For the first time in quite a few weeks, I actually had off from work last weekend.  Partially, that was because I’ve caught up, and partially, it was because I had made a promise to the boys and other leaders of the Boy Scout Troop that my son John is in that I would go camping with them, and help to do a Historic Trails Hike through the Yorktown Battlefield.  Yes, I’m an Eagle Scout.  Yes, John is working for his Eagle Scout (and in full disclosure mode, he’ll be presenting his Eagle Scout Project proposal next Monday, 3/19).  But that’s not what this post is about.  Many of you camp, I’m sure, but ALL of you, if you are truly geeky, do something much more basic… you use some form of flashlight.

It’s self evident why any self respecting geek has a flashlight; we just have to crawl into our electronics, our boxes, our you name it too much to not have need for one.  Me, I’m partial to MagLites ever since I was issued one while working in one of my former lifetimes as a Radiological Control Officer for the Navy.  Believe me, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds, crawling around in the bilge of a Nuclear Submarine’s reactor compartment, regardless of how Homer Simpson’s buddies show it.  But I digress.

I’m on my third MiniMag; one unfortunately was lost forever during the aforesaid work (I wonder if 10000 years from now, it will still work if someone can find two AA batteries?).  The second unfortunately had a battery explode in it (a rarity, I know) which has flash welded the end cap to the shank.  Ah, but the third….. it fell into water, exploded, and then sank into the swamp…. well, not really, but I couldn’t resist the Monty Python reference.


The third is one of my two standard flashlights when camping, and is my standard flashlight, period, when I’m working on my computer (which is back to where we started).  I also camp with a MaxiMag, three D Cells, as well.  On this past camping trip, one of the other adults had a crank powered LED light.  Rated at 1 hour of operations for one minute of cranking, he reported he really got about twenty minutes per minute, and cranked it on and off all weekend; he’d be sitting around talking just slowly charging it.  When I got back from the trip, Rebecca had researched LED Flashlights, and had found the kit shown above for Maglites.  It’s $8.95 at Lowes locally, but you can get it from ThinkGeek, too.  Using the batteries that I used all weekend, it’s bright enough as a three LED flash to sear your retina for a few seconds.  And it includes a push button that acts as an overall kill switch.  Yes, you can and do still turn it off normally, as well, but now you can turn it off while it’s in Candle Mode.  Oh, and it’s still supposed to be water proof.  Battery life is supposed to go up to about 96 hours continual usage on a fresh pair of Alkaline AA batteries, versus about 4-6 hours with the regular halogen bulb, though I would only count on about half that at best.  That’s a still lot of searching for a lost jumper in a computer case, though.  And it still looks and feels exactly like it always did, still MiniMag quality.  The second picture above actually is a smart switch to turn on or off the MagLite.

 As yet another total aside, does anyone know the URL of the person who a few years back made a Lightdagger out of a MagLite?  I think he was inspired by Yoda’s lightsabers.

Rebecca also found a nifty little three AAA 6 LED flash.  I’m not as secure in battery life, and the individual LEDs aren’t as bright, but it’s a brighter overall light.  A bit thicker in the shank, larger in the lens, but substantially shorter, it’s a nice flash for holding while wearing gloves.  Doesn’t do candlemode like a MagLite, though.

And then there are the tiny LED lights meant to be used on keychains and such.  While not particularly bright (similar to the wind up jobs, they just don’t put out huge amounts of light), they’re useful for small jobs or lightweight usage.  I wouldn’t trade one full time for my MiniMag, but they have their uses.

Part of the initiative for why we suddenly are switching to LED flashlights, though, is safety.  Conventional flashlights are good for about 2 hours worth of light before they are nearly unusable.  Halogen MagLites are good for between twice and three times that amount.  But LED flashlights are good for 12 hours and up (sometimes much up… this kit of mine is potentially good for up to 96 hours).  So if one of my youthful charges becomes lost, but he has one of these lights, he’s much more likely to be spotted by rescuers during night searches.  And no, I don’t need one for that reason for ME…. after all, I’m not lost, my tent is just lost.

So, what flashlights do you use when you’re working on your computer, or out camping?  Share, and maybe we can find the ultimate LED light!