How To Choose a Flashlight

Posted by Dave Taylor

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Oct 10, 2018 10:00:00 AM

Exploring all the flashlight options from Nite Ize? If so, it’s possible that you’ve become confused by all the specs and stats. What’s a lumen? How bright of a flashlight should you choose? How long will the flashlight last on fresh batteries or a full charge? What’s an ANSI or IP rating?

It’s okay. I get it. I love flashlights and believe it’s not only important to have reliable flashlights throughout your house, but to also have the right flashlight for the job in each case. But that’s also where us consumers can get a bit befuddled because bigger isn’t always better, brighter isn’t always the best for the job and not every flashlight is ready to take on the rugged outdoors.

Radiant 3-In-1 LED Mini Flashlight

To shed some light on the situation, let’s have a closer look at these important questions relating to the purchase of a flashlight using the popular Radiant® 3-in-1 LED Mini Flashlight as our example device. Check the specs and you’ll see that it’s rated at 80 lumens, has seven different modes, including both a high and low mode, and works off one AA battery.

But what does it all mean?

Lumens vs. Brightness?

Light output is measured in a unit called lumens, whether it’s your car headlights, a searchlight or the small LED on the back of your iPhone.

A lumen is “the amount of light emitted in a unit solid angle of one steradian from a uniform source of one candela.” Sounds complicated, but it just means that lumens measure the total amount of light output. People often assume that lumens measure brightness, however brightness is impacted significantly by beam width -- meaning that a light source will be brighter with a narrow beam and dimmer with a wider beam (or 360-degree illumination). That’s why pinpoint light is brighter than a wide angle beam from the very same flashlight.

Don’t just jump to the brightest possible device, however, because in the case of flashlights, bigger is not always better. One big reason is the trade-off of light output vs battery life: higher lumens require more power!

Brightness vs. Battery Life

The Radiant 3-in-1 LED Mini Flashlight has two brightness modes. In high mode, it puts out 80 lumens, while low mode is a more modest 15 lumens. That brightness has a definite consequence with battery life: the Radiant battery will give you almost 9.5 hours of low power light, but switch to the brighter mode and run time drops to 2 hours.

For some uses, high brightness and low run time is perfectly acceptable, of course. If you have a convenient power source to recharge a flashlight in your home, on the road, or in the wild, maximum lumens might be just what you need to scare off wild creatures or find your dog on a stormy night. In other scenarios, having a flashlight stop working prematurely can be downright dangerous, so a dimmer light that lasts a lot longer is a smart trade-off.

This is why just about every Nite Ize light offers both high and low modes, so you can decide in the moment whether run time or brightness is more important. And don't forget, a narrow beam at a given lumen level will always appear brighter than a wide beam.

Battery powered vs. Rechargeable

The Radiant 3-in-1 utilizes one AA battery as its power source. This means you can have extra batteries in your hunting bag, backpack or glove box and switch them out at any time. Easy enough, though you’ll still want to pack out the expired battery so you can recycle them.

A rechargeable flashlight offers a different cost/benefit experience. When the battery runs low, all you have to do is plug it in and wait until it's ready to go - no trips to the store necessary. However, rechargeable flashlights do require access to a power source and don't offer the immediate use you get when you pop in a new set of batteries.

The ANSI & IP rating systems?

Flashlights get a lot of abuse in woods, mountains and basements. That’s why there’s a standard measure of flashlight toughness known as ANSI / NEMA FL1. It also encapsulates light output, run time and other specifications in a single place, making it easy to comparison shop. By way of example, here are the ANSI specs for the Radiant 3-in-1 LED:

3-in-1_Mini-ANSI_Chart

The four boxes on the left side indicate that the flashlight has two brightness levels: 80 lumens on high and 15 lumens on low. On full brightness and with fresh batteries, the flashlight will remain brightly illuminated for 2 hours. On the lower brightness, since less power is required, those same batteries will last 9 hours, 25 minutes.

The next set of icons indicate that the flashlight is weather proof, shock resistant to a 1-meter drop, and can illuminate objects up to 50 meters away.

There’s also an IP rating system that can be helpful too, specifying dust and water resistance detailing whether a product is water resistant or waterproof, and to what depth of water. The Radiant 3-in-1 Mini is weather resistant as indicated by the rain cloud.

Now You Know All About Flashlights

Truth is, there’s a lot involved in choosing the best flashlight for a specific application or task. It’s not just about how many batteries are required and the desired brightness level! That’s why it makes sense to do a bit of homework to ensure that the next flashlight you buy is going to be a perfect fit for your needs, whether you’re poised to ascend Kilimanjaro, take on organizing your attic, RV through Mexico or just look for lost earrings in the backyard.

Topics: LED Flashlights, Emergency Preparedness

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