Role of the EDC Flashlight & EDC Flashlight Selection
Though LED technology and flashlight optic design have advanced, the intended use of the light still very much determines the optimal beam pattern and output. This creates a dilemma of what kind of light to carry: a light ideally configured for one application may be substantially deficient for another.
To better understand this dilemma, let’s take a look at the three most common applications of the EDC flashlight;
1. General Utility
Without a doubt, this is the most common use of an EDC flashlight, including everything from looking under the furniture for a lost toy to checking under the hood of the car in a low light setting. It can also include indoor navigation when the lights are out, and close-range outdoor navigation, such as taking the dog out to the backyard when it’s dark.
For this application a broad, even “flood” beam is ideal. The glaring “hot spot” of the typical high-powered flood + spot beam pattern can be more of an impediment than a help when the light is needed for close-range use, such as searching the back of a dark closet or pantry. A light with low candela (2,000 or less) and an output in the 50 to 200 lumens range is ideal for this use, which also provides longer run time on a battery or between recharging.
2. Outdoor Use
Based on my own experience, this is the second most common application. It usually involves walking the dogs beyond the confines of our own yard, where being able to see farther into the dark is needed. It also includes camping, hiking and other outdoor uses where a more powerful light with higher candela is ideal.
Another common use includes emergencies when traveling by car, such as signaling for help or navigating a dark road to find help due to a breakdown. This is an especially important consideration in the winter months when many are commuting back and forth to work when it’s dark and travel can be hazardous due to ice and snow.
This “mid ground” application is usually well covered with a light in the 250 to 500 lumen range, with a candela rating in the 2,000 to 5,000 range. A light specified this way is probably the best “one size fits all” choice, but also requires some level of compromise for certain uses.
3. Situational Awareness & Self Protection
This is perhaps the most specialized, yet least-used application.
Use of the EDC light for personal security is primarily for detecting and assessing potential threats to our safety in low-light environments. Not only does this application require more careful use of the light, but also requires a light ideally configured for this task (see the What I Learned about Flashlights at a Low Light Pistol Class post).
For this application, the ideal flashlight will be on the opposite end of the output spectrum of the light that is ideal for general utility use. For this application maximum output, high candela and an easy-to-use-under-stress UI are critically important. Where the ability to program the light, or toggle through multiple presses of the switch to control light output are handy for general use purposes, it becomes a distinct liability for a light intended to be used to protect oneself from the predatory actions of other humans.
What Light to Carry?
Which brings us to the important decision of what kind of light we should carry. A light that is perfect for general utility will most likely be noticeably deficient for personal security. A powerful, high-candela light that is well configured for personal security will be blinding if all we need to do is look for the keys we dropped.
There are three approaches to address this. The first (and most common) is to carry a light best suited for how it will be most commonly used. This tips light selection to the general utility end of the spectrum, where the specifics of the light output and operation are not so critical.
The second approach is to select a light that serves all three of the above defined applications reasonably well with a minimum of compromise. Within the EDC Light Builder line, the BGV2 18350 Bodyguard is hands-down the best light for this approach.
The third approach is what I call the “tool box” method - carry multiple lights intended for different purposes. I find carrying a small, multi-output light with a smooth beam is ideal for my typical everyday uses. I also carry a second, high-powered light intended for personal security, or for occasions when I might need to illuminate people or objects at greater distances.
While carrying two lights might seem like overkill, if both lights are small and easy to carry, there is really no downside to doing so. If both lights run on the same battery or Li-ion cell, this also provides an easy way to carry a second battery to power one of those lights.
With today’s advancements in compact yet highly capable flashlights, there’s no reason not to have at least one on our person at all times. EDC Light BuilderComments? Please feel free to share them with the EDC Light Builder