> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Preparing on $40 a Week: EDC Flashlight

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7/4/12

Preparing on $40 a Week: EDC Flashlight


For a long time, I carried only a keychain flashlight as a part of my everyday carry. I worked my way up from Photon lights to the Fenix E01 and finally a Fenix LD01. However, there's only so much performance to be wrung out of a keychain-sized light. If someone can't/won't carry something bigger, or as a backup, they're great. But really, a step up in flashlight size is necessary to start get some really impressive and useful performance.

So, I bought a Surefire E1B, which has become one of my favorite things, and pretty much embodies what I look for in an EDC light. Single battery for ease of carry, yet still kick out around 100 lumens and run for several hours. A "clicky" tailcap is important to me--easier, faster operation and allows for momentary on/off. At least one "low power" mode for battery conservation, and a dead-simple UI--don't make me twist the cap 5 times, throw the light in the air and clap three times to get to another mode. A great pocket clip is also key and what continues to set the E1B apart for me. And, of course, rugged construction--it needs to stand up to lots of regular use, the occasional drop on a hard surface, some level of water resistance and so on.

Of course, a $120 light like the E1B is more than a little bit out of our $40/week budget. I went looking for something that had most of the features that I think a good light needs to have, and I wanted it in a common AA battery--AAs are cheap and readily available locally, so all of our electronics will run off AAs.

I'm really impressed by the light that I tracked down, the Fenix E11--a $26.95 light that performs like a light two or three times the cost.

Here's the rundown on the E11's stats:
  • Single AA battery
  • 105 max lumens
  • High/low mode - more later
  • 8 hours of light on low mode
  • Impact resistant/military grade aluminum body with Type III anodization
  • Waterproof to 6.5 feet
  • 3.8 inches long, .75 inches wide and weighs 2 ounces even with a battery
The Surefire E1B and the Fenix E11.
The E11 is very bright for its size, rivaling and probably surpassing my 80-lumen E1B, so the 105 lumen claim is probably around accurate. The beam characteristics of the two lights are quite different, with the E1B more of a spotlight than the E11, with a wider, more spill-y beam. Not good/bad, just different.

If you're a flashlight fanatic, the quality of the LED may bug you a bit--the light has some artifacts, and the hotspot on my E11 is a bit off center.  Nothing that effects the usability of the light, and probably something that only a flashlight nerd like myself would notice.  

One of the standout features of the E11 is its user interface. It has a great clickie tailcap that works exactly how it should - partial depress for momentary on, click for constant on. And the E11 also has the best method for switching to the low light mode that I've seen--just a partial twist of the head and bam, you're there. This works with the light on or off, and can be accomplished one-handed, at least in a conventional forward grip. It's quick, and eliminates the need to cycle through various modes to get to the one you want.

Overall build quality is quite good. All of my Fenix lights are still going strong after years of use, and I would expect the E11 to have similar longevity.

The E11's one shortcoming, in my opinion, is its lack of a pocket clip--it's pretty much an inside the pocket carry light right out of the box. There's a short lanyard to aid with that method of carry, and the E11 is certainly a good size for carrying inside a pocket, as long as you're not wearing girlie tight jeans. For the ladies, it would make an easy addition to a purse.You could rig something up for neck carry without too much difficulty. Probably a bit too big for attaching to a keychain, though it could certainly be done. But if you do want a pocket clip, you're on your own. EDIT: Dug around my flashlight drawer and found a busted old Maglite that had an accessory pocket clip...could it fit? Yes! Perfect fit. Carried the E11 with that way, IWB through the whole day, and actually forgot that I had it there. The pocket clip is a part of the Mini MagLite accessory pack, which runs $4.47 on Amazon.

So, the E11 is my pick for a sub ~$40 everyday carry light. There are certainly other choices, but the E11 does the best job that I've seen of hitting my criteria at this price point. A great value and a good addition to your preps, even as a backup or a light to stash in a glove box.

Week #2 Purchase: Fenix E11
Cost: $26.95 on Amazon, leaving us $13.05 to add to the bank.
Bank Total: $23.55

If you've already got an EDC Flashlight...
Check your need for backups/spares--the E11 is a very nice light, but still affordable enough to keep in reserve, stash in a bag, etc. Beyond that, here's your todo list:

  • Check batteries in your EDC light and other lights around the house--replace if necessary.
  • Buy a dozen extra batteries for your light.
  • Got an EDC bag? You'll want to have at least two spare sets of batteries in it.
  • At night, practice navigating with only brief flashes of light, versus having the light constantly on. Flash the terrain in front of you, move, then flash again. This preserves battery life, and perhaps more importantly, makes it harder to get an exact bead on your position and any one time. Momentary strobe can be even better.
  • Look into a red filter for your light--Surefire makes filters for most of their products--which helps preserve night vision and lowers your overall signature.
Next week...
With a good mulitool and flashlight added to the stable, we're going to be moving away from EDC and into building a solid, budget minded bug out bag! 

19 comments :

  1. Great choice man, I actually have an E11 myself (received it as a gift) and it's a fantastic little light for the money. Must say, a pocket clip of some sort would be nice, but for $25 this is a sweet torch for sure!

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    Replies
    1. Dan - Found a readily available pocket clip that fits about perfectly. It's from the Mini Maglite accessory kit - you might have one floating around a drawer somewhere. Less than $5 if you don't.

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  2. AnonymousJuly 04, 2012

    OK, I wasn't going to mention them cause they're old school and cheap - but just pulled one out of my pants pocket that had been through the washer, and still works perfectly. MagLite Solitaire. About $6, single AAA batt, incandescent bulb, adjustable beam, can see well enough to not trip in the dark, and fits in an Altoids can.

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    Replies
    1. The Fenix E01 isn't a whole lot more - $12-ish - AAA, led bulb that's never going to burn out, better light than a solitaire is going to have, fits in an altoid tin and pretty much bombproof. But, whatever works for you - I like the solitaire design, despite its age.

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  3. Costco has a 3 pack of mini-mag sized lights with 200 lumes for about $20. Reading online it looks like they had some quality issues at first, but mine work fine.

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    1. Bought a pack a while ago...certainly some quality issues, lame UI and a bit big for everyday carry in a pocket, IMO. For $7/a light though, they're not bad for a throw-away or handout light.

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    2. Mine seem to be holding up just fine. I have a pinch light on my keychain and I keep the flashlight in a small messenger bag that I usually have with me, so I'm not pocketing it.

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  4. Gonna order this tomorrow, love this series!!!

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  5. AnonymousJuly 05, 2012

    If price wasn't a concern, but you wanted to stay will AA batteries, what would you suggest?

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    1. The E11 is a great light, despite the low price. I would look at the foursevens QT2A-X too..XM-L LED, 280 lumens and AA batteries, but $78.

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  6. I don't know why no one has mentioned head lamps, they are light, compact,reasonably cheap,and allow for hands free use. I got this one from Black Diamond for around $30 although a couple of different companies make good ones.

    http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/shop/mountain/lighting/spot-headlamp/

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  7. Headlamps are coming...just less EDC friendly.

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  8. Thanks so very much for this. Since my prep is coming out of a very small unemployment check, this is fantastic.

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  9. Alex, I have one of the maglight clips for the E11. Is there some trick to making it fit?

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    Replies
    1. It should fit around it pretty good out of the box. A bit of a an extra squeeze with pliers should do the rest of the work.

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  10. Hi in the UK the E11 is £99 or $158 on Amazon! So think that may put me slightly over budget! Cheers Jules

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  11. I would like to slip an extra red filter I have between the casing and glass protector. Is this possible with the E11? I have a couple of other small leds but cannot remove the cap to slip in the filter.
    thanks

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    Replies
    1. Possible...probably, but not easily. The head comes off as a unit.

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    2. Nope. I checked the local REI store and the salesman actually let me take it out of the package to determine if it was even possible. Like you said, the head comes off as a complete unit. With that being said, does anyone know of another similar flashlight,(small, led, cheap, but rugged) that I would be able to put a red filter in between the glass and casing? Anything other than a maglite...

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