EDC Is a term many of you will be familiar with. It is used to denote “every day carry”. EDC items tend to be tools which are useful, light, relatively small (often fitting a pocket or small bag) and affordable. Typical EDC Items tend to be knives, multi tools, pens and flashlights. I personally carry all but the multi tool unless I am at work in which case I carry that as well. The item I have found to be neglected by many is the flashlight/torch. I guess that is because they can be bulky or heavy and have a thirst for batteries. In this article we will look at some recent flashlights and whether they address the above issues.
The flashlights on test are:
Streamlight ProTac HLUSB
Mini Maglite Pro LED
I have carried all these items over the last 6 months. They have been used on expeditions, work and in various weather conditions… We do not carry out scientific tests with light meters as I feel that has little to do with real world use. All flashlights are exposed to rain and moisture as part of basic testing. Again we stick to real world use rather than dumping them in a bucket of water. Every advertised function is checked to ensure that it works consistently over a period of several weeks.
Coast – HP7R
Coast were a new name to me. I am in the UK and it seems that the brand has only been available here relatively recently. They have actually been making flashlights for over 90 years and I am sure our American readers are very familiar with them.
The HP7R is an aluminium bodied flashlight measuring 6.125″. At first glance it appears to be one of many flashlights of similar build and style. First glances can be very deceptive..
The HP7R has a number of great features which I found set it apart from the crowd. There is no doubt that we now live in a world of USB, It is widely available and convenient. The HP7R comes with 2 USB chargeable battery packs. They can be charged either via the mini USB connection accessed at the side of the tail cap or on their own. Feeding torches with batteries adds cost and can be inconvenient (Not all shops stock the usual CR123s). With this flashlight you can either carry the fully charged extra pack with you for prolonged use or charge one pack while using the other. USB adaptors are readily available in most modern vehicles now making this charging option ideal for LEOs and vehicle based users. As if that were not enough the HP7R also comes with a third battery pack preloaded with standard AAA batteries (four) which can be used if you have no access to charging facilities/mains power. Coast have covered every base in terms of keeping your torch running…
Access to the rear USB port is gained by turning the tail end about 45 degrees and pulling. Rubber O rings help keep the moving parts dust and moisture free. The tail cap will then click out exposing the USB port. I like that they have selected a standard generic sized USB rather than some one-off proprietary slot – if you lose the cable replacing it is pretty simple.
The beam is turned on via a rubber clicker button at the rear. Depressing the button also cycles the modes – High/Strobe/Low. At first I noted that the button protrudes far enough to prevent you tail standing the light. However if you twist and pull the tail cap to expose the USB slot then the torch will tail stand. I would not do that in rain as obviously the USB slot is then open to the elements.
The other feature that sets the HP7R apart is the ability to focus the beam single handed. Usually you have to twist the front bezel but on the coast the bezel glides smoothly in and out. Another great feature for LEOs who may wish to carry a baton/pepper/firearm in the other hand and retain the ability to focus a beam or widen it. It takes a little getting used to (I kept turning it at first) but after a couple of days I really appreciated this feature.
The HP7R gives 300 Lumens in high mode and 30 Lumens in low. Run time is between 7 hours and 33 hours dependant on selected mode. Pretty impressive for a rechargeable. Now many of you light nerds may be saying “Pah only 300 Lumens? My torch is rated at xxxx lumens..!” Yes lumens are a measurement of light given out. However optical quality also plays a major part in the usefulness of said light. I was acrually very suprised at the output of this torch. The manual gives a high beam maximum distance of 352 meters – the furthest of all five models in this article. I took all the flashlights on test into wooded areas after dark. The Coast gave a fantastically clear light no doubt due to the decent glass they have used. The clarity really helps in woodland settings where harsh uneven lights can accentuate shadows. The one handed focus also worked superbly throwing a wide clear beam which quickly adjusts to a smaller focused beam for pinpointing details. I think search teams and emergency services would really make great use of this feature
The only downside I could imagine with the coast is a lack of a metal pocket clip which I would use often. However Coast have pulled out the stops regarding other mounting options. The HP7R comes with a velcro pouch with belt loop, a belt mounted plastic holder and a screw on plastic mount ideal for vehicle or wall fixing.
The flashlight feels good in the hand and has a well built feel. For those who prefer lights with tactical ridges and striking surfaces the Coast will dissapoint. It has a smooth front bezel and light dimpling to aid grip. Personally I have never considered a flashlight a useful “secondary weapon”. If you are in a role/environment that requires you are armed then carry a specific weapon. I have not met any security/military/LE that have used a torch in a weapon like manner. I guess some have/do but they are in the minority. Is it a feature you really require? Lack of any hard or sharp edges also makes the torch, pocket and pouch friendly and eases getting it out.
The style of the torch can be very important. I have worked on contracts where a smart non militarised appearance is required. I also found that aggressive looking kit can sometimes inspire agressive reactions when dealing with the public. While the coast does not look tactical it does look extremely robust and stylish which set it apart from many competitors.
The Coast HP7R is available in the UK for around £55 or in the U.S. around $80. The RRP is a little higher but several major internet distributors were offering the above prices as this was published. I think that is fantastic value for such an innovative design especially considering the accessories..
2 rechargeable USB packs
1 battery pack + 4 AAA Batteries
Not many torches come with that anmount of kit as standard! If you need coloured filters the kit can be found for just £4.80 online and gives you 5 colour options – superb value.
Streamlight Protac HL USB.
Sticking with the USB technology we have the Protac from Streamlight. The HL USB is the biggest flashlight of the bunch at 6.5″. It is also the heaviest, weiging in at 7.2oz. This puts it at the upper limit of the EDC concept but I wanted to include it due to ruggidity.
The popular Protac series has been around a while now. The HL USB follows the theme of previous models with an agressive looking front bezel and thick aluminium body. The front bezel is deeply sculpted into a striking surface. Such surfaces are touted as being used for self defence or as a glass breaker. Again I am not really sold on the whole weaponized torch concept however for emergency personnel wanting to gain immediate access through vehicle windows ect then the design has definite benefits.
The Protac HL USBs main feature is the USB charging. Just like the Coast the charging port is located beneath a bezel which is held firmly by a rubber O ring. On the Streamlight the movable section is at the front, you just pull/twist it to the rear which exposes the port and useful charging light. The flashlight comes with a lithion ion rechargeable battery installed. You have the option of using 18650 rechargeables or CR123As. The battery compartment is spring loaded to cater for the slight length differences. The runtimes are quoted as being 1.5hrs on high, 4hrs on medium and 12hrs on the low setting. Strobe setting also gives you 1.5hrs. These run times are not as good as the Coasts but the Protac is giving over double the ammount of lumens on the high setting.
One of the Protacs most impressive features is the sheer intensity of light it emits – an eye watering 850 lumens. There are 4 illumination options and 3 modes which Streamlight call the “ten-tap system”. Basically each mode gives you three quick access settings via tapping the switch (depressing halfway repeatedly to cycle). I found the first default mode to be my favourite (High/Strobe/Low) but you may prefer your own setting.
The HL USB has a superb metal clip which I really like. Ideal for pocket or molle loops. It also comes with velcro pouch which suits belt carry.
The protac is so bright at close range it may actually be overkill. If you are working in confined space then the Coasts smooth adjustable beam would be preferable. In open spaces the Protac excels and picked out animals several hundred yards away (eye reflection). Law Enforcement and security will particuarly appreciate the high lumen output. At close range the bright light is rather unpleasant to have shining at you directly which may be beneficial in some scenarios.
I am guessing the strobe is designed as as a signalling device or to disorientate the “enemy”. I doubt very much if many people would ever require such capabilities but it is rather fun if like me you spent time at Discos in the 1980s!
All in all I really like the Protac range and even more so given the USB charging option.
The head of the flashlight is shaped to avoid rolling which is a very useful feature. The butt end is agressively sculpted around the clicker which allows tail standing and provides a secondary striking surface.
If you work in a role which requires a solid and phenomenally bright flashlight then I think the Protac HL USB should be a top consideration. The only slight negative regarding use is the heat generated by the high output LED. There really is little that can be done about it but it is worth a mention. The end of the flashlight gets pretty hot. Streamlight even include a little label (it says “Hot”). Just be aware before you slip it in the hip pocket after prolonged use.
In the UK I could only find one outlet selling this torch (Brownells.co.uk). It retails with them at £125. In the U.S. it is carried by a multitude of retailers priced between $105 – $180. Use Streamlights find a dealer function on their website to avoid knock offs.
This seems quite pricey until you consider the limited lifetime warantee and ruggidity. The Protac HL USB has been drop tested and the LED is said to be shock proof.
Mini Maglite Pro LED.
Maglite have been a majorly popular brand here in the UK for many years. Maglite have their own shape/design which makes them immediately recognisable. I carried a standard mini maglite for many years working security details and it never let me down. Maglite did begin to fall behind a little as LED technology took off and lumen ratings became the definitive torch buying factor. As I mentioned before you can have too many lumens as well as too few depending on task.. Horses for courses is what us Brits call it.
The Maglite pro is smaller than the two previous torches in thickness as it is powered by slimmer (and convenient) AA batteries. The body is sturdy aluminium. The feature that wins many over to Maglites are their simplicity of use. Turn the head to switch on and keep turning to focus beam. Turn back to switch off. While some may love all the complexities other brands offer the simplicity remains of upmost importance for many. My partner makes a great example. She uses a torch. Does she want to learn about it from a manual?… No. She wants it to turn on and turn off. Thats it. For this reason alone I find Maglites fantastic. In fact I have gifted them to several people who absolutely love them because they are easy to use.
The Mini Maglites do have a unique feature of their own. You can unscrew the head and set it face down. Then place the base into the upturned head to tail stand and you have an electric candle! Great if the power goes out and you want to read or eat.
The Mini Mag weighs in at 4.15oz and its slim smooth design lends it to be pocket carried. Unfortunately there is no belt clip or lanyard but the butt does have a lanyard hole. On the plus side Maglite have a massive array of accessories such as holsters/pouches available as extras so carry options are versatile.
This Mini Maglite actually sits in my glove box. I always have a car torch and I like it to be powered by AAs as they are available at most small shops and petrol stations. I have another sitting in my electric cupboard which my partner uses alot. During the last few weeks I took the Pro LED version out on several late hikes and found it coped very well. Maglite have adressed the Lumens issue – The LED gives 245, plenty for standard use. If you are a late night jogger or dogwalker then you have no need for “tactical” brightness levels. I managed to drop this model into a small stream. I immediately fished it out and have had no issues. I took it apart after returning home and the insides were dry – no water ingress. I am not saying take them swimming but they certainly are well built and will keep out the rain. They are also pretty hardy regarding knocks and have also been drop tested at a meter.
In the UK you can find the Mini Maglite Pro LED for about £25 and in the U.S.A around $30-$40. That is amazing value for such a tough and capable little light. Buy these as presents and give them to friends and family. They will all love them. Maglite truly are the everymans torch in my eyes. The only downside is they may not be feature rich enough for the more extreme users but then extreme users represent a small minority of torch owners (everyone should own a torch).
Inova XS and XP.
The larger XP.
The cute little XS.
I will start by saying that I never imagined using the words “cute” and “torch” together. The Inova XS and XP from Niteize are pen torches and they are cute. The XP houses 2 AAA batteries while the XS takes one. Just their teeny size alone is enough to make you want to buy them! I like to have multiple torches stashed around. I would love to say I keep one torch fully charged and in my pocket at all times. The reality is sometimes I forget it and leave it in yesterdays pants (on the floor of the bedroom). The little Inovas are small enough to put in a work bag or jacket pocket, I have the smallest clipped to my house keys. When I go to park the car in the dark and lock the garage I still have light.
The XP has 2 modes – High/Low. High gives a very impressive 144 Lumens. Remember this is a dinky little pen torch! It was only a few years ago that 150 Lumens was considered cutting edge for even the larger D cell torches. The Inova will sit comfortably in a shirt pocket and look like a pen. It weighs a hardly noticeable 1.9oz! The light is activated by either pressing or rotating the tail cap depending on whether you want press-on or constant. The construction is of great quality and is said to be water resistant. The clip is firm and the body is smooth so you will not be ripping shirt pockets as you pull it out. Run time in high mode is only 1 hour but what really impressed was the 34 hour run time on the low 30 lumen setting. More than enough to get you through a blackout.
The Inova XS pen light is even dinkier and only requires one AAA battery. It comes on a small but very well designed S clip which calls out to be clipped to your keys or a bag zip. The XS is about the size of a lip balm and weighs 1.10oz.. Awww! It is capable of putting out a very useable 80 lumens on high and 13 on low which would be ok for emergency use if it came to it. The run times are an hour for high and 29hrs for low.. Again a very impressive figure given the dimensions and weight.
Both of these torches are carried daily. One on my keys and one in a pocket. I really would not be without them. They would not be my first choice for night hikes and such but they would still be coming along as secondary options because they are so small and lightweight. They work in the rain and the cold and have provoked many remarks from others who have noticed how useful they are. I would advise everyone buy several and scatter them throughout the house! The beams were useable along pathways in the woods at night but again I would not pick them specifically for that task. These are your back up lights which you may find end up getting more use than your primary one!!
The XS retails at $24.99USD or around £15GBP
and the XP is $29USD or around £25GBP.
Given the construction quality and suprisingly high outputs and run times these are great prices.
There is no “winner” as each torch has been selected to fulfil a role. Think about the environment you will use the torch in. You do not want 800 lumens for the electrical cupboard neither do you want 30 lumens when you are moving across difficult terrain in darkness. I hope we have provided you with some food for thought and several great options no matter what your situation is…
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