The Super Bowl of Flashlights–Halloween Carry

   10.16.18

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The Flashlight Elite circa 2018 (L to R): HDS Rotary, Torchlab BOSS35, and Muyshondt Beagle

Halloween is one of my three favorite holidays (they are, in order: Christmas, 4th of July, and Halloween with Thanksgiving coming a close fourth). I love being a costume designer and prop (read: weapon) maker for my kids. I like candy because, well, humans are biologically programmed to seek out creamy, high sugar foods. And I like the mysterious and strange vibe—a willingness to embrace the weird, if for only one night. But I like Halloween for another reason—it is the one night of the year when I can be an unashamed flashlight nerd.

For the past nine years I have carried the same torch as my main light—one or the other models from HDS, the past six years have been all Rotary. Aside from the fact that their slogan is so true on Halloween of all nights, I have found that my HDS Rotary has the runtime, the throw, and the ease of use for about two hours of trick-or-treating.

Of course I bring other lights with me—the S1 Baton’s throw issue was illuminated for me (pardon the pun) during one year. It was twice as bright as some lights but couldn’t punch up the far end of my street.

Last year I took the uber-torch with me—Torchlab’s BOSS35. Even more than a year after its release it is still the best light on the market, regardless of price. This is one hell of a light that can do things that seem like science fiction. For example, you program it by showing it a video from the Torchlab website that is a series of pulses of light. You enter the program on a drop down menu and the site boots up the corresponding video for your light to “watch.” Its crazy.

Over the years, here are a few things that I have found that make a good trick-or-treat light (which, coincidentally, also make for a good night hike light—that’s the conceit here, I am actually describing good outdoor lights for night time activity).

Throw

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First and foremost, most EDC lights do okay on Halloween, but they lack the throw necessary to really see where you are going and what sort of goblins are coming down the street. The HDS Rotary is almost twice the size of the S1, but most of that size is used up by a surprisingly deep reflector given the Rotary excellent throw for its size. Its not a spotlight and Search and Rescue teams would opt for something else, but as a light that drops in your pocket easily, the Rotary does well. I have also found that most Surefires punch well above their weight because of how nice the optics are on Surefire torches. With a very focused hotspot and a thin diffuse spill, Surefires tend to be more throwy than most lights the same size.

Runtime

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A 1600 lumen light that lasts 15 minutes ain’t gonna cut it at my house. We do about 6 miles of walking on Halloween (or at least me and my oldest son do, my youngest gets carried for a few of those miles). So instead a portable sun that sets in a quarter hour, I want something that is pretty bright but runs for days. Again, the HDS does well on this score mainly because of how easy it is to change the output. Other lights that do well are things like the S1 with its good medium output and some of the 1xAAA lights that have decent mediums like the FourSevens Preon Mk. 3, the Eagletac D25AAA, and the Surefire Titan Plus. Of course the king of runtimes, Muyshondt always does well on All Hallow’s Eve. You’ll be able to upgrade the emitter before you will swap out your first battery. That performance comes at a price though—the cheapest Muyshondt is around $300.

Thermal Management

Some of the mega bright lights are okay on runtime, but physics makes you pay a price eventually and heat is that price. A few years ago when testing out my Eagletac TX25C the light got so hot that I couldn’t touch it. Most modern lights with fat batteries, like 18350s or 18650s will be able to do this. The BOSS35 can run at its max basically as long as you want (the program will give you a warning when configuring the light to do this), but the end result is a light that feels like it was hauled out of the rubble at Chernobyl. Aluminum and copper are good conductors of heat, better than titanium and steel, so look for that. Also look for lights that have step down circuitry that will pull the light back from the brink if it gets too hot (the BOSS35, of course has this, but you disable it when you switch it into “Supernova” mode). Some good body tube design also helps—fins, vents, and anything that creates a lot of surface area also works well. As funny as it seems now, my Haiku will never overheat thanks to its generous heat venting body tube design.

Ease of Use

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The Rotary crushes all torches in terms of UI. Nothing is better on this front than the Rotary, but I am also a big fan of switch-and-paddle set ups like those found on larger Klarus and Nitecore torches. They are very tactile and give you great feedback when used. I also like a good, easy to access even with gloves on tailswitch like the one found on the BOSS35. The twist and twist again lights are just too fumbly for this role.

This year I am bringing, of course, the HDS Rotary. But I am also going to try out Klarus’s new focusable light, the FX10. I will also probably bring the oLight H1R, a great headlamp if for no other reason than to embarass my older son by being “that Dad.” Finally, a camp lamp will probably be clipped to the wagon, both so I can find it after venturing to a front door, but also so my youngest son has something to play with when he is too tired to walk.

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