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Reviews > Lighting > Flashlights - LED > Gerber Bear Grylls Intense Torch > Test Report by Kerri Larkin
GERBER BEAR GRYLLS INTENSE TORCH
TEST SERIES BY KERRI LARKIN
Bear Grylls has become something of a survivalist icon following his popular television series, which was widely shown in Australia and the United Kingdom. In collaboration with Gerber, Grylls has put his name to a range of survival equipment, of which the Intense Torch (hereafter called the torch) is just one piece. My torch arrived in a presentation blister pack, which had a very nice appearance. The packaging contained the torch, an attached lanyard, a "Priorities of Survival Pocket Guide", and two AA batteries. The packaging needs to be cut open and torn apart to remove all the items.
The torch itself is a very sleek item: the anodized orange body is almost a copper colour and really looks great contrasting against the gray of the rubber grip. Aesthetically, this is a beautiful torch! It's designed around a triangular body, which Gerber says is to stop it rolling on flat surfaces, and that body shape really sets it apart from other torches. On one side of the torch, near the bulb end is the word "Gerber" in white lettering. The other end has a logo on one face and what looks like a serial number on another face although there is no mention of what this numbering means on the packaging or the website. The gray rubber grip occupies the middle half of the torch and is the same profile as the body. Each of the three faces of the grip has indented molding and the initials "BG" in the middle.
The lens is recessed into the body of the torch, which should offer some protection from knocks and shocks. The actual bulb appears to be set quite deeply into the body and is surrounded by a highly polished reflector. At the other end, the body terminates in a buttress type projection from each face. A semicircular dip is cut in to these projections which allows access to the single domed rubber switch which is located in the centre of the body end cap. Two small dents in the end cap give the impression this cap could be unscrewed (perhaps for maintenance using some kind of special tool. One of the end buttresses has a small hole through it, to which the lanyard is attached. The lanyard appears to be the same as a standard camera wrist strap.
One of the things that struck me was that the batteries included were a reputable 'name' brand rather than cheap generic batteries. That immediately made me feel like this was going to be a quality product, especially with the included survival guide.
Another thing that struck me was that there are absolutely no instructions for this torch on the packaging or on the website. I figured, "How hard can it be? It's just a torch!" so set about trying to open it to insert the batteries. After pulling on both ends with no luck, I decided to be brave and try twisting the ends to see if they unscrew. Eureka! The end with the bulb unscrews to reveal the battery compartment. I was pleased to see an 'O'-ring at the base of the thread, which I'm guessing is how the torch becomes waterproof when reassembled. The screw thread is quite fine and gives the impression it would be easy to cross-thread the bulb section when putting it all back together. There's also no indication of how tight the torch parts should be screwed together: it's possible to screw it very tight but I was concerned that might damage the 'O'-ring so I backed it off a turn so that the anodized end was just snug against the rubber grip.
There's no graphic to suggest which way to insert the batteries so I tried the 'common sense' approach and used previous experience and the shape of the terminals as a guide. As luck would have it, I got it right!
As I said above, there are no instructions for the torch, however it is worth mentioning the pocket survival guide here. While very basic, the guide gives a great reminder of priorities should one be in a survival situation: protection, rescue, water then food. There is a paragraph of general information and a few drawings to illustrate each concept, although it's doubtful I could manage some of the techniques (like building a snow cave) based on this guide alone. There are some useful reminders for people who have had previous survival training and it would start someone without such training in the right direction. Perhaps the best part about the guide would be the time taken to sit and read it when it became apparent it was needed: the very first caution is to relax and take a deep breath to clear the head.
Like most kids with a new toy, I couldn't wait to try out the torch, so I did just that. The power button on the end has a very solid and positive feel to it and pushing it turns the torch immediately to high power mode. First surprise: 140 lumens is very bright! I'm glad I wasn't looking at the bulb as this could cause some serious dazzling. I also noticed that the light comes on before the power button clicks. This is the 'momentary on' position which allows the torch to be used for signaling. Once the button is fully pressed and clicks, the torch remains on until the button is pressed again to turn it off. So far all pretty normal stuff, but this torch has a lot more to offer. There are four power modes: high, medium, low and SOS. Partially pushing the button accesses the momentary on function and repeatedly pushing the button cycles through the four modes. Once the preferred mode is reached, simply fully press the button until it clicks and the torch stays on in that power mode. Once the torch is turned off it automatically goes back to high power mode for the next button push.
If using the momentary on feature to select a light mode, the torch returns to high power mode if the button is not pushed reasonably rapidly to cycle through the modes. It seems to reset after a couple of seconds. I think the momentary on feature will be very useful when just needing a short burst of light, like for finding something in my pack at night.
The final of the four modes is SOS. When activated, the torch flashes the Morse code for S-O-S. I'm not sure how useful this would be as the torch seems to have a fairly focused beam which means the light would have to be pointed at rescuers for them to see it. This will need more testing in the field.
Having blinded myself a few times, I decided to wait until dark before playing any more. Once outside in the dark, the power of this torch becomes apparent: It really is outrageously bright! The high power mode lit my garden very well. Medium power mode was very noticeably duller (35 lumens vs 140 lumens) and looks like it would be fine for most camp chores. The low power mode (15 lumens) is duller again and looks to be good for hunting around in a pack or inside a tent. I'm looking forward to getting out in the field to see just how effective the various modes are. I'm also going to be interested to see how well the batteries last when using a combination of modes in a typical camping scenario rather than just a single mode: based on the literature, it should be somewhere between 90 minutes and 17 hours.
Something I wasn't expecting was just how good this torch feels in the hand. I thought it might be strange or uncomfortable due to it's triangular shape, but it isn't: It sits nicely and my hand just naturally curls around it. It's also very comfortable to carry in a raised 'tactical' position with the rubber grip making it feel very secure in the hand. I've also noticed from my brief trials so far that the rubber grip helps keep the cold of the aluminum away from my hands. Temperatures are getting pretty low here so the metal parts feel very cold while the rubber feels cool rather than cold.
One of the things I love doing when camping is spotlighting for wildlife after dark. Normally that requires a low powered light to pick up the eye shine, and a high powered light to actually see the critter. I'm hoping the Intense Torch will provide both those options in a very small package.
Since its arrival, the Bear Grylls Gerber Intense Torch has pretty much lived in my grab-n-go box in the back of my Jeep. It's been thumped over some very rough four-wheel drive tracks and banged around in the box with no obvious ill effects.
I've also taken it on fifteen nights of camping in total. The first was to Yuragir National Park on the New South Wales Mid-north coast. I stayed at Boorkoom Camping area, a delightful ocean-front area perched on the cliffs above the sea. I did two day walks of approximately seven kilometres (4.5 miles) each but returned to my base camp at night. Conditions for this camp were very cool with lows of 1C (34 F) and highs of 18 C (64 F). The days were sunny but there were storms in the area which, thankfully, missed me.
The second overnight camp I did was in the Wedding Bells State Forest. This is a beautiful region with areas of rainforest down low and dry eucalyptus forests up on the ridges. The elevation is only about 470 m (1540 ft) at its highest point but there are some spectacular escarpment views and some great walks to be had in this area. Weather this time was a chilly -2 C (28 F) overnight, to about 12 C (54 F) during the day with some strong winds causing it to feel a lot colder. I used my Blackbird hammock on both occasions and traveled as light as possible given the need for extra hammock insulation.
My third camp was a Jeep Camp at Nana Glen on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. This was for seven nights from October 2 to October 9. The elevation was at about 100 metres (330 feet) and this camp was in a large open paddock with a group of around 200 Jeeps. Temperatures varied from daytime highs of 32 C (90 F) to lows around 2 C (36 F) overnight. It was very, very windy and with choking smoke from a nearby bushfire it wasn't the most pleasant camp I've ever experienced! The driving was pretty spectacular, however, and more than made up for the unpleasant weather. The torch was used each night to navigate to the toilets, find my camp in the dark, and generally wander around the camping area. It was also used to provide an intense light for some minor first aid during the day.
My fourth camp was an overnighter to a 400 ha (1000 acre) Nature Reserve at Kungala, again on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. The elevation was also around the 100 metre (330 foot) mark, with highs of 36 C (97 F) during the day and a low of 19 C (66 F) overnight. Again, strong winds and smoke made camping less than enjoyable. This camp provided the opportunity to do some spotlighting at night and I dazzled a couple of possums and an owl.
Finally, I took the torch on a road trip to Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, about four hours driving time north of Brisbane, Queensland. Our first night was at Amamoor State Forest with an elevation of 200 metres (660 feet). Daytime temperatures of around 28 C (82 F) and an overnight low of 18 C (64 F) made for a very pleasant camp. We then drove to Fraser Island and spent four nights using Central Station as a base camp. The elevation here was around 50 metres (160 feet) and temperatures were fairly similar to those of our first night. I did quite a bit of spotlighting here trying to find the native mice which insisted on playing soccer in the leaf litter under my hammock. We also spotted a brush-tailed possum with a baby, a beautiful squirrel glider and a few native bush rats.
This is actually a fun torch to use! I must confess when I first saw it I wondered if this design was just change for the sake of change: after all, torches have been round since they were first made. Why mess with that? Well, actually, the triangular design works really well. To me, this has been a small revolution and I hope more torch makers will follow suit.
So let me explain why I love this design so much. Initially, I thought the triangular design would be awkward to hold, but I've discovered it's actually very comfortable. However, it does require an adjustment of grip. Normally, I hold my torch in a low grip, (i.e. with the arm held by the side and the torch facing forward), and although the torch is comfortable there, it feels better in a high grip (i.e. held with the elbow bent up) position. While I'm used to the feel of a circular torch body in my hands, the triangular body feels very comfortable too, and in some ways more natural for a folded hand to hold, especially in the high grip position which allows the thumb to operate the end-cap power button.
One of the selling points for this torch is that it stays where it's put: no rolling away to fall down a crevice like a normal circular-bodied torch. I'm pleased to say, it's true. I've never had to overly worry about where I put this torch as I know it's unlikely to roll off of most surfaces. That feature alone makes it worth having. It's surprising how much easier it makes life. I still find myself checking any surface I want to put the torch on to see how to place it so it won't roll, but then I realise I can just plonk it down without worrying. Funny how hard it can be to break those years of round-torch conditioning!
Perhaps one drawback of the triangular shape is that it doesn't feel as comfortable to hold in the mouth. When not using a head torch, I tend to stick my torch in my mouth when I need both hands free. That's the only advantage I've found for a traditional torch shape over this torch's shape. It does sit well in the crook of my neck, though, if I use my head and neck to hold it like a telephone.
The rubber grip is perfectly positioned for holding the torch with a sure, non-slip, grip. I have to say, though, the rubber grip is a little short for use in cold weather where my hands came into contact with the cold metal. It would be no issue if wearing gloves, but feels very cold without them. That said, it doesn't take long for the metal to be warmed by body heat.
I've tested the torch in a couple of mountain streams and found it to be waterproof, as described. It operates well under water and although the nylon wrist strap gets wet, it dries very quickly. It's really great to have a torch I'm not afraid to leave on the camp table overnight, or have to protect from rain, dew and other dampness.
Power consumption is quite low thanks to the LED bulb, and I estimate I've used the torch for around ten hours in a combination of modes - short stabs of high power and longer applications of low power - and haven't needed to change batteries yet. When I saw the literature stating the torch could only be expected to provide around 90 minutes on high power I was concerned this torch would be very battery intensive. That's not proven to be the case, and by using a mix of power modes, the batteries have provided all the light I've needed for these camping trips. Admittedly, I don't use the torch for sitting around camp as a lantern, or for extensive reading at night, but for general tasks it has been outstanding.
One weird effect I wasn't expecting was that the torch can cause a vertical venetian blind-like effect when pointed directly at a camera. It would be advisable to check this if using the torch as a light source for either still or video camera work.
I'm also pleased to report that after being tossed in my grab-n-go box and banging around in the Jeep for the last few months, there is no sign of scratching or wear on that bright orange metal.
This torch is easy to find in a bag because of its shape, it provides a strong and brilliant light, and as advertised, it doesn't roll away. Since the weather has become warmer, I've not had the problem with cold metal against my skin that I had during winter. So far, I haven't changed the batteries although the last couple of times I've used the torch I've noticed it started as usual but then seemed to cut its power a little, which may indicate the batteries are due for a change soon. Really, with the amount of use this torch has had, I think that's pretty good economy.
I guess it's a matter of personal preference, but I'd prefer the torch to come on in low power mode first, rather than high power and have to cycle through the modes. I can see arguments for and against high power first, but I'd rather be less blinded by the torch starting gently rather than be blinded by its intensity. I've taken to cupping my hand over the bulb while flicking through the modes so as not to dazzle myself. It's no big deal but does require me to think about what I'm doing before I push the power button. It seems like it would also save battery power by not having that fully intense light to begin with. For me, the low power mode has been plenty bright enough for most campsite chores and is generally the mode I've used.
A great reason for having high power mode selected first is the ability to have a sudden, intense, light thrown on those night time sounds in the bush. It's very easy to see wildlife with such a powerful torch! The critters are usually far too dazzled to move for a while too. I dazzled one possum so badly at Kungala, he proceeded to swear at me for the next thirty minutes!
To me, this torch is best used for distance work rather than close camp work. Although it works very nicely in low power mode, it seems easier to use a head torch around camp when preparing food or getting settled in a hammock: things that often require both hands. I've almost never used the medium power mode as low power seems bright enough for most things. High power mode is where this torch really shines (sorry, couldn't resist that one!) as it is probably bright enough to drive by. Although the beam is fairly focused, there is enough spread to light up the surrounds as well as the target.
I dropped the torch in the sand once and found the sand sticks to the rubber coating of the grip. It was fairly easy to brush off, though, and doesn't mark the rubber. The torch worked just fine after I dropped it, but I haven't dropped it on to a hard surface.
The white painted Gerber logo is starting to show a few minor signs of wear but otherwise the torch is as good as new.
I love this torch: it's as simple as that! It does exactly what it claims to do. Although I'm no Bear Grylls survival expert, I do feel I could trust this torch enough to include it in my regular camping kit. It's strong, solid, has a fantastic beam, works very well on low power, and can be placed on most surfaces without rolling away. The Bear Grylls Intense Torch has coped with everything I've thrown at it: submersion, sand, cold, heat and more. It still looks almost as good as new and functions perfectly. This is a quality piece of gear which seems like it will last forever.
So, will I keep using the Intense Torch? You betcha! This torch now lives in my handbag and will continue to stay there. Its combination of power, functional shape, ease of use and 'coolness' means it has earned a place in my kit.
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