Traditional flashlights are old technology. They poop out when you need them most, then, even with fresh batteries, the batteries are spent in as little as 2 – 3 hours. Then, there are the bulbs, very delicate and not prone to long life.
For many years I have extolled the virtues of LED (Light Emitting Diode) flashlights. Do a search for “flashlight” on MrGadget.com to find some of my past favorites. Most provide what I would term “adequate” light but few are the real bright replacements for the brightest of traditional flashlights.
LEDs true benefit is that they do not wear out and they are stingy energy consumers, as compared with traditional lighting. They are ideal for pocket and larger size flashlights, but most are designed for near and area lighting.
One of the drawbacks has been that most LED-based flashlights have not output the amount of light of the best of the old style. On the other hand, some of the little ones that fit so well in the pocket are fine for dark theaters, finding what just fell into darkness on the floor or ground, dark restaurants when you want to see the menu, and for finding the keyhole at a dark front door. Again, the batteries last for hours and hours.
I was certainly glad to have been properly equipped when I was in New York during the Great Blackout of 2003.
What I have longed for is a super-powerful LED-based flashlight, like those I previously tested from InReTECH, or maybe something smaller and less expensive, yet still powerful as a traditional flashlight.
Recently, Mike from InReTECH contacted me again with great news! He had another astounding light for me to try. I was eager! I also have a couple of other new LED-based lights I wanted to test around here. While attending CES in January, I received a new super-powerful LED replacement bulb and a new powerful LED flashlight, both from my friends at the C. Crane Company.
First up, Mike’s new light. This is a replacement module for Mag 4-cell flashlights. The TriLight-III is a 9Watt assembly using three of the newest 3W Luxeon Stars with special lenses. The LEDs are permanently mounted to the circuit board on which they sit and the entire assembly replaces the original bulb in the Mag.
In using it around my home in whatever real darkness there is, it performed amazingly. The light easily illuminated the front of my neighbor’s house across the street and I could see lots of light as I aimed it from my bedroom balcony out the back of the house, across the street and into the park across the divide and into the distance. The best test was yet to come because it just isn’t dark enough around here, unless there’s a blackout (which there was a bit before receiving the light). Just hold onto the fact that this is a serious flashlight adapter for the discriminating flashlight enthusiast and it comes with a commensurate price tag – $90! What you get is more light and a longer burn that from any traditional light of its size I have seen.
Now, on to the products from C. Crane. The relatively small new Expedition Star White LED Flashlight, $80, yields a strong, tight beam out to 60 feet and is fed by 3 “C” cells packed in a 1000-foot dive-rated ABS plastic case with a shatterproof Lexan lens. It is rated at more then 10 hours at full brightness on a set of batteries, more than five times what can be expected of the typical traditional flashlight (at full power), with better, whiter light, and plenty of it. The performance around the area was impressive. Still, I needed to get to where it is really dark.
I also tested the EverLED White LED Replacement Bulb, $45 that works with any 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-cell flashlight. I converted my trusted old 5-cell Streamlight with this powerful little LED. They are correct to admonish the user to avoid looking directly into the light. It is BRIGHT and very white. Still focusable, yet the light is almost as bright as the typical bulb that comes with these flashlights. But the burn time is up to five times that of the conventional setup with a Halogen bulb. As a bonus, like with all these LEDs, don’t expect the light source to burn out. Burn brighter white and burn longer with these LEDs.
The true test came recently when I was one of the adult chaperones accompanying Rhonda’s 8th grade class on their 3-day visit to Astro Camp at Idyllwild, CA in the beautiful mountains not far from Palm Springs. It was beautiful, snowed for added beauty and affect, and, at night, it was DARK! I brought my toys to play with, I mean, to test.
First came the BIG GUN, Mike’s TriLite-III. When I switched it on, everyone remarked and had to see what it would do, so I showed them. Off into the distance – we could see way, way out there, like no one else’s light. Staffers we encountered at Astro Camp were challenged to do better, but none could. On a walk in the pitch darkness everyone wanted to huddle around me as if I was the driver of a car with real headlights. Yes, it was that amazing. For two nights that light did the job and was great comfort in the darkness, illuminating a wide swath ahead. I’d say, mission accomplished.
I also used the others, but it was no contest and difficult to get the power and performance of the TriLite-III out of mind and not compare it to the others. It’s not a fair fight.
I was pleased, however, with the power and relative performance of both my other lights. My Streamlight 5-cell with the EverLED replacement was more than adequate, providing a commanding presence to all around. Even that one managed to get lots of inquiries from other adults from some of the other schools up there. They wanted to see what I had that was so unusually bright and white and effective. Ditto when I used the Expedition Star, powered by the three “C” cells. It, too, was better than the other lights up there and many of the camp visitors wanted to write down the information on these lights, commenting that they could see the value and benefit as compared to what they had brought. All thought theirs were inferior as compared with what I had to use. Mine still shined bright through hour after hour of use. The others, I noticed, were faced with dimming lights by the second night.
So, the verdict is in: These examples of the newest in LED lighting technology outshone the standard competition. Those interested in lots of reliable light with exceptional battery life and with LEDs that will not wear out as will traditional flashlight bulbs now have three new choices, from great to insanely fantastic.