This is the third part of my ‘Three XYZ Collection: Budget to Luxury’ series of posts (part one, part two). The idea is simple: building a three item collection for a given category, which should cover almost anyone — and doing it in three price brackets.
Let’s get started with flashlights.
This article will cause some comments, so a reminder that these are my picks on my list — they are not made to be universal. These are what I would personally recommend to people. As with the other posts in this series, we have an inexpensive category, a mid category, and then a no budget level (Luxury). I spend most of the time in Luxury while still playing around with the mid-level lights — but there’s a lot here.
The most significant difference between categories is not brightness but build quality, run times, and fancy. Enjoy…
As with the past collection posts, it’s best to start by defining the three categories that any good collection needs to cover. For flashlights, there are three areas I think we are best to cover (but really, two would be sufficient for many, if I am honest here). The three categories I am going to cover are:
- Pocket Light: this light is effortless to carry in your pocket and is very useful for random tasks you might find needing a light for. This is likely to be your most used light. So here I am looking for something easy to use while also being something that looks cool with good runtimes while still not being too huge to carry in your pocket.
- Outdoors & Work: this light needs to be durable. It shouldn’t be something you worry about around water, something you can trust to work whenever you need it, that is easy to use, and all that.
- Light stuff up: this is the light you want to pull out to impress someone. When you want to get that little grin when you use it, this could be because it is as bright as the sun, or it could be because it’s just absurd in some way — you want to play with it, and you blind yourself constantly because of that. This is the best light category while being the least practical daily.
Budget (Sub-$50 each)
D4V2 left, E2A right.
A reminder: this category is not about going all the way to the top of the budget, but is instead about spending as little as possible to get something high quality. If your entire collection was only this list, you could be pleased.
- Pocket: Skilhunt E2A ($34) specifically the ‘High CRI’ model will net you a tiny light which is very easy to use for a great price. The light is durable for any use and easily drops into your pocket. I am a big fan of this one, and while the price has increased, it’s still an excellent value.
- Outdoors and Work: Wurkkos FC11 ($33) is an outstanding value. While about $6 more gets you a light UI I like better, I can’t come up with a reason why that would be a better fit over this. I’d guess this light is better than what the average person owns as their nicest flashlight and has an integrated charger with a great emitter. Opt for the 4000k variant, and don’t look back. I owned this for a long time before moving to a slight upgrade and essentially giving this away so someone could have a nice light. My Review
- Light Stuff Up: Emisar D4V2 ($45+5) coming in at the top of the budget here, but while also being the hands-down best grin-factor light on all the lists at any price — this is a beast of a light. The thing is, you need to bring your own battery and charger. So it’s right at the $50 mark for sure. You’ll have to buy the no-frills version with the stock options, but even at that, you’ll end up with a light that you play with a ton (lightning mode is amazing) and that you’ll blind yourself no fewer than a dozen times in the first week — but the grin will last for many months to come. I’d go with the SST-20 4000k option for emitters to avoid any upcharges. What a great light. My Review
All in, you are at $117 for all three — honestly, any of those three could/would be enough for most people. You should, for sure, try to get all three, though.
Mid Tier (Sub-$170 each)
From left: D2, MDC, MX3F.
Above this $170 price point is diminishing returns for your money, but within the $50 – $150 range, you can get a lot of really stellar lights. Here are the three I think are the best picks (only things you can buy off the shelf), but I will be honest — this was a tough list to compile as the number of great options is abundant.
- Pocket: Emisar D2 14500 ($62 as configured) is a killer little light. It weighs nothing, it’s tiny, but it packs a punch. It’s actually a little more as you need batteries and a charger, so call it $72. My suggested configuration: Stone White, Amber Switch Backlight, Channel 1 519a 5700k dedome, Channel 2 519a 2700k dedome, clear optic on channel 1, frosted optic on channel 2, pocket clip, magnet in tail cap, done. With that setup, you have something that will give you a warm candle glow or a pure, beautiful high CRI white. It fits in your pocket, might weigh less than your car key fob, and gets plenty bright. I didn’t want to like this light, but man, is it good. And that dedome 519a in 2700k — it’s like the warm flame of a candle, pure perfection.
- Outdoors and Work: Malkoff MDC HA 1CR123 ($132) is one of the best lights out there for this role. It has an excellent LED, is very rugged, and is designed to be as fail-proof as possible. The big knock against this light is the control mechanism, which will take some getting used to. But the benefit of that system is that once you get used to it, then the light will always turn on to the mode you expected it to turn on to. And, in a three light collection, that should be fairly easy to get used to — thus removing one of my biggest worries about the light. Either way, great light and durable as hell. My Review
- Light Stuff Up: This one is an easy win here: FourSevens Maelstrom MX3F ($165). This light is super bright, runs for seemingly ever, and has a High CRI set of emitters. It’s a chonk of a light, but I enjoy the heck out of using it. Night into day? Check. Oh, and it’ll output 1600 lumens for a whopping 1.5 hours. Heh. It’s one thing to have a bright light, but they die quickly, but to have the power for an hour? I’m in. My Review
We have more than tripled the total cost to $389 all-in plus batteries. However, each of these lights is significantly better than those in the last section, save the D4V2 — which is simply a stellar light no matter your budget. As you can see, though, with the MX3F — that’s where we are going to top out on the list at lumen count/runtime because we are about to hit the category where style points come into play.
Luxury (Sky’s the Limit)
What do you get for more than $170 per light? You get custom designs that photograph well and have excellent emitters. The margin by which these lights are better exists only in subjectivity, not objectivity. You can rightfully argue there are better picks. You can say that any light above does the task better for less money. You would be wrong, of course, but I can see you making that argument in a convincing fashion for others.
Left: Malihini Slim. Right: HDS Rotary in poor man’s metal.
What you cannot argue is that if you pocket-dumped these three lights among those in the know — well, the room is going to go quiet with respect. Let’s do it.
- Pocket: Laulima Malihini Slim ($412), this light is insane. The level of machining is so precise and smooth that it is unreal. The drive is great and allows you to program this light exactly how you want. In hand, it feels like a gem. It is still small enough to carry exceedingly well and yet, at the same time, not feel too bulky. Get Ti, get 519a, and call it a day. Laulima is making an outstanding, decently available product, and the prices are pretty good comparatively for this level of light finishing and quality. Oh, and it’s still pretty damned bright.
- Outdoors and Work: HDS Rotary BeCu ($1,344) with an NB45 emitter, toss in the Sapphire lens, and do the flush switch. The HDS Rotary is the best light money can buy — it will withstand essentially anything while having the best UI available in a flashlight. But, to then go and get it with the C173 beryllium copper body and bezel — I mean, come on, that’s a dream light right there. The best light, in an exotic material, while also being something perhaps more reliable with a better emitter than the Malkoff — yeah, this is an obvious upgrade on every level. I don’t have this, clearly, but in my dreams, it is perfection. My Review of the affordable stainless steel version.
- Light Stuff Up: You are unlikely to get more light in a better package than the abovementioned ones. So instead of trying to grab an extremely bright luxury light, let’s grab a very bright one that will make you smile even when you don’t have it on. That’s a tall order, but that’s exactly what Barrel Flashlight Co makes. They operate on a drop-based system, but you can buy some nice examples here ($495+). These lights are well made while also being excellent flashlights. So buy the one that the visuals give you the biggest smile, and while your wallet won’t love it, you sure will. Man, I need another one of these. My Review
You are looking at a base of around $2,251 here, and while you could try for a Cool Fall, these lights are more my jam. Enjoy.