A Quasi-Review and Associated Thoughts
[Unfortunately, for those of you who have read js' LS20 review, I doubt this essay/review will be of the same caliber, but I still would like to give you some of my thoughts on this beautiful little tool, and why it has ended my search for the perfect EDC light. If you want the nuts and bolts, read Don's threads; I will mostly be talking about using the light from day to day.]
Nearly four years ago, I came to CPF as someone who just always liked flashlights. I didn't have anything amazing - a couple Dorcys, a Coast, the ubiquitous Maglites, but they were good lights to me then. I didn't know much about the LEDs and electronics that were going into new, more powerful flashlights, but I was interested in them, and I had no idea that there were people who made beautiful custom lights out of exotic materials. The Holy Grail as far as I knew was a Surefire, and they were fairly expensive compared to other flashlights available. And at the time, I didn't EDC a flashlight. Pocket knives and other little gizmos, yes, often, but not a flashlight.
Joining this forum changed that. I immediately saw the need to have a light or several on me at all times! And like many of you, the search for the perfect EDC light began for me and has continued ever since.
For the past four years I have diligently carried lights at all times, and have EDCd lights of all kinds. I have tried many different lights, from all sorts of manufacturers: Fenix, Nitecore, Arc, Surefire, 4Sevens, Peak, Inova, HDS, Milky Labs, BitZ and others. There were things that I liked about each, and also things I didn't like as much. Some were too big, some too small. Some had bad UIs. Some didn't sit right in my pocket, or fit right in my hand. Some had too many modes, some not enough. But I did see similarities in lights I preferred to carry. I favored the 1xCR123 form factor. I liked clickies. I liked a good clip. I wanted a couple well spaced modes. I wanted it to be reliable. It had to fit nicely in my hand. I wanted it to look cool too; and not 'tacticool'. I usually pocketed something extra like a small AA or AAA light or a very compact second CR123 light as backup, but for a primary EDC, the above requirements seemed to dominate what I liked and kept, and determined what got sold. Some lights got very close to ideal, and saw considerable pocket time, but just weren't exactly right for this reason or that.
Finally after having some glitchy issues with one of my favorite EDC lights I had been carrying for about a year, I decided I was ready for a change. The lights I was buying were gradually getting more expensive over the years, and I thought maybe I needed to go custom to really get what I wanted in an EDC light. So I started a thread asking about the reliability of McGizmo's lights, as they seemed to be similar to what I had in mind. The response was entirely positive. Everyone who carried these lights loved them, and there seemed to be almost zero reported failures in the field, despite motorcycle and bicycle crashes, toddler attacks, many drops and a few throws. This was what I wanted to hear. A KISS light, that worked, all the time. I had to try one. I sold some other less used lights, and scraped together the money needed to invest in my first McGizmo.
Despite my best efforts, a lot of the older McGizmo nomenclature is beyond me. I wasn't around here while the early stuff was being released, and the thought of trying to figure out all those parts was overwhelming. The nice thing is though, that Don's last few creations were much easier to understand; turnkey lights are good for me. Of the available lights, the Haiku seemed to be recommended as an excellent starting point, a great all around EDC light. It was what I was looking for. I selected the XP-G and standard polished finish and emailed Don with my order.
It is to be noted that working with Don is a real pleasure. He is extremely fast when it comes to responding to emails, assembling lights and shipping orders. He has a very specific way he handles orders and it works. It was only a few days until I had my Haiku in hand.
In contrast with most reviews based on specs and technical data, which look at the front of the light as the most important part, I would like to break with conventional wisdom and start with the tail of this light, because I think the C-Pak or Clicky Pak is one of the things that makes this light so special. You can find it on many of Don’s new lights, such as the Mule, SunDrop, Haiku and Makai, and it is a perfectly designed body.
The C-Pak is a 1x123 tube (in this case titanium and 1x123 although aluminum versions were offered, and you can now get 2x123 and 2xAA paks too) designed by Don, outfitted with one of his McClickies and a heavy duty Ti clip affixed via two Ti torx screws.
Starting from the very tail, you notice that the switch boot is sunken into the back and the tail flares a bit. Yes, this thing tailstands like no other. It is rock solid - not a chance of wiggle, wobble or tilt. The button simply cannot contact the surface it is on, so you have zero issues with that. If you value tailstanding, you won't do better than this tube.
Moving inward a bit you come to the switch. Don's McClicky is legendary in these halls as a fantastic example of a no fuss reliable switch. People put them into E-series Surefires as they are, and many of us have utilized them in conjunction with the brass ring available to rehab a Z41 twisty tailcap into a heavy duty forward clicky for C and P series lights especially. When it comes to simplicity and reliability, these are an excellent choice. They offer momentary light-up ability and the functionality of being able to quickly cycle through modes to find the one you want, and lock it down with a full press. In this light, you have a three speed driver, so this switch mates very well. The flared tail and beveled edges surrounding the boot mean that only the most humongous of thumbs may have problems using this switch. Access is easy, and the switch is soft enough to not tire you out if you have to cycle a few times. McClicky failures are exceedingly rare, lending to the overall reliability of the Haiku, but if you should wear one out, changing it is no problem. A heavy o-ring holds the boot in place, which can be popped out with a small screwdriver, awl, toothpick, pen-tip, or whatever else you can find around. A needlenose pliers or spanner will fit into two holes drilled in the top of the switch body, and you simply unscrew it. Screw in a new switch, replace the boot and o-ring and you are all set. 100% user serviceability, using common tools everyone has. Again, all designed to facilitate using and abusing this light without worry.
Moving outward slightly, the next feature of the Pak is the clip. You have to know, I am a clip guy. Either the light has to be very tiny, and capable of slipping unnoticed into the bottom of my pocket without creating a bulge, or it needs to be able to be clipped securely on the pocket itself. None of this giant flashlights falling sideways in my jeans’ pockets and digging into my thighs and looking weird to passersby nonsense. I don't do that. I mean, I was one of the few people who voiced an appreciation for Henry's huge MOLLE clip, because it really worked, so that gives you an idea where I'm coming from. I don't know how you guys let Clicky and Haiku sized lights free float around in your pockets. Even cargo pants don't solve this problem, because then as you walk, this light is bashing into your legs all the time. It's an archaic method of carrying flashlights if you ask me, but I digress.
None of that is an issue with the Haiku (or any of Don's lights really) because Don understands clips. He is one of the few who have ever properly melded form and function in the realm of clips. First of all, it looks good. Ugly clips seem to be one of the big complaints when it comes to clips. HDS' MOLLE clip was an excellent example of this issue. It worked like a charm, but people hated it because it was ugly and gigantic. Making a clip that looks good is an art. It will be visible outside the pocket, so needs to be attractive, but it can't be huge and gaudy and get caught on things or easily damaged by normal activities. McGizmo's clips are simple, clean, understated. But they display a classic aesthetically pleasing look at at the same time. The normal stonewashed finish is very pleasant, and the etched clips add some flare without screaming "hey look at me!" The fact that these clips and screws are also of Ti means you get all the benefits of the wonder metal in your clip too. They benefit from Ti's excellent fatigue resistance, as well as its resistance to corrosion. Go ahead and scratch this clip up on stuff, there is no coating to wear off, and no worry of it starting to rust where it's scratched. You just created patina. Also, Ti screws mean no concerns about dissimilar metals galling and fusing together.
Let's not forget about the clip's main function: clipping the light on stuff. These clips are ridiculous. I could clip this light in my pocket and go bungee jumping and I am certain the Haiku will still be stuck on my pocket when I come back up. They grab and grab well. Some people have even loosened them a bit by bending the clips and reinstalling them. I am torn on this one point. I love the fact that these clips grab so well, but I could stand to have them just a tiny bit looser. Sometimes it grips that little edge on my jeans pocket and I have to flex the clip a bit to get it to let go. If I had to choose too grippy or too loose, I'd choose too grippy, but like I said, a touch looser would be OK by me. If you really don't like clips, you can take the clip off, but I don't see why you'd want to. Not only do they really work well as clips, they are also an anti-roll device, haha. And they don't detract from the overall comfort of holding the light in your hands. (See js' review for like 25 different ways to hold a McGizmo, and you'll be convinced.) Then when you hold it in your hands, you will see just what I mean. Even with the clip, the light is very nice to hold, the bends of the clip fit perfectly into the natural bends of your fingers. It feels like an extension of the hand.
I need to go back to the tail of the light again. The flaring on the tail and the clip placement is ideal. Just the right amount of the light sticks out of my pocket to yank it out but not too much that it gets hung up on things. It's beveled just right as the very tail merges with the recessed body of the light for good grip with thumb and forefinger or forefinger and middle finger. Your fingers just fit around it perfectly when you go for the light, and you can just tug it out. No crazy tailspikes to jab you or such a deep carry orientation that you can't reach it, or so much sticking out of the pocket that when you sit down it juts into your thigh (I'm looking at you SF). None of that. Just the exact right amount of the tail sticks out to unobtrusively provide a grip point for your fingers to naturally slip around. And the part that sticks out is really a delightfully attractive bit too. Scout24 knows what I’m talking about, he made it his avatar! That tail is a thing of beauty, can you tell?
That dovetails into my next point quite nicely: ergonomics. The design of the C-Pak and its fusion with the Haiku head is lovely. The body tube has ribs on it for grip, and it provides ample grip in my opinion, even for wet or sweaty hands. However, it has no sharp edges to gouge you up, or aggressive knurling to eat your pockets to bits. The fins on the head provide additional grip as well as heat dissipation and style. I have held this light in probably 6 different configurations and found it comfortable to hold in all of them. Size, diameter, edge/angle placement, clip, it all fuses together to make a very easy to hold, and ergonomically pleasing light in any situation. Whether you have large hands or small, you will find that the shape of the light nestles itself into the natural creases of your palm, and becomes part of you. I would like to write a lot more about this aspect of the light, but it is difficult because it is so subjective. It's hard to explain why something is comfortable, without just saying that it is. It just feels right in the hand, like it’s part of my own body. I encourage you, if you have not had the privilege of fondling one, to seek out an opportunity to do so. You will see what I mean. It is a pleasure to hold and carry. This is another time when I will direct you to js’ review of the LS20; he discusses McG ergonomics extensively.
As you continue forward on the Haiku we next come to the head, the 'business end' as some call it. Again, as we would expect from the MAN, it is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally well designed. As mentioned, the joint between the body tube and the head form a naturally good place for fingers to go in a variety of holds. The slightly narrower neck and beveled edges there are a point of reference for the fingers, and they will migrate there by instinct. No jagged edges, just comfort. The fins do their job, functionally and stylistically. They certainly set the light apart when it comes to looks and aside from heat management, they also offer good places for things like glo-rings, or maybe some nifty anodizing, or some other such decorative attempt. And they're grippy, which as you can tell, I like. The bezel edge is nicely designed with very slight crenellations, which are again very good looking, but also handy in case you happen to set your light down in the 'on' position. The light emanating from the scallops with quickly remind you to turn off your Haiku, lest you find it dead the next time it is called upon to illuminate something. I also like that the window is set back from the bezel edge a bit, increasing protection in the case of drops. On some lights they are so shallow they are easily scratched up with stuff. The window is also o-ring sealed, as is the joint between the head and body. While Don does not claim these to be dive lights, as you can tell from his pictures, they can get wet without issue if properly maintained.
Inside the head are the most influential parts of the light: Don's custom designed reflectors and light engines. The Haiku comes with a variety of different light engines based on you preferences. The original Haiku used the XR-E, and it is still available for those who are looking for perhaps a bit more throw out of their Haiku. Don then expanded his offering to the XP-G, for the lovely "punchy flood" it delivers, as it was was described by one member. (PoliceScannerMan, I think?) He now offers it in a warm XP-G variant for those who are picky about tint, and also in High CRI Nichia 119 flavor for those who need the color rendition and XM-L for people who just want lumens, and don't mind a cool tint. He ensures that each emitter is properly mated to suitable reflector before going ahead with production, offering very useful beams. For my purposes, the XP-G is an ideal emitter. It offers plenty of reach for anything that I will need to accomplish, such as perhaps walking the dog, but still has adequate spill for closer tasks and illuminates a wide enough area to be effective for either indoor or outdoor tasks. The hotspot is there, but it blends nicely into a sufficiently bright spill beam, creating a wash of light over a pretty large swath of space. Coupled with a Mule for very close usage, these two have me covered in most any situation. Now, I will mention, so as not to gloss over potential issues for some, the beam is not completely artifact free. There is a slight ring out towards the edge of the corona. I only see it when wall hunting, and not in actual use, but some are very fussy so I thought I'd mention it. I don't see this as being a problem at all, and it doesn't detract from the light in my opinion, but it is there. If you cannot stand even a slight ring, well, get used to disappointments I guess. Again though, 'punchy flood' of this light with the XP-G really does a great job for me in nearly all EDC applications.
I am not going to post beamshots, as there are many good ones posted around, especially in the McGizmo forum if you are interested. A very helpful thread from run4jc has XR-E, XP-G and XM-L shots if you are interested. Thanks Dan!
In regards to UI, I mentioned before in discussion about the clicky basically how the light works, but I'll rehash it here. Don uses a three speed driver in the Haiku, for a low, medium, high progression. As the McClicky is a forward clicky, a light press on the button gives you a momentary on in whatever the last used mode was. Quick taps on the switch will change modes, and a hard press/click locks it in. Easy peasy, simple simple. No fancy programming or crazy disco modes or things like that. I can appreciate the programmable lights, I have several. But I found for me personally, I am now leaning toward a more simple three mode light for EDC. I tended to have more glitchy issues and troubles with more complicated lights, and that just wasn't working for me. This baby is rock solid. Just three simple, well spaced modes, and a very simple UI that anyone can figure out and use without trouble. When it comes to an EDC light, I just want it to work. Besides, I found that for the vast majority of my EDC needs, I was using the same one or two levels anyways, so having too many options just got in the way. More often than not I am happy with the low mode for day to day operations, and later in the night if I need more light for dog walking or something, the high beam is more than adequate.
In summation, this light just does what it needs to do. It very simply and easily provides high quality illumination when called upon. It is user friendly, very durable and reliable, great looking and very satisfying to use. The titanium construction means that very little care needs to be administered to keep it looking great. (Or if you’re like me, you like the surface wear on a well used Ti light). People will notice when you use it, and appreciate its craftsmanship, but you needn’t put it on a shelf only to stare at it. It is of course, made to be used. Every single detail of Don's lights have been analyzed and meticulously executed to achieve a maximum of aesthetics, ergonomics and functionality without sacrificing in any other area. He understands how to make a flashlight that excels in every area. They are the ideal balance of everything you want in an EDC light. Don incorporates a high level of design into his lights, not so that they can be stared at, but so that they can be effectively used. He puts the work into making them functional, because that’s how he thinks. I hope he doesn’t mind me posting a few of his recent comments that caught my attention. I appreciate that he creates lights he would want to use, with the “collectivity” factor not really even being considered. His artistic ability is sort of baffling when coupled with his overall practicality and logic/reason based approach to flashlights as tools first and foremost. Apparently he can harness both right and left brain, haha.
I don't consider there to be any big deal about the lights I offer. They are what they are and hopefully anyone who buys one has a good idea of what they are before they purchase one.
I guess the deal is that I offer some lights that some of you are willing to purchase and as long as that is the case I guess we will continue to do business and hopefully with satisfaction on both sides of the "counter".
I have no idea what flashlight John Wayne would carry if he were alive today or Barney Frank for that matter. I would guess it would be a function of their applications, needs and comprehension of what is available and subjective perception of the value of illumination tools.
A true craftsman, an expert in his field, Don “McGizmo” McLeish.
If you have survived this far, I am impressed, and I am sorry if I have been boring you. I appreciate you taking the time to read all ~ 4,000 words of this essay, and I hope it was helpful for you. There is much more that I could say about this light if I had the chance or the time, but I wanted to get at least some of it down in writing. If you have more questions or comments on things I didn’t talk about, or mentioned only briefly, let me know and I will try to make additions as necessary. I have to thank Carrot for encouraging me to take the time to “wax poetic” on one of my favorite lights, as I may not have done this without his gentle nudge, as well as inspiring posts and reviews from other McGizmo fans over the years, most notably js, but with honorable mention to others such as run4jc. Thanks guys!
Now, go get a Haiku!