Ever since I was a young boy living in the remote wilderness of, uh, southern California, I’ve always liked flashlights.My dad was an electronics engineer, and he used to take them apart and put battery packs in them, making them rechargeable. We used to go camping a lot, and we were never far from a functional light source.
Boy, have flashlights come a long way since then. The last few years have seen an explosion of LED technology. Most modern lights, especially high end ones, use American-made Cree LED Emitters. The rise in cheap emitters brought with it hundreds of Chinese manufacturers who created literally thousands of different designs for flashlights.
And not only has LED technology advanced over the years, so has battery technology. Today’s ridiculous flashlights are made more so by putting Lithium-Ion batteries in them. But for this article, I am going to focus on the basics, and it doesn’t get more basic than an AAA battery. What it lacks in capacity, it more than makes up for in commonality. Most people could find an AAA battery if they put any effort into it.
Below is a few of my favorite AAA lights. Except where noted, they all can take either a 1.5 volt Alkaline battery or a rechargeable 1.2 volt Ni-Mh battery. Some of them can even take a Li-Ion 3.7 volt 10440 battery, which you can purchase at your favorite battery store, or from the Internet.
From left to right:
(DealExtreme Cheapo R2, Streamlight Microstream , Thrunite Ti, Fenix E01, Olight I3)
If you are an electronics hobbyist then you probably already know about DealExtreme. They sell thousands of electronic and other esoteric objects. They ship free from Hong Kong, and if you don’t mind waiting a month for something to arrive, you can often get the same items for less than half price. This one with a 10440 battery (also from DX) will put a car headlight in your hand for 13 bucks, and that includes the battery. Mine had to be torn down to its bare components and cleaned before it worked, and that’s about average for DX lights. No self respecting “flashaholic” would own one, but then again I’ve never had much self respect.
It’s bright, it’s cheap, and it’s indestructible. You can get it from Amazon for 20 bucks. That’s really all you need to know.Mine sits clipped to my Maxpedition Rat wallet, and when the stuff hits the fan, it will power on when I need it. People say you can put a 10440 in it and turn it into a “pocket rocket”, but that’s not what I want from it. It’s plenty bright with an AAA.If you read the reviews on Amazon, you will see that these are routinely put through the washer/dryer. This one also has great “throw”, meaning that the beam is narrow and can light things up at a greater distance.
This can now be had from Thrunite’s store on Amazon. For those in the know, this light is a two mode twist that goes from an amazing (at least for an AAA) 60 lumens down to .04 lumens for “firefly” mode. In an emergency it can go 150 hours on an off-the-shelf alkaline AAA. Not to mention you can get up in the middle of the night without waking up anyone or blinding them. This thing hasn’t left my night stand since I bought it!
A nice little light you can get off of Amazon for around $12. This one has an old-school looking Japanase Nichia emitter in it. It’s not much light, and the beam pattern is horrible, and the tint is an eerie purple. But it will give you 10 lumens of light for about 12 hours off a common AAA. Oh, and it’s bomb-proof. The circuitry is “potted” or epoxied together in one tight solid block. This is considered by most flashaholics to be the one of the most (if not the most) rugged flashlights in existence. I put this one on my wife’s keychain. When she needs it, then it will work.
This is a remake of the venerable iTP A3. It’s a 3 mode (lo-med-hi) twist light. It can go 20 hours on low or you can light up the night for an hour on high. The beam is pure “flood”, meaning lots of light for looking a short distance. It can also take an 10440 Lithium-Ion battery and you can pack about the most light you can get for that size. After about 5 minutes, you risk melting the flashlight, and if it’s still alive past about 15 you risk exploding the battery. So most people will want an AAA in these lights. But it’s nice knowing you could, and it’s impressive to behold. This light sits clipped to my EDC bag as a backup for when I travel.
I got this one from Battery Junction.