Too many choices! Need help choosing general purpose lights

Pixel Hunter

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My wife and I want to replace a pair of 20+ year old 3 D-cell MagLites. They are just too big and I'm not happy with the uneven beam patterns. Plus the incandescent bulb/alkaline battery tech is just old-school now. We want good general purpose lights that we can use for:

  • Power outages
  • Camping
  • Nighttime outdoor activities (like the corn maze we're going to next weekend)
  • Working around the house/car
  • Etc.

We prefer to favor US manufacturers whenever possible. Even still, I have ~25 options on my Amazon wishlist from SureFire, Streamlight, Foursevens, EagleTac and MagLite. So that's why I'm hoping to get some advice/recommendations from the "flashaholic" community who probably have a better understanding and experience than I ever will.

The lights would likely spend large amounts of time sitting unused. Therefore, I'm not sure whether primary or rechargeable is the better battery to go with. Then, what size/style battery to go with…

My inner Tim Taylor/Jeremy Clarkson demands "more power!" simply so I can show off. But I also want something that can be efficient for the tasks stated above. Hey… is it wrong to want to peel the paint off the ISS?

I'm thinking of either buying a pair of nice small-to-medium lights that my wife and I can use. One would be stored in the kitchen drawer and the other in the daily driver. Or I'm thinking of buying a couple good minis, to put one in each car, and a single small-medium light to keep in the house.

For added info, I've also included the "questionnaire" from the sticky post in this forum:

1) How would you prefer to purchase the light?

Brick or online – I need them by Oct 18.

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

__X__Up to $100. – Under $50 would be ideal, under $75 is acceptable, and my max has got to be $100.

3) Format:

__X__I want a flashlight (hand held/self contained).

4) Size:

__X__TINY - Every day carry (2-4 inches).
__X__SMALL - Every day carry (4-7 inches).

5) Emitter/Light source:

__X__LED (known for efficiency, longevity, and compactness)

6) Manufacturer:

__X__I want to buy a light from a large/traditional manufacturer that is ready to go out of the box.
NOTE: My wife and I prefer to favor US companies whenever possible, so brands like Fenix, Nitecore and others are not being considered at the moment, though I would consider non-US brands if the product justified it. It looks like SureFire, Streamlight, and Mag are US with primary manufacturing/assemply in the US, while Foursevens and EagleTac are US companies with Chinese manufacturing. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

7) What power source do you want to use?

__X__I don't know/I need more information on power sources.
NOTE: I originally thought that a rechargeable flashlight would be ideal, but with the limited use they would see, perhaps a primary battery with a long shelf life would be best. But I've also considered lights that accept multiple types of batteries. AA's are a good generic option, as they are cheap and I have a tone of both primary and rechargeable AA batteries in the house. However, I understand that lithiums like the C123 are much better for power density and longevity.

7a) If you have selected a rechargeable option
__X__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).

__X__I want an indoor "blackout" light (15-50 lumens)
__X__I want to confidently walk around an unlit/unpaved rural area (60-150 lumens).
__X__I want to illuminate my entire backyard or a campsite (150-300 lumens).
__X__I want to illuminate an entire field, the neighbor's front yard several houses down, impress my friends and neighbors, etc. (300-700 lumens).

__X__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.
NOTE: I don't really know what I need/want. I'm sick of my 3xD Mag-Lite's size and weight, and the fact that whenever I dust it off to use it, it seems dim and the inconsistent beam pattern leaves dark spots or is too narrow.

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

I don't know

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).

__X__90-120 minutes (Runtime is moderately important, but still not critical)
__X__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.

__X__Very Important (Camping, Backpacking, Car Glove-box).

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

__X__I don't know.
__X__Other, please specify__I'm not very fond of the old AA twist-head incandescent lights I've had in the past.___.

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

__X__I don't know.

14)Material/Finish/Coating

__X__Anodized Aluminum – either type II or III (Hard Anodized) (Aluminum, specifically HA, is the most common material/finish for today's higher end flashlights).
__X__Other, please specify__willing to consider other materials___.

15) Water resistance
__X__IPX4 (Splash resistant)

16) Storage conditions
__X__In house (temperature/climate controlled environment)
__X__Emergency kit (long standby periods)
__X__Automobile glove-box (wide temperature swings, long standby periods, critical reliability)
 

Timothybil

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I would recommend a set of lights: Get two Streamlight Microstreams - one AAA, about 25 lumens, a couple of hours of run time with alkalines, four or so with lithium primaries (my choice). These would be your EDC lights, one for your pocket or keychain and one for your wife's keychain or purse. Just so you always have them with you. These go for about US$20 each. Then for your in the car/throw in the drawer lights you have a lot of options. Rayovac and Eveready both make nice LED work lights in AA that would be good for occasional use without costing an arm and a leg. These are in the US$10 to US$20 range as well. Then Rayovac makes a nice 4 C cell lantern for around US$25 that does a good job of lighting up the back yard and/or the neighbor's house for when you want to reach out and touch something. You should be able to purchase all of this and keep within your budget.
Once you get more familiar with the newer lights you can always add to your collection with some of the Streamlights and Fenixs and all the others people will be recommending to you in this thread.
 

Pixel Hunter

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Timothybill,

Thanks for the quick response. I do kind of like the idea of a "set" of lights to fill in the various roles. But I'm not keen on buying entry-level units that I'll only want to replace with better lights and wind up spending more in the long-run. I shudder thinking about Rayovac and Eveready lights because I recall all the crappy plastic slide-switch lights I've used in my life that didn't work whenever I needed them. To be fair, I haven't looked at a flashlight other than my old MagLites in 20+ years, so maybe the cheapos are better nowadays. But in my days of research, you're the first that has recommended them over the "enthusiast" brands.

That all said, while I want to ditch my old MagLites, my wife did pick up a couple Rayovac (I think) LED lanterns a couple years back so we didn't have to use the old propane Coleman anymore. I want to say they take 3 or 4 D-cells each, and have low and high settings. They are decent for what we paid, and good for providing some light at the campsite/cabin/tent. But they suck trying to walk to the bathroom/washroom building in the pitch dark woods because they don't provide a long throw and you're blinding by the light shining back at you.

That's why I'm looking at the enthusiast/pro/tactical level lights. I want a well-made, metal bodied, long-lasting, warrantied, bright and versatile light that will last me another 20+ years.
 

cland72

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Surefire 6PX Pro
320 lumens on high for 2.75 hours, 15 lumens on low for 45 hours
You can find them online all day for $65-80
USA made
Lifetime warranty support
Type III coating (Hard Anodized)
CR123 batteries that keep well in all temperature ranges, and are good for 10 years

:welcome:
 
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Poppy

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You selected a good group of manufacturers to choose from, foursevens Quarks, EagleTacs D25a series are great lights.

But as ven suggested, so are the Thrunite T10s.

My car light is a Rayovac indestructible 2AA with a RED traffic diffuser. I think that every car should have a traffic wand of some kind. Let's face it, there are very few road-side repairs we can make on cars these days.

I gotta run, but will post my thoughts on power failure lights when I get back.
 

Poppy

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Regarding a power outage:
D cells have a lot of capacity IF they are drained slowly.
Typically lanterns are not regulated, and most likely your 3 or 4D cell lantern (If it is LED) will run for 50-70 hours on high, and longer on low. Although at about 25 hours, the high will be low.

Your 3D mags can be great outage lights. Just get a 3-4 cell replacement LED for them at less than $5 each. They'll run for about 70-80 hours (also with diminishing output), but that's a long time.

During SuperStorm Sandy batteries flew off the shelves, so be sure that you have fresh batteries on hand.

Also you CAN use the AA lights but you'll burn through batteries. THerefore I'd suggest that you have a couple of 4 packs of rechargeables and a charger that can plug into your car's cigar lighter.
 

Pixel Hunter

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Thanks for the additional replies!

The SureFire 6PX Pro was one of the lights that made it onto my Amazon wish list. So it's definitely in consideration. The problem I was having was differentiating between it and the several other SureFires that also made it on my list, plus all the other lights from other brands.

I will give the Thrunite a look, though I want to give US made lights preference. Unless the other brands are far superior to the US models.

Regarding Rayovac: I checked and the lanterns my wife picked up are indeed Rayovac Sportsman 3D LED lanterns. They are adequate for inexpensive camping lanterns. They work well enough around the picnic table or in the cabin/tent at night. But they are no good when I want directed light such as when I'm walking down the path in the dark woods at night.

I was looking at the Rayovac Indestructible lights and they are a great price. But the old adage seems to hold true where you get what you pay for. Reviewers were complaining about the lack of regulated circuitry and lesser quality electronics. I think I'm willing to pay more once for a high-quality light than buying cheap lights more than once. (Or replacing a cheap light with a better one.)

My budget isn't so tight that I can't consider quality lights. Do I want to spend $150 per light? No. $100, reluctantly. $25-75 each... if they are worth it. I'll doublecheck with my wife to get a better idea of what exactly she's expecting. But as I said above, a good general light to keep in the house would be nice. Two of them would be sufficient. Or instead of the second, a couple for the cars. But then my wife might rather have a mini for her purse instead. I'll get confirmation.

Oh, and in regards to upgrading my 3D Mags, I don't have much interest in updating them to LED. They are just too large nowadays. And I've never been happy with the Mag twist-head beam adjustment. I've always found the beam is too narrow to be useful, or when it's set wide, the light is too uneven with dark spots in the center or weird light rings.

I'm not completely against AA, but from what I've read, aren't the other formats better overall?
 

Pixel Hunter

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$100 max for each light, for the "pair/couple?"

Just to clarify: I filled out the budget section of the questionnaire because it was there. I don't want to spend any more than $100 per light, unless absolutely necessary to obtain a superior unit. Obviously, the lower the price-per-light, the better. But it's not like I'm on a "I need 5 lights for $100" kind of budget.
 

Timothybil

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I'm sorry. I thought your budget was $100 total, not per light. That's why I chose the lights I did. The Streamlight Microstreams would still be my choice for EDC lights. They are of the same high quality as all the other SL lights, and have Streamlight's Warranty to back them up. The Surefire 6Ps are good lights for all around use, and you can always find a good drop-in if you want to change things up. My go-to around the house light is the Nitecore EA41. Nice set of modes from 1 lumen to 900+ as well as strobe, SOS and Beacon. The 1 lumen Lower mode is rated for 400 hrs, but that is when it reaches .1 lumen, so take it with a grain of salt. Nitecore has been making a name for themselves lately as a high quality, dependable manufacturer, even if they are Chinese. I like the idea of the red want, but I have a separate red LED flare light I keep in the car for that, as well as a TerraLux Lightstar 80 in the console. Pen light, two AAA, 50 lumen, higher CRI led for good color rendition. Battery Junction sells them for around $20 in a multitude of colors, and has a special two for $25 in silver and/or black. I've got one in the car, and one in each Bug Out Bag, all with lithium primaries for endurance and temp range. At that price you can keep a couple extras for spares or loaners if the need arises.
 

CMAG

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My 2 cent's. First decide on the battery type you want, consider for example if your emergency/ weather radio uses AA you may want to stick with AA.(or not)
primary lipo's are good for long term storage such as stated cr123 have 10 yr shelf life, ultimate lithum AA 15 yr shelf life. AAA lights are cool for small pocket or key chain carry but AA's give more bang for the buck.
Recharge cells have advantages but are pricey to stock allot for emergency, solar and or 12v chargers can keep them going in power outage if you want or have the time to charge them. Also recharge cells you have to check on and charge now and then not sit on a shelf for 10+ yrs and forget about.
EG if my budget was 150 total I would spend 50 on a couple torches and 100 in cells
my point is consider cells and if needed chargers in your budget.
As far as flashlights all stated above you can't go wrong with also look at Zebra lights
If you want to see true colors like in daylight get a high CRI LED, for easy on the eyes such as reading a book get a warm tint, if the above don't matter and you want the brightest light up the block torch go cool white
 

reppans

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Pure US: Malkoff MDC 123 or AA, Peak Logan (w/multiple batt adaptors) or El Capitan
US HQ/Warranty/CS: FourSevens Quarks (XML recommended) with 2AA/AA/CR123 tubes
Pure Asian: Thrunite Neutron 2A V2 - I mention this for its standout power ~350+/750+ lms on 1xNiMh/14500

I wouldn't discount "AA" lights if you want versatility - in a pinch during a power outage or while camping, a AA light can use 9Vs, AAAs and AAs from the myriad of other devices you may have with you or in your household. Some of the above wide voltage lights above can also run anything between a CR123 and 18650s with just a piece of MacGyver tinfoil. Energizer L91s and TI CRAAs lithium primaries give you the same storage/density/power as CR123s. If you go to rechargeables, the 14500 cell has more capacity than 16340s (RCR123s), and NiMh Eneloops are just a bonus.
 

Poppy

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Regarding Rayovac: I checked and the lanterns my wife picked up are indeed Rayovac Sportsman 3D LED lanterns. They are adequate for inexpensive camping lanterns. They work well enough around the picnic table or in the cabin/tent at night. But they are no good when I want directed light such as when I'm walking down the path in the dark woods at night.
IMO lanterns are good for outdoors, and as a stationary light. Not so good for walking a path.

I was looking at the Rayovac Indestructible lights and they are a great price. But the old adage seems to hold true where you get what you pay for. Reviewers were complaining about the lack of regulated circuitry and lesser quality electronics.
lol... I'm not so ready to "stick up" for the Rayovacs, their beams are too tight, for me, for most of my uses. They are pretty hardy though. The regulation on the 2AA is a little odd, in that it starts at high, and gradually dims so that in 30 minutes, it is at about 50%. But if you turn it off, then back on, it is back to full high. Some people prefer a light to gradually dim as the batteries die, and others prefer the lumen output to remain the same (at a cost of run-time) The 2AA indestructible is a blend of the two.
Regardless, its head fits nicely in my traffic wand, and at $14 if I valet park and it disappears, it won't hurt too much.

I think I'm willing to pay more once for a high-quality light than buying cheap lights more than once. (Or replacing a cheap light with a better one.)
Buy ONCE... cry once. :thumbsup:

Oh, and in regards to upgrading my 3D Mags, I don't have much interest in updating them to LED. They are just too large nowadays. And I've never been happy with the Mag twist-head beam adjustment. I've always found the beam is too narrow to be useful, or when it's set wide, the light is too uneven with dark spots in the center or weird light rings.
Yeah... I wasn't suggesting that you update them to USE them. Oh no! But rather that they could be a part of your arsenal of lights in the event of a power outage. I thought that you had ONE lantern. IMO one unregulated lantern is not enough, because after about 10 hours, they don't put out enough light for me, and I would be happier if I had two of them. A 3D mag can be put into a pot, magazine rack, or small garbage pail, and ceiling bounce its light. The quality of the beam won't matter, just that it is lighting the room with idk 30-70 lumens for MANY hours. Since lumens are additive you can have a couple of light sources scattered about to evenly spread the light.

I'm not completely against AA, but from what I've read, aren't the other formats better overall?
It seems that there are two camps, those who love the AA format, and consolidate everything on AAs, and others who love the 18650 LiIon format.

Personally my EDC light is a single AAA light. It gets more use than any other light that I have, but my go-to lights are 18650s.
I prefer them for the capacity of the battery, and its ability to deliver more light for longer periods of time.

The size the lights I usually go to first are about the size of a cigar. Slightly larger ones I have look like the Surefire suggested by cland72. It's a Solarforce L2N with a XM-L2 driven at 2800 ma.
 
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Pixel Hunter

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My budget isn't so tight that I can't consider quality lights. Do I want to spend $150 per light? No. $100, reluctantly. $25-75 each... if they are worth it. I'll doublecheck with my wife to get a better idea of what exactly she's expecting. But as I said above, a good general light to keep in the house would be nice. Two of them would be sufficient. Or instead of the second, a couple for the cars. But then my wife might rather have a mini for her purse instead. I'll get confirmation.

I talked with my wife more about this. What started as a "simple" project to get a couple replacement flashlights has turned into the epic quest we never dreamed of. Anyway, here's some additional input:

General purpose lights - Something in the 6" long by 1" dia range, give or take. Or basically the size/format as the SureFire 6PX Pro, for example. This would be a light we'd keep in the house to use for projects or power outages. We'd take them camping and use for walking in the dark woods, checking the property, etc. And something we'd use on next weekend's nighttime corn maze adventures. I'd want one or two of these, depending on price. We'd keep one on each floor of the house, unless it was with us on a trip/adventure.

EDC lights - Something small enough to fit in my pocket or her purse. Something we can use when we need a quick light at-hand. Generally, right now I'm pulling out my smartphone and using the flashlight app, which is unwieldy or maybe my hands are dirty and I don't want to mess up my expensive pocket computer. We used to carry Mag pen lights (my wife still does, but I think the battery's been dead for eons.)

Something for the cars - I guess the size format could be anything from a mini, a penlight, or a GP sized light. These would be kept in the car long term and used in emergencies or as backups to our other lights if they were forgotten/lost/out of juice. They would need to be capable of changing a tire at night in the rain, to assisting at an accident, in addition to subbing for the GP or EDCs.

Now, how many of what to get? I want at least one GP. If the EDC chosen is good enough (lumens/longevity), then they could fill in as a second GP. Based on the needs I've described, it sounds like two EDCs are going to be needed. On the other hand, I almost wonder if I even need to bother with a dedicated unit for the cars, as in theory, we'll both have EDCs on us anyway. I guess if the price is right, it wouldn't hurt to have them as backups.

Oh my goodness, I think I'm starting to sound like a flashoholic!
 

Timothybil

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Just remember the mantra: "Two is One, and One is None". Translation: If you have one light and it dies, you have none. If you have two lights and one dies you still have a light. It may not be as bright or as nice or as long-lived, but you have a light.

Flashaholic's Corollary: "The More the Merrier!"

Flashaholic's Plea: "Just one more! Please! I promise that will be all!"
 

cland72

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House/car light: Surefire G2X Pro ($50) or 6PX Pro ($65-80)
EDC: FourSevens Mini (AA or CR123, your choice)

Two of each of the above should run you $160 on the low side, since the G2X is $50 and the Minis are approx $30 each.
 

Poppy

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SNIP

Something for the cars - I guess the size format could be anything from a mini, a penlight, or a GP sized light. These would be kept in the car long term and used in emergencies or as backups to our other lights if they were forgotten/lost/out of juice. They would need to be capable of changing a tire at night in the rain, to assisting at an accident, in addition to subbing for the GP or EDCs.

Now, how many of what to get? I want at least one GP. If the EDC chosen is good enough (lumens/longevity), then they could fill in as a second GP. Based on the needs I've described, it sounds like two EDCs are going to be needed. On the other hand, I almost wonder if I even need to bother with a dedicated unit for the cars, as in theory, we'll both have EDCs on us anyway. I guess if the price is right, it wouldn't hurt to have them as backups.

Just a few comments:
1. *I* believe that in the car you should have a RED traffic diffuser, and a light to power it. Some road flares/reflective triangles, and a reflective safety vest, or two. Fenix makes a -
Fenix Diffuser Traffic Wand - RED for L and P series Fenix flashlights (AD201)
Fenix lists the LD series and the PD series of lights that fit
I'd get a light that would fit the diffuser and keep it in the car.
Lithium primaries are arguably the best batteries to keep in a car, so You'd be looking for a 2AA or a 1 or 2 CR123 powered light.

2. A head lamp is perhaps the most useful light for changing tires and doing tasks that might require two hands.

3. no one would fault you for getting a Surefire light as a general purpose light.

4. Most people who EDC a light carry either a single AA or single AAA light.
If it were not for key-chain lights, I probably would not EDC a light. For me even the Thrunite Ti2 was too large, so I went with the DQG AAA twisty in stainless. Another very small light is the fenix atom. (edit... foursevens atom ... (end edit)

5. for a purse light, you might like the DQG S2 2AAA penlight in stainless. It is big enough to get found in the purse but not obtrusive, and is dainty or elegant for a pen-light. Another well liked penlight is the (edit)foursevens preon 2 (end-edit) Certainly an argument can be made for a single AA or CR123 light.
 
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pineapple

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House/car light: Surefire G2X Pro ($50) or 6PX Pro ($65-80)
EDC: FourSevens Mini (AA or CR123, your choice)

Two of each of the above should run you $160 on the low side, since the G2X is $50 and the Minis are approx $30 each.

I'll second this ^​. ​ I have four or five G2X Pro's around the house, garage, and in vehicles, and while I also have more expensive lights, it's hard to beat the "bang for the buck" with the G2X or 6PX series.

I also have one each of the FourSevens Mini's (AA & CR123) and they're both excellent. I don't happen to carry them anymore having "graduated" to other Surefire/Malkoff lights, but again in the "bang for the buck" category it's hard to beat the Mini's.

Here's a link to review of the G2X: http://flashlightguide.com/2014/04/review-surefire-g2x-pro-g2x-tactical/ ….. and the P2X: http://flashlightguide.com/2014/06/review-surefire-6px
 
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