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Flashlight Recommendation Checklist - Updated MK II

zespectre

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This important thread was resurrected and cleaned up by was.lost.but.now.found but has been a little neglected and was starting to show it's age so here is yet another update as we try to keep this relevant, accurate, and useful.

As always, comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.
Ze.

To all new members: Feel free to copy and paste the questions below into a NEW THREAD (no need to reply on this one) when you are seeking advice on buying a light. Don't worry if you don't know the answer to every question, this is simply a way for us to see what criteria that are important to you. Also, the more answers you provide, the better the responses from experienced members will be.

==================Flashlight Recommendation Checklist================

1) How would you prefer to purchase the light?

____I would like to purchase the light in person from a brick and mortar store. I am located in ______________.
____This will be mail-order or Online (location doesn't matter).


2) Budget: An easy question, but you may change your mind after answering the rest! :)

____I don't know yet
____Up to $25.
____Up to $50.
____Up to $100.
____Up to $200.
____Up to $300.
____Essentially unlimited.


3) Format:

____I am not sure, please help me decide.
____I want a flashlight (hand held/self contained).
____I want a self-contained headlamp.
____I want a headlamp with an external pack/power source.
____I want a mounted light (typically for a bicycle or vehicle)
____I want a lantern/area light.
____I want a portable spotlight (it may have an external power source).
____Other ____________________________________________


4) Size:

____MICRO - Keychain size.
____TINY - Every day carry (2-4 inches).
____SMALL - Every day carry (4-7 inches).
____MEDIUM - Holster/belt ring carry. (>7 inches)
____LARGE - Big enough to need its own travel case.
____I don’t know/I don't care.


5) Emitter/Light source:

____LED (known for efficiency, longevity, and compactness)
____Incandescent (known for superior color rendition)
____HID (known for max output, but often at the expense of size)
____I don't know.


6) Manufacturer:

____I want to buy a light from a large/traditional manufacturer that is ready to go out of the box.
____I would like a light from a specialty manufacturer (Possibly limited run/Custom).
____I am interested in assembling my own components. (for example a “host” or flashlight body from one manufacturer, and a “drop-in” emitter from another source).


7) What power source do you want to use?

____I intend to use "Primary"/Disposable Alkaline batteries based on the usual AAA/AA/C/D sized cells common to most stores.
____I intend to use "Primary"/Disposable Lithium batteries based on the usual AAA/AA/C/D and CR123 sized cells common to most stores (often a cold weather or long storage choice).
____I intend to use Rechargeable cells (NiMH or NiCD) based on the usual AAA/AA/C/D sized cells common to most stores.
____I intend to use Rechargeable cells based on less common formats (18500 or 18650 Li-Ion, RCR123, et-al).
____I want a light with an integrated rechargeable battery pack.
____I don't know/I need more information on power sources.

7a) If you have selected a rechargeable option
____I want a light that plugs directly into the wall (literally with prongs built into the light)
____I want a light that has a recharging adapter (your typical "wall wart")
____I want a light that snaps into a cradle (usually mounted on a wall)
____I want a separate/stand-alone charger (this involves removing the batteries to charge)
____I don't care


8) How much genuine out the front (OTF) light do you want/need? Sometimes you can have too much light (trying to read up close up with a 100 lumen light is not a happy experience).

____I want to navigate a dark room or read a map (1-10 lumens).
____I want an indoor "blackout" light (15-50 lumens)
____I want to confidently walk around an unlit/unpaved rural area (60-150 lumens).
____I want to illuminate my entire backyard or a campsite (150-300 lumens).
____I want to illuminate an entire field, the neighbor's front yard several houses down, impress my friends and neighbors, etc. (300-700 lumens).
____I want search and rescue type illumination (800+ lumens).

____SPECIAL NOTE: Burst/Turbo mode Category - There are several lights that will run at a super bright maximum for a very limited period (usually 5-10 minutes) and then will "step-down" to a lower level for thermal control. Check here if this is acceptable.


9) Flood vs Throw: Flood covers an area, Throw reaches out to a distance.

____All Flood: I am doing "arms length" tasks like reading and campsite cooking.
____Wide Flood: I want a defined flood area for semi-close tasks like after-dark campsite tasks or working on a car.
____Narrow Flood: I want a sharply defined flood area that will project some distance for tasks like trail walking.
____Wide Throw: I want a beam with a noticeable hot-center for distance throw and a significant amount of "side-spill". Good for rough trail hiking, search and rescue, and general distance work.
____Narrow Throw: I want a beam with a very tight "hot center" and minimal "side-spill". Good for distance viewing, fog, and looking through dense undergrowth.
____Turbohead: I want a far-distance projector with a sharply focused spot of light and minimal or zero side-spill. Good for extreme distance and impressing your friends.

9a) Distance: How far away will you typically need to see with this light (check all that apply)
____Less than 1 yard/meter (reading, other close work)
____Less than 5 yards/meters (looking for something inside a dark shed/garage/basement)
____5-20 yards/meters (check out a noise in the backyard)
____30-50 yards/meters (I have a big backyard)
____50-150 yards/meters (I live in a very rural area/farm with wide open spaces)
____150+ yards (I am searching from a helicopter)

10) Runtime: Not over-inflated manufacturer runtime claims, but usable brightness measured from first activation to 50% with new batteries (Measured on maximum continuous output).

____Up to 30 minutes (I want the brightest [and potentially smallest] light for brief periods)
____30-60 minutes (I have plenty of batteries just ready to be changed)
____90-120 minutes (Runtime is moderately important, but still not critical)
____3 hours + (I critically need this light to run on max for extended periods in between battery changes/charges).




11) Durability/Usage: Generally the old phrase “you get what you pay for” is very accurate for flashlights.

____Not Important (A “night-stand” light).
____Slightly Important (Walks around the neighborhood).
____Very Important (Camping, Backpacking, Car Glove-box).
____Critical (Police, Fire, Search & Rescue, Caving, Survival).
____I don’t know.


12) Switch Size, Type, and location (choose all that apply):

____Any size switch will do.
____I need a BIG switch (I'll be using gloves or have very large hands or coordination issues).
____I want a forward clicky (Helpful for momentary activation and signaling).
____I want a reverse clicky (For use with multi-mode/level lights).
____I want a momentary switch (Predominantly for use with signaling and short bursts of momentary light only).
____I want a twisty switch (Tighten the head/tailcap to activate, and the light will stay on until the head/tailcap is loosened).
____I want a body mounted switch (near the head, like on a Maglite).
____I want a tail mounted switch (found on the majority of today’s high end lights).
____I want a remote switch (usually found on high-end bicycle headlights)
____I don't care.
____I don’t know.
____Other, please specify____________________.


13) User Interface (UI) and mode selection. Select all that apply.

____A simple on-off with only one output level is fine for me.
____I want 2 light levels. (Brighter/short runtime and Dimmer/long runtime.)
____I want multiple light levels. (Some lights have 5-16 light levels.)
____I want a programmable light.
____I want a selector ring.
____I want a strobe mode. (Oscillating pattern to confuse/blind aka "Police Mode")
____I want SOS mode. (blinks in ...---... emergency pattern)
____I want a beacon mode. (Regular flashes at full power to show location.)
____I don’t care.
____I don’t know.


14)Material/Finish/Coating

____Plastic/composite body (this may limit your choices significantly).
____Anodized Aluminum – either type II or III (Hard Anodized) (Aluminum, specifically HA, is the most common material/finish for today’s higher end flashlights).
____Stainless steel (durable, but much heavier than aluminum)
____Titanium (durable and nearly as lightweight as aluminum, but can be moderately to significantly more expensive).
____I don’t care.
____I don’t know.
____Other, please specify____________.

15) Water resistance
____None needed
____IPX4 (Splash resistant)
____IPX7 (Waterproof to 1 meter/30min)
____IPX8 (Submersible to greater than 1 meter for 4 hours)

16) Storage conditions
____In house (temperature/climate controlled environment)
____Emergency kit (long standby periods)
____Automobile glove-box (wide temperature swings, long standby periods, critical reliability)
____Other_____________________________________________


17) Special Needs/extras: Is there anything else you want or need that hasn't been mentioned? Select any/all below.

____Red filter (for preserving night vision).
____Other filter colors (Amber, Green, Blue, _________).
____Dedicated R/G/B secondary LEDs.
____“Hybrid” light (bright incandescent combined with long running LEDs)
____Pocket/belt clip
____Holster
____Wrist/Neck Lanyard
____Crenulated bezel
____Non-sparking, Intrinsically Safe (IS) for use in explosive environments
 
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archimedes

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....To all new members: Feel free to copy and paste the questions below into a new thread when you are seeking advice on buying a light....

(see emphasis added above) ... ;)

EDIT - Just to clarify to new members that this checklist can be used to create a new thread requesting recommendations, instead of replying in this thread.
 
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Poppy

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Ze,
____SPECIAL NOTE: Burst/Turbo mode Category - There are several lights that will run at a super bright maximum for a very limited period (usually 5-10 minutes) and then will "step-down" to a lower level for thermal control. Check here if this is acceptable.

As written, this will probably be acceptable to everyone. You may want to re-write it in such a way to explain how some manufacturers use misleading advertising.
 

alternety

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A suggestion for special function: Currency examination - UV 365nm

and maybe Mineral exploration - UV with some alternatives
 

dss_777

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Please add a section to ask the requestor to describe the intended use. A short summary goes a long way in refining suggestions.
 

NightwatchNL

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To bad there isn't a flashlight selector that shows models, based on the selections made above.

Or is there? :shrug:
 

leona912

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That's great!! I bought a small Adjustable Focus CREE LED Flashlight yesterday, very bright! or I can say super bright, looks great! :thumbsup:
 

jabe1

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Please add a line to suggest using the search function before asking for a recommendation that has been asked for ad nauseum.
 

TEEJ

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It seems to me the lumen and range specs are truncated quite early, considering that there are lights with specs that are many times the highest options listed.

150 meters as "Searching from a helicopter" is ludicrous. When we search from choppers, we need way more just to reach the ground let alone search an area with. Considering there are LED lights with over a MILE range, 150 meters is cutting off the POTENTIAL ranges very early in the game. Single 18650 lights for example can exceed the 150 meter spec, let alone modern throwers.

800 lumens as search and rescue is also cut off very low, especially as a top option. Single 18650 lights can now exceed this limit, and there are lights with a few thousand lumens out there that are not able to be delineated in a search option in the list.

IE: The list doesn't allow filtering out a single 18650 light's performance ranges from a 4 celled light's options in performance. So, You can say you want more cells, but, not why, or what it might get you, etc...and you have no way of KNOWING you might want more cells, because the top performance options you CAN select can almost be met with a key chain light.

:D
 
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zespectre

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The list is a bit tongue in cheek, intended for the newbie who hasn't any idea that anything exists beyond the traditional maglight or front counter "emergency" light at the pharmacy. By the time people are "into" greater-than-800 lumen lights and trying to see beyond 200 yards, they are usually past the "entry phase" of lighting products and can usually state their desires without resorting to the checklist. (basically the checklist is "training wheels" and was never intended to cover all the questions that anyone could ever come up with regarding flashlight purchases).
 

zespectre

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Please add a line to suggest using the search function before asking for a recommendation that has been asked for ad nauseum.

There isn't any point to that. Those who will do a search first don't need the reminder, those who "just ask" aren't going to take the time to read the reminder, and there is, has been, and always will be, new people digging in for the first time and asking the "same old questions".

If someone wants to answer the questions (regardless of how many times they've been asked) that's great. If not, don't participate in the thread.
 

Poppy

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I'd like to suggest changing the sizes to fit with today's more current carry sizes.
4) Size:

____MICRO - Keychain size.
____TINY - Every day carry (2-4 inches).
____SMALL - Every day carry (4-7 inches).
____MEDIUM - Holster/belt ring carry. (>7 inches)
____LARGE - Big enough to need its own travel case.
____I don’t know/I don't care.

___ MICRO - smaller than a AAA battery (less than 2 inches)
___ SMALL Pocket Carry - typically slightly larger than a AAA battery 2-3 inches
___ MEDIUM Pocket Carry - typically a little fatter than a AA battery and 3-4 inches long
___ LARGE Pocket Carry - Cigar sized, Head smaller than 1.0 inch, and P60 hosts - Head smaller than 1.25 inch in diameter, and length 4.5 - 6 inches
___ HOLSTER/TOOL BOX Carry - P60 hosts and larger.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Perhaps also include a commentary:

EDC means EVERY DAY CARRY
Size is the greatest limiting factor for most people regarding what they will carry everyday.

Most people who do carry every day, carry a single AA light or smaller. (MEDIUM Pocket Carry, or smaller)

Those who carry a LARGE Pocket Carry as an EDC, usually do so because they use a light "on the job" or otherwise as a tool at work, (such as an electrician).

LARGE Pocket Carry lights are slightly larger than most single cell AA lights, but much more powerful. There are the cigar sized, small frame/body style 18650 lights, such as the "D (daily carry) series" eagletac D25LC2, the Convoy S2, or Fenix PD32. There are others, but the point is that the head and tube is essentially the same diameter, and less than an inch. ~ 24mm.

Somewhat larger yet, are the P60 hosts, such as the Solarforce L2 series of lights, where the head is ~ 32mm / 1.25 inch in diameter. It seems that the largest percentage of people who EDC a P60 host or larger, also carry a gun, or carry it for work.
 

elloco999

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A very good question list. It made me really think about what I wanted, so besides helping others help me, it has also given me more insight into what I really want :D

____I want SOS mode. (blinks in ---...--- emergency pattern)
But I do believe that SOS = ...---... ;)
 

TEEJ

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A very good question list. It made me really think about what I wanted, so besides helping others help me, it has also given me more insight into what I really want :D


But I do believe that SOS = ...---... ;)

This is true, albeit rendered less relevant by the situation where most of the "SOS" signals the flashlights seem to use are merely alternating three short and three long repeated over an over again....so the starting point will be lost anyway.

IE: If a would be rescuer sees SOSOSOSOSOSOSOSOS...they would probably figure it out.

:D
 

Poppy

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9) Flood vs Throw: Flood covers an area, Throw reaches out to a distance.

____All Flood: I am doing "arms length" tasks like reading and campsite cooking.
____Wide Flood: I want a defined flood area for semi-close tasks like after-dark campsite tasks or working on a car.
____Narrow Flood: I want a sharply defined flood area that will project some distance for tasks like trail walking.
____Wide Throw: I want a beam with a noticeable hot-center for distance throw and a significant amount of "side-spill". Good for rough trail hiking, search and rescue, and general distance work.
____Narrow Throw: I want a beam with a very tight "hot center" and minimal "side-spill". Good for distance viewing, fog, and looking through dense undergrowth.
____Turbohead: I want a far-distance projector with a sharply focused spot of light and minimal or zero side-spill. Good for extreme distance and impressing your friends.

I'd like to suggest that the above be re-written:

9) Flood vs Throw: Flood covers an area, Throw reaches out to a distance. SELECT ONLY ONE:

____All Flood: I am doing "arms length" tasks like reading and campsite cooking.
____Wide Flood: I want a defined flood area for semi-close tasks like after-dark campsite tasks or working on a car.
____Narrow Flood: I want a sharply defined flood area that will project some distance for tasks like trail walking.
____Narrow Throw: I want a beam with a very tight "hot center" and minimal "side-spill". Good for distance viewing, fog, and looking through dense undergrowth.

the following beam profiles are typically 18650 or larger lights, or take multiple AA cells, like 4-6-or 8 cells.
____Wide Throw: I want a beam with a noticeable hot-center for distance throw and a significant amount of "side-spill". Good for rough trail hiking, search and rescue, and general distance work.
____Turbohead: I want a far-distance projector with a sharply focused spot of light and minimal or zero side-spill. Good for extreme distance.
 

Poppy

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It seems to me the lumen and range specs are truncated quite early, considering that there are lights with specs that are many times the highest options listed.

150 meters as "Searching from a helicopter" is ludicrous. When we search from choppers, we need way more just to reach the ground let alone search an area with. Considering there are LED lights with over a MILE range, 150 meters is cutting off the POTENTIAL ranges very early in the game. Single 18650 lights for example can exceed the 150 meter spec, let alone modern throwers.

800 lumens as search and rescue is also cut off very low, especially as a top option. Single 18650 lights can now exceed this limit, and there are lights with a few thousand lumens out there that are not able to be delineated in a search option in the list.

IE: The list doesn't allow filtering out a single 18650 light's performance ranges from a 4 celled light's options in performance. So, You can say you want more cells, but, not why, or what it might get you, etc...and you have no way of KNOWING you might want more cells, because the top performance options you CAN select can almost be met with a key chain light.

:D
I agree with TEEJ that this section could be better written, and although I don't know enough about how to make some of the delineations he mentions, I'd like to suggest the following, and perhaps with his input it can be made better yet.

9a) Distance: How far away will you typically need to see with this light (check all that apply)
____Less than 1 yard/meter (reading, other close work)
____Less than 5 yards/meters (looking for something inside a dark shed/garage/basement)
____5-20 yards/meters (check out a noise in the backyard)
____30-50 yards/meters (I have a big backyard)
____50-150 yards/meters (I live in a very rural area/farm with wide open spaces, or search and rescue in a wooded area)
____150+ yards (I am searching from a helicopter) (Please write a statement about what it is that you are looking for/at, what will be the average USEFUL range for this purpose, and what is the minimum distance/range that would be acceptable. Add to that, what realistic distance you would like.)
 

TEEJ

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I agree with TEEJ that this section could be better written, and although I don't know enough about how to make some of the delineations he mentions, I'd like to suggest the following, and perhaps with his input it can be made better yet.

9a) Distance: How far away will you typically need to see with this light (check all that apply)
____Less than 1 yard/meter (reading, other close work)
____Less than 5 yards/meters (looking for something inside a dark shed/garage/basement)
____5-20 yards/meters (check out a noise in the backyard)
____30-50 yards/meters (I have a big backyard)
____50-150 yards/meters (I live in a very rural area/farm with wide open spaces, or search and rescue in a wooded area)
____150+ yards (I am searching from a helicopter) (Please write a statement about what it is that you are looking for/at, what will be the average USEFUL range for this purpose, and what is the minimum distance/range that would be acceptable. Add to that, what realistic distance you would like.)


I think, realistically, that they should just be able to say a number for range/throw, rather than check a box, especially if the box has 50 -150 meters as an option, as 50 M is small flood territory, but 150 is going to require some real throw in a small light to achieve USEFUL resolution, rather than mere ANSI 0.25 lux level lighting, etc. IE: An SC600 might be fine for 50 M, but, not 100 or 150 M...yet would satisfy that box, and so forth.

We really just need to know the range they want...why not just let them tell us?

Add what is it they'd like to see at what range, and perhaps the context for the use.

The current references to very rural/farm as only being as small as 50 m is also a bit silly, as farm lands typically involve lines of sight well in excess of that range....a driveway alone might be 100 - 300 m, etc.


The lumen estimates are also out of line with reality, in that, for example, you CAN EASILY read with 100 lumens, or even 3,000 L, if the light is floody. Not all lights have the old fashioned tight beam historically needed to put enough light to see anything at distance...many now have wider beams that don't glare close up, etc.

All of the lumen estimates are in line with tight beam patterns, and, also, don't even get as high as some keychain-ish lights for the "Search and Rescue" top category.

IE: Its like a check list that includes custom/modded cars (It asks if a DIYS or custom light is an option), but the top speed category only goes to 60 mph.



Having a "tongue in Cheek" list with this low a performance range doesn't make sense, as we see a LOT of people who ARE on a farm, or boating, or shooting, for example, who are looking for something to fill a niche, and, we don't include the niche because we assume they are not ready for it, or if they were, they would not have to ask, etc.

Why NOT have a real list of real options?


They may not know what a lumen is, or cd, or lux, but, if they say what they want the light to DO, how far, what they need to see at that range, those specs will fall into play naturally. The current numbers that are lined up with current descriptions, don't actually work anyway, except in limited circumstances.


Throw ranges can be listed in meters for example, with cd or lux at one meter numbers along side, as that at least is convenient to shop specs.

The lumen numbers will never work out as used though, they are simply not useful. Its better to start with the range/throw, and then talk about the width of the beam/what its used for, and, then lumens needed to fill the involved area could be estimated...but, you'd need an online calculator to really have it be relevant. IE: Swap cd for the lumens...it will be more useful for the vast majority of users.
 

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