Saturday, July 2, 2016

Best Flashlights

I redid the Knife Top 5 and so I thought I would do the same thing for flashlights.

There has been something of a renaissance in flashlights in the past twelve months.  All of 2014 was sad.  2015 had a few releases.  Now, we have great new production lights and custom lights coming in almost weekly.  Again, the idea here is not to give you an ordered list, which was kind of hard use, but a list of lights that are the best for various applications.

Best EDC: Olight S1 Baton


When I get an email that asks me what light to get, this is the 100% easiest suggestion.  It is cheap, relatively speaking, powerful, and compact.  Once you pry off the horrendous clip you have a form factor that lives well in pockets and on night stands.  The sideswitch is great and the UI is state of the art for clickies.  It lacks some high end features like a Hi CRI emitter, a built-in rechargeable battery, and a more sophisticated UI (see: MBI HF-R), but for an unobsessed person, these things aren't a big deal.  You want a light?  Get the S1 Baton.

Best EDC for a Flashoholic: Muyshondt Aeon Mk. 3


For an obsessed person, the lack of a Hi CRI emitter is a fatal flaw in the S1.  Thankfully Enrique is here to correct the problem.  The Mk. 3 is, simply put, the best light ever made.  Sure there are ones that are more expensive and complex (see: SPY 007) and ones with more complex machining (see: Photon Fanatic's Indian Princess), but if you want a light that does everything and does it well, get the Aeon Mk. 3.  You will never be disappointed in any way.  Oh and if you want to go into near-space and not have to worry about your light, the Aeon Mk. 3 will do that too.

Best Light for a Nonflashoholic: Surefire Titan Plus


Your Dad doesn't want to fuss with all your weirdo batteries.  He also doesn't want to do Morse code to turn on his light.  He wants something that works like the Mini Mag, but you want something he can rely on, that wasn't made by an a-hole, and has a competent emitter.  The Titan Plus is for you to give to your Dad.  The regular Titan would work here too, but you don't get the blazing high or the pocket clip.  For those reasons, I'd suggest the Titan Plus.  It also happens to be a great light for enthusiasts too.  Surefire's emitter still holds the crown for highest output on a single AAA.  It's been that way for a year now and in the flashlight world, that's like having the fastest car on the market for two decades.  

Best First Flashoholic Light: Eagletac D25 AAA


If you are new this whole EDC thing and you are looking to round out your kit with something that is truly high performance and yet doesn't break the bank, the D25 AAA is a spec monster.  With 145 lumens on high from a single AAA it is quite good, trailing on the Titan Plus in terms of lumens in the 1xAAA format.  It also has a Hi CRI emitter, a good pocket clip, well-spaced outputs, and a TIR optic.  Even two years ago, this would be a $100+ light.  Now, you can have all that for well under $35.  Plus, it's tiny and runs on a common cell.  If you want a good light, this is the place to start.  

Best Light for Post-Apocalypse Use: HDS Rotary


A construction project in remote China dug up something weird in a lake and a few days later the construction crew got sick.  Then it spread to a village.  Then to Beijing.  Then, through the airways, to the USA and Europe.  The disease starts out as a hell of a cold and ends with people being mindless brain-eaters.  You grab a shotgun and an enough shells to last a lifetime before you pile into your suped-up Jeep.  What light do you throw in there for those dark nights when even the birds stop singing?  The HDS Rotary.  This light is bombproof, perhaps literally.  With a great UI that allows you to turn it on in any output mode, the light is great to use.  It is also a true beater with thick aluminum walls, a stainless steel crenellated bezel, and fully potted (encased in resin) electronics.  Henry released a brilliant clip last year, completing the package.  If the world ends tomorrrow and you survive, this should be your light.  

Best Photon Cannon: Eagletac TX25C2


Sure there are brighter lights out there, but if you want a light that crosses the 1K lumen threshold that isn't bigger than a Coke can or costs $350 (see: Mooddular), this is the way to go.  With a true 1K output, a great side switch, and the best pocket clip on a flashlight, the Eagletac is just damn good.  18650s aren't my favorite battery, but they do last forever.  

Best Headlamp: Still waiting


I love the Wirecutter.  If you need good information on products fast, it is the place to go.  So when the posted something on flashlights I was intrigued.  When they recommended a headlamp over anything else I was curious.  When they said it was a lamp under $50, I bought it.  A year and a few month later, I am still not convinced.  I am working on a review, though I am still not sure if it fits the scale just right. The problem is there are just so few opportunities, even when you are trying, where a headlamp makes sense over a flashlight, despite what the Wirecutter says.  If you WORK in the dark, there is no question that a headlamp is better.  After all generations of miners can't be wrong.  But if you are merely in the dark, the awkwardness and head tilting that a light requires doesn't work.  Plus, many of the best models have complex, multi-activation set ups with putrid colored emitters.  I am still not convinced that for an average person a headlamp is a necessity.  I am also far from certain that what's out there is good.

Best Bond Light: Steve Ku Quantum D2


Q comes to Bond and places a bullet in his hand.  "James, do be careful with this.  It make look like a bullet, but it actually a fabulous little flashlight."  Bond smiles and says "I'm always careful."  Q grunts in frustration and walks away.  BTW, John Cleese as Q is brilliant.  But this light--well, I have been carrying it a lot lately and if you want a disappears in your pocket light, this is.  With the nice charging kit, the Hi CRI emitter, and the perfectly dialed in QTC UI, the Quantum D2, which is very hard to find now (sorry about that...there is not a lot out there in this uber tiny space that I find worthwhile...but that might change soon...hint, hint), is packed to the gills with high tech stuff.  This is definitely Bond's light.  Just don't expect to signal passing airliners.  It tops out at around 60 lumens, which is fine for casual get-around-in-the-dark situations.  

Best Light to Hide in Your Briefcase: 47s Preon 2

The redesign looks great, but it's the guts of this light that make a difference.  With a good high (200 lumens) and an okay low (10 lumens), this light has you covered.  If you want to carry something discretely clipped to your pocket or in your bag at work, this is it.  Only the most observant will think it is something other than a pen.  There are lots of alternatives here--Streamlights, Eagletacs, and the like--but this is the best. 


  1. Tony, what are your thoughts on the higher CRI emitter on the titanium version of the S1 baton? Does the price increase put it into the kind of territory where it's no longer competitive with similar lights?

    1. Robert, if it were a genuine Hi CRI emitter, I'd be more excited, but it is not. It is a neutral emitter. While there is some crossover between tint and CRI, it is not exactly the same thing, so I'd be wary thinking that the titanium version is actually a good color rendering flashlight.

  2. I'm curious what you like about the D25AAA pocket clip? I found it the worst part of the design -- I carried the light for a month and lost it three or four times because the pocket clip got caught on something and pulled it straight out of my pocket without a bit of resistance. This never happened on my other lights..

    1. That was the one thing I really disliked. If you click through to the review you will see that I hated the clip. They need to either make it remove able or fix it. As is, it's trash.

    2. Got you, just saw the line "a good pocket clip" and did a bit of a double take. :)

  3. nice list Tony.

    a coupla observations:

    1. i find the HDS rotary with that new universal clip less than ideal. rotating it when mounted gets in the way of an otherwise marvelous torch.

    2. the steve ku. if it's discontinued, what would you have in its place?

    keep up the good work!

  4. I have the S1 Baton and really like it, but I don't carry it as much as I would like because of the rubbish clip, and I have a strong preference for clickies and clips. So of course, having said that, the light I carry is a Quantum D2, which is neither. For me, my EDC feels a little bit compromised, but the D2 carries so well...

    I've been eyeing the Aeon Mk III, but I can't *quite* justify the price yet.

  5. Great stuff Tony. Thanks. Any refs for a side clicky? I was thinking of putting one in a vent in my bicycle helmet. For daily commuting.

  6. Replies
    1. The Klarus Mi7 Mini Might EDC is scheduled to be released 7/7/16 and is a 1xAA with a sideswitch that will hit 700 lumens with a rechargeable AA. I'd look at that.

  7. Awesome. Thanks a lot, Tony. Happy 4th!

  8. I know for me and my friends the big motivator for the headlamps is running or hiking at night on trails that are not lit. the shake of a hand flashlight can be almost nauseating. To be honest, I can't think of many other reasons for it.
    One of my biggest complaints about the flashlight world is that the best designs are by custom makers who seem so ADHD and leave the best designs in the dust. I had a Quantum D2 for the longest time which was one of the best flashlights I've ever owned but lost it. "No worries," I thought to myself, "I'll hop on his site and order two more, I got my money's worth twice over!" but lo and behold, it's gone and seemingly forever discontinued. I WANT to throw my money at him but I can't. Same with the MBI HK series and many more. I wish some designers would stick to the tried and true while exploring as a side gig rather than discontinuing amazing lights due to what I can only assume is boredom. This happens in the knife world a lot too, but I managed to get two Ver Steeg Imps (One of them is even one of only two s35vn imps he made!) so I'm less bitter about it.
    That being said, if anyone has a spare Quantum D2 or MBI, I would gladly help take that off your hands if you are looking to move it!

    1. You can email Guy directly at Match Box Instruments. He is an AWESOME person to deal with! I ordered a ton of lights from him a couple of months ago. He may have an HF stashed away somewhere he would be willing to sell you. I can't speak highly enough about him or his lights!

      You may also want to keep an eye on the forums. They pop up occasionally. I just saw a titanium and an aluminum HF for sale not too long ago in great shape and at reasonable prices.

    2. I totally agree here, and those three are great examples. The d2, mbi, and imp are good enough that those guys probably could have started companies surrounding those products.

    3. I actually have two 5-mode HF-Rs I'm looking to sell. One Ti and one Copper. Great little lights but I bought a muyondshodt maus mk 1 and prefer it than trying to mess around with the 10250 batteries.

      Let me know if you're still interested.

    4. Adam, contact me via email. I have a buyer for you.

  9. No Zebralight? Huh?

    Gotta recommend the L3 L10C or L11C for a first flashaholic light. I turned a few friends with those!

    1. I had an L11C for three months, stopped working. Just got hot, no light. Warranty replacement, worked for three months, same thing. Gave up, bought a Thrunite T10, been happy over a year, put it through more than I did the L11C. The L11C is an absolutely fantastic knife for the money, but I'd gladly pay a bit more money for it if they'd improve the build quality and fit&finish.

  10. Now that the S1R is out, is it worth the premium over the regular S1?