Saturday, November 21, 2009

Energizer LED Penlight, BIG value for small dollars

In the last decade or so, LED (light emitting diode) flashlights have flooded the personal lighting market, and with the exception of certain mega hot xenon or halogen light makers (Surefire for example), LEDs are becoming the standard. Even Surefire and Streamlight, known for their more traditional superbright bulbs, are ever expanding their selection of LED lights. The advantages are obvious, they are more energy efficient, cooler running, and more durable than traditional flashlight bulbs, as well as lasting virtually forever. LED technology just keeps getting better. Regardless of the flashlight manufacturer, you'll hear company names like Cree, Nichia, and Luxeon, when reading specifications pertaining to the actual LED "bulb" used in various flashlights. Nichia is highly regarded in this category, as one of the finest leaders in LED technology, and you'll find their diodes in dozens of manufacturers brands. Along with companies like Luxeon and Cree, Nichia LEDs are very highly regarded for brightness and quality. It surprised me that this little $7.00 (avg. US price)penlight from Energizer comes equipped with a Nichia LED "bulb".

Model PLED23AE, is one of the few "pen lights" that is actually very close to the dimensions of an actual writing pen, only very slightly thicker and longer,it's about 6 and 3/4 inches long, with a single Nichia LED bulb protruding slightly out of the tip. There's no reflector housing, or cover, as LEDs are generally very tough. It's got a nice pocket clip which works well, and some lightly engraved "checkering" toward the front, where you might grip it like a writing utensil. The body is likely made of aluminum, as seems to be the pocket clip. It's activated by a simple plastic clicker button, very much like many ballpoint pens. It comes with two AAA batteries (Energizer brand of course), and the last inch or so where the switch and clip are located, unscrews, and batteries are dropped in positive side down. I originally bought one of these at my local Target store for my teenage nephew as a little extra to give him with his birthday gift about a year ago. He's pretty mechanically inclined and clever, so I figured he'd find a use for it, after we opened it, I was a bit remiss about giving it to him, as it's such a cool light for the price. I mean, realistically, this little tool is about the same price as a fast food combo meal, batteries included, and loaded with a super premium Nichia LED!!

It was with this in mind, that I picked up my own a few weeks ago. I have a ton of flashlights in all different quality and price ranges (hence the "Bright" in my blog's name). Because I own so many lights, I didn't open this one right away, as I've been using my little Fenix E01 (I actually have 2! of those!)
I'm glad I finally did crack open the little Energizer though, as it's been immensely handy in the car, as my dome light is pretty shitty. I was at a stoplight, and my can of Swedish snus slipped out of my hand and onto the floor, pulling out and activating the Energizer very quickly, I was able to spot my tobacco can on the floor and retrieve it before the traffic light changed. I have a few generic yet high quality LED flashlights which have a super focused spot beam, and they're alright, but I actually prefer a wider, more diffused beam like the one produced by this little Energizer. With the tightly focused lights with a thick glass lens, fine work up close can be tough because of the precision of the beam, whereas the little Energizer throws light not only far, but rather wide, since the tip of the "bulb" sticks out a bit from the tip.

This little penlight might also work well as a last ditch defensive impact weapon, kubotan or yawara stick style. I'm not so sure how the light would hold up after using it to jam into some part of an attacker's body, but it is thicker, and heavier than a good ol' ballpoint pen, and I'm sure could definitely be used in a manner similar to a koppo stick or the current self-defense writing pens being sold by companies like Benchmade, Mil-Tac and many others.

If I had any real clout, aside from being a blogger, and gave out awards for "editor's choice" products or something like that, this Energizer LED penlight would certainly earn a "Best Value" ribbon among budget flashlights. No, it's not going to blind an attacker, but you could certainly poke him in the eye with it, or slam it into his jugular! No, it's not IPX-waterproof-dive-rated, but it's certainly weatherproof enough to use it to change a tire in the rain if you get a flat. I'm a big proponent of "you get what you pay for", but this is a situation where for less than the price of lunch, you can get something that works as promised, and will certainly last you several years, if not more. It should also be noted that Energizer claims it will run for just over 100 hours on a single set of (2) AAA batteries, and they also cover it with their limited lifetime warranty. This is the type of flashlight that's likely to be swiped a by a rotten co-worker, or misplaced because of its small size before you'd ever have to think about it malfunctioning, or sending it in for a warranty repair/replacement. Of course, such value for such a low price has a potential ethical's Chinese made, like pretty much everything else these days, so if you're hellbent on buying American, you can go with the oldschool Maglite, and have an indestructible light with severely outdated (except for their newer LED line) and underpowered light output, or go with something a bit more pricey, like any number of excellent flashlights from Inova or Surefire, both of those companies manufacture right here in America, and have some budget models available as well.

Foreign manufacture aside, this bad boy sports a Nichia LED, is EXTREMELY energy efficient. It's reasonably durable and has a pocket clip in addition to its light weight. Best of all, you should be able to find 'em at places like Walmart, Home Depot and Target (where I got mine). For far less than $10, this would make an awesome stocking stuffer for pretty much anybody, from DIY folks, to hobbyists, mechanics, outdoorspeople. Who doesn't need a good flashlight, especially this time of year in North America! Energizer is here, and Optics Planet has them for about 8 bucks.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nite Ize S Biner

Nite Ize is probably best known for many years of providing aftermarket accessories for Maglite flashlights. They've built a solid reputation for innovative products since their beginnings around 1989. I remember seeing their headband device that converts a mini Maglite into a headlamp, more or less. They now even make LED upgrade kits for your durable but dim oldschool Maglites check this out.

Nite Ize makes a great non-locking, minimal load bearing dual-gated carabiner they call the "S Biner", obviously due to its shape. Our very own Crime.Wav; aka Joel had his housekey and a bottle opener attached to a metal S Biner many months ago when we hung out. I'd seen them before, but that was the first time I'd gotten to mess around with one, and really think about the practical applications. I was initially turned off by how wiry and light weight they are, however, now that I've had my own keys on a light blue plastic version for awhile now, the minimal weight is my favorite part! I'd always been a devotee of real mountain/rock climbing carabiners for attaching stuff to bags and packs, or even for linking my keyring to a beltloop. I'd become frustrated though in the last few years because although there are tons of super strong and light aluminum carabiners available at stores like REI, they tend to clink and make lots of noise against your keys, and are generally just a tad too big for my liking.

I've become partial to the plastic S Biner, the #4 size, of which you can judge its dimensions by looking at the pic where I've got it hooked to a Nalgene 32 oz. bottle. The gates are thin stainless steel and spring loaded, and the 'plastic' material seems to be a high strength polymer which feels very similar to DuPont's Zytel, or many other "glass filled nylon" materials that are used in manufacture of things like car interior parts and tactical knife handles. My blue #4 plastic S Biner has ridden on my belt, belt loop, or pocket daily for many months and I like the speed and convenience of just being able to grab it in one smooth motion and slide either end through a beltloop or a pack strap. You can also fasten things like split-ring key rings to the center plastic bar, and it's completely secure, there's nowhere for that item to slide off, since either end is blocked by the stainless gates. Last year, around Thanksgiving, we had a lengthy power outage where I live. I hung an S Biner from a bungee cord off of a hook in the ceiling, and slid 2 snap chemlight (glowsticks) onto the S Biner and created a makeshift hanging lantern. It actually worked very well, Just one S Biner, one Tactical Tailor plastic ended bungee cable, and 2 Omni Glow green light sticks. Pretty cool.

I especially like the lightweight plastic S Biners for my water bottles, as when the bottle is empty, you can simply clip it onto your pack or even a belt if you're out and about, your bottle is out of the way, but at the ready if you want to refill it, and most of the larger size S Biners do have some minor load bearing capability. The #4 that I like can hold about 25 lbs, which isn't bad for such a light and simple device, so even the tiny S Biners should easily hold the weight of a 32 oz. water bottle. I was thinking about other uses, and you could even use them as zipper pulls, or thread a smaller size through the holes in a double zippered duffel bag to keep the zipper from opening.

Nite Ize is an innovative company in the same vein as say, Camelbak or Guyot Designs. Companies along these lines make simple, high quality products that make certain aspects of life just a little bit easier. Nite Ize makes and distributes a wide range of neat gadgets in a ton of different categories. They can be found at warehouse sporting goods stores and high end outdoor shops like REI. I feel that Nite Ize products are an exceptional value as well, for instance, the #4 plastic S Biners I'm so fond of, only cost about $2.75 USD on average at my local REI store. Oh, I should also mention that for all of us gear-heads, they make a wide array of ballistic nylon pouches and holsters for tools, phones and other gadgets as well. :)

Here's a rundown of the dimensions and weight capacity of each S Biner size:
(this information is only for the METAL S-Biners, not the plastic body ones that I'm using. The max load on the plastic #4 is 25 lbs, which is still pretty good, and definitely plenty to hold a full water bottle or even a heavy keyring. The all-metal S Biners are not much more expensive than the plastic series, it's just a matter of your preference and intended use. I opted for plastic because they're so light, and I like the tactile feel better in my hand.)
* #1: 1.56 x 0.56 in (4 x 1.4 cm) - 5 lb (2.3 kg)*
* #2: 2.00 x 0.88 in (5 x 2.2 cm) - 10 lb (4.5 kg)*
* #3: 2.63 x 1.13 in (6.7 x 2.9 cm) - 25 lb (11 kg)*
* #4: 3.50 x 1.50 in (8.9 x 3.8 cm) - 75 lb (33 kg)*
* #5: 4.38 x 1.94 in (11.1 x 3.3 cm) - 100 lb (45 kg)*

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Some new and relatively inexpensive knives for holiday gift giving

Just a quickie here:
I like to buy American when I can. That being said, I also like a good value, quality knives that don't break the bank. In many instances, and like many people, I'd rather have 2 or 3 moderately priced knives than one super expensive one. On the other hand, investing in an Emerson, Benchmade, or any number of high quality American made knives is smart, these are the type of knives that are rugged enough to be used every day, and durable and special enough to pass on to a friend, or your kids someday. Seems like every other week we're seeing new and affordable knife designs made overseas, usually in Taiwan or China. These foreign made pieces are generally very good, as long as they bear the name of an established company with a good warranty and American roots. The cost of everything has gone up, from dogfood, to appliances and specialty items. This post serves to highlight some newer knives that have a sturdy pedigree, but will not thin your wallet.

I've never owned a Meyerco knife I don't think, but you'll see both their foreign patterns and American products getting solid reviews in magazines like Tactical Knives and on online webshops. Custom maker Darrel Ralph has teamed with Meyerco to produce these assisted openers in a variety of blade finishes for well under under $80 USD (MSRP). The Maxx-Q features G10 handles and a robust 3.25" recurved tanto blade. I saw them first @
I'm interested in getting ahold of one to see how they perform.

511 Tactical is known for its tactical nylon gear, and entered the factory knife game a few years back. This little boot/neck knife is the Sidekick, and will sell for about $45 USD at better retailers.

This burly little fixed blade is the 511 Surge and is 8.85” overall in length. It's designed by Mike Vellekamp of Blade-Tech fame and looks to be a competent little tool.

Timberline Knives is back with an inexpensive factory-made version of custom maker Tim Herman's Wallstreet Tactical.

The Wallstreet Tactical comes with a display case, and is said to open incredibly smoothly, it shouldn't cost much more than $55 USD at better web retailers.

I've been happy to report here in the last several months, that Buck Knives has returned most of its manufacturing back to the USA, in a new Idaho facility. These classic stockman style knives have wooden handle slabs, and are all in the $30 USD range, and best of all, they are American made.

Also on the American made front, is RAT Cutlery's awesome Izula neck knives. I have personal experince with the tan colored one which came out about a year ago. it's far and away my favorite neck knife, and comes in tan, black or pink. It's rugged 1095 carbon steel with a powder coat. If you think the pink one is only for your wife or daughter, think again...How are you going to find your black or green knife if your woods camping, or trekking somewhere with thick underbrush. The pink model was designed with this in mind from Jeff Randall/RAT Cutlery's extensive jungle training experience.

So, it's not hard to find a quality blade these days, it's just a matter of preference, education and some smart shopping. Even if you're on a budget, and dead-set against foreign manufacture, there's something out there that would make a great gift for yourself or somebody else.