So, you need a flashlight? I am likely to tell you to “look for features before you look at the price, determine what you really need, and match the features available to that need.” Then, I am going to tell you “be prepared to spend a lot more than $20.” I am not a light snob, honest. Yes, I have several lights that cost more than some consider reasonable and yes, I do have about a dozen lights but all serve a function and are placed where they can be accessed when I need them. All of the “high-end” lights I own are excellent tools and serve me extremely well, all fitted to specific types of use. My “expensive” (to other people) lights are great, but certain features can be overlooked while on the quest for “ultra-tough,” “ultra-bright” or “defensive tool.”
Armed with the above advice, you start shopping but meddling little gremlins of guilt point accusing fingers and say “Bad Shopper! You will fill the landfill with mounds of dead batteries!” Rechargeable cells (“batteries”) have recently become quite a cozy bandwagon to jump onto for those marketing them because they have a certain environmental edge over disposable cells. “Green” marketing aside, not running out of cells simply because you can simply recharge the depleted ones you already have is pretty appealing and maybe even cheaper. The problem is not being able to charge your rechargeables when you’re not at home, or you are home and the power is out or you’re on a camping trip – in the woods – where there are no outlets.
Essential Gear, of Greenfield, Massachusetts, provides a solution with a couple handy lights that are very reasonably priced, compact, versatile and rechargeable. The best part is that they have eliminated the drawback of not being able to use your charger. If you are outdoors-oriented or just like being prepared for emergencies, Essential Gear has been thinking about you.
I will start with the smaller of the two lights, the eGear spotlight, which is about the size of my thumb. The spotlight is a half-Watt LED light that is just big enough to handle without fumbling and provides about two hours of useable light per full charge. The body is red anodized aluminum (available in other cool colors) and difficult to overlook if lay it down. It turns on and off with a twist of its bezel, which can be done with one hand. The spotlight is meant to be kept in your vehicle, where you should always have a flashlight anyway, and stores in your vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket or one of the auxiliary “power sockets.” No more grubbing in the glove box for the light you were certain you put there when you bought the vehicle, only to finally find it with crusty dead alkalines now permanently adhered to the inside of the light – and useless.
The spotlight recharges in the socket while not in use and is ready for the occasional map check, gear bag dig or liberated french-fry retrieval mission, as it casts a wide, soft light that is very easy on dark-oriented eyes. There is plenty of brightness for changing a tire, finding the tow hooks or re-filling the windshield washer fluid reservoir as well and is of sufficient brightness to light a path should you have to leave the vehicle and “walk a ways” for fuel. I have used this light off and on over the past month and have found it to be very convenient – preventing me from digging my EDC from a pocket while seated in a vehicle or rummaging in the center console for my dedicated vehicle light. This time of year leaves me in the dark when I head to work in the mornings as well as when I return home in the evening and the spotlight has illuminated the inside of my mailbox morning and night since before Christmas as I come and go each day. I have also used it to find stuff in the vehicle and to check the passenger-side floor mat for coolant drips from an aging heater core.
The one thing about the spotlight that I did not like was the red indicator which tells you that it is charging. When you drive a ten year old vehicle with over 236 thousand miles on it, a red light, any red light, whether you know what it is or not, keeps things a bit edgy. Aside from the nervous distraction, it is a bit of a visual distraction anyway.
Item two is a considerably different light. You could keep it in your vehicle if you wanted, but it is not dependant upon your vehicle’s 12V system to keep it alive. The eGear EcoCharge Solar Pull Light steps in to fill a new niche by being independent of any charging system other than sunbathing or a few of your own calories. The EcoCharge has a built in solar panel about 3” by 1 ¼” to soak up the rays and store them for later when it’s dark outside. It also works, just not as quickly, with indoor lighting. Full sun for 5 hours is supposed to yield 30 minutes of light. Converting your own calories to light is achieved by a built-in dynamo pull string charger. Sort of like pulling the string of the talking dolls of yore, but the light doesn’t talk and you need to pull, let it retract, pull, let it retract at a measured pace for at least a minute for 18 more minutes of light.
Having three LEDs, the EcoCharger provides a decent amount of light for getting around in the house, finding things that have retreated to the cold corners of your tent or inside and outside of your vehicle. Again, you get a soft, broad light that is sufficient for most tasks and easy on the eyes. The rechargeable Lithium cell is accessible through a door in the back of the light and I suspect that it could be replaced if eventually it quit taking a charge.
Size, weight and ergonomics of both lights are very good. While the spotlight seems tougher than the EcoCharger, I did not stress either to any extent to find out just what they would take. They do appear to be of reasonable quality and the price is low enough that you could buy one for each vehicle or for placement around the house, or in your gear bags for ready access in an emergency.
No, you are not going to temporarily blind and disorient an attacker with either of these lights and I doubt that either makes a viable improvised defensive tool. You will likely be looking for a new light if you try to drive over them with a tank and I am not certain either would make it through the washer without issuing some form of protest, but here are two especially unique lights in terms of application, functionality and cost that are hard to overlook. Having a light in an emergency bag that is not reliant on cells fresh off the charger or store shelf is a boon. Having a light at your fingertips in the vehicle that charges while you drive beats the heck out of that vintage “three-D” under the seat with something growing out of the cells and digesting the rest of the light.
While I did not do scientific testing to determine how many minutes I had to pull the charging string on the EcoCharger, did not time the hours it basked in the sunlight’s rays nor timed driving time of the charge on the spotlight, I did find that the features worked. I didn’t tear them apart and connect my ammeter, but I left the EcoCharger in a south window sill between uses and left the spotlight in the vehicle’s lighter socket while driving. I even let the EcoCharger run down to almost no output and tried the pull string and in all cases, I saw the change from diminished output back up to some level of improvement. The pull string showed an observable improvement, while the other means both took the respective lights right back up to full brightness after a time.
I like my expensive “tactical” lights a lot and I am not replacing any of them with either of the two mentioned above, but I will augment the functionality of my lights with the useful features of the eGear lights and I will be back to their site to check out some other neat gear. Not to be a name-dropper, but one of those neat items is the PICO light, designed in collaboration with Doug Ritter – a fine gentleman whose thoughts on survival are respected world-wide. Oh, and remember when I told you to be prepared to spend more than twenty bucks on a light? Well, forget that part of my “sage advice,” because either of these lights will cost you a fuzz less than that even at full retail.