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Reviews > Lighting > Flashlights - LED > Gerber Omnivore Multi-Battery > Test Report by Greg McDonald

GERBER OMNIVORE TORCH
TEST SERIES BY GREG MCDONALD
LONG-TERM REPORT
February 19, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Greg McDonald
EMAIL: gdm320 AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 21
LOCATION: Boynton Beach, Florida
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.83 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I have been camping for 15 years, 11 of them have been spent hiking in the backcountry. My hikes are almost exclusively in Florida and generally range between one and three nights. My all-time favorite hike was a 10 day expedition in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. I consider myself a lightweight but comfortably equipped hiker, with a pack averaging between 25 and 30 lb (11 and 14 kg).


Gerber

INITIAL REPORT

Product Information & Specifications

Gerber OmnivoreManufacturer: Gerber
Model: Omnivore
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.gerbergear.com
MSRP: US $25 - $60
Color: Matte Black
Materials: Anodized Aluminum
LED Bulb: 0.7-Watt Nichia
Compatible Batteries: AA, AAA, CR123 (One AA battery included)
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight (No Battery): 3.1 oz (88 g)
Measured Length (Approximate): 4.5 in (11.4 cm)
Measured Diameter (Approximate): 1.25 in (3.2 cm)
Manufactured In: China

Warranty Information: Covered by Gerber's Limited Lifetime Warranty. According to Gerber's website, "This product is warranted to be free of defects in material and workmanship for as long as the consumer owns the product."

Initial Thoughts and Experiences

On the surface the Gerber Omnivore looks like a basic LED flashlight but from what I've seen so far, this is anything but an ordinary torch. Gerber has designed the Omnivore to run on three different types of batteries: AA, AAA, or CR123. I applied for this test because I was impressed with a torch that is so versatile and I am approaching this test with high expectations.

When I first took the Omnivore out of its packaging, I was immediately pleased with how lightweight and sturdy it felt. Generally speaking, I've long been accustomed to a trade off when looking at flashlights: either sturdy and durable OR lightweight. My initial feelings with the Omnivore is that it seems to accomplish all three of these criteria pretty well.

Battery CompartmentThe first thing I set out to do was to install the battery. I was expecting the base to unscrew, but to my liking it is actually the top part of the housing with the lens and bulb assembly that comes off to access the battery compartment. This is where I got my first look into how Gerber has accomplished the design to support the "multi-battery" functionality. It is difficult to describe the design, but I'll do my best. I'm not much of a graphic artist, but I have included a diagram (at right) to try and make my point a bit more clear. Basically, there are three different grooves that house the batteries since they are all different lengths and diameters. There is a small metal "pin" contact in the center of each of the "circles" to make contact with the negative (-) end of the battery. The positive (+) end of whichever battery I choose to use makes contact with a metal plate, about half the diameter of the opening in the housing, attached to what I would suppose is the bottom side of the LED diode assembly. To summarize, all the battery sizes have their own negative (-) contact but they all use the same positive (+) contact. This design of separate grooves for each battery type is something I really like because it does not require that I carry around any sort of inserts, adapters, or attachments in case I need to use a different type of battery. This is a big plus because little adapters and attachments are just one more tiny little item it is way too easy for me to loose.

After getting the battery installed and the torch back together I took some time to see how it felt. I noticed in particular that it is well balanced in my hand and does not seem to be overly balanced to either end. The Omnivore is a good fit in my hand, just large enough to fit comfortably but not so large as to be clumsy. The contoured ridges on the aluminum body feel good and add a bit of grip to it. I'm able to hold it comfortably overhand, underhand, and even through my fingers. The button isn't quite as easy to operate underhand as it is overhand, but it certainly isn't enough to be a deal breaker. I also noticed something I did not expect from the pictures I had seen of the Omnivore, which is a lanyard hole. Although a wrist lanyard was not included, I could easily make one out of a small piece of cord or line.

However, there is an aspect of the button that does concern me. The button is comfortable and easy to use, however the rubber does feel (for lack of a better word) a bit flimsy. Obviously it's too early to tell, but I'm a little worried that the rubber might crack or come apart on the edges which would compromise the water "resistance" the Omnivore has. Having said that, the rubber is soft and supple - not brittle - so I it might just be my imagination. Needless to say, I'll be keeping a close eye on this throughout my field testing.

Another thing that struck me as a bit odd is I could not find a way to remove the LED. I took notice of this in the off chance that I ever had to replace it for any reason. I went to the Gerber website and saw specifically that they do not carry nor send out replacement LEDs and tampering with the LED assembly would void the warranty. I contacted Gerber customer service via e-mail and they told me the LEDs are designed never to burn out but if it ever did I could send it to them for warranty service, provided the torch still met the rest of the "criteria" for the limited lifetime warranty. I've learned that it is not uncommon that an LED such as this could be rated to 100,000 hours, so with typical use it would be decades before it needed to be replaced for a burnout.

My only other notable observations to date deals with the packaging of the Omnivore itself. While packaging is rarely relevant, this one certainly is.

This might be handy.
Manufacturer's Ratings of the Gerber Omnivore

The chart above contains the relevant information in the chart found on the back of the packaging. The information found on the packaging includes the burn time, beam distance, brightness, and LUX. I have added the weight of Duracell UltraDigital batteries in the 3 various sizes for comparison purposes. Obviously each battery has its advantages and disadvantages. I like the fact they included all of this information because it empowers me to make an educated choice of which battery I will use based on the situation and what I need.

Looking Ahead

I love the idea of virtually never worrying about having the right size battery on hand and still have a working torch. The thought of being able to rummage through my junk drawer, cannibalize another electronic device, or bum a battery off a fellow hiker is something that takes the worry out of always having a light handy. Aside from the versatility of being able to use all these different batteries, I like the Omnivore's size, weight, and comfort. I'll be closely watching the On/Off button on the bottom and I'm interested to see how weather resistant it really is. I am also anxious to test Gerber's claims of the burn time and beam distance, which I will discuss in my Field Report. The Gerber Omnivore is a very promising flashlight, and I'm very much looking forward to this test series.


FIELD REPORT

Field Locations and Conditions

The trail locations where I have been testing the Gerber Omnivore torch include Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the rim trail of Lake Okeechobee, and the Ocala National Forest with overnight trips in the two latter locations. Temperatures have ranged between 40 and 80 F (4 and 27 C) with only very mild precipitation, if any. The evenings that I have used the Omnivore have actually all been pretty clear across a range of the lunar stages.

I have also been using the Omnivore off the trail quite a bit in my everyday life at home, at work, and out and about. Normally I don't find usage like this to be particularly relevant to a backpacking gear review, but it has given me some additional perspective on the torch so I have included small amounts of that experience in certain places.

Field Experience

Some of the most important information that I gathered during my early field testing is in regard to the burn time of the various batteries that the Omnivore can use. For the purposes of this review, I have opted to use Duracell Ultra Digital batteries in the AAA, AA, and CR123 sizes. I chose these batteries for their stated extended life and because I was able to easily obtain them in all three sizes. Basically what I did was take a brand new battery of each size, flipped the torch on, and waited. I periodically went into a dark room to check how the battery was holding up. When I felt the beam of the Omnivore became more or less useless I called it quits for that battery and moved on to the next. For the sake of clarity, all my testing was performed at approximately 35 ft (11 m) above sea level at a temperature of 72 F (22 C).

Test Results


The thing that was pretty consistent across my testing was impressive and overperforming battery life. Compared to Gerber's manufacturer's ratings, I experienced significantly longer burn times than I initially expected. Since I'm not sure what type of batteries Gerber used in their calculations, what the conditions were, or even when they considered the test "over" I'm not able to determine why... but no matter what the reason I'm very pleased with it. One thing that is worth noting is that when the batteries do start to wane down to the last little bit I did experience a rapid decline in the beam strength. I'm also still confused as to why the AA battery lasted over twice as long as Gerber's numbers while the AAA only survived for about an extra two hours. Given these very strange discrepancies I intend to run another burn time test again during the next reporting stage to see if I can make things a bit more clear.

The Omnivore throws off a respectable beam. For its size, weight, and the number of batteries it requires I am very satisfied with it. I have LED flashlights that are certainly brighter and throw a wider beam but they run on 3 AAA batteries and have a base weight of at least double the Omnivore. I have plenty of light to see clear as day inside my tent and when rumbling around camp at night, and that is all I'd ever really ask for. I don't believe I'd find the Omnivore suitable for night hiking on the trail, but I wouldn't use anything other than a headlamp for that purpose anyway because I need to be hands-free.

Two larger halvesGoing back to my Initial Report, I remain very happy with the way that Gerber has designed the battery compartment on the Omnivore. I wanted to expand on my thoughts a bit. The thing I like the most about the design is how easy it is to swap out the batteries even in the pitch dark. I mentioned before how the assembly unscrews to gain access to the battery compartment. The thing that has really stood out to me with this design is how easy it is to swap out the batteries in the pitch dark. First, because of the way the housing unscrews, I have two larger pieces in my hand when I take it apart. These larger pieces are easier to hold compared to one long body and a tiny base cap. Therefore, I am much less likely to drop either of them and loose them which could be a real disaster. Second, the grooves for the batteries are very conducive for allowing the batteries to slide right into their proper place so I don't have to fumble with it in the darkness.

I've got to say that people are very intrigued by the design. On one of my recent trips to Ocala with my former Boy Scout troop (Troop 22 - Tampa, Florida, United States! Represent!) I had a number of people ask me about what I was using. Some of them felt the Omnivore was a little basic but did a little double-take when I opened the torch up and revealed it's multi-battery compatibility.

My biggest concern from my Initial Report on the Omnivore is the rubber push button on/off switch on the bottom of the torch. My fear was that the rubber was possibly a little too flimsy or brittle and might crack and compromise the weather resistance. Thus far I am pleased to say that it has not been an issue at all and the button is holding up flawlessly. As a whole, the Omnivore is holding up extremely well. There are a few battle scars along the aluminum frame from where I've dropped it and banged it around but these are just some minor scratches and are hardly worth mentioning.

I do want to mention that the Omnivore does leave me wanting in one nagging capacity. I really wish that it was a convertible torch/lantern design. Granted, this would require at least some increase in both size and weight. I find it difficult to read by the Omnivore's light and usually find myself getting frustrated trying to hold it straight and end up grabbing for my headlamp instead. A lantern would be particularly useful inside my tent since I could hang it up and have it cast a beam over a larger area so I could rummage for things more easily in the dark. When I'm forced to cook in the dark it would be nice to be able to set the torch down and have both hands to cook and prepare with. Personally I'd be willing to accept a reasonable increase in those departments for lantern functionality. With the Omnivore's multi-battery capacity I truly think that adding a lantern to it would make it perfect.

Field Summary

The short version of all this field experience is that the Omnivore is performing quite well. Putting aside my wish that it had lantern capability, the torch is showing itself as reliable, durable and capable of being a primary backcountry flashlight.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Testing Locations and Conditions

I have used the Omnivore on an evening test-hike in Jonathan Dickinson State Park and in camp on overnight trips on the rim trail of Lake Okeechobee and in the Ocala National Forest. I've been carrying the Omnivore on all my dayhikes as well in case of emergency, but it has seen very limited use on these occasions since I have thankfully not actually had any emergencies. Temperatures have ranged between 33 and 80 F (0 and 27 C) with only very mild precipitation, if any. As in my Field Report, I have encountered various moon stages in my testing. I have also continued using the Omnivore off the trail in my everyday life at home, at work, and out and about.

Experiences and Observations

I actually don't have much new information to relay about the Omnivore. It has continued to perform in a consistent manner to what I covered in my Field Report but I do have a few additional thoughts on the torch.

The Omnivore has shown excellent durability over the test period. As I mentioned previously, there are only a handful of cosmetic battle scars on the aluminum frame that show the wear. Other than that, the Omnivore is performing in like-new condition. The threads on the upper and lower housings are clean and the protective O-ring at the base of the threads to keep water out is still soft and supple.

A bright spot, then nothing.I do want to amend my thoughts from the Field Report regarding the beam that the Omnivore casts. While I still find it satisfactory for rummaging around in my tent, I'm disappointed with the width of the beam at distances of 5 - 15 ft (1.5 - 4.6 m). The photo on the right is one that I took by a small pond when I had to go down to fill my water bucket after dark. The Omnivore really doesn't give a broad enough area of illumination to give me a really clear view. While the area that I'm pointing the light at directly is quite bright, everything else is still pitch black. The same can be said for the night I went hiking in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. I could see very clearly for the few feet of ground I had illuminated... but everything else was a mystery.

I also have been having a little trouble physically locating the Omnivore. Since it is all black, it isn't the easiest thing to find in the bottom of my pack or if I drop it when stumbling around in the dark. It got to the point where I had to add a piece of reflective cord through the lanyard hole just so I could find it. One design-solution to this problem would be to make the Omnivore available in a lighter color such as silver or white (or a brighter color, for that matter).

Final Thoughts

I don't want it to sound like I'm beating up on the Omnivore. I do still like the torch a lot and it has many positive qualities. The Omnivore is small, lightweight, durable, and the multi-battery capability is fantastic. That said, I find myself wishing that it had a lantern-mode, that it cast a wider beam, and that I could get it in a more visible color.

I expect that I'll continue to use the Omnivore in certain situations. On week-long hikes where I might need to scavenge for batteries I'll surely bring it along. Since it is so small and light I will probably continue to carry it in situations where I feel like I could use a backup torch as well, but it won't be replacing my headlamp as my primary lighting instrument.

This concludes my test series on the Gerber Omnivore. I would once again like to thank Gerber and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me the opportunity to test the innovative new Omnivore. Happy trails!

Greg McDonald

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.


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