How to buy the best torch for you?
Why do most modern torches use LED technology?
If you're wondering why the vast majority of today’s torches use LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, there's a simple answer: they're hundreds of times more energy-efficient than the filament bulb you used to have in your old Eveready torch. To be more precise, the average LED consumes about 12% of the energy used by halogen and filament bulbs to emit the same amount of light, and will go on burning for hours, if not days, on the same set of batteries. What’s more, the average LED has a life span of up to 50,000 hours, compared to, say, a filament bulb, which fizzles out at around 2,000 hours. Rest assured that whichever model of torch you select will likely provide many years of useful service.
What size or type of LED torch should I buy?
LED torches come in a myriad of sizes and shapes. If you simply need a flashlight for day-to-day or holiday use, consider a pocket model. These measure around 7cm in length yet still provide enough light to see where you’re going. They don’t cost much, either. Most pocket models come with a variety of beam strengths from ten and 800 lumens and many even have extra features such as strobe (supposedly handy for disorientating assailants) and SOS signaling.
If you enjoy outdoor pursuits, consider taking along a larger pocket-sized model (around 12cm in length) with a higher lumen specification of around 1,000 lumens. Some of these models also provide several focus options, which allows you to narrow or widen the size of the beam. The hands-free, head-mounted variety is also an invaluable option, especially if you're camping, caving, climbing or orienteering.
If you work in security, the hunting industry or the rescue services then you’ll almost certainly require a heavyweight floodlight-type model in excess of 1,500 lumens. These monsters are heavy and large (often more than 20cm long), but they have the power to turn night into day at the press of a button. They can usually be set to provide either a football stadium-like super-wide beam or one that sharpens to highlight subjects up to a kilometre away.
Finally, don’t underestimate the versatility of the humble keyring torch. These titchy beamers will not only highlight the route ahead but they’ll illuminate your front door keyhole, provide light when the car has broken down in a country lane and guide you to the fuse box when the lights go out.
Rechargeable vs disposable batteries
Until fairly recently, most LED flashlights used disposable batteries and many still do. Cheaper models invariably draw their power from ordinary alkaline batteries (AA, AAA etc), while the more expensive models use dearer but much longer-lasting lithiums (usually of the CR variety).
However, disposable batteries are not only costly (especially the lithium variety), but they ultimately end up in landfills and that’s a bad thing for the environment. The latest trend, therefore, is towards rechargeable lithium batteries that can be recharged very conveniently using a simple micro-USB cable attached to a mains source, a computer or a portable USB power bank. The torch itself may be more costly but you’ll save a heap of dollars in the long run – and help save the planet, too.