When you work for a flashlight manufacturer, there are a few questions that you'll be asked at nearly every tradeshow and event that you attend. What's the brightest flashlight? Which is the most expensive? And, of course, which flashlight is the best?
The INOVA® T4R shines brightly on Shiprock Peak in New Mexico (Photo by Bradley Adventure)
The first couple of questions are easy to answer. At 672 lumens, the INOVA® T5 LED Flashlight is the brightest light in the lineup, and for $149.99 you can purchase our most expensive flashlight, the INOVA T4R LED Rechargeable Flashlight. But, which flashlight is the BEST!?
It turns out that is not an easy question to answer. Identifying the "BEST" flashlight for you depends on many factors. For what activity will you be using the flashlight? How long will the flashlight be used? A couple of hours, or all night? Does it need to be waterproof? Will you need to keep your hands free while using the flashlight? Are you on a search and rescue mission, or taking your dog for a walk in the park? As it turns out, many factors play a role when determining which flashlight is the best for you.
I can recall two recent instances from Nite Ize Ambassadors who's "best" flashlights were not the ideal lights for the situation. The first came from Forrest Galante, whose primary dive light had broken during a trip at sea to hunt lobsters 25 feet underwater. Faced with the decision to either not dive or to come up with a backup, Forrest took a look around and realized that he had his STS Headlamp with him and thought he'd at least give it a try even though it was only rated as being waterproof to three feet. Luckily for Forrest and his dive partner, the INOVA STS Headlamp exceeded his expectations and performed well throughout the dive even after taking over 60 plunges below the rated depth of the light (read the full story at LifeView Outdoors.com).
In another situation, ambassador Matt Moniz and his climbing partner Willie Benegas were descending from the 8000m peak Makalu in the Himalayas when Willie realized that he had forgotten his headlamp at the last base camp. After a quick search for a backup light, the only flashlight Willie could come up with was the STS Microlight that was attached to his gear. While not ideal for the situation, the STS Microlight was the best light in this situation and provided just enough of a beam for Willie to safely navigate his way down the mountain over the next several hours.
So, what's the moral of these stories? Be prepared and always have a backup. Had Forrest or Willie not had a backup flashlight, there is no telling how their days would have turned out. For me, there is one flashlight that I've made part of my everyday carry and that has come in handy more times than I can recall. My go to flashlight, and #1 backup, is the INOVA XS.
The lip balm sized XS has a powerful 80 lumen LED, will attach to a key chain, and has an impact resistant aluminum body. From finding my car in a dark parking lot to setting up a tent at night, the INOVA XS has always been there when I've needed some extra light.
By now I hope that you've come to the same conclusion that I have. Ultimately, the best flashlight is the one that you have on you when you need it. Plan ahead for your adventures to determine which type of light would perform the best for your activity based on how you will be using it, the amount of time you'll be using it, and how bright of a light you'll need. No matter which light you determine is best for your situation, bring a backup. It could be the same light, or something more compact. Just bring a backup. After all, even the brightest and most expensive light can't help you when it's out of batteries or broken.