In our “bug out bag” prep, a natural thing to want to have is a flashlight.
I settled on the Fenix LD15.
- 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).