Category Archives: Bug Out

Fenix E05

Following up on my Every Day Carry for Kids, I decided upon a flashlight for them.

The Fenix E05.

As you can see, the flashlight is very small, not much larger than the AAA battery that powers it.

But let’s back up. It’s important to understand that there are hundreds of models of flashlights on the market. So why pick one over the other? Well for me, right now it’s about context applicability. What’s going to be the best and right flashlight for the need and situation? In this case, the need is for an EDC flashlight that my kids can use. If you go back to my original post on the topic, some considerations include being small, being inexpensive, but also being useful. Looking at all the flashlights out there, the E05 fit MY desired needs the best.

So again you can see, it’s small. It’s intended as a keychain flashlight and certainly fits that bill.

It’s relatively inexpensive. It cost me $20, but since I received some Amazon gift cards for Christmas, it didn’t cost me anything. :-)  Still, $20 is reasonable in my book for what I’m getting. Sure you can buy really small cheap LED lights for even less money, but I haven’t seen the performance be on par with this. And performance is kinda what matters most.

So on the performance front, some simple stats:

  • 27 max lumens
  • About a 3 hour runtime (I’ve read you can get up to 5 with lithium batteries)
  • Claims a 24 meter throw distance
  • Waterproof and impact resistant, tho of course within reason.

27 lumens out of such a tiny package. Wow! Take a look:

Not the best picture, but hopefully representative. The big feature of this particular light is the lens. It works to cast more of a floodlight than a spotlight. That certainly held true. While of course there’s a more intense beam in the middle, even that is fairly wide. Then beyond that a great deal of light is cast. It really lights up an area. You can see a LOT. That hallway is 7 yards from where I stood to the end wall. I even threw the light around some longer portions of the house and while the beam didn’t make it seem like daylight, it was sure enough to see what’s going on, both in terms of the reach of the light and the spread.

In tight quarters, I didn’t find the light to be difficult to read with either. No intense beam reflecting back into my eyes. Of course, if you hold the light really close to the page, sure it hurts your eyes, but whereas some other lights with more focused beams I can’t even hold the paper away from my eyes and avoid the reflection, here you can easily find a comfortable distance. Another bonus of the construction is the flat base, so you can stand the light upright like a candle to light up a room. There is only the 1 light setting (simple on or off), and it’s activated by twisting the lens/head of the light.

So this performance is the big reason I chose this light over others. For example, I had thought about the Fenix E01. I didn’t think the performance was as good, not bright enough, not wide enough. The battery life of the E01 is far superior, but that’s the trade-off. I figured that my kids could easily change a AAA battery if needed, and even with only “3 hours” of runtime, that should be more than ample for anything they’d need the light for. I think the LD15 would be better in a lot of respects, but it’s also a $40 light. SureFire doesn’t really have any lights that fit this form factor. Streamlight has the MicroStream, but it didn’t quite work for me (from what I could read online).

Maybe I’ve just spoiled my kids on good flashlights, or maybe I just want them to be able to have useful light. A little dinky squeeze light on a keychain that barely casts enough light to find the key hole? What’s the point? I want to be sure my kids can SEE something — especially danger (be it a person, or just that hole in the ground they wouldn’t want to trip on) — well in advance. That means both distance and width of beam, as well as brightness, to see as much as possible. There are always tradeoffs, but I think the Fenix E05 balances things out pretty well.

Lessons from Tiger Valley’s latest Bug Out Drill

I’ve wanted to take training classes at Tiger Valley for some time now. The only reason I haven’t is due to scheduling, but someday that will change.

Meantime, I subscribe to their newsletter, and their October 2011 issue had a recap of their recent “bug out drill”. Unfortunately that issue doesn’t appear to be online. However, because I’ve been recently concerned with the notion of “bug out”, creating bags, and so on, I thought the list of observations from the Tiger Valley drill were useful and applicable:

  • Don’t throw your $1000 rifle over an 8 foot wall. Yes, some rifles survived it, but if your rifle didn’t it could cost you your life in a real situation. Your weapon is your life.
  • If it didn’t work for you the first time, repeating the event is likely only to have the same outcome. Try something different. What else do I have in my pack that I might accomplish the same goal with?
  • I can save money in lots of places but shoes aren’t one of them.
  • Weight can kill your ability to perform. Evaluate and condense.
  • Technique is as valuable as brute strength. If you have proper technique you don’t have to muscle your way over and obstacle. Muscles give out, techniques don’t.
  • Have a medical kit that is complete.
  • In years past we have asked competitors to show that they can purify water. We would typically see coffee filters or at best iodine tablets. This year we made up some phony pond water and told them they had to drink the water they purified. Some had the tablets but nothing to purify the water in. It’s not a good idea to contaminate your hydration system with dirty pond water. Some had systems that required four hours for the tablets to take effect. That’s just what I want when I’m dehydrated.
  • Get a zero and know where it is at all distances you will shoot. We had some good groups but some were out of the “A” zone.
  • Train for the uncomfortable event. Practicing what you do well won’t help you in a real situation that doesn’t come easy. Practice what you don’t do well.

Some of these things may not apply to your concept of bug-out, but there’s still wisdom to be taken here.

Flashlight blogging – Fenix LD15

In our “bug out bag” prep, a natural thing to want to have is a flashlight.

I settled on the Fenix LD15.

Why?

  • I went with Fenix because they have a good reputation. No, it’s not a SureFire nor a Streamlight, but they use the Cree LED’s and Fenix gives you about the best bang-for-your-buck these days. Since I’m making BOB’s for 5 people, cost is a large consideration: I just can’t afford 5 SureFire’s and all the other “5′s of things” that will be needed for all the bags.
  • Size/weight. I’m no guru at making BOB’s, but my thinking is having an “essentials bag” (in addition to some other bags). This is THE bag you grab if you can’t grab anything else, so it needs to hold all the essentials. IMHO, a flashlight is an essential. Leaning back to my backpacking days in Boy Scouts, size/weight of everything matters… a cubic inch saved here, an ounce saved there, it all adds up. So I wanted something on the smaller side. The LD15 isn’t much larger than a AA battery.
  • AA battery. I hum-hawed for a while about what sort of battery to deal with. I admit bias towards the CR123′s because the LONG shelf life, which I think is important for a BOB since you have no idea when you’ll need things. Plus they are a good power source. However, they aren’t as common; a good grocery/drugstore might have them, but compared to AA’s? What is more ubiquitous than AA? So if things go really pear-shaped and resources are hard to come by, AA’s have the best chance of being found (in stores, in trade with other people, etc.). Furthermore, it’s likely there will be other things in my bag that need batteries, so being able to standardize on something is good, and AA’s should fill the bill. Fenix is all about the AA.
    • I did look into things in terms of storage life. Quality AA alkalines or even AA lithiums should hold charge and be workable. A BOB can’t be made then shoved in the closet and ignored, you need to go through it at least once a year for any food or medical or whatever stuff. So, batteries are just part of that. IMHO, get some high quality ones, then eventually rotate them out and put fresh ones in the bag and use the old ones in the Wii remote, the TV remotes, and other such non-important things. No big deal.

That was my thinking really before I did much shopping and product investigation. My wonder was if Fenix would have something that worked for me. Would there be enough lumens? Could I get dual mode, for high output but also very low so I could do things like read and not blind myself? Will it last long enough (at least on the low setting, I accept high will drain it quickly)? And so on.

I believe I saw LA Police Gear selling the E11 on clearance, so I Googled for more information. That actually seemed like it might fit the bill, but many were comparing it to the LD15, so well… sure the E11 is cheaper (see point 1 above), but if the LD15 offers something more, go for it.

Obviously, I opted for the LD15 over the E11. A few reasons:

  • The E11′s low setting was reported as actually kinda high (in terms of lumens/brightness). I can’t find reference to it now, but some people reported thinking it was too high. I don’t need that. Even my SureFire EL2 on low can be a little blinding if it reflects on what I’m reading just right.
  • The E11′s switch is a tailcap clicker, which is acceptable to me. But the LD15 has a flat base so you can stand it upright like a candle. I thought that might be useful in the given context.

I did look at the rest of Fenix’s offerings. They have a lot of compelling flashlights that I think are good for EDC (Every Day Carry), such as on your keychain (I think the E15 could make the perfect keychain flashlight. I was rather impressed and think Fenix is a great way to introduce people to the world of better flashlights: performance is good, price is low.  But nothing else really seemed to fit the bill as nice as the LD15 would. Remember, I’m buying for a specific context and reason.

I think the LD15′s high setting is bright enough, I think the low setting is dim enough tho still quite usable. I don’t mind that the on-off function is performed by twisting the cap — I would NOT want such a thing on a tactical light, but it’s fine here. In fact, any light I’d have in my BOB would have to be able to be disabled by twisting the cap off enough so that the light cannot be activated while sitting in the bag — and leaving me with a dead light. So, twist cap is not a problem at all.

The one thing I wish for is a clip, like on my SureFire E2L, so you could clip the flashlight onto something like a hat brim so you can direct the light where you’re looking and have both hands free. At least the LD15 comes with a basic lanyard.

Here’s a picture of comparison:

On the left, the SureFire E2L Outdoorsman: uses 2 CR123′s, 60 lumens max, 3 lumens low, LED-based, has a clip so you can hang it off things like a hat brim, costs around $185 these days. It’s my EDC flashlight and has proven to be most useful both for tactical needs and the normal every day needs that life brings. Happy investment.

In the middle, the Fenix LD15. And then on the right, a AA battery, for size/scale comparison.

So you can see, the LD15 is only slightly bigger than the AA: just wider because of the thickness of the case, and just longer because of the small tailcap and of course the LED housing.

How about performance? Quite good! I compared it to the E2L and was quite impressed with the light output. On high, the listed lumens of course put the LD15 as brighter, but practically speaking it doesn’t seem “twice as bright”. What was more noticeable was that the beam was wider, not as focused as the E2L. It’s not some floodlight, just not quite as “honed” as the E2L. Frankly, I think that’s acceptable for my context because I’m not wanting this flashlight to necessarily blind someone, I want this light for seeing as much as I can because life went pear-shaped. On low, you could really see how that sort of “beam focus” was useful, because it cast a more widespread light. You put it in low, stand it up on the tailcap like a candle, and we could light up a bedroom with a nice dim glow… enough to see everyone’s faces and what we were doing. Youngest even asked if he could have it as a nightlight. I also thought the low setting was certainly low enough and diffused enough that I could read by.

Truly, I’m impressed to get such performance out of a small package. I don’t know what runtime will be like with something like a quality alkaline or lithium battery will be. Fenix advertises high as 117 lumens for 1 hour 40 minutes, and low as 8 lumens for 39 hours, tested with a 2500mAh Ni-MH battery. They do recommend using a Ni-MH battery for best results, so I am curious how a quality alkaline will perform. Nevertheless, I think it will be suitable for the need.

All in all, I’m pleased with the purchase. I personally wouldn’t use the LD15 as my EDC flashlight, but that’s because my EDC needs are different. I do think this makes a good keychain flashlight for folks that may just want/need a light for those times when they need to manage something quickly in the dark. I also think it will fit the bill for the BOB: small, lightweight, dual modes and each mode is at a very useful level, flat tailcap to stand it like a candle, AA battery, inexpensive (relatively speaking).

Being prepared – bug out bag

If there’s anything this wildfire situation has demonstrated, it’s that I’m not as prepared as I thought I was.

Sure, we have some preparations in place for sitting tight, like if bad weather rolled through, could we sit tight on the homefront with extra water, food and so on. There are certainly some areas here where we could tighten things up, but we’re alright.

But we’re just not as prepared to bail if we have to. We thought we were, we’re not.

Oh sure, we can get it together, but consider the fires. Here’s raw footage from the Bastrop fires showing how fast a fire can spread:

If a fire broke out in the greenbelt behind our house, we have to leave NOW. Can we do that? Well, we can leave, but we’d be almost empty-handed.

I’ve looked into the concept of “bug-out-bags” for a while, but it was something that always got pushed down the priority list because other things took greater priority. But now? No… it can’t be a lower priority any more: it has to be up at the top.

The helpful thing? Wife has bought into the concept. I have to admit, that it’s sometimes hard to get things going in the household when I’m the only one that buys into it. But if Wife buys into it too, that helps the Kiddos buy into it, and so when everyone’s behind it, things have a better chance of getting done and staying a priority. Plus I think the reality of the fires made things more concrete for the kids, because well… they’re kids, they just don’t have the life experience to put things into perspective, but this sure gave them that perspective.

So, we’re going to be picking up our prep efforts in this area. Building bug-out-bags, and just being prepared. Because well… we hope to never need them, but we’ll be so thankful to have them if we do. It’s just like anything in life: the better prepared you are for when something happens — especially something that catches you by surprise — the better off you’ll be.