Monday, April 25, 2011

Best Flashlight for the Non-Flashaholic

My parents live in the Midwest, part of Tornado Alley, and they receive frequent, massive windstorms. The worst tornado outbreak in history hit my hometown to devastating effect in 1974. And as spring approaches, my mom, at home one night by herself heard the wail of the tornado sirens and ran downstairs to grab a flashlight only to find an ancient 2-D cell incan in the closet--out of juice and even with new batteries dim as a dying firefly. She recently complained that she needed a new light and this got me thinking--What is the best light for non-flashaholics? Is there really nothing better out there than the standard Mag Light? Is there anything out there as good or better for the same money as the Mag Light?

Here is the real problem, the new LED Mag Light is actually not that bad. Sure it is a double cell light without any real carry method, but it is now multi-mode (100% power, 25% power, SOS and Beacon). Its high is a decent (stretching the definition of the word "decent") 69 lumens. Here is a fair street price. Plus there are a TON of aftermarket products and upgrades, like this clicky tailswitch (though this particular one does not work with the Mag Light LED).

So let's make a list of criteria for the non-flashaholic flashlights.

1. AA or AAA batteries. No weirdo batteries and as much as we flashaholics think that CR123a are mainstream, they aren't. If the average joe can't buy them at a gas station, they aren't good enough for non-flashaholics.

2. VERY simple UI. No click, press, hold bullshit only super simple UIs. I prefer only one motion, repeated if necessary, so even the click and twist of the Fenix lights is more than I think a non-flashaholic will bother with.

3. Tailstanding if possible. Tailstanding is really useful, especially in situations when non-flashlight folks will be using a flashlight. As such, I'd make this a requirement.

I don't think multiple modes are necessarily a requirement, but I can imagine even non-flashlight people would like two different runtimes. I also don't think a pocket clip is required. I think they are great on lights, but I can imagine that some people make think they make them look a little bit too much like Batman. Finally, I can't imagine a non-flashlight person spending more than $50. So that is the upper limit.

If the Aeon ran on AA or AAA batteries I would TOTALLY recommend it, but alas it uses even WEIRDER batteries than C123a AND it is $125. So here are some choices:

1. Nitecore EZ AA: It uses a two-stage twisty switch like the Aeon. It looks like the Aeon. It has a brass heat sink like the Aeon. It is the Aeon with AA batteries. It can tailstand like a champ. Here is a review from CPF. Here is the street price. Downside? It is TWICE the price of the all-too-familiar Mag Light AA LED. See also the Fenix LD15, which is pretty much the exact same light.

2. LRI Proton Pro: This is a flashlight that looks and works like non-flashlight people think flashlights should work. Its UI is more complex than the twist of the EZ AA, but it is still pretty simple. I worry that a non-flashlight person might get stuck in one of the modes though. Here is a video demo:

It has a TON of features, a nice pocket clip, is plenty bright (115 lumens) and has a nice night vision saving red LED. It does not tailstand though, so that is a strike. It's street price is much lower than the price from LRI. Here is a good price from At $37.95 it totally works for me, but for a non-flashlight person, the UI could be daunting...

3. 4Sevens Preon: Here is my review of this outstanding light. It can tailstand in twisty mode, uses "common" batteries, and has a simpler UI than the Proton Pro (but not as simple as the EZ AA). There are ton of 4sevens models that would work here--the Preon Revo (which I chose not to focus on because it is more money), the MiNi AA, and the MiNi 2AA. The Preon, as the simplest and cheapest of these seems like the best option for the non-flashlight person.

4. Fenix LD03: A brand new light from Fenix, and it is beautiful. It is designed to have a little bit larger form factor than most single cell AAA lights, appearing to be an elegant, small pen. There are three output modes and the high is 71 lumens (not to far away from the Mag Light LED 2xAA). Here is a good street price. It is a rear clicky. It cannot tailstand. Still for $37.95 it is a great looking light at a good price.

5. Maratac AA: Here is a video for the light:

Same UI, basically, as the Preon. It can tailstand easily. And it has plenty of output for its size. Finally, and here is the thing that put it over the top in my book--the price. At $26.95 it is basically the same price as the Mag Light but has a bunch of advantages (with the exact same UI). First, it is single cell. Second, it is brighter and has better run times. Third, it has a pocket clip. Fourth, it can tailstand better. There is also a AAA version (which is more money) and a badge swap for the AAA version from ITP called the EOS3.

If I had to choose, I'd probably go with the Maratac AA. It looks nice, its easy to use, and it is plenty cheap. As a side note, this little experiment was a good way to look at the low end of the flashlight market. For a long time, people thought all there was out there was Mag. Now there are tons of lights, but most are expensive. With these lights you can see, it is pretty easy now to get a good, if not great light for under $40. Its not going to be a McGizmo, but it will slay the old standard bearer--the Mag 2xAA--every time.


  1. Jetbeam BA20: click button on tail, light turns on. Twist head left or right to switch to high or low mode. That's it, no back/forth head twisting required. Even if a non-flashaholic forgets about the twist, low mode will be sufficient to not trip over yourself. Run-times, quite admirable for both high or low modes. I have this light and appreciate it's simple interface.

    I also have a minimag led and an ITP A3 eos -r5. Although I know how to use them, can you imagine a non-flashaholic going through the back/forth twisting head motions,for mode changes? It's not going to happen at all. Most people need a light they can pick up and not fumble with timed twist head changes.

    I would not even contemplate 1-AA or AAA lights due to their diminutive size. In this case, bigger is better as there is less chance of misplacing the light. As we all know, most people don't play with flashlights, it goes in a drawer,closet etc. until needed. If you purchase a small pocket wonder rocket, there is a much greater risk of this light being shoved to the back of the drawer/cupboard/closet etc. Precisely why I wouldn't even think about a 2.9" flashlight such as the Maratac AA.

  2. And what about new Armytek EDC flashlights?
    They are new edc lights with TIR optics made by this company.

  3. I love that you were able to bring some serious flashaholic lights into the mix here. I agree that it is key that a non-flashaholic light run on standard size batteries. I also did some reviews of AA flashlights here. Thanks for the good work.