Readers have harsh things to say about the new Milwaukee RedLithium USB neck light. For those of you saying “headlamps are better!,” have you tried a neck light before?
I have flashlights, worklights, headlamps, a wrist-mounted light, and a neck light. There are many ways to achieve hands-free lighting, whatever the need or environmental circumstances might be.
A neck light is somewhat of a hybrid between a worklight and a headlamp. It’s still worn on the body, but not on your head. You can aim it, and the lighting angle doesn’t move (much) when you move your head.
Are neck lights a must-have? Absolutely not.
If I’m not in the mood for a headlamp to burden my head, I wear a cap with a small light clipped to the front. Or I find a way to aim a flashlight or worklight towards wherever I need light.
Neck lights are not indispensable – in my opinion – but they can be convenient.
I own one – I bought an EZ Red model last year after seeing the Kobalt holiday-special model. Either would have sufficed, and the EZ Red seems to appear under other branding as well (such as CAT and RealTree). I skipped the Kobalt, not knowing whether it would be a one-season or regular product.
My EZ Red has (2) AA batteries, one in each light head. That’s a bit clunky, as it means two buttons to press for activation or mode changes. But, I also didn’t want another product with a built-in rechargeable battery.
I also went with the EZ Red because it was a small investment at around $20, and it’s a tried-and-true design.
I don’t use it a lot, but I like it. The small weight falls on my shoulders and is very unobtrusive.
There are times when my headlamp is completely blocked, and I reach for other means of hands-free lighting. That’s the type of environment where a neck light might work best. And when it’s time to clean up, the neck light is one less thing to hand-carry back to a tool bag, box, or truck.
Would I spend $100 on a rechargeable neck light? No – I don’t use mine enough to justify the expense.
Would I spend $100 on a headlamp? No, because less expensive models meet my needs and wants well enough.
I bought my neck light out of curiosity, but mainly an obligation to expand my familiarity and experiences for ToolGuyd-related purposes.
I’m not about to give mine away, but I honestly couldn’t tell you if I would replace mine if it broke or went missing today.
There are many ways to work with hands-free lighting. Neck lights can work better than headlamps in certain environments, but they’re not the only option.
It really comes down to preference.
If you could only buy one bodily-worn lighting product, I’d say go for something you can both hold in your hand and clip to a hat. If you could only buy two, get a flashlight and a basic headlamp. If you could buy three, also get a good hands-free worklight. If you could buy four or five or six, try a neck light.
But, there’s also a chance that a neck light will suit you better than a headlamp or stationary hands-free worklight.
Work lighting and personal lighting selection is not as decisive as other categories.
If you drill holes in masonry on occasion, a hammer drill will usually suffice. Regularly? You’ll probably want a rotary hammer.
Neck lights are one of those types of products – in my opinion at least – where they could be exactly what you need to avoid frustrations. Or it could be optional and completely replaceable or interchangeable with other lighting products.
In my opinion, rechargeable neck lights, such as the new Milwaukee model, is for users who have tried neck lights and found them to work well for their particular needs.
If you kind of see the appeal and are wondering if a neck light will work well for your needs, start with a basic model, like the EZ Red.
If you’ve used a neck light before, what are your thoughts? Is there a model you would recommend over the EZ Red?
Some of the marketing images for neck lights are a bit far-fetched, to put it lightly. But that doesn’t mean they’re a gimmick.
If you’re looking for a basic LED headlamp, the Petzl Tikkina is compact, bright, and reliable.
The Tikkina is regularly ~$20, and it’s available in several colors.
If I had $20-25 to spend on a hands-free body-worn lighting product, I’d buy the Petzl over the EZ Red neck light.
There’s also the Tikka, which is a step up for ~$30. You can find it at Amazon and elsewhere.
Petzl also has professional and work-focused headlamps. I bought my Pixa 1 back in 2011, and you can still buy it today (via Amazon). The Pixa 1 is one of my favorite worklights (still!), but it’s a bit bulky for low-demand tasks and has not been updated with modern LED technology.