I like Milwaukee’s RedLithium USB rechargeable LED flashlights, and have said as much on several occasions. Most recently: 5 Reasons Milwaukee RedLithium USB LED Flashlights are Awesome.
I have heard some of your comments, criticisms, and suggestions, and allowed myself to broaden my horizons.
Part of the reason I’ve been hesitant to do so is because EDC-type tool and gear explorations tends to drain my wallet deeply and quickly, but the main reason is because there’s a learning curve. Buying a rechargeable flashlight ranges the full spread from easy and effortless to requiring much research.
Olight helped to kick off my efforts with a rechargeable S1R Baton II flashlight, and I think that’s wonderful entry into things.
It’s simplistic, requiring minimal research efforts. The rechargeable Li-ion battery goes inside the flashlight, and a magnetic USB cable attaches to the tailcap. You use a USB charger you already have, and the charger light goes from red to green once the battery is charged.
But, this is new territory for me, and so I’m digging into ToolGuyd’s review sample budget and seeking to explore a couple of different brands and models, mainly ones I’ve had my eyes on for a while.
Basic flashlights take batteries you can find at the supermarket checkout counter. The next step up, higher power and better features require CR123 lithium batteries or rechargeable Ni-MH AA batteries. After that, you have the next level of flashlights that come with “don’t make me think about it” batteries and chargers.
Then, you have the mix-and-match enthusiast and demanding user lights which require some thought and consideration when matching devices with appropriate Li-ion batteries and chargers – that’s the territory I’m currently trying to navigate.
Here’s where things start to get complicated.
What battery size? RC123 and IMR 16340, or 18650? 14500? 21700? There are other sizes and standards as well, but these tend to be the most popular.
Then, each brand has differently rated cells. Do you need a 16340 Li-ion cell with 1A max discharge current, or 2.5A? High drain cells seem to have different max charging rates than others.
How are you going to charge those Li-ion battery cells?
I’ve read about some chargers smoking up as they don’t properly measure cell voltages and thus don’t know when to turn off.
I looked into a model that some of you recommended, and find that they offer a couple of chargers, some looking to be successors to prior generations. They’re available, but with backorder lead times at some suppliers, and mention of “EU” or “USA” versions at others.
And then, charging batteries isn’t just plug-and-play, you have different rates based on battery position, and for some there different rates depending on the USB charger.
With the ambitious idea to try a couple of brands and models at the same time, there are several factors to juggle, lest I be left with a confusing mess of mis-matched options that I have to remember to sort out every time I want to load out a particular flashlight.
Oh, and there’s the aspect of protected vs. unprotected cells. Flashlights with built-in protections sometimes recommend unprotected cells, as protected cells might have slightly larger dimensions. Many of the models I’ve seen do recommend protected cells though.
Some batteries now have built-in USB charging capabilities.
Some flashlights, like the Olight shown above, have built-in battery charging capabilities, either magnetic or in the form of a USB port.
This is exactly how and where the convenience of Milwaukee RedLithium USB LED flashlights and worklights shine through, of course ignoring for a moment that their illumination properties are also specially tailored towards contractors, technicians, and other pro users.
I do enjoy the thoughtfree process of being given a battery and charger with a rechargeable flashlight.
But, different brands do employ different charging methods and what if you already have a battery and charger?
Where some might see a headache in struggling through choices, others see options and the freedom to create a customized solution that works best for them.
I have known this all along, and have been highly resistant to push past the initial battery and charger selection process.
As an aside, here’s a quick story that added to that frustration:
After being majorly frustrated by several instances of Rayovac alkaline batteries leaking in tools, products, and even plastic clamshell packaging, I sought to switch over to rechargeable Ni-MH batteries almost exclusively. I resisted that too, but many of you inspired and prompted me to do so. Conveniently – or rather inconveniently – I also had to throw away some Durecall batteries that leaked well before before their expiration and even before being loaded into any device.
So, after a big investment in Eneloop and Ikea-branded rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, I tried to steer away from alkaline batteries, at least when possible.
We got some Nerf blasters for the family. Some took AA batteries, others took C-cell. Okay, so I ordered some Eneloop C-cell shells, basically size adapters that allow AA batteries to work in C-sized battery holders. Guess what – they didn’t fit, they were too long. I tried all of the different varieties of rechargeable AA batteries I had. They fit the C-cell adapters, but not into the toys’ battery trays. I tried the batteries by themselves, and they didn’t fit – they were too long.
It seems that the Eneloop and other batteries are slightly longer than alkaline AA standards. The difference is of imperceivable and negligible difference in battery trays where batteries are arranged side by side, and also in flashlights or other products which might have larger springs or have been designed to accept a wider range of cell heights.
But in the toys where there there was to be a row of 4 cells, the Ni-MH batteries more than bottomed-out the springs. So, the adapters went back. I bought Energizer C-sized batteries, and they’ve been working perfectly for a few months now. Supposedly Energizer batteries won’t leak, but although that doesn’t seem to extend to C and D batteries (as of the last time I checked), I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
All this is to say that standard sizes aren’t necessarily standard sizes.
Even in the realm of 18650 and other standard battery cells, there are variations that you need to learn and be mindful of.
But, it seems to be worth it, to learn the ins and outs, at least if you’ve got your mind set on particular flashlight models.
It’s a headache, and right now I’m not going to recommend it for most people. Then again, anyone who starts this path usually knows what they’re in for. Plus, there are many more options now, where brands hold your hand a bit, giving you Li-ion-powered flashlights bundled with a battery and charger or charging methods. This doesn’t eliminate the work involved in choosing a system or its components, but it’ll make it easy for most users who are stepping rather than leaping into the world of higher performance LED flashlights.
To be fair, sorting through power system options wouldn’t be as big a deal if it weren’t for the other aspects that need to be sorted through.
What LED emitter do you want? First, there’s brightness to consider. Then, illumination color temperature and CRI, or color accuracy. There are also different properties to different emitter types. What about optics, or the type of reflector – if any – which determines the shape of the beam? Lastly, there are user interface considerations. On top of all this there are a number of minor but still meaningful factors, such as carrying options and body materials.
I guess it’s kind of like choosing a good EDC pocket knife, where there’s a world of things to learn and deliberate about beyond department store and sporting good offerings.
And yes, I know there are plenty of turn-key LED flashlights, headlamps, and worklights out there, but where’s the fun in that?
I’m in the process of ordering a couple of flashlights to explore and review. Not that I’m in a proper position yet, but please let me know what questions you might have! Requests? Suggestions?
If they won’t, I’d be willing to ship you a bunch of my olights to try. I have one of most models. Even the crazy ones like the x7r and x9r.
So now I’ve learned something brand new. There’re actual flashlight collectors. Wow.
Is this a Watchmen-like thing or actually living in a less then reliable power grid area?
Maybe you should look into the Tesla Powerwall too?
Kinda kidding. As I collect all kinds of stuff my wife just barely understands (or tolerates).
Yep, there are a couple of decent sized forums and a subreddit dedicated to flashlights. There are people that modify their lights, changing emitters, drivers, and software to their preferences. And budgetlightforum design their own lights as a community and work with manufacturers to have them made commercially.
Here’s the way I see it – I tend to be attached to certain hand tools, and especially my choices in EDC tools- pocket knives, tools, and the such.
It’s kind of like watches. Any watch can tell time, but wouldn’t you rather have one that you enjoy looking at?
Things can be functional and aesthetically satisfying.
With flashlights, heavier use tends to impart preferences on the user, and so do particular needs or wants.
For me, I tend to prefer broader and more uniform light with neutral tint and higher CRI. Or, for a general purpose do-everything light, the character of the light is less important to me than the user interface – the modes, settings, controls, and what-not.
Different colors, special editions, special makes, custom options – there’s a big market here.
I’m into flashlights and knives myself, have more of each then I could ever use. Beats stamp collecting I guess.
Richard Show Low Az
I am gravitating toward the wowtac brand . The AIS device , with 2 buttons , is a nice setup .
My wife thinks I have a screw loose , also . I think flash light collections are nice to have .
Ted Talk incoming…
I once felt as you do — “What’s an 18650 battery? Woah, what do you mean they ‘easily explode’? There’s protected and UNprotected? Why’d would they ever sell those!?!”
And I stuck with AA headlamps for years, silently & not-so-silently cursing at the horrific battery life and lack of brightness options. They paled in comparison to their 18650 brethren.
About a year ago, I said screw it. I can’t take it anymore. I’m so tired of switching out AA batteries. And retail CR123 batteries are wicked expensive (with the benefit of decent shelf life).
So I took a deep dive into it. Spent many hours researching what I wanted, what the differences were, etc. And well…it’s not consumer friendly at all! No wonder 18650 batteries haven’t taken off….there are so many options, so many counterfeits.
And the flashlights that use them are near brain-dead in their labeling schemes & advertising. Take Olight, Fenix, and ZebraLight — you need a secret decoder ring, Excel spreadsheet, and hours of research to figure out what all of your options actually are. Reddit, as much as a cesspool of the internet it can be, was instrumental in narrowing down the field.
After doing your homework, it’s “easy to figure out!” Yeah, naturally. The whole “$5 to replace one screw, $95 to know which screw to replace” mentality is strong in the high performance flashlight world. Also, the gear-nut mentality is present — not unlike camera gear nuts. There’s always an ego-measuring contest with the “smallest”, “brightest”, etc. You see folks with Pelican cases loaded with their flashlights on display, as if they’re Q in the latest James Bond film. You wonder if they actually USE the lights they spent so much on….
And that’s where I stepped in — I wanted something to use. Like actually USE use. Field IT work, rural home. I needed something more powerful than any AA light, but relatively compact and didn’t need to be babied like a delicate doll.
So I looked into Fenix and ZebraLight. These are my two go-tos.
Fenix is a more comfortable, friendly commercial brand. A lower-tier SureFire light if you will — “tacti-cool” design, but robust (and cheap) enough to make you shrug off that gaudy design choice. The Fenix TK35 was my gateway drug — as it takes CR123 ($$$) and protected 18650 (I’ll get to these later).
ZebraLight…well, this is my personal choice, but holy hell….navigating their options is a flippin’ joke. They have a spreadsheet — USE IT. Otherwise, you’ll be screaming WTF at their site.
If they weren’t SO GOOD, I’d run to a competitor just for the effort they made me put in to buy THEIR product. But my goto 18650 lights are the SC64 LE flashlight and H604d headlamp , after buying a AA-powered H502d L2 headlamp back in 2016. These two 18650 lights are my daily carry — they are always within arm’s reach. I use them at home, at work, and travelling.
Batteries and chargers.
Welcome to the hellish rabbit hole of 18650 batteries. Beware, there be dragons here.
It’s not so bad though, if you do a few things:
1. DO NOT cheap out. 18650 batteries are high capacity, high discharge devices. Don’t get into this looking for a *bargain*, because you’ll regret it — like violent explosion regret. Strive to spend a “fair” price instead of a “cheap” price.
2. Counterfeits are everywhere. Buy from legit vendors only. The nice part is, 18650s are used in vaping, escooters, older laptops, etc. So the community is well-established. Trusted vendors for batteries & devices include Fenix, ZebraLight, 18650batterystore.com, and Illum.com. These companies are legit — and you will get what you pay for. Avoid ebay & Amazon & random discount sites. If it sounds like it’s too good to be true — it probably is.
3. Know what your flashlight takes — aka read the friendly manual. There are different lengths, different button tops (protruding & flat), and protected/unprotected. Let me say this — they’re neither safer nor more dangerous than another. It all comes down to where the voltage regulator circuitry resides: in the flashlight or in the battery. Typically (but not always) consumer-friendly gear uses protected button-tops and higher-quality gear uses unprotected flat tops. Trusted brands of batteries include Sanyo, LG, Samsung, and Sony. Why… they sound like familiar brands, right?
4. Get a good charger. There are so many different designs, battery bays, and features — talking about this is a deep dive on its own. Like good BBQ, you want to go “low and slow”. Fast charging has drawbacks — extra heat, extra risk, and lower overall battery endurance. Good brands of chargers include Xtar and Nitecore. Some even charge Eneloops AA and AAAs!
5. Never ever do a deep discharge. That’s…bad. Like boom-levels of bad.
If you know your device, know your batteries, use slow & low charging on good quality chargers — it’s no more or less risky than eneloop AAs.
If you take these precautions, you’ll find that the benefit of an 18650 beats a non-replaceable rechargeable battery anyday.
Thanks for attending my Ted Talk 🙂
At first I thought of Obi-Wan Kenobi but in reflection maybe Ted (Neo) of Bill and Ted but in a good way?
You’re almost sparking my extreme photo dork tendencies. Almost. As I barely need the Lenser lights I’ve got. As in almost never used.
But thanks for the great read. And Battery tech update.
Okay, so it’s not just me!
Even the Olight shown above, that comes with a proprietary “customized” battery. If you use a different battery, you can’t use the built-in magnetic charging. If you use the bundled battery, you can’t use (most?) standardized chargers.
My plan is try a bunch and then give away all but my favorites.
Here’s an added hesitation – what if I have two lights and prefer to use one 99% of the time? I swapped out CR123’s in a couple of flashlights last night as I was comparing brightness. I use Surefire cells, which have a decade-long shelf-life.
Li-ion don’t like to sit around at full capacity.
I’ve been hesitant to get a “real” RC truck or crawler given how Li-Po batteries need much more babying. Li-Po devices are meant to be used, and if you don’t, self-discharge and other factors presumably increase the risk of failure or worse.
This added to the hurdles for me. With CR123 lights, or AA or AAA where Eneloop Ni-MH can be used, they’re relatively safe to just leave be for a while.
Everything requires so much research, much more so than say for pocket knives or hand tool purchases.
There are brightness vs. time curves, usually provided by community enthusiasts, showing that 600 lumens is really just 300 lumens after just a minute and a half.
It’s not so much that digging into this product tier is difficult, it just seems so very nuanced.
Of course it doesn’t help that emitters and battery tech has been changing, and so specs and characteristics from a few years ago won’t necessarily hold for new versions of the same products.
Stuart, you nailed it. I’ve been down this road…it’s like reliving my past.
The reason I went with those two Zebra lights — because they take the same exact battery. Strongly influenced my decision. The Fenix? Takes a totally different 18650 — which I have a few of, but it honestly doesn’t get used as much, since the Zebras are about 1/4th the size yet the same brightness.
CR123s are costly, with great shelf life. Great to keep in a bug-out bag. Same goes for Eneloops AAs. Those are cheaper and retain their charge for a fairly long time.
Li-Pos scare me with how delicate they need to be treated. Thankfully, 18650s are a bit more robust in terms of self-discharge. You still don’t want to drop them or short them — but Li-Pos are like tickling the dragon’s tail.
And you’re right, very flashlight has a different curve — some throttle down, some stay at 100% until the last drop. That was something I didn’t mention above — and I’m sure there’s a small book’s worth of other details to also consider. Like overloaded button functions — ZebraLights are the worst. A single button has so many different button press combinations, you literally need to review the manual before turning it on. No joke.
[On the other hand, the Zebralights are the most flexible — giving you the most control over which brightness you want, and which brightness gets priority when you turn the flashlight on. If anything, that’s 18650s in a nutshell: high learning curve, excellent end results.]
And the research is disgusting. I spent countless hours learning the general lay of the land. And as you said, the tech is nuanced and always changing. Furthermore, there are a lot of “similar” options to choose from even when you narrow down your needs & wants.
That amount of product overlap easily leads to decision paralysis — because these are expensive purchases, and you certainly don’t want to buy the “wrong” product. Especially when choosing poorly can go disastrously wrong.
The nice part is, there are some emerging leaders. Some brands and product lines have the reputation as the “go-to” in the performance flashlight world. They might not be the “newest”, but they’re trusted. And this is an area where you absolutely should find out what “everyone else” is using…and there’s real benefit by going with the 800lb gorilla.
Thank you for your research. We neophytes in the flashlight using world very much need your work and talent. Lighting has become an intellectual challenge.
Great summary and great advice on the battery selection. A quality brand 18650 protected battery will serve you well. Most of mine are Orbtronic.
One other battery caution for multi Li-ion cell lights is to only use cells with a similar charge level. Worst case scenario is one fully charged cell and one completely dead cell.
My edc is a zebra light SC600. No built in charging but the run time on a 3500mah 18650 is long enough not to be an issue.
In addition to budget light forum, candlepowerforums, is another site to visit for modifications, reviews, etc. There are some custom light modders that get crazy throw and lumen output with stock looking lights. Equivalent to a sleeper car. “Hey, is your new fancy light even on? It looks kind of dim….”
Thank you. I’ve considered making the switch, just for the available options…this might give me the push.
Fenix is an easy choice here. You are right buy good batteries and quality chargers and you won’t go wrong. It’s a little daunting at first but not really that bad. I just got the TK – 26 R . And it’s a great little light for about 100 bucks on sale.
I have found the Streamlight LED Strion to be a good trade off of size brightness and run time. Not cutting edge but plenty good and user friendly.
I own the Fenix hp30r headlamp and the Fenix Fenix UC40UE.
The headlamp has two types of lighting, one large spot light and two small flood lights. Both can be combined for lighting up any situation.
UC40UE has 4 outputs up to 960 lumen. On the 10 lumen setting you get almost a weeks worth of runtime.
Both rechargeable and built like tanks. I use them birth around my property, mechanic work, and construction. Customer service is great.
I think most people looking to take their first dive into this world would be well-served to pony up for a decent brand. I think many people are deceived by all the false claims from the amazon/ebay/aliexpress etc lights – some of which are actually good! Good luck sorting out the wheat from the chaff though if you are new to the game.
What’s good? Olight, Nitecore, Fenix, Surefire etc… While there’s size, battery type, color temperature, output, optics etc to choose from, I think you actually have to own and use of these lights for a while to learn what you like and don’t like.
The S1R is an excellent choice for a first-time serious flashlight. I would also recommend the Nitecore EC4s if someone wanted a regular (e.g. not just pocket-sized) flashlight that’s simple to use, has good optics, mid-range color temperature, good battery life and surprising power.
Just pair it with two protected 18650 cells of decent capacity (just buy Nitecore brand for simplicity or EBL brand for high-quality, reliable cells with some cost-savings) and a simple charger (Olight magnetic USB perhaps? Cheap, small and reliable) and you’re good to go. No safety course required.
If you’re coming from the Redlithium/Coast or similar hardware store grade of flashlight, there’s no need to jump all the way into the deep end with customized UIs, unprotected cells, special monitoring chargers etc.
I agree. r/flashlight is a dangerous rabbit hole to dive into. Just last week they twisted my arm into buying a few lights I didn’t need, until I got them. Acebeam e10 if you need a pocket laser..
Its anoying the amount of research needed just to get up to speed. BUT If you put in the work and research enough you can get some awsome lights for not a ton of money. Several years back I went from an old double D mag light to a holy $#!+ my truck headlights arent that bright 18650 pocket laser and havent looked back.
I also switched to nicad rechargable AA and AAA batteries after experiencing some leaks. The NiteCore D4 will charge lithiums up to 18650 size as well as Nicad AA and AAA. At $25 I find it works well and Im not afraid to let others/novice battery people charge the AA on it. For the real guru’s let us know if there are better charging options for multi chem battery charging. Bought that charger a while back.
Annoying is one word for it.
So, the 16340’s I’m looking at are best charged at ~375 mA. Okay, so now I’m looking at chargers, and some have 1A minimums, others 0.5A, and determining which have manual controls or low current modes is so far a big pain.
I’m looking at the NiteCore D4, and it does have a low mode. I’m also looking at the SC4, which has manual current level selection, but I came across a couple of reports of software bugs where the display won’t refresh or show the current specs.
Some stores have the D4 for $25, others $40. Why?
Some 16340 cells have 550 mAh capacity, others 700 mAh. So ideally, they should be charged at 300 mA, up to ~700 mA. Sure, some now have built-in chargers, but the USB ports make them taller. Which flashlights are they compatible with? Fenix will give data about which of their flashlights their batteries are sized to fit, but what about other brands?
All this is showing me that I’m very right about Milwaukee RedLithium USB being a great choice for average users with average needs and wants.
There’s also the fact that rechargeable RCR123 cells/16340 have maybe half the capacity of CR123 lithium cells. They’re at a higher voltage, so I can’t equip my existing CR123 lights with 16340 cells.
Oh, I’m pushing forward with all of this, but when I’m done, I’m going to purge a lot of older lights. Well, some older lights. I ordered a drop-in Malkoff upgrade for my Surefire G2, will see how that goes.
The learning curve might have been easier if I had kept up with changing tech over the past few years.
I both agree and disagree with your sentiments about the Redlithium lights. I agree because they seem like good lights, moderately priced and simple to use. In that sense, there’s little brain-power and no research required for someone looking for a “good” flashlight.
However (and this is what I was trying to explain with my earlier post), there are other affordable and easy-to-use flashlights, batteries and chargers (of which Olight’s product line is a good example) that can blow Redlithium out of the water.
It’s not a choice between hardware store-grade and customized-DIY-might-explode-in-your-face enthusiast-grade. There are solid and reliable brands that sell packages with batteries and charges to remove the guesswork.
I am very excited for your foray into this niche though. I really like flashlights but I still have lots to learn.
I will second what Jared says — there are options out there that with only a little research, can easily outperform the big-box store products.
I did too consider the Milwaukee line — but the cost was exceptionally high for what you get, and should they choose to stop manufacturing cells or that formfactor…you have a paperweight once the cells degrade.
18650 batteries are easily sourced (from trusted vendors, like any other product out there). They’re a standard component that’ll be phased out when AAs are phased out — in other words, practically never. No risk of a paperweight.
And the cost — $20 for a replacement battery whereas an 18650 is roughly $5. $70 for a 700 lumen light, where my choice light Zebralight SC64c LE is much smaller and slightly brighter at 828 lumens — at roughly the same cost.
And I could easily choose what high CRI color tint (cool, medium, and warm) and beam spread I wanted: beam, beam + moderate flood, 100% flood with zero hotspot. Or if I wanted a flashlight versus a headlamp.
With big-box offerings — good luck finding a high CRI light, let alone options for tint or beam spread.
Or a “big box” employee who has the slightest clue what you’re talking about here.
I have the olight in your article. I am a bit of a flashaholic. I also have other torches for other purposes, but that olight goes with me everywhere. It’s small and light enough to clip on a pocket and not really notice it. It is bright enough for most needs and I’ll usually have the charger and cig adapter to charge even in older vehicles.
One of the best features of this light is it’s ability to attach to the brim of a hat. It becomes a headlamp without sticking out too far, like an 18650 would. It has a basic UI and I have yet to run out of capacity. I just top off after using.
I also have the aa version of this for the garage. I run eneloops in it for their LSD. I typically run it all the way down until it flashes. It is not as bright but I dont have to worry about ruining a lithium battery by over dishcarge.
If you can live with a 880 to 1100 mAh capacities and 3.2 V battery you could go with LiFePO4 cells. So far the safest Li battery chemistry. These are common in solar lighting. Max discharge varies.
Koko the Talking Ape
I wouldn’t mind you reviewing a few headlamps. I use them more than flashlights . Thanks!
Will see what I can do. Things get complex with headlamps too. Flood vs. spot. Simple or with an additional top of head strap? Remote battery compartment?
I’ve moved away from headlamps in recent years, could see if I can find my way back. I do have a couple of models shortlisted on my current shopping list.
Koko the Talking Ape
Thank you, Stuart!
FWIW, the tiny headlamps I use are fine without a third strap across the top. Heavier or bulkier ones might need one to prevent jouncing.
And it seems like the best throw pattern might be different for flashlights and headlamps. Flashlights seem to have a hot spot for distance, with a goodly aura of less intense light. I saw something claiming that such a pattern was a safety feature; LEOs could blind a perp while still keeping their entire body visible. But headlamps for auto, plumbing, etc. work should maybe have an even throw. I have one, from Coast, that throws an absolutely flat, broad field. So that’s the one I use the most, even though the color rendition isn’t great.
Zebralight makes some wicked high CRI 18650 headlamps. Pick the spread (beam + spread or unfrosted 120degree even spread) at the color temperature of your choosing.
For working close up, that even 120deg spread is amazing — everything in your field of view is lit up. Once you get spoiled by that, you won’t want to go back using anything else.
Bingo. This is what I settled on, albeit back in the AA era, and they’ve served me well. High-CRI, completely flood beam, simple band with no top strap, glow-in-the-dark holder.
Turned upside-down under a dashboard, that little H51w competes with sunlight to let my eyes work without adjusting, and shows the true wire colors without poor-CRI washout. I keep a pair of charged AA’s in a little clamshell in my backpack, but I rarely need to swap them. The strap is premium, doesn’t scoot around or dig in, and the light comes out easily if you want to stand it up or attach the pocket clip.
Today I guess the H53fc is the equivalent. It’s brighter and looks like the UI has more features (battery meter!), but I’m sure I’d feel right at home.
UI is the other place Zebralight excels. I feel like their hold-vs-tap model is precisely how they should all work, it gives you what you need in the order you need it. None of this “blast you at full power before you can select moon glow” crap that others do.
I’m always kinda bewildered by this stuff. I just want to see what I need to see. I cant recall needing 2000 lumens or some special temperature of light, I just need to read a serial number or similar. I have some decent lights, heavy on Surefire, but thats my bedside lights for things that go bump in the night. For my tool bag at work, I carry some version of a Husky AAA with all the rubber torn off to fit in the pocket of my bag better.
I was looking for binoculars a few years ago and decided to search the net and all the forums. What I found in forums was, more people spent their time looking at the binocular rather than through the binocular. I have been in the welding biz for 35 years and a pretty smart feller told me years ago, when somebody buys a welder, they dont want a welder, they want to stick 2 pieces of metal together. And I have found in the trades, that to be a very true statement, but on the internet, I believe the opposite to be true, they dont care so much about the job at hand as the owning of the tool.
No offense intended
It all depends on what you’re doing. It’s nice having the options for different beam spread or color temperature.
And you’re right too, there’s some folks who are flashlight gear nuts. But I don’t like to judge an entire product line based upon a seemingly vocal minority. I’d reckon if they were obsessive about flashlights, they’d obsess over something else. So it’s not the product, it’s the person.
And honestly speaking, someone going a bit crazy over flashlights is harming no one. I say if it brings them joy, let’em. I’ll still chuckle when they show off their pelican cases full of flashlights in a row, like Q presenting James Bond a new toy at MI6. But still….harming no one. And their research and knowledge helps the rest of us knuckedraggers.
Very true and something to keep in mind.
I have numerous 18650 flashlights, but have only recently tried a rechargable one.
I have a Nitecore headlight for my hardhat at work, and use it constantly. Its bright and long lasting (at least a week of daily use)
I recently bought an Astrolux EC01 from Banggood, but can’t seem to find it on Astroluxs website.
Here is another one I would try:
Tend to think if want small lights, go with multiple chemistry AA/14500 lights.
The capacity between rechargeable lithium ion 18350 and 14500 are roughly the same. So an AA/14500 has more flexibility in also being able to use NiMh (or alkalines at a push).
Here’s a list (though it is incomplete. Lumintop’s Tool AA v2 is missing and popular light)
There are some really great Scuba Diving Lights, that are very robust out there. Other then 1 Mag light, all my flashlights in the house are they. You have, Photo, spot, long burns, and more.
Any recommendations for a good 18650 charger/tester?
Xtar and Nitecore make some very good models — they have various styles. Things to consider: number of battery bays (1x-8x), how to power the charger (USB or AC adapter), ability to use the charger as a USB battery pack, ability to charge quick (eww…no. low and slow is best), ability to charge various sizes of batteries (18650, AA, AAA, etc).
My favorites are the 2x bay USB-powered chargers that do AA-AAA-18650 — as well as the “battery pack” models that are 2x bay 18650-only.
Trusted sellers are Illum and 18650batterystore, among others. Avoid going cheap, because that causes fires. Strive to pay a “fair” price instead of bargain hunting.
But there are Xtar 2-bay chargers that go as low as $8. They’re powered via USB cable — provide your own 12w phone charger to drive’em.
As I said before I’ve gone more toward Headlamps as being more useful for me. But when it comes to a rechargeable source I go for standardized battery sets. so the 18650 or others that are more common standards. why – future replacement. While a decent LIPO will hold on a shelf for quite a while at 75-80% charge – there isn’t a standard charger setup out there that let’s you hit that mark for storage.
Now fancy hobbyist chargers like I use for my RC car setup will do a storage charge on Lipo, or a few other types. but that’s not a USB connector and it’s not a wall wort. I’ve thought about making a USB connector for it to see if it would work with the standard mini USB but I think the electronics in a light will interfer with the function.
This is something I wish power tool batteries would do too but I know it’s not a common desire to storage charge batteries. Meanwhile I will say the coast headlamp I have runs off 2 18650 in a carrier – still replaceable – and I expect it to last another 2-3 years provided the electronics don’t die off.
Unless stated on the packaging assume you have about 400-500 full recharge cycles on a battery before it loses noticeable capacity. Charging twice a week you’re going to get past 2-3 years. that’s a decent run I think
Mike (the other one)
I have several flashlights, including various Maglites and Surefire 6ps. I also have a few 6p clones with LED drop-ins that run on 18650 batteries. In mose cases, 2 CR123 batteries will also work – I made sure the LED could handle the voltage.
I sourced my 18650 batteries from old laptop cells. They are generally not protected, but often made by Samsung or Panasonic. I test them regularly and never let them go full dead, and use chargers that automatically stop charging when capacity is reached. I also store them so that the terminals don’t come in contact with each other or anything metal.
I also keep a Fenix E11 in my pocket as a backup. Streamlight is also a trusted brand as far as I’m concerned. I have a couple of those.
I have a Maglite XL200 which has lots of neat features, and a Mag-Tac, which is one of my favorites. Many of my Maglite D-cell have been modified with LED emitters, but one has a Pelican searchlight bulb, and runs on 2 18650 batteries. It’s very bright, and it gets very hot. I changed the lens to glass, changed the reflector to aluminum to keep it from melting. I have a few Minimags that have also been upgraded with LED emitters, and a stock Minimag Pro.
David B Huber
I agree the “embarrassment of riches” is bewildering. Most folks just need a general purpose torch that’s easy and convenient.
I suffer from flashaholism but will content myself to 3 recommendations. Choose one:
For EDC in pocket or purse, the Lumintop Tool AA 2.0 Set including USB 14500 IP68 waterproof 16/650 lumens Cree XP-L HD (ASIN B07X3BMZXS – $25). A versatile classic!
For a glovebox worklight, the Covmax built-in rechargable battery IPX4 600 lumens Cree XPG swivel head + COB red/white side light (ASIN B083XG3HQR – $15)
For exploring caves, the $50 Wowtac A5 26650 IPX8 0.3/3650 lumens Cree XHP-70 CW (ASIN B07Y545GC7) + a 1.26″*1/8″ N45 grade neodymium magnet (ASIN B07X97223X) attached to the tailcap.
All 3 come with rechargable batteries and magnetic tailcaps for hands-free use. Note the Wowtac A5 currently has a 20% off coupon.
Yes, there are other options. But you really can’t go wrong with any of these.
While not exactly related I just wanted to give everyone a heads-up that the 450 lumen Milwaukee headlamp (3xAAA) was just steeply discounted at Home Depot. I assume it’s being discontinued. I bought one a while back and it worked well for what I need, it’s not something I use daily so I preferred a non-chargeable type.
18650 protected batteries from Japan are my cells of choice.
Nitecore i4 & D2 for mixed, 12v, or small runs, MAHA Powerex C808M for mgt and large runs.
https://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/ for gearhead info
MODES – hi/med/low/strobe/sos modes are a nuisance to me, an on/off tail clicky best for 99% of time.
EDC is lanyard-less led solitare on keyring fine for most uses.
I prefer Coast to Milwaukee because you get the same or better quality, smaller form factor for nearly half the cost. Don’t get me wrong, I love Milwaukee products but some of them, like the flashlights, make no sense to me. After all, it’s the flashlight I’m buying, not the brand name, right?
I have many Zebralights , like others have said Budget light forum or candle power are very good. I hang out on Blf. Choose color temp of the light you want or prefer, 3k being warm and yellow to 6500k being white bright. Then what size of battery or multiple s of that size, chargers can be tricky but cheap single cell Klarus k2 covers nearly all very well. Headlamp or flashlight etc. It’s a deep rabbit holes but not bad. Then decide on flood light or floody or thrower lol. Etc have fun.