Introduction to LED Flashlights
Note: There are no flashlights models listed on this page. The intent of this landing page is to allow you to drill down to the type of flashlight that may suit your activity by choosing a link on the left hand menu. If you are already familiar with terms like CRI, Tint Bins, etc., then skip the text below.
There is a lot of technical jargon used to explain the light characteristics on this site. It is not there as psychobabble used under the Shit Baffles Brains General User License, it is there so that our clients can make thorough informed purchase decisions.
These days there are a bewildering array of LED flashlights available. What the average consumer is not aware of is how factors such as tint, throw, lumens, drivers, and hosts affect what they should be looking for to address their specific needs for a flashlight. Another market dynamic that is relevant, state of the art emitters become available for about a year before they are seen in the consumer lights available at retail outlets. That is why there are so many 'flashaholic' communities where building your own light has become a popular pastime.
There are three important core components to an LED flashlight, the 'host', or the body of the light. The 'emitter' is what used to be the 'bulb', and the 'driver' which is the circuit board that controls the power being delivered to the emitter. The size of the host is determined by the type of batteries that are used, and they in turn define the maximum levels of brightness that can be produced. The tint of the emitter will determine such things as maximum lumens, maximum range (along with the reflector/optic type and size), and "CRI' (Color Rendition Index) which is important for terrain recognition, patient assessment, spotting articles at last seen points and generally a higher level of situational awareness. We generally concentrate on lights that have a CRI value of 80 or above. It boils down to the fact that the best light for mountain biking would not be the same light that would be best for camping, and the best light for search and rescue may not work for biking or camping because it would be too large and heavy to carry in the backcountry or mount on a helmet. A light that is designed for biking, AT Skiing, or avalanche rescue, would not overheat due to active cooling inherent to that activity, but using it for camping, it could become too hot to hold after 5 minutes, and the same battery that would only last for an hour to provide maximum lumens while biking may last for days while on a lower mode (features that would be determined by the choice of drivers).
All the LED light manufacturers are catering to the largest user base which are the retail consumers. This user group typically knows practically nothing about LED light technology and generally are under the impression that the only metric they need to use when choosing a light is the maximum Lumen output. That will get you by fine when you are out walking your dog around the urban block and need to scoop some poop, or need some light for 20 minutes to get you back to your car at the trailhead while returning from some weekend recreational pursuit, but is far from desirable if you are a serious AT skier or SAR team member. Because we had little luck finding flashlights that addressed our specific needs, we decided to build them instead. Much to our surprise, the resulting cost was less than sourcing the retail mass market lights (probably because their profit margins are set at 100%). We're constantly trying different hosts, drivers, and emitters, so if we don't already have something suitable for the activity you have in mind, let us know and we can probably build it for you. In the meantime browse the selection of some of the lights we currently have on hand.
Best use scenario...
Flashlights can be strapped to the side of a helmet or on handlebars for biking. With a clip, good for EDC. Good for getting peripheral vision while hiking at night.