The current production flashlight market is full of gee whiz, high tech wonders, but none are, pardon the pun, 100% spot on. Some are really close, like the Surefure Titan Plus, which was so tantalizingly close that made every effort I could to make it ideal. I took it to a machine shop to grind off the lanyard attachment and swapping out the original clip for a Prometheus clip and it has since become my most often carried light. That’s a lot of time and effort for a flashlight and it proves my point—there is no production light that I would recommend without reservation.
One other point, there is currently no light, custom or production, that fits all of these criteria. Some of the best customs lights do things much differently than production lights (see: Spy 007 or BOSS 35) and really are such different beasts that some of this stuff doesn’t really apply, but even right now, nothing available, custom or production, meets all of these criteria. Second, there are a series of lights with unusually body shapes, they look more like lighters from the 23rd century than flashlights. I am still not convinced, even setting aside the battery issue noted below, that this design is better than the standard tube design.
All that said, here is what I am looking for in an EDC light.
1. Tool-free, user-replaceable rechargeable battery
Yep, I still think cells are the way to go. If you are out and about away from your computer (I know, I know—God Forbid) and your light dies, its nice to be able to throw in a primary cell so you can keep going. Alot of these unusual form factor lights make that impossible as they have tiny, weird cells that can’t even be accessed by a user, let alone swapped out. This is the main reason I don’t like non-tube lights. There is a huge piece of mind throwing in a single cell into your bag and guaranteeing that you will have light until you get home.
See: Surefire Titan Plus
2. Tool-free, user-removeable washer-style pocket clip
Seeing a theme? Power tools in the woodworking realm have already embraced the tool-free design philosophy starting with the Jacob’s chuck. Now, if you look at a Festool, virtually EVERY component is tool-free and user-replaceable or removeable. Some folks like clips. Some don’t. Give people the option of removing them without tools. At the same time, don’t make them the dreadful friction fit clips that seem to be produced like baby rabbits by Chinese factories cranking out decent but not great flashlights. Let’s just all admit it—the Prometheus clip is the best on the market. Jason has “solved” the design for flashlight pocket clips and the sooner companies license that design or just buy their clips from Jason the better.
See: FourSevens Preon Mk. III
3. 1xAAA form factor
Its over. The debate about which form factor is best for EDC is, in my mind, long since decided. With modern emitters you don’t need two cells—the increased size and weight cannot be justified by useful increases in performance. And while I like CR123a and AA cells, the size and performance of a 1xAAA is more than enough for EDC purposes. The Titan outputs 300 lumens. The Ultratac K18 380 lumens. Provided you are using rechargeable AAAs, you will have plenty of power and capacity for an EDC light.
See: Ultratac K18
4. In-light cell charging
Nick’s right—fooling with recharging stations is dumb. Give me a port and a Mini USB and I will be happy. You should not have to disassemble your light to charge it any more than you should have to disassemble your smartphone to charge it. I prefer the charging station as seen on the oLight S1R to the rubber-boot covered port or the charging head like on the K18.
See: oLight S1R Baton
5. Moonlight low (1 lumen or less)
Your lights are amazing. They are bright, durable, and easy to use. But most of the time folks use flashlights they don’t use them on high. In fact, about 50% of regular EDC use is in moonlight mode. Flashlights should have a low mode of no more than 1 lumen.
Everyday Commentary (your biggest fan)
Ideally the light will output at .5 lumens—enough to see in the dark, but not so bright as to steal your night vision or wake sleeping people and few if any of the current generation of photon screamers bother to pay attention to the output on low, instead focusing on a ridiculous high which is both useless and misleading.
See: HDS Rotary
6. Twist, twist-more UI
I like clickies. They work. But for new users or non-gear geeks they require instruction and a degree of timing. I remember a power outage where I gave my grandmother my LiteFlux and because of her inexperience and the debounce times she accidentally locked out the light instead of turning it on. Some of this can be fixed by simple UIs for clickies (Zebralight, I am casting a withering glare in your direction), but even simpler is a multi-stage twisty UI. The Muyshondt Aeon Mk II had this and it worked marvelously. Here is all you need to tell someone to get it to work: “Twist the head to turn it on and twist more for more light.” That should be all the user manual you ever need for a flashlight, much like the old, slightly apocryphal Nordstrom Employee Handbook (“Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”)
7. Tailstanding and magnetic tailcap
After using the Klarus and the oLight, I have realized that this feature is both very handy and costs almost nothing in terms of design compromises. A light should really be able to tailstand. If not there needs to be a very, very good reason why it can’t and for EDC use, where tactical concerns are zero, I can’t think of one. So, yes, a light needs to tailstand. And while its at it, why not make it so that it can tailstand ANYWHERE, including upside down. If you do even a smidge of work with a magnetic tailstanding light you will quickly realize just how useful this feature really is.
See: oLight S1R Baton
8. Aluminum body tube
I like titanium as much as the next guy, but I really don’t think it is worth the extra cost and weight. I’d much prefer the simple, easy-to-machine lightness of aluminum. Plus, with good anodizing, like you find on Surefires, the aluminum is as tough to scratches and marks as any other material you can get, aside from something that is ceracoated. Which brings me to another point—at some point, the custom trend of ceracoating lights will come to the production world and we won’t have to worry about materials, ceracoated aluminum is as tough as anyone will ever need for EDC purposes.
For me, it was the Muyshondt Beagle that proved to me that titanium was the incorrect material choice. That light is practically my perfect light—long runtimes, multiple output modes, beautiful design—but it weighs too much to carry on a regular basis. And that, after all, is why you carry a light in the first place—to have it with you everyday for life’s little (and big) exigencies.
See: almost every reasonably priced flashlight since the MiniMag
9. Hi CRI emitter
At this point, there is simply no reason not to run a High CRI emitter. While there is a cost in total lumens, the impact is basically zero in real world terms because lumens are perceived logarithmically and not linearly. Add to that the fact that Hi CRI emitters aren’t all that much more expensive and you have virtually no reason NOT to jump on the Hi CRI bandwagaon.
See: Eagletac D25AAA
10. Runtimes Trump High Output
There is no reason for some of these ultrahigh outputs on EDC lights.
First, as was mentioned above, light is perceived logarithmically, so large increases in lumen numbers do not necessarily result in a light appearing brighter. This is especially true after 48 lumens. At this point a light needs to at least 200 lumens to appear twice as bright. This is one reason the Surefire Titan Plus is such a good light. Many of the 1xAAA lights out there hit around 120-140 lumens, but that is not appreciably brighter than a 48 lumen light. But the Titan Plus with its 300 lumen output, crosses the 200 lumen threshold easily and thus seems like a much brighter light than its competitors. Its important to note that perceived brightness curve ramps up dramatically after this. So, for example, a boost from 400 to 500 lumens is almost imperceptible and a boost from 800 lumens to 1000 is almost certainly beyond what people can see and use (to double perceived brightness at 800 lumens you have to jump to 3200 lumens...).
Second, most EDC lights do not have the optics to convert this many lumens into useful light. Basically, you get a smooshed wall of light that all but dies after 30 or so feet. Without the space for even a bit of throw-focused optics, these lumens are wasted.
Third, and finally, many of these bright and tiny lights are so overclocked that they become painful to hold after more than a few seconds on high. The power drain from these ultra bright highs kills battery life. So what would you rather have—a uselessly bright light for 15 minutes or days of useful light? The answer should be obvious.
Runtimes should always be more important than the high output of a light, but post-ANSI reforms, every light markets itself not on runtimes but on output. This is silly and bad for consumers, hardcore flashlight fans, and regular folks alike.
See: Muyshondt Beagle
There are a few lights that are very close here. The Surefire Titan Plus, with a redone tailcap, charging station, and the UI of the original Titan (a light my heart still pines for), would be the ideal light. The Klarus Mi1C is also pretty darn close. Obviously, the oLight S1 series is pretty close too. But nothing truly hits all these high points. The point is these changes aren’t that hard to implement. A bunch of folks are almost there. I’d like to see them make these changes and give folks a light that takes advantage of all the insights and tech developed over the last ten years in the flashlight world.
These ten things, incorporated into a light that scores well on my review scale, would be a world beater. I feel like a few sources are close. Surefire, obviously, should always be in the running for making the next “best light ever.” FourSevens, now that Jason helms the ship, is also in the running. I also think a custom maker could change the game and drop a light that did it all. None of this is pie-in-the-sky tech. It is already in use in lights we currently have. Someone just needs to bring it all together in one place.