Regardless what kind of pack you are building, be it for camping, urban survival or zombie apocalypse, one of the most critical components will be a light source. This can be a daunting task, since you want something that will be durable, compact, and meet your specific needs. Well the folks at Gerber have come on with a little wonder they call the Cortex Compact.
The name Gerber is known first and foremost as a premier knife manufacture, but in recent years, Gerber has branched out into other tool products to encompass tools for outdoors, hunting, survival, industrial, tactical, and military use. The Cortex Compact flashlight can be found under their tactical line, but it can be used for just about all of the other applications with ease. What impressed me the most with this little light was the innovative design which allows you to switch between both CR123 Lithium and common AA batteries with no significant reconfiguration needed. As with most of the Gerber lights, the Cortex Compact features an aluminum and gasket construction. The outside has a flat black hard anodized finish over the deep knurling, providing a firm gripping surface in most conditions. The cut outs in the face of the light provide a tactical striking surface against soft targets, and also allows the user to note if the light is turned on when place face down on a flat surface. The real ‘wow’ factor of the light is the power source flexibility.
The best performance from the Cortex Compact comes from the best power source. With the CR123 installed, the Cortex Compact will allow for 1 ½ hours of run time at 125 lumens, or 9 hours of run time in the 25 lumens low setting mode. A third strobe mode is also available by prompt-clicking the rear mounted soft switch a third time, and is designed to temporarily blind an assailant’s night vision. In this configuration, the overall length of the Cortex Compact is 3 ½ inches, and fits comfortably in a pocket. But the CR123 isn’t a widely popular power source unless you’re already rolling in the tactical crowd or are a flashlight junky. Unless you are going to a decent sporting goods store, you will be paying a premium at the big chain stores as they are typically marketed as a camera battery at around $5.00 a pop! Well the folks at Gerber understand this situation, and made an ingenious design feature on the Cortex Compact. By twisting the barrel housing, the length of the light can be extended to a full 4 inches, accommodating the far more common AA battery. As expected, what you gain in convenience and battery cost savings, you lose in performance. With a AA equipped as the power source, the Cortex Compact will allow for 1 1/4 hours of run time at 60 lumens, and 6 hours of run time in the 12 lumens low setting mode. The strobe effect is still available, but its performance will also be compromised and is not recommended. Using the light with both sources, I found either to be adequate for normal use.
In the AA configuration, a 4 inch long light was a good size for around the garage use and withstood grease and oil pretty well. The gasket design allowed me to feel comfortable pulling this out on a rain and sleet filled night when my car was acting up, and not worry about water getting into the battery chamber. In CR123 configuration, the length was puny, and I barely noticed it in my pocket, along with my concealed carry weapon. While the diameter might allow this to be mounted on a weapons light mount, I personally would carry it off hand to take advantage of the strobe effect. Again, I would not feel comfortable using the strobe with the AA unless I had no other choice, as the 60 lumens would not be as effective disrupting night vision and the more intense 125 lumens from the CR123. The Cortex Compact nicely straddles the gap between tactical and practical, and in my opinion would nicely fill the spot in about any setting. Gerber lists the MSRP at $82 but some quick online shopping should be able to yield one for just a bit over $50. Now if I only had a few zombies to test it on…