Buying a Flashlight
Although headlamps have grown in popularity in recent times, the usefulness of flashlights will never diminish.
While headlamps allow you to carry a light while keeping both of your hands free, the advantages of flashlights are:
- They typically have a stronger beam.
- Larger flashlights can be used for self defense.
- They can easily be angled at one particular area (e.g. when you’re working underneath your car).
When selecting a flashlight, you’ll need to consider a few things:
- How large or small you want it to be (i.e. the size).
- How heavy (or light) you want it to be (i.e. the weight).
- How bright it has to be.
- The battery life.
- How much you want to spend.
The first four factors here will generally affect the fifth (i.e. the price), as lighter, brighter flashlights with a long battery life will typically be the most expensive.
Different Types of Flashlights
There are a few different types of flashlight – each with their own light source. These include:
- High-output LEDs.
- Xenon bulbs.
- Halogen bulbs.
- Incandescent bulbs.
LED flashlights are the becoming more and more popular for a few reasons:
- They have a large battery life. LEDs drain batteries 3 to 5 times SLOWER than regular (incandescent) bulbs. Some LEDs can even last up to 100,000 hours!
- LEDs are very tough and rugged as they don’t break easily (as there’s no filament or glass to break). This makes them good for outdoor use.
Features of Flashlights
There are 3 main beam patterns to choose from:
- Wide (otherwise known as ‘flood’) – A beam that spreads out to give a wide (but short) view. Ideal for when you’re studying a map.
- Focused (otherwise known as ‘spot’) – A condensed beam that is powerful and narrow – allowing you to focus on and pick out items in the distance.
- Adjustable – A beam that can be adjusted to be either wide or focused (or anywhere in between).
Regulated or Unregulated Output?
Some flashlights have what’s called a ‘regulated power supply’. This means that the beam will shine at near-peak brightness until the battery runs out. The advantage of this is that you get peak performance for longer. The downside is that you’ll often be caught out by the battery suddenly running out and you’ll have to change the batteries in the dark.
With unregulated (or non-regulated) power supplies the light starts off bright and dims slowly over time as the batteries wear out.
Typically, the larger the flashlight and the longer the battery life (or ‘battery capacity’), the heavier the flashlight will be. Finding the right flashlight for you usually involves finding a trade-off between these three things (as well as the price).
Most flashlights and torches run on regular batteries, but others can be recharged by winding them up. Although these flashlights that can be wound up flashlights aren’t usually as powerful (in terms of beam strength) as ‘regular’ flashlights, they are great in an emergency and you never have to worry about the batteries running out.
Some flashlights are designed to look nice, whereas others are designed to be functional. When examining a flashlight, think about how easily the ‘on’ button could be pushed, and whether it could accidentally turn on (and drain the batteries) from within your bag.
Also, will you be able to operate the light if you’re wearing gloves?
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when buying a new flashlight. Before buying, it’s a good idea to think about what you’ll be using it for so that you can properly assess your requirements.
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