April 18, 2010

THINGS THAT DON’T SUCK: I ordered one of these cheap keychain LED lights a while back, and I’ve been surprised how handy it’s been. It’s surprisingly bright, and it’s always handy on my, er, keychain; last night it found Helen’s lost earring under the car. I just ordered several more for family members.

UPDATE: Dan Hanson writes with lots of flashlight talk:

Hi, Glenn. Dan here from the old HappyFunPundit. After reading your flashlight blog entry, I thought I’d share my findings from a recent flashlight obsession I went through, which landed me upon a couple of lights that, in my opinion, are the best out there.

For a keychain light, check out this one: http://goinggear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=14_19&products_id=255. It’s an ITP single AAA cell light (barely larger than the battery itself).

These lights use a microprocessor and a high-tech CREE LED. They have three brightness modes. On the lowest, 1.5 lumen setting, they’re perfect for reading a program at a concert, or looking for something you dropped at the theatre (i.e. bright enough to see without disturbing others), or reading something in front of you during a presentation or seminar in a darkened room. They have a little clip which you can reverse to slide the light onto a ball cap brim, making a poor man’s miner’s light for hands-free operation.

The microprocessor uses pulse-width modulation to control current to the bulb in low light modes (as opposed to adding resistors, which doesn’t help battery life). The result is an amazingly long battery life – They last 40 hours on a single AAA cell at that brightness, making them a good little survival light to have on you at all times.

At the highest power setting, this little thing will put out 80 lumens of light – as much as a large tactical flashlight. That also makes it an excellent survival/emergency light, as you can flag people down with it from a very long distance. The CREE LEDs are amazing. I’ve purchased a half dozen of these for various gifts for friends and family, and everyone absolutely loves them.

I use mine constantly. I originally thought I’d just use it for emergencies or for the occasional need to look in a dark space, but I find the thing is perfect for adding extra light when working behind my computer, or checking fan openings for dust, or reading the label on a product in a store. The extra light makes all the difference to my 46 year old eyes when reading small text.

For a larger flashlight for your camping/survival needs, the Fenix LD-20 is one of the best out there. It uses two standard AA batteries, and is the size of a MagLite, but it puts a MagLite to shame in all categories. It also uses a CREE LED, and can put out 17 lumens for 71 hours. It’s also got strobe modes, and a 200-lumen bright mode, which is just incredibly bright for a small flashlight. I got mine with an accessory kit containing a red wand attachment for road signalling and a white diffuser which turns it into an emergency candle. It can light up a room with 17 lumens for three days straight on two AA cells. With typical night-time only use, you’ll get more than a week’s worth of emergency light from it.

A light like this is a must for any survival/emergency kit, and I carry one in my car for road emergencies. There are lots of tactical flashlights out there, but I like ones that use standard batteries so it’s easy to carry spare or cannibalize batteries from other devices when necessary. I won’t need my remote controls when the power fails, but I can scavenge enough AAA and AA batteries from them to keep my in light for a month.

Both of these lights are fully waterproof. You can throw them in a pool for an hour and they’ll work fine. They’re not dive lights, however, and won’t do well under any kind of real pressure.


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