And now I shall preach to the choir....
A reader sent me an email letting me know that his Maratac flashlight had recently come in handy. Apparently, the reader and a family member, his Dad I think, were flying in a small private aircraft when the overhead lights went off. They were close to home and it was still a little light out, so they decided to try to make it home. Then the main instrument panel lights went out. Fortunately, the reader had his tiny little light on him, powered it up and they made it home safe.
Its not everyday that your flashlight comes to your rescue. But when you need one, boy are they nice. There is a logic that some use to govern their EDC:
I'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
I am not in that camp because I think that could be used to justify anything. If taken literally, we should all carry snake anti-venom because there is no better definition of "need and not have it than anti-venom." Instead I look at it in a more practical way:
What do I regularly use once a week when out on the go?
I came to this practical approach when I was early in my gear collecting mania. I bought a very nice lighter, nicer than a Zippo. I don't smoke but this was in my completist phase. I wanted a backpack with gear that could get me through anything, including a massive Nor Easter. I wanted to have it with me all of the time. I never used the bag nor did I use about 95% of its contents. It was expensive to assemble and I realized at some point it was just a security blanket for an adult. I am not saying these bags never work and I still have something like it set up and ready to go at home, but I don't carry it with me everyday (it is a car companion when it snows in the winter though). In the end I broke up most of the contents of the bag and sold some stuff and kept some.
The flashlight survived the purge.
The way I determined what to keep was uber nerdy and very rational (to me at least). I kept a list of everything I carried and for one month I documented what I used each day. At the end of the month all of the things used were tallied and the things that averaged out to once a week use were kept. There were exceptions--my AAA card, for example, but that was part of the wallet so it was not tallied the same way. Like I said, UBER-NERDY. But if you do it once, you'll quickly see what you use and what don't. I even published a week of usage of my EDC here. That is basically what the list looked like.
It hit me a few weeks ago why it is handy to carry a flashlight now. It is always been handy to have a light source with you, but it has not always been practical to do so. Anyone carry a torch around (insert British incorrectly using American words joke here and then British joke about Americans thinking they invented English here)? Anyone want to carry around a massive 2 cell plastic POS? No and no.
But the flashlight has undergone a revolution, much in the same way that cellphones have. 30 years ago no one had a cellphone. Some people had a car phone. I remember them being called that. "Oh, well Herb has a carphone" someone would say in a Thurston Howell III voice. That was as mobile as you could get because even though it was smaller than a home phone it was not exactly what you'd think of when someone says the word "portable."
Then there was Motorola brick phone.
Flashlights have changed in the same way. They can do more with less for longer. They are designed for everyday use and carry. And when something is this small:
is there any excuse not to carry it? Ten years ago the 40DD would have blown away any light not used by a top secret government agency. It would have been, comparatively speaking, incredibly bright, small, and incredibly long running. The infinite variable brightness would have probably had folks losing their mind.
But this still doesn't really answer the question of why carry at all. It is really a matter of opportunity cost. With lights being so small, cheap, and capable you really can't complain about carrying and owning one. When the next best alternative ranges from "oh darn where is my favorite pen" to "oh shit the plane's lights all went off" there is a good justification for carrying a small capable light. Furthermore, this test seems to draw the boundaries on a lot of things. The lighter was small but not terribly cheap or easy to carry. Finding butane is not that easy. It can't be carried into secure locations. It can cause problems if there is a leak. And the chances that I am stuck in the wilderness with an acute need for a fire are VASTLY smaller than running into darkness, which seems to happen, predictably, about once a day.
The list of things I carry for pure utility is pretty small: an iPhone, a light, a knife/multitool, a watch, a wallet, and an insulated water bottle (which I like but is probably not STRICTLY a need; giving up soda is a really healthy thing to do and icy cold ice water is a great alternative). All of them pass the use it once a week test. And with the 40DD and the BushidoMosquito Custom Rambler the gear part of the kit weighs in around 1.7 ounces. What else can you carry that weighs so little but does so much? Okay a credit card, but other than that, what else?