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Thread: Pak-Lite Review

  1. #1
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    Default Pak-Lite Review



    Last Christmas my gift haul included a white Pak-Lite. A little later I bought a turquoise version as well. After four months of use I have decided that these little lights have not gotten the credit or coverage that they deserve @ CPF. They are very simple lights, but sometimes simple is the ticket.

    Physical Description: The Pak-Lite snaps onto a 9 volt rectangular battery, increasing its length by about 1/3 and adding very little weight. Power from the 9 volt battery runs through two 5mm LEDs in series – not requiring voltage stepup or stepdown as is typical for many LED flashlights. A small switch changes the circuit resistance to provide two output levels. The Pak-Lite is fairly expensive for what you get (about $25 depending on the version), but it appears to be made with quality materials and they are not a high volume operation. Custom configurations (mixed emitter colors and switching variations) are available for only a couple more dollars.

    Output and Battery Life:

    -- The white version on high roughly matches my 2003 Arc AAA CPF Edition. On low it puts out about as much light as my Arc4+ on its lowest setting…or maybe a bit less. The turquoise version appears to put out a lot more light and have much better throw because of the eyes’ greater sensitivity to that part of the spectrum.

    -- The white version’s beam is quite smooth and typical of 5mm LEDs. The turquoise one is somewhat ringy – a condition that I understand to be typical of these emitters. I have seen a friend’s green Pak-Lite beam, and can report that it is much more smooth. The green version is probably preferable over the turquoise if long throw (with compromised spectrum) is your desire.

    -- The Pak-Lite site lists battery life at 75/600 hours high/low with an alkaline battery. Those figures are stretched to 200/1200 high/low for lithium batteries. Those sound like ridiculous figures. I thought they were letting the LED spool down to total blackness at those durations. Vic @ Pak-Lite says that’s not the case. He claims that they only count the time until the light is clearly putting out less light than with a fresh battery. Rather than take his word for it, I simply started using my lithium one as a nightlight. That was three months ago – maybe 600 hours of low output and 70 hours of high output. Honestly, I can’t tell any difference in brightness. A few weeks ago I popped one of the lights onto a fresh 9 volt. Same apparent output. I then put it on a 9 volt battery that had just been declared dead by one of my smoke detectors. Same apparent output. It looks like Pak-Lite’s claims are not hyperbole. AFAIK these results are due to good quality emitters, high efficiency underdriving, and a very simple and efficient circuit.

    Form and Function:

    -- The Pak-Lite is small and light enough to go easily in a pocket. Its emitters really stick out, so I only carry it there when there aren’t other things in my pocket to scratch it. The switch appears fragile but should be highly durable because of its recessed mounting. Vic says that they have only heard of a couple broken switches out of several thousand lights shipped, and that the switches can still be operated with a pin.

    -- The rectangular battery/flashlight shape can be handheld or set on a surface to point sideways or straight up. Pointing it upward and setting a 35mm Fuji film canister (translucent white plastic) on the shoulders of the battery converts it into a very nice nightlight.

    -- The light is not waterproof and will not operate underwater. It is not, however, damaged by being underwater. Dry it off and you’re back in operation.

    Summary & Recommendation: I highly recommend this light to anyone who wants a small, lightweight, reliable, and very long burning light for close work. The turquoise or green emitter versions have enough throw for use outdoors in mostly dark conditions. Its incredible runtime extends the conditions in which you would use a flashlight. Power out? Place a few around the house for orientation and don’t worry about running them continuously. The Pak-Lite is a great travel nightlight. Perfect output level and no filament to burn out. The Pak-Lite’s low output, lack of waterproofing, and exposed emitters keep it from being the perfect light, but it’s still a good addition to any flashaholic’s collection.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    A note on the custom possibilities. Pak-Lite can make one-off lights with any combination of their emitters (white, blue, green, turquoise, UV, IR, red, yellow, and orange if memory serves). Before epoxying the board they can set it up so that the switch is hi/lo (using both emitters), A/B emitter (always hi), or A/B emitter (always low). They quoted me $27 as the price for any configuration. There would be a wait, of course. I have been meaning to get a green/white one to mix throw and close up color rendering.

    Pak-Lite is pretty easy to spell incorrectly. Just in case anyone is doing a search... paklite packlite pack-lite paklight packlight pack-light pak-light. That might get a few variations.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Thanks Dave, great review. These sound interesting.

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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Nice review, Dave. I've read about these lights before and have been curious about them. Maybe it's time to give one a try.

  5. #5
    Flashaholic* nikon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Is it relatively easy to remove the board in order to change the LED's? You mentioned epoxy...does that mean the board is glued in place and can't be removed?

    Thanks
    Hank

  6. #6

    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    There's been a few threads about this light before. Doug Owen is a big fan of them too. From what I've heard they are very well made, and certainly they perform a useful function. That said, I've never really understood their appeal. For $30+ you get a light that's not waterproof, that relies on somewhat exotic batteries (9V Ultralife lithium) to perform at its best, has no lanyard hole (reducing usefulness as an emergency light) and that's held together by nothing more than the little snaps on top of the 9V battery. I can't take the 70 hour "high" alkaline no-dimming claim seriously since it would mean well over 1000 mAH and alkalines just don't have that in them. You really can't detect LED dimming over such a long period with just an eyeball. Eyes are very adaptable so you need to use a meter.

    Other lights with sort of similar applicability:

    UK 2AAA eLED - similar size/weight/shape to Paklite, runs about 20 hours on two AAA alkalines, brightness comparable to Arc AAA, more throw due to focusing optic while still having good spill, waterproof to 1000 feet and near indestructable, comes with a hat clip, and is $12 or so. Nice little light.

    PALight: rectangular 9V light somewhat bigger than Paklite, but waterproof, dimmable, has various other features depending on model.

    Countycomm or Photon coin light with 2032 battery (instead of two 2016's): output comparable to Paklite on "low", runtime still in the 100's of hours, tiny little lights that fit anywhere and can go on a keychain. Costs just $1.00 or so (Countycomm 20-pack or $1.25 P2 clone from KevinL). Plus they're available in various colors and it's easy to swap leds around in them.

    Photon Freedom: keychain light, reasonably waterproof, current version is very bright (much brighter than Arc AAA) when batts are new, fully dimmable, very long runtime at dimmest setting (comparable to Paklite on low), has various blinking and signal modes, has cute spring clip with magnets for attachment flexibility. $15.80 from Brightguy.

    Finally you can always do a homemade 9V snap light. Two 10-cent led's and a 2-cent resistor does it, plus the snap connector from an old 9V cell. If you want to get fancy, you can add another resistor and/or a switch, but the simplest versions just snap onto the light to turn on. Lots of CPF'ers have built these.

  7. #7
    *Flashaholic* JonSidneyB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    I like my Pak-Lite as well. I didn't get it because I like 9volt batteries. I got it back when I thought I needed a light for every common battery type in existance for those times you have to take what battery you can find.

  8. #8
    Flashaholic* greenlight's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    How likely are the contacts to wear out and be too loose/unuseable?

  9. #9
    *Retired* The_LED_Museum's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    [ QUOTE ]
    Dave Wright said:
    Pak-Lite is pretty easy to spell incorrectly. Just in case anyone is doing a search... paklite packlite pack-lite paklight packlight pack-light pak-light. That might get a few variations.

    [/ QUOTE ]
    If I did an evaluation of this product on my website, the first part of the text might be a bit like this:

    Thuh companie thaat maks thuh Pak-Lite kant spel "pack" orr "light", but they still make an excellent product. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Thats what I like about your reviews Craig, you add more humor and personality into them.

  11. #11
    *Flashaholic* JonSidneyB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    I have got mine right after Craigs review. I don't use it much but it's alway there for the day that the only battery I can find is a 9volt.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Nikon, I haven't tried to take mine apart, but think it's epoxied. Durable but difficult or impossible to modify.

    Paulr, all I can report is my personal experience. I have been using same lithium battery as a nightlight for 3 months. It works out to almost 700 hours total. 9 of the days, while traveling, my wife insisted that I run it on high all night (about 70 hours total). Obviously the light is operating within physical limits. There is no power loss running through a transformer like some of the lights you mention. There are no lens losses. Hanging the emitter out puts as much of the light out into the room as possible. These emitters are being underdriven. The battery is being used so gently that it does not suffer much voltage drop, which helps account for the fairly stable output. Most of my use has been with the turquoise version, which appears very bright for the power used.

    The key factor of this light is its runtime. If you don't need or believe in the runtime then you are best looking elsewhere.

    I have a good number of lights. It might be worth pointing out which ones go with me on vacation - when I have to make a choice. The Pak-Lite is one. My Arc LSHF-P is the other. I really think that the PL is a great low output level light, and I have come to love the excellent color, high power, and perfect (IMO) beam of the Arc's Fraen optic. I sometimes bring the Arc4+ alone, but have found that it does not lend out well when a family member or friend needs to borrow.

    Take Care, Dave

  13. #13

    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    I can believe 70 hours on high from a lithium 9V, which is about 1200 mAH. Those batteries are quite energy-dense, much more so than CR123's.

    I can believe 70 hours on high from an alkaline 9V but I think a meter would show it's considerably dimmer at the end of the 70 hours than at the beginning, even if the dimming not obvious to the eye.

    If you have two LED lights the same color and beam pattern and one is 2x as bright as the other, point both at a wall simultaneously and it will be obvious which is which. Point one at a wall, turn it off, wait 5 minutes, and then point the other one, it won't be easy to tell them apart. Sometimes my Arc LS went into moon mode without my realizing it even though its brightness had dropped by 5x or more.

    If you compared your Paklite against (say) an Arc AAA with fresh alkaline batteries in both, then compared again after the Paklite had run for 70 hours, I think you'd see a difference.

    If you want a long-running, dim, cheap light, try two Batterystation lithium AA's (about 1.7v each) in a holder, driving a single 26kmcd LED through a 1k(?) resistor. Stick a piece of cardboard or plastic between the battery terminal and one of the holder contacts to use as a "switch". Runtime should be 1000's of hours. More practically, omit the resistor and go direct drive. Output will be comparable to a CMG Infinity with runtime in the 100's of hours. I might make one of these now that I have a package of those lithiums.

  14. #14
    Flashaholic* PhotonBoy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Here's the story behind the family making the Pak-Lite:

    Family benefits from bright idea

  15. #15
    Flashaholic* windstrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    I have a red one. I use it to find veins on infants "I am an IV Therapy Nurse". It works great when placing the light on the bottom of the infants hand or foot. As you point the light upwards, it almost acts like a vein x-ray!, you can see all the possiblities of vein cannulation that were impossible to see or feel without it!

  16. #16
    *Retired* The_LED_Museum's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Yesterday or the day before, I sent a message to the people involved with the Pak-Lite regarding their only payment option shown on the website, asking them if I can send Paypal or a money order, since I really do want to evaluate one on my website. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    well, I work in a medical lab- for some reason a particular handheld blood analyzer uses 2 9v batteries (lithium or industrial lithium woohoo) and they get replaced when the power falls below a certain level. I took home about 40 to 50 batteries that were destined to the recycle bin. Bought a paklite since i get free batterys, I was just dying to find something to use them with,
    I have the white model with the on and off switch. on which has the 2 led's on or off.. Last night the off switch started to make the led's glow soft, while the on position makes it glow bright. I dont mind this as the model that has the low and high setting was more money and thats kinda cool. but,,, cant turn it off, am kinda worried that it might be more power now to it and it might burn out? have to disconect it when i want it off,- guess ill just run it all the time I guess, since batteries arent a concern,.
    Not sure if anyone has had probs with them---??
    DOnt have receipt,. they charge a small fee if therres no receipt.
    might as well just keep it running,.I live in a motorhome full-time now and it lights up the inside better than anything else. On a used lithium 9v i use it about 7 nights, for 12 hours or more a night, sometimes i ferget and leave it on all day- it does get noticeably brighter when i plug in a "new" 9v to it, so I know the light fades when the battery gets used.
    i just bought 2 more off amazon, was going to give them away as xmas presents but now not sure if the switches go out or if mine is just a fluke?
    Dale
    ps--dollar tree store -i found a soft glow red light that snaps onto 9v-its cool,

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    I have the GITD version. Ultralight campers have been known to use these as their main light, that's a bit much for me, but it does make a perfect emergency/survival light since most homes have 9v batteries dangling from their ceiling in a smoke detector.

    I also use it as a bedside light, since the GITD material they use lasts all night, making it an easy light to find in the dark, and the low is not offensively bright for nearby sleepers.

    I'd buy one again.
    Lights removed for search accuracy

  19. #19
    Flashaholic* TooManyGizmos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Are the original PAL-Lights (w/ rubber body) ... still sold anywhere ?
    ~ "She" says ... ... I have ... TooManyGizmos ~

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    My biggest issue with the Pak-lite that if I'm not mistaken they still use the Nichia "CS" LEDs. When I had asked if they plan to upgrade to DS (this was before GS came out), there answer was that it did not pass their beam test while using in the woods. I never thought there was a discernible difference between the beam profiles of the CS and DS LEDs.
    I live in a van down by the river

  21. #21
    Flashaholic* HoopleHead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Big fan of these for indoor emergency lighting. Awesome runtimes, totally usable amount of light. Cannibalize the battery from your smoke alarm if needed!

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Wow, old thread. Since I last posted 4 1/2 years ago, I've bought 2 Pak-Lites. The first one was a standard model with a glow top. I was impressed with it, so I decided to buy one of the super versions, also with a glow top. It's noticably brighter than the standard version, and worth the extra money in my opinion. I use it almost every night.

    I take one of my Pak-Lites with me whenever I travel somewhere with an overnight stay. Being able to find it in the dark in a hotel room is a nice touch.

    The Pak-Lite will be one of the lights I will be using many years from now. It's a classic in my book, like the Photon Microlight. No matter how "obsolete" it gets, it will still be very useful.

    Maybe I'll buy another one soon!
    Aren't flashlights cool?
    Carry a flashlight, and you'll have a bright future.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    I like these things also,and I also use mine as a night light when staying in a hotel.Just turn it on and leave it in the bathroom for a late night pit stop works great.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManyGizmos View Post
    Are the original PAL-Lights (w/ rubber body) ... still sold anywhere ?
    I bought one many years ago and love it- great by the bedside with the idle mode bouncing off the ceiling.
    I was going to get a couple more so I have the same question.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Pak-Lite Review

    Quote Originally Posted by savumaki View Post
    I bought one many years ago and love it- great by the bedside with the idle mode bouncing off the ceiling.
    I was going to get a couple more so I have the same question.
    I think the company was merged or bought out by SafeLight (I think that's the name). They changed the PAL-Light a little bit. They replaced the curved lens with a flat one, so it puts out a totally floody beam instead of a defined round spot. I saw them at Cabela's less than a year ago on clearance for less than $5 each. If I go there again in the near future, I'll see if they still sell them.
    Aren't flashlights cool?
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