $30. Naturally, they are all made in China but what interests me is how items like this are becoming more and more mainstream. What I was after while I was at CostCo was neat little ‘puck lights’. These are small hockeypuck sized battery operated LED lights meant for use in closets or cabinets. They run on 3AAA batts, have two intensity settings and were $12 for a pack of three. My purpose? When the power goes out it’ll be nice to illuminate a path to the bunker…cause once you get there all your lighting issues become a thing of the past. However, navigating stairs and accessways is a bit difficult in the dark. And if youre going to be relaying boxes of goodies out of there it’d be nice to have some hands free lighting. So, I’ll mount them on the ceiling or wall at the most useful points and that way they’ll be there when I need them. Turned all the lights out last night and tried them out at various points in the house to see where they’d offer the most assistance. They definitely throw out enough light to navigate stairs and hallways.
I actually had similar lights but they were incandescent types which don’t put out nearly as much light with the minimal power requirements afforded by LED’s. It used to be widely advocated that fluorescent lighting was the way to go for emergency lighting because of its lower power consumption. LED technology has pretty much supplanted that. LED bulbs (such as they are) really never burn out (for all practical purposes Im calling 10,000+ hour use life ‘never’), are far less susceptible to shock and impact than the alternatives, and most importantly the power consumption rate is magnificently small…an important factor if you don’t know when the lights are coming back on.
Thus, Im leaning towards LED’s for most of my emergency lighting needs. However, there is still indeed a place for the 1,000,000 candlepower handheld floodlights and the wonderful SureFire lights. But for stumbling through the dark garages, checking through the cabinets and lighting a path down the hallway the LED’s are the way to go.
I did pick up one of the LED D-cell MagLites a while back and I like it. The biggest drawback Ive experienced so far has been ‘range’. That is to say, you cant light up a distant object with the LED MagLite like you can with the non-LED one but for every other use I find it to be a terrific choice. For example, I dropped the stupid thing the other day onto the concrete floor and it worked just fine…whereas, IMHO, a regular bulb would have had its filament rattling around leaving me with a dead flashlight.
Since I try to stick to the AA and D size batts, I leave lithium batts in the LED lights. This way they are good to go with literally no attention for many years. Leave ‘em in the car, in the bag, in the desk and they’ll work just fine in five or ten years.
Although I hate the price of lithium batts, they are the way to go for the critical gear. I can find AA and AAA batts without difficutly. I can even find 9v lithium (sold at Lowes/Home Depot for smoke detector use) but I’m having a hellacious time finding lithium D batts locally. Gonna have to hunt them down online I guess.
Speaking of LED vs. non-LED I have been very taken with SureFire’s ‘Aviator’ line of lights. A hybrid light utilizing both Xenon and LED lamps, the Aviator with red LED’s and bright white Xenon lamp seem like the best of both worlds. Pressing the switch halfway in gives you the LED lamp and pressing it all the way in gives you the blinding Xenon lamp. I very much need one of these things.
However, before anyone gets the wrong idea, theres a lot to be said for flashlights that don’t cost two hundred bucks. My big D-cell MagLites can be had for $20 at CostCo and that includes batteries and a little AA MiniMag as well. Theres no shortage of cheap, durable, quality plastic flashlights out there (Streamlight makes some very nice one) I like the brutal ruggedness of the MagLite. And its ability to double as an impact weapon certainly has some appeal as well.
I currently carry the Streamlight 4AA LED light in my everyday bag along with a MiniMag with LED conversion. (Two is one, one is none ……..) [I also took an Altoids tin, lined it with bubble wrap and it makes excellent storage for 6 spare AA batts. The bubble wrap insulates from the metal case and also keeps the batts from rattling around. A rubber band made from a piece of bicycle tube keeps the lid from opening in my bag.]
For around the house I have the 3D MagLite, a SureFire 6P hanging on a lanyard on the bedpost, a weaponlight on the nightstand Glock, and another Streamlight on top of the gun safe. It’s a personal thing but unless you’ve got a battery powered light in your gun safe it makes loads of sense to keep a dedicated ‘gun safe flashlight’ on top of your safe. Even when the power is on its still dark in there. Add a power outage, noises at 3am, and a white-on-black combination lock dial and you’ll be glad you always leave a flashlight on your gun safe.
Last thing I wanted to mention – Trasers. These are small vials of tritium such as we use in our night sights. These keychain-trinket-sized goodies are used as fobs on gear you want to find in the dark. Extremely handy…unfortunately in this country its considered a frivolous use of radioactive material and thy are usually unavailable. There are some sources online but almost all are in the UK. The US sources I’ve found are expensive. However……I am trying to put together a deal for some and if I can swing it I’ll make them available as part of a group buy or something. I did manage to procure a bunch of tritium safety markers and they are very much worth the $..they are, broadly, directional whereas the Trasers are omnidirectional.. The Trasers are perfect for affixing to backpacks, containers, or other gear that you want to be able to find in the dark. Hopefully this deal will come through and I’ll get some at a decent price. Hell, just being able to find your car keys in the dark would make them worth the bucks.