Today, there are about a dozen general types of flashlights and about fifty or more sub-categories based on highly specific target users.
Almost everyone these days own one, although some people have very specific needs that require a certain type. Whether you fall under a said category of users or you just want to find the best possible device for general usage, it is necessary to become familiar with the different types of this device and the guidelines on how to find the best units in the market.
The first thing shoppers should know is that there are units for everyone of all ages, gender, and occupation. There are units for kids, for firefighters, for emergency rescuers, for hunters, for maintenance personnel, for military men and women, and many others. One of the reasons why this seemingly simple device has almost an infinite number of iterations is that manufacturers try their best to accommodate everybody’s needs.
Here are some of the most common you can expect to find for sale today (According to usage):
These fall under the heavy duty category of torches due to their features, which are specifically intended for challenging tasks such as rescue missions, tackling underground tunnels, and extremely dark and treacherous roads. The Best Tactical flashlights tend to have a very long range, high battery capacity, and intense brightness levels. In addition, they are also made of highly durable materials since they are often used in less than desirable conditions such as prolonged exposure to harsh elements like rain, snow, hail, and strong winds.
This is actually more of a design-oriented category since the interior of the unit is basically the same as any other. Water resistant gear usually has double or triple layers of special coating that repel moisture so that it does not damage the internal parts. Certain high-end devices are designed to survive AND function underwater, which would be very useful to divers, underwater photographers, and other types of deep sea enthusiasts. These are usually very expensive and sometimes hard to come by in certain countries. If you are in need of this type, your best bet is purchasing one online.
These can come in small or medium sizes, depending on the battery capacity some can even be as strong as a 4000 lumen flashlight. However, since these are intended to be used in case of emergency, they are generally lightweight and easy to handle (mostly no heavier than 350 grams including batteries). Most emergency units are powered by dry cell alkaline batteries but there are also units that use rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries (same ones that power mobile electronic devices). As far as output goes, they usually have a longer range and a higher level of illumination intensity.
Sometimes referred to as mini or keychain torches, this type of gear is very lightweight, compact, and often used for daily purposes. Due to the diminutive size of these, they do not produce a very bright beam. Most are powered by one AA or AAA battery so it can only provide limited illumination for a small area. Still, it comes in handy, especially if for some reason you suddenly find yourself in darkness and you need something to help you look for candles or a larger unit.
These are becoming rare finds these days as not that many stores are stocking hand-cranks anymore. However, these remain very useful especially for those times when you do not have access to a new set of batteries and you are in desperate need of illumination. Running mostly on elbow grease, this type is both an illumination tool as well as a crude fitness machine.
Note: Some newer models of can even charge a cell phone or tablet, which is really useful for emergency situations.
Also known as headlamps or hands-free units, these are mostly used by miners, campers, and night mountain bikers. This type is firmly attached to the user’s headgear, which leaves both hands free to maneuver/drive/carry things. These are heavy duty units that can illuminate up to hundreds of yards and for hundreds of hours on a single set of battery/single complete charge.
Different Types – According to Source
Those who are familiar with new advancements in lighting, as well as media display would know what Light Emitting Diode is and why it is all the rage these days. LED is a device that creates visible light when electricity passes through it. While it is not as bright as incandescent bulbs, it is more energy efficient and can very well provide adequate illumination, given proper assembly of materials.
These are typically more expensive, but they also last at least twice as long as incandescent bulbs so consumers still save money in the long run. LED Flashlights are a lot lighter and more portable than traditional bulbs, making it more preferable for those who travel and despise having to carry around heavy baggage.
Xenon, Halogen, and Krypton
This type of torch is not quite as common as LED and Incandescent mainly because it is less than practical for daily usage. In order to create this type, incandescent bulbs are filled with any one of these gases for purposes of extending the lifespan of the inner filament. These types of bulbs produce a much more intense beam that is much brighter than LED. However, the manufacturing process is extremely expensive and these types of bulbs are not as durable as LED, which makes them less than ideal for outdoor usage.
This is among the oldest types of device that are still sold today. A great number of innovations in lighting technology have been made but since incandescent bulbs are cheap and easy to manufacture, they remain a viable choice for most users. The drawback, of course, is that incandescent units tend to be quite heavy, cumbersome, and they generate a lot of heat. Power management is also not as efficient so you are likely to spend more money on batteries, which can affect your budget greatly.
Buying Guide for Novices
Ascertain Your Needs
Purchasing a lighting unit is akin to buying a home, apart from the disparity in expenditure. You have to determine exactly what your needs are (in order of frequency) so that you can narrow down your choices instead of getting lost in a sea of endless options. So the questions you need to answer are the following:
* What are you going to use it for?
* Are you an outdoor person?
* What is your profession?
* What are your hobbies?
* What type of weather prevails in your city/town/state?
If you are an avid hunter, for instance, you would certainly want at least one pocket unit and one heavy duty for when you need to camp out the woods during the hunting season. Pretty much the same rule applies to mountaineers and avid campers since high visibility can very well save your life during emergencies in the woods.
Set a Budget and Stick to It
Treat this purchase like you do every other shopping trip. You know how much you can afford to spend so be sure to narrow down your choices before going to the store. Those who opt to shop online would find this a lot easier since they can simply click on the price range of their choice and pick from the available choices left on the page.
Read Up on Consumer Feedback and Professional Reviews
For first time buyers (or those who are looking to buy a high end gear that is previously unknown to them), it is always wise to check out consumer reviews on forums and other online platforms to see what people are saying about the product you want. These days, shoppers cannot simply rely on advertisements for guidance, at least not if they wish to get the best value for their hard earned cash. Unbiased and reliable reviews are those that provide all the facts such as pros and cons of every product without attempting to skew the impressions of potential buyers.
Note: Amazon and other reputable online websites have dedicated forums and review platforms that allow consumers to rate products they previously purchased and provide details of their experience with said goods. Reading up on reviews also allow shoppers to monitor online sales, discounts, and the availability of coupons. Being an informed consumer can very well mean saving a lot of money.
Compare Different Devices Based on Specs
If you are in need of a highly specialized device, it is imperative to pay close attention to product specifications. Certain online stores such as Amazon provide detailed information as well as comprehensive comparisons of various products that belong to the same category. You can normally narrow down the search based on specific features you need.
Some of the most important things to look for include:
Output and Range
Some units are meant for heavy duty tasks so they need to have a long illumination range (minimum of 25 yards or 75 feet), and a very high output (measured in Lumens). Anything above 150 Lumens would be impressive, but higher outputs are always better, relative to the battery life of course.
Adjustable Beam Intensity
While some are meant to be hardworking devices, they need not always be on retina-burning mode. For purposes of saving battery power and when it is preferable to use low-intensity lighting, it is best to get one that has a power-switching option. Some of the best new units today can illuminate up to as high as 200 Lumens and also function at a much lower intensity between 10 and 15 Lumens. This feature will come in handy for when you need to scare off an assailant and/or stay inconspicuous but still be able to see where you are going and what you are stepping on.
Note: Beam intensities vary depending on the settings and whether or not the unit has the mode switching feature. Beam intensity can be anywhere from Strobe to low and narrow. The settings in between are the following (this may not always be the case since not all have variable intensity settings):
* High beam
* Square beam (Available in units that have switchable caps for various beam shapes)
* Low beam
* Long Beam
* Focused beam
Some can have as much as 12 various settings, which certain types of users may find useful. For normal usage, however, 2-3 modes and settings would be adequate.
Size and Weight
If you intend to use one at home, then this part really is inconsequential. However, for outdoor enthusiasts who need something they can carry around without having to bear too much on their back, size and weight would greatly matter. The good news is that there are heavy-duty devices that only weigh as much as most cellphones these days. The trick is finding high-grade performance in something that is compact and lightweight.
Rugged Casing Quality
Some torches are expected to be subjected to a lot of knocks, scratches, scrapes, and other types of abuse. A hard and durable case is very important in order to ensure the safety of all internal parts. Aluminum, Magnesium alloy, and carbon fiber are among the most popular materials used.
Some units have interchangeable bezels and some of which actually have a practical purpose. Certain self-defense torches have the so-called “Strike Bezel” which has jagged sharp edges that can be used as a blunt instrument against an assailant. For young ladies. single mothers, and elderly women, this might be an interesting feature to consider when purchasing. If shining a high beam does not scare them away, perhaps a hard knock to the skull might do the trick.
Note: While it is legal to purchase this type, it is important to remember that the “Strike Bezel” must only be used in dire circumstances, i.e. robbery, assault, etc.
Some folks like to dress up their dogs, while others like to dress up their devices. There are certain accessories that some people may be interested in, depending on what they use theirs for. Among the popular accessories include the following:
* Rubber holsters
* Wrist strap
* Headband (for helmets mounting)
* Carrying bag (padded for added protection)
With all these choices and different things you need to remember, the purchase might seem more daunting now. However, it all boils down to what you need one for and how much you are willing to spend. All the information provided is intended to guide customers so that they can make the best decision possible.