Almost a year after we first saw the Night Strike lights from Energizer, we finally got a chance to play with a couple of them and convey our impressions about them. And, it’s all good!
We’re living in a great time right now. As much as I like the traditions and ways of doing things in historic times, it can’t be denied that we’ve got better toys than our ancestors had to use. One of the product areas where technology has really improved performance is that of personal lighting–particularly with LED bulbs. I remember when LED lights first started hitting the market. The main selling point was that they consumed less energy and the bulbs would last almost forever. The tradeoff was that you wouldn’t necessarily get the high output of some of the top-tier lamps on the market. That’s all changed the past few years. You still get the long life bulbs with the better energy efficiency (which results in longer run times), but we’re now seeing output levels not seen with normal personal flashlight bulbs of the past. Some examples of that great new technology can be found in Energizer’s Night Strike series of lights. The Night Strike line incudes the Handheld model, the Swivel Light, and the Compact Light (picture to the right). We took a look at the first two since they were more inline with full size lights, but still had other modes that allowed for personal area lighting rather than full power beams.
Night Strike Swivel Light
The first we’ll cover, and probably my favorite, is the Swivel Light. While the Swivel model is intended for outdoors folks and hunters, they actually borrowed the largest portion of the features from their Hard Case Tactical model (right picture). The Tactical model has an infrared beam, but that’s not something required by us civvies, so that’s been left off the Swivel model. Aside from that, the Swivel retains the great body build and functionality as its sibling. As you can see, the Swivel has a sleek, futuristic look to it, and it has all the buttons, bells, and whistles you could want to play with while you’re traipsing around in the dark. As you can see, there is a large central bulb which is a White Cree LED, and then around it, there are 4 smaller LED’s for various types of lighting needs. The central bulb is the light source, and will probably be the one you use most of the time while you’re out and about. The main bulb can be set on three different settings including high, medium, and low.
To access those settings, you simply cycle through them via the large button found at the base of the light. But, before you do that, you have to move the switch just under the head to the unlocked position. Because the switches are push-button types, Energizer has included a locked, center position that you can use to store the Swivel and prevent any of the LED’s from getting turned on accidentally. If the bulb is facing you, simply flip the orange switch under it to your right to unlock access to the main LED bulb and the smaller LED’s surrounding the main bulb. Once done, just press the button on the bottom of the light to go through the three different power settings for the white LED. At the highest level, the main white light will output around 100 lumens running on the two AA batteries, and I will say that I not only like the output level, but I also like the nice, clean wide area light it provides. I used this mode quite a bit with the Swivel model while taking my pup Jethro out for walks at night and it provides just the right amount of illumination in front of you to keep an eye out for any pitfalls in the way. One nice thing about this light is that it uses Energizer’s Dual-Drive technology which allows you to run the light on one or two AA batteries. If you don’t need maximum brightness or runtime, you can run the light on just one battery and use the other battery receptacle to store a spare.
As you can see in the pictures above, the Swivel’s main light points forward at a 90 angle to the body. That’s great for when you’re doing something that requires light being cast directly in front of you, but not real helpful with keeping an eye on the ground while you’re walking. True to its name, the Swivel’s head does also point downward at about a 45 degree angle, so if you’ve got the light clipped to your pack or you jacket, you’re getting some light right where you’re walking as well. Just depress the orange buttons on the side of the lamp head and move the head in the direction you’d like it to point. Your father’s angle-head GI light never did that! Which brings me to the next point about the Swivel model. Say you just want to use the Swivel as a regular flashlight. Well, instead of pointing the head down, you reverse direction and roll the headlamp up until its inline with the rest of the flashlight’s body. Once you got it in place, there’s a positive locking mechanism that will keep it from shifting out of position. Nice touch!
Just that functionality alone makes it worth the price of admission for me, but the Swivel offers a few other features that’ll come in handy for some of the folks in our audience. As mentioned, when you have the center switch into the unlocked position, you not only have access to the main LED, but you can also activate three of the smaller LED’s around the center bulb. Each of those LED’s are different colors including red, blue, and green. The lights are individually activated by the three small buttons under the orange “unlock” switch. You can turn the lights on one at a time, or you can be your own party sensation and turn all three on at the same time. Light the main white LED bulb, each of the colored LED’s have 3 power settings available–high, medium, and low. The left button is for blue, center for red, and the right button is for green. Just press any button the required number of times to get it to the right power setting for your task. While these aren’t extremely powerful lights, they are more than enough for things like map reading and other close area tasks. I especially like the fact that they included green in the selection since the green color spectrum is what human eyes are most sensitive to, which is why you are seeing more green laser sights and laser pointers hitting the market.
Still not enough? Okay, how about UV? Some folks in our audience do a bit of hunting and Energizer had them in mind when they supplied the UV light on the Swivel model. If you’re out looking for a blood trail in dim light, then the UV LED is just the trick to help you pick up the trail. To activate it, simply move the center unlock switch from the right “unlocked” position all the way back to the left position with “UV” marked on the label. It’s that easy. Again, it’s not an extremely powerful LED, but it’s enough to get you around the corner when you need that little bit extra help while stalking your game. If nothing else, you can impress your significant other with your CSI knowledge and skills of your own. Just like the rest of the small LED lights, the UV light can be utilized with the head rotated up into “regular flashlight mode”. So, just to tie in the subtitle, using this light for hunting and outdoors activities is the “Little Bit Country” aspect of the lights.
Besides the functionality, the Swivel model is very robust in its build quality. That’s probably owed to its kinship to the Hard Case Tactical line which was built to withstand the harsh environments military personnel encounter on a regular basis. We got the benefits of that research and design in this civilian model. That’s the “Little Bit Rock and Roll” part. The entire body wears a rubber armor to protect it from bumps and bangs. Though LED lamp assemblies are more shock resistent than incandescent bulbs, you’ve still got circuit boards and electrical connections in there, so that extra cushioning won’t go to waste protecting the body. Working in concert with the rubber armor is the environmental sealing throughout the housing to make the light completely waterproof. For instance, the battery compartment has a nice thick gasket lining the chamber that seals the unit tight when you’ve snapped the compartment door shut. The “doorknob” (so to speak) is a rolling switch type that pulls the battery door tight to the body and then snaps into place. As you inspect the construction, there’s no doubt this lamp is built Hell for Stout!
Finally, on the back of the light is a thick gauge wire clip which can be used to attach the Swivel model to things like pack straps, coats, tactical vests, and so forth. As handy as that is, it’s not really necessary. Pictures of the Swivel are a little deceptive, especially after you’ve read through the features including the variuos LED’s and the build quality. You’d think this would be a monster size light. It’s not. As you can see in the picture, it’s still a relatively compact light that’ll be easily tucked away in a jacket pocket. I’m amazed at its size given its light output and the alternate color LED options available. I mentioned the G.I. light previously, and I wasn’t denegrating it. My dad had a couple of them and I was fascinated by them when I was growing up. But, the times, they are a changing, and I’d have to say the Swivel model is only about roughly 2/3’s the size of that older design–with a whole lot more benefits. Yes, I do love technology…
Night Strike Handheld Model
The Handheld model features a magnesium alloy chassis with integegrated fins for heat management. That chassis is employed to get the most runtime and efficiency out of the light and the circuit board. When you consider that the Handheld is billed at 6 hours runtime at the maxium setting of 130 lumens, you have to appreciate the effort that went into managing the heat to get that kind of performance. Typically, with a lot of lights, you’re doing good to get a couple of hours on the maximum setting. Part of that runtime boost comes from the Handheld using 3 of Energizer’s Ultimate LIthium AA batteries. These are my favorite batteries that I use in everything from LED lights to my camera flash and other personal electronics. You can truly tell the difference between them and other AA batteries. They are a little more pricey, but definitely worth it if you need long lasting performance.
The upshot of the Handheld’s niche is that it offers five lighting modes–high and low for red, and Spot, Flot, and Spot/Flood combo for the white light. On the highest setting, the white LED light puts out the aforementioned 130 lumens. It’s a fairly intense beam and pretty focused in comparison to the Swivel model’s softer, more diffused beam–as you can see in the left picture. The picture was taken with both the Handheld Light and the Swivel Light, each approximately six feet from the wall. The Handheld model’s beam is the one on the left and the Swivel’s is on the right side of the picture. While the Handheld’s beam would be great for spotlighting, I do think the Swivel’s light is cleaner and a little more wide angle for close area lighting and for walking a trail at night. However, the Handheld does have more powerful settings for their red LED light than the Swivel does. That mode of operation will help with preserving your night vision.
That said, the red LED mode has its own dedicated switch right next to the switch for the white LED. So, instead of having to cycle through different modes with one switch, you’ve got a fairly simple way to get straigh to the red LED light quickly. Like other areas on the body of the Handheld, the switches are sealed to help make the Handheld water resistant, though not waterproof. The most important of these areas is the battery compartment, and they’ve taken extra care to make sure that door locks up good and tight. It actually requires a couple of different movements to get it op, so having it come open accidentally isn’t going to be a concern. So, the Handheld model won’t be your next dive light, but should do just fine getting you to your next shelter during that rain shower.
If I had to make the choice, I’ll tell you that my favorite of the two is the Swivel light. First, I think it offers a little more versatility and functionality, and I think it’s the best bang for the buck between the two models. The Handheld sells for $99 (MSRP) and the Swivel is only $79.00 (MSRP), and that actually surprised me a bit. The Handheld does offer a 33% (approx.) more powerful light, but the Swivel has more functionality and is completely waterproof. It’s possible through economies of scale that Energizer was able to amortize the cost of the Swivel model through its research and sales of the Hard Case tactical models. Their tactical line has models similar to the Night Strike Compact and the Night Strike Swivel, but I don’t see the Tactical equivalent of the Handheld available. Since it’s a design standing on its own, that may be part of the reason for the slightly higher price. No matter, though, both lights are abolutely worth it. Just like any other product coming to market, you’re always going to see them on the streets for a lower price anyway.
Sadly, though, the article is coming to a close which means I have to send these two great lights back. After a year of waiting to get them in my hot little hands, I have to say the wait was definitely worth it. Even though the lights are going back to Energizer, I’ll be placing an order immediately for both the Swivel and the Compact model. Though I didn’t try out the Compact, I’ve read the fact sheet and it has the same type construction as the Swivel and I know exactly where I’m going to store it in one of my packs. The good news is that in a few days, I’ll be talking with the Energizer folks again at the SHOT show in Vegas. They’ll be showing us some of the new stuff they have coming out for 2010. If it’s anything like what I’ve just had a chance to test out this past couple of months, I can’t wait to see what’s next!