THE SAFE-LIGHT SUPER BRIGHT
BY DAVID WILKES
January 23, 2008
Yakima, Washington USA
5' 11" (1.80 m)
210 lb (95.30 kg)
I did not really start backpacking till about 13 years ago when I moved to Washington State. Since then I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions. I have usually only managed time for 1-3 trips a year ranging from 2-5 days and as many day hikes as I can. I am currently in training to start climbing some of the mountains in the area, starting with Mt Shasta. I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain and consider inclement weather or poor conditions some of the things that make trips interesting and memorable.
Manufacturer: Safe-Light Industries
Year of Manufacture: Purchased in 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.safe-light.com
Listed Weight: None
Measured Weight: 2.3 oz (65 g) [4 oz (113 g) with battery]
Safe-Light [original] 4 mode "Palm Size" waterproof LED survival and utility flashlight.
Operates on a single 9V battery (included).
Four modes of operation
1) Constant - "Find-in-the-dark" glow
2) Power-Save - long running low power mode
3) Full Beam - Bright mode (approx 20 hr operation)
4) Emergency Strobe
Detachable (swivel) clip/hanger/magnet included
Shock-resistant rubber casing
I received this as part of a survival kit my company purchased for me. I had seen these advertised and the innovative design intrigued me. The unit arrived fully assembled and included a battery.
It is rather small (not much bigger than the 9v battery it was designed around) and mostly covered in rubber (mine is Black, but it is also available in Blue and Orange) except for the battery cover and removable clip, giving it a very rugged feel. It has a single button that is slightly recessed making it unlikely the unit will be turned on accidentally. I found the button easy to locate in the dark with my bare hands and easy to operate while wearing thin gloves. The battery is accessed by removing the entire bottom of the light after first using a coin (or something similar) to turn a large screw about 1/4 turn.
|Back view with battery cover removed|
Attached to the back of the unit is a removable pivoting clip. This clip has a magnet embedded in it as well as a hole for attaching a lanyard (not included).
Unfortunately, I disposed of the instructions and documentation soon after receiving it, and the manufacturer's web site does not provide much in the way of details on this product. Since the device is so simple to use this has not been a problem for using it, but it does present some issues in regards to creating a comprehensive review. So I sent the company an e-mail requesting a copy of the operating instructions and they sent me an electronic copy the same day.
The Constant On or "Glow" feature (activated/deactivated by holding the button for a few seconds) seemed to be a very good idea, but I found the basic configuration of the lamp being recessed rather far into the housing to limit its functionality. In order to gain the long battery life (up to a year according to the manufacturers web page) the lamp is understandably dim. But it is bright enough to see clearly in very dark conditions, such as a power outage or in a tent. However, the design of the housing makes the lamp only visible from a rather narrow angle making it almost invisible from the sides and rear. It appears they may have realized this as I see on their web site they offer a newer version ("SAFE-LIGHT COMPANION") of the light that has been redesigned such that the LED is surrounded by clear plastic making it visible from almost any angle, and another version ("PALIGHT SURVIVAL") where the lens extends slightly beyond the housing.
The basic modes of operation (Glow, Power-Save, Full Beam, & Strobe) are selected in order with each successive click of the single button. This is similar to other Multi-Function LED lights I have operated.
The bright setting ("Full Beam") is bright enough to be used in low to moderate lighting conditions such as tracing computer cables under a desk (where mine has seen its most use) as well as enough to read by in the dark. The beam is well suited for utility work where it might be desirable to cast light on something specific at close range, and did a reasonable job for lighting the ground before my feet in the dark. The manufacturer's web page states it should have 20+ hours of operation in this mode.
The "Power-Save" or dim mode I found to be of little use except in VERY dark conditions, in which case it works very well for tasks such as locating things in a dark tent, or even reading without disturbing a tent mate. Moreover, given its >20 hr of operation in the Full Beam mode, it should run for quite some time at this lower power setting.
Again, the configuration of the lamp recessed into the housing limits the usefulness of the safety strobe function. While the lamp is bright, it is only visible from directly in front of the light so it would be necessary to know where to point it for others to see it, thereby greatly limiting its use as an emergency strobe. However, I must note that most of the headlamps I have seen and/or used that have a flash feature have this same limitation to various extents.
The magnet has plenty of holding power to keep hold it in place on most metal surfaces. But after using it in my office, vehicle, home, and while backpacking, I have yet to find many situations where it was effective at holding the light in a location/position to make it usable 'hands free' except for maybe above my desk (where it is currently) to be used in the [unlikely] event of a power outage.
I found the operation to be to be straightforward with a single button that cycles through the 3 basic modes and if held for a few seconds toggles the constant on function. However, it is notable that it is necessary to cycle through all of the modes every time the unit is turned on or off. All other multi-mode LED lights I have used function in such a way that after spending more than a few seconds at a particular mode the next click of the button will skip all remaining modes and go directly to off. While this is not a major flaw of the unit, I once thought I turned it off by clicking it once (as I do for my other lights) and put it away. The next time I went to use it I found the battery dead. Since the battery was new and the unit was not in the constant on mode, I believe I left it in the flashing mode and therefore drained the battery.
Note: If the light was visible from a wider angle, I would have been more likely to notice that it was on.
The idea of designing a flashlight around a 9v battery seemed like a very good idea. They pack a lot of power in a relatively small space. However, after using a few other types of lights (Mini-Mag and various LED headlamps) I found it to be rather heavy and awkward. For example, I tried clipping it to the brim of a ball cap as illustrated in their ads but found it to be so heavy that it was annoying. Clipping it to something like a belt or backpack strap makes it easy to access but again I had a hard time finding a configuration that would make it usable while clipped. One exception was when I had it clipped to the chest strap of my hydration pack. In this position, it did a fairly good job of illuminating the ground before my feet as well as allowing me to read a map. However unless the straps are fairly tight (uncomfortably tight for me) the weight of the unit causes it to swing too much while walking. In addition, since it is shining down from chest height it does not illuminate obstacles that are head high, such as branches (found this out the hard way..."ouch, that's going to leave a mark").
One note of CAUTION: It is possible to install the battery facing the wrong way (see "Back with battery cover removed" image above). The metal clips that hold the battery door closed will short across the battery terminals. This will quickly drain the battery and it will get VERY hot! I know because I did this while preparing the pictures for this review. I do not know if it can get hot enough to damage the unit, but I am not going to try to find out.
|Inside Battery compartment|
It is also possible to install the battery backwards (reverse polarity). According to the instructions I received (and verified), if installed correctly the light will go into Glow mode.
The light was clearly constructed to be rugged so I wanted to see how it would stand up to some rough handling. Dropping the light from about chest height on dirt as well a wood floor resulted in no visible damage, even when dropped directly on the lens. Accidentally dropping it in wet snow seemed to have no affect and a quick dunk (about 10 sec) in a bucket of water resulted in no detectable moisture inside the battery compartment.
Over the course of about 6 months, I have used this light in various activities indoors and out. Below are examples of how/where it was used and my review of how I found it to perform.
I have used the light indoors mainly to do tasks such as trace cables under my desk and locate connectors on the back of my computer. It performed quite well for this purpose and the magnet came in handy for storage, though not to allow me to use it 'hands free'.
I also used it a number of times in my vehicle for various nighttime tasks such as reading maps and other documents as well as to help locate items (under seat, in console, etc). It worked well for this task also but I found its small size made it as difficult to locate as some of the items I was intending to use it to find. I was unable to find any effective way to operate it 'hands free'. I could not comfortably hold it in my mouth as I can some small 'AAA' lights, and it was too heavy to use comfortably while clipped to the brim of a hat.
I took it with me on two summer family camping trips into the Washington Cascades [about 4000' (1200 m)] where I used it for various tasks such as locating dropped items and to light my way to a suitable location for a midnight 'Bio-break'. For these functions the light's performance was unremarkable when compared to other hand held flashlights I have, and as above was not effective as a 'hands free' light.
Finally, I took it on one backpacking trip in the Washington Cascades (Late Summer, 5000' [1524 m]) I used the light while cooking dinner (dehydrated food) for 2 people as well as to light my way around camp on the first night. As above, its performance was unremarkable. My inability to use it effectively as a 'hands free' light and its weight made it a poor substitute to the other lights I normally use, such as a LED headlamp and 'AAA' flashlight. As a result, after one night of using it I put it away and decided not to use in on any future backpacking trips.
I found the light to be a clever and original design. It is rugged and compact, and functions well as a general utility light, as such will most likely end up in with my tools. As part of a survival pack its long battery life and small size are beneficial.
Overall, despite some items that simply did not work for me personally, I like the design and construction. Unfortunately try as I might I simply could not find a space for it in my pack or survival kit (I use an LED head light in its place).
THINGS I LIKE
Always on Find-in-dark mode
9v battery provides lots of power in a space effective size.
Did I mention it's rugged?
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
Design limits effectiveness of Find-in-dark and Safety Flasher modes
Need to cycle through all 3 modes to turn off
Easy to drain battery (and possibly damage unit) by installing the battery the wrong way
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Read more reviews of Safe-Light Industries gear
Read more gear reviews by David Wilkes