Great net, way too much info contained in this group to cover this subject in just a couple short hours.
A couple thoughts...
I heard several different options mentioned for lights themselves, from modified Maglites to Surefire. I've done some pretty comprehensive (unofficial) testing for a survival group I used to work with, and two brands really stood out during those tests in what seems an endless sea of options: Fenix and Surefire.Fenix
was mentioned in the net, and during testing was hands-down the best bang for the buck. They also have one of the most versatile offerings out there with both consumer and tactical options running AAAs, AAs and CR123 lithiums, and pricing from around $15 on up to about $160 for their flagship model. While none of these are quite small enough for a key chain or zipper pull, most of them will ride comfortably in a pocket. Most of the Fenix models capable of producing "too much" light also have a low setting for close-up work. Fenix-Store.com
has maintained great pricing on these for the last couple years, and their shipping/customer service is excellent. Something neat Fenix learned from Maglite: most Fenix lights will also stand on their end to light up a room.Surefire
. I feel they are the best personal flashlights one can purchase (I'll admit to a little bias there), but I also feel they are overpriced by about 40%. Rather than copying everyone else, then tweaking the design to see who can get the most lumens, Surefire spends most of their R&D cash on extending realistic run-times and creating useful beam patterns. This was where they really stood out during testing -- most "tactical" models have only a solid bright spot and are rather weak on peripheral vision, while comparable Surefire models sacrifice just a tiny bit of spot throw to give you a wide and useful peripheral beam. The E1B Backup (I'm guessing this is the one Aaron mentioned) is a comfortable pocket-sized, two-mode, single CR123 lithium light with a smooth shape designed not to snag on clothing. It also features a double-direction clip so that you can face the flashlight up or down in the pocket, or clip it onto the brim of a hat as a headlamp. The LumaMax LX2 is another new model for them based on the same design principle as the E1B, but in a larger 2-battery size. Pricing on Surefire is mandated by the manufacturer, so when you're shopping around look to buy from the place that includes the most free stuff - LA Police Gear
is usually at the top of this list. Also, several filters are available for their lights which, at $9, are cheap protection for the lens with little-or-no noticeable added bulk. I run a red one on my E1B for close-up work without killing my night vision. It is worth mentioning here that some of the early
Surefire LED models had overheating problems. While the heat would not damage the light itself, it could quite easily damage your hand if used for more than 15 minutes or so and I'm sure didn't do much to help the batteries provide run-time. This is no longer a problem on the newer models.Streamlight and Inova
are also good lights from companies with great customer service, though the copy+paste method of flashlight design starts to show just a little. Streamlight does have one model where they are top-in-class though, their Stylus light is the only "pen" light I have ever seen that is actually the size of a standard pen and will actually fit in any pen holder. The downside is they run the rare AAAA battery (but with good run-times). I think I have 5 of these stuffed in various bags, and one in the truck (in a visor pen-holder next to... a PEN!). Streamlight's NANO is also an excellent product, and barely noticeable on a jacket's zipper pull.Pelican
makes some great and original lights, though I tend to avoid them due to the slightly bulky head and plastic construction.China Knockoffs:
I'll give credit where credit is due, the Chinese really have the cheap knock-off thing down. If your conscience can live with it, http://www.dealextreme.com
carries a wide array of low-budget (Insert-random-word-here)Fire branded lights that often have good beams and brightness, though with a noticeable decrease in the quality of materials and workmanship. UltraFire is probably the best of these lights and generally runs from $10 to $50. Still... I have a hard time bringing myself to even look at these since most of them are blatant rip-offs of designs pioneered by other companies that have poured millions of dollars and man-hours into research.Buying CR123 lithium batteries:
brand does not matter. The best way to shop is by price and capacity (how many milliamp-hours) from reputable vendors. I've been buying the budget brand in bulk from Battery Junction
for years, and they consistently provide the same run-time figures as Surefire, Duracell and Energizer batteries of the same capacity. Average bulk price is just under a dollar a piece when ordered in boxes of 50 (even lower in larger quantities).Carrying batteries:
tape was mentioned, and is a pretty good option for keeping keys and change OFF the contacts while they're in your pocket. Another couple options, probably better suited to go-bags and ditch kits, are the tube vaults
and battery holders
(the latter available in subdued colors and BRIGHT orange for visibility) available from CountyComm. Yes, the company is a lot easier to work with than their absolutely horrid website, A+ on service.
thing I mentioned at check-in is essentially an LED cluster with a waterproof, crush-proof, negative-buoyancy (for diving) polymer shell poured over it. I believe they tout the depth-rating at 11,000 feet. The FX model is nice and small, comfortable on most people's key chains, and can be had for about $25. It outputs just a little more light than the same color chemical light stick, but is far more cost effective ($1.29 battery for 80 hours of light vs. $2 non-reusable light stick for 8-12 hours), and runs on the strange 23A super-alkaline battery (which surprisingly can be found just about everywhere AA batteries can).
The Lithium model is significantly bigger and runs about $40, probably not a key chain unit for most people (though my stupidly-massive Land Rover key makes me not care so much). However, it produces and incredible amount of light for its size, uses standard CR123 lithium batteries, is much easier to use, and bumps the run-time up over 100 hours. As with the FX model, you end up saving in the long run vs. chemical light sticks. With the additional light output, a white one can easily be used as a low-powered camping lantern. The lithium model has the same ruggedness ratings as the smaller FX model. Both models come with a couple differnet switch caps and attachment options. Battery Junction
would seem to be the place for these now. LA Police Gear had them beat by about $10, but they no longer carry them.
Size comparison pictures of the 'Toobs: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chazzlayne ... 165770742/
I've also found the Glo-Toob a very handy tool when doing night photography, walking/biking where you might get run over, keeping track of dogs at a campsite, etc...