Flashlight system for EDC, backpacking, and bump in the night

You have a random assortment of flashlights. Hidden away in drawers, bins in the attic, and backpacks. Some work, right?

Instead put together a flashlight system that wont...leave you in the dark.

As is my system, first these would be divided into use cases. For me, that is EDC, a bright as fuck flashlight, and a backpacking flashlight.

An EDC flashlight should be easy to have on you

Get one that is super, duper small. Small enough that you can leave it clipped to your keys and not worry about it. There are these countycomm flashlight made in aluminum. I love it because of a few key features.

  • Size, as described above. Size is the most important consideration here because, well, it should be easy enough to carry that you always have it on you. It matters much more than the other considerations
  • The function mechanism is twist. Twist caps are often associated with cheap flashlights or cumbersome interfaces. The alternative (a tailcap clicky button) is seen as the gold standard. In this case, wrong. A twist cap is difficult to accidentally activate. A tailcap click will become activated inadvertently. You will feel a heat in your pocket, pull out your keys, and find your flashlight turned on or without charge.
  • Rechargable. I prefer rechargable here because versatility is not that important. Worst case scenario, you will be able to get to a charger when the flashlight dies, use your phone, or go without.
  • Light output. A nice bonus: two outputs. A low output that is bright enough for looking at a door or checking something quickly, but dim enough that you get hours of use. A high output bright enough to light a path for two people, walking back to a car with no streetlights, or navigating a crusty, icy sidewalk. What more could you want? A blinding flash to blind would-be attackers?

A small flashlight, medium size, with more power.

Where the EDC flashlight you might lose if you sneeze, this light you can comfortably hold in your hand to smash imaginary car windows, attackers, or open a watermelon. You use this light most of the time when you would be looking for a flashlight. Going for a walk with your dog. A handheld light on a hike. Playing around a campfire.

  • Size - Small, but large enough to hold in your hand.
  • Function mechanism - twist is the most popular. Probably the most fun and satisfying to use, but twist works too. I might prefer click just for the use, but it is not a big deal. The mini Maglight held the crown for this category of light forever, it is an iconic light, and it is a twist mechanism.
  • Battery - rechargable or battery? I could actually go either way with this one, unless you bring into play a special category. I'll touch on that later. I imagine most people are going to get like a 18650 powered light or a CR123. For the use, because it will be used so often, drained, and reused, I would opt for a rechargable or a AA rechargable.
  • Output - more than the mini. Mainly you want a lower low and a brighter bright. Two is fine. Flashy, I guess, is supposed to be against would-be attackers, but in all honesty, a flashlight is not going to be the thing that saves you.

Bright as fuck light.

Use? The light you grab when you are stuck on the side of the road. It sits in your glove compartment for years before it is used. Something goes bump in the night? You use one of the other lights to navigate yourself to this light. You then light up the entire backyard.

  • Size - It doesn't matter really. The full size maglite is about as large as I would ever want to own, but people have those crazy latern looking things too. The output from a decent light the size of a snickers bar would be more than enough.
  • Function - Clicky. I pick clicky. To prevent battery discharge, this light is sitting basically 'unplugged' most of the time. The batteries not in the container.
  • Battery - Rechargable probably wins here as well. As long as the circuit does not drain.
  • Output - Does not have to be crazy, but it can be.

Alternative use case: backpacker.

If you backpack, having a headlamp is super nice. Why? Because you backpack enough on long enough trips, eventually you end up hiking in the dark. A headlamp is unbeatable here. Around camp, it is unbeatable when setting up a floorless tent, in the dark, in a cloud of mosquitoes. You need both hands free. You are field dressing a deer to carry out? You aren't attaching a light to some magnetic stand or propping it up, or holding it in your teeth for a few hours. Headlamp, headlamp, headlamp.

To compliment the headlamp, I would choose a medium size flashlight with a few modifications. Batteries - take whatever batteries your headlamp takes. It is much easier to bring extra or scavenge batteries if they all work together. Additionally, you can almost always get AA or AAA batteries from a small town grocery store, out of the way gas station, etc. Sure you could probably charge your battery pack somewhere, but that takes time, and if your battery pack dies in the cold, or you drop it, you are done. It is a worst case, hours after sundown, winter backpacking trip and your light is dead. You want to try charging off a friends power brick? Much easier to scrouge a battery or two, pop it in, and go. As stupid as it sounds, I am leaning towards a $100 Surefire flashlight here. The $50 Fenix LD15R seems right too, easily available at REI, but it takes a weird rechargable.

The fear that is motivating me? Winter backpacking trip, I find out my headlamp is dead, I reach for my backup flashlight and it has discharged itself in bag (clicky tailcap), I try my AA batteries and they are not working. Maybe the flashlight is dead, maybe the batteries are dead. I can't try the AA in my headlamp because the headlamp takes AAA. That happened. I hiked out following my friends headlamp. I never want that to happen again.

Leave a Comment