Torches Large and Small

15 November 2019

I decided to buy two torches recently; a carry around pocket torch and something larger for walking the dog. I considered self-defence aspects in both cases as well as the usual things such as brightness (lumens), battery type and battery life. Most standard torches, create around 60‑250 lumens and use standard 1.5V AA or D‑cell batteries. Many modern torches however can rate up to 30 000 lumens and beyond, and often use Lithium, 3.7V, 18650 and 14500 type batteries. I also considered the torches’ mode switching mechanism to be an important factor as it’s irritating to have to cycle through six different light modes just to turn the thing off.

Carry Around

For a carry around I wanted something that I wouldn’t notice in my pocket which still had a useful battery life and was bright enough to dazzle an assailant. I prefer the button to be near the light end so I don’t end up fiddling around.

I went with the Nebo, iProtec Pro 800 light torch:

The EO5 K146 pocket torch is just the right size at 8cm and has an excellent mechanism for its 5 switch modes. It is solidly made of ‘aircraft grade’ aluminium (alloy) and is pleasant to hold in the hand. It has a magnetic base and is supplied with a rechargeable 3.7V, 14500, lithium battery.

Parameters with 14500 lithium 850 mAh battery:

Lumens Battery Life
(hours)
Beam Distance
(metres)
Turbo 900 1 130
High 150 3 130
Medium 30 11 -
Low 1 115 1.5
Strobe/Beacon 150 - 1.5

The torch also allows for an AA, but the battery life will be reduced and the torch will disallow turbo mode. Because of its size you can only fit one battery.

The intelligent power button is a very attractive feature. The torch will turn on in the last mode used. The 900 lumen turbo mode can be activated by holding the button down for 1 second or by using button presses. Double clicking the button activates the strobe light (to dazzle attackers). Most torches will have you cycling through several modes to reach the strobe, which would be difficult during an attack. Three quick clicks will lock the button so you don’t accidentally activate it. When turned on the power button indicates the batteries' power level with different colours and flashes.

The torch comes with a Kratax own-brand battery, a metal clip (attached), a lanyard, a rubber bicycle attachment, a rubber cap and two replacement O-rings for waterproofing.

I’m really pleased with this torch; the power button functions are outstanding. The selection of lumen levels are excellent. The 1 lumen level might seem more useful for spies, but in a torch this size it might come in handy for preserving battery life when caught short. The possibility of using two different battery types is certainly unique and very wellcome.

Large Torch

In a larger torch I wanted a dimmer wide angle beam and a bright, clear search beam. This would be useful for indoor/outdoor use and retaining some night vision if desired. I also wanted something long and sturdy to protect myself.

I went with the Nebo, iProtec 800 light torch:


iProtec 800 torch.

Note the length is 23cm (9 inches) not 30cm as on the Amazon website. This was disappointing as I wanted the length, but it still feels long and weighty enough to make a good club. The torch boasts a crenulated ‘self-defence’ edge and is made of a strong, anodized, aluminium alloy.

The torch has a large 6x zoom and 800 lumen output on the high setting; great for distance illumination (spot light). At the wider end (flood light) I can brightly illuminate a large area. The low setting creates 310 lumens which is still very bright. The output is further varied by reducing the number of batteries:

Battery Number Lumens Battery Life
(Hours)
Beam Distance
(Metres)
High 9 800 8 240
Low 310 23 140
High 6 720 5 226
Low 290 18 133
High 3 610 3 204
Low 240 12 117

It’s a shame that I couldn't arrive at the different lumen levels using the button. I use it with three batteries and miss the extra weight.

The torch turns on at the brightest setting. Lighting modes can be cycled by ‘soft pressing’ the power button. There is no way to use the strobe without cycling through the settings and the button is on the back end of the torch so it would be very difficult to use in self defence. It could be used as a distress beacon however and will last 72 hours with 9 batteries. There is no hole for a lanyard but one could be drilled near the power button.

Nine Duracell batteries were supplied. The battery holder slides out which is nice, but it is difficult to click the batteries in place or remove.

N/B It seems torches go through different generations without a change of name, thus the details on Amazon are out of date. There is no magnetic base and no red light mode. Use the lumen outputs above as they come from the manual.

Alternatives

A good alternative is the solid, dependable but pricey Maglite. If buying on Amazon compare details with the American Maglite website to make sure they are accurate. One of the latest models is the ML300LX with an excellent lumen range for indoor/outdoor activities: 625, 130 or 58 lumens. It is 30cm long and around the same weight as the iProtec with 9 batteries. It has a twist lens design for switching focus but I wonder whether this would match the iProtec’s 6x zoom. I’m rather dubious of the beam distance claimed; 400m of light cover; almost half a kilometre. The accessories are a big plus, they include a holster and replacement and coloured lenses; blue for penetrating fog and red for maintaining night vision.

Ledlenser are a German company who make some very attractive torches, including the 30cm P17. 'Boost' output is 1000 lumens with a beam distance of 450 metres. High output is of 500 lumens. Minimum output is 100 lumens and 150 metres. Battery life is 15 hours with the boost mode and 300 hours for low mode. Mode cycling is by rapid clicks of the button. Three D‑cell batteries are required. The website has many very attractive but very expensive models. Accessories include a lens kit and a snazzy camping set which turns the torch into a lamp with different coloured light diffusers.

Another alternative is the Tattu, Heavy Duty Tactical. There are 2, 3 or 4 D‑cell battery versions. Tattu are a new brand who specialise in security and outdoor torches. They are high lumen torches with no indoor selection but have a range of workplace and security features including waterproofing, an ‘attack head’ for self-defence and glass breaking, an anti-static power switch and an ‘upgraded’ far-beam LED. The switch is on the front end of the torch.

Batteries

With recent developments in lithium battery technology, many modern torches are now fitted for the use of unfamiliar battery types including 14500, 14560 and 18650 with voltages in excess of 3V. Standard AA or D‑cell batteries produce a voltage between 1.2 - 1.5V depending on the particular battery chemistry. The numbers used in these new battery types refer to the dimensions of the battery in millimetres. For example the 14 in 14500 refers to its diameter and the 50 refers to its length. A 14500 battery is therefore the same size as an AA battery, but a 14500 lithium battery should never be confused with an AA lithium battery due to the different voltages.

It gets more complicated when trying to purchase such batteries as they are not sold as standard. 14500 batteries in particular are difficult to find and you will see them sold by non-standard vendors rather than the tried and trusted brands such as Duracell and Energizer. As a general rule do not buy batteries from ebay and be wary of cheap Chinese knockoffs. If a brand claims radically higher mAh (milliamp hours) than any others consider it suspect.

You will also see some batteries sold without the usual flashy packaging; just a plain coloured jacket. Generally speaking these batteries are sold to people who build circuits and they may or may not include overcharge and discharge protection. Fortunately Nitecore who specialize in torches have produced an easy to identify, decent quality battery with circuit protection.

Other trustworthy brands include Olight and Xtar, though they may be slightly lower in mAh. Ledlenser sell a 10440 (AAA size) battery. Saft batteries are not designed for torches, nor rechargeable, despite being a 14500 battery. They are otherwise an excellent brand.

14500, 14560 and 18650 battery types require an appropriate battery charger. A typical AA battery charger will not do but universal ones exist that will charge both kinds. Torch, batteries and chargers; it can get a bit expensive all told.

H