Rating: 5 / 5
My observation is that there are two types of lightweight backpacking flashlight users. The first are those who want a basic nighttime camp light. Lights such as the photon weigh a few grams and are suitable for most uses around camp. The second flashlight user is the serious night hiker. Adequate lights for their activities demand a substantial focused beam providing hours of stable brightness.
For the past several years, all these lights have been based around the luxeon LED, which puts out up to 10 times the light of regular LEDs. The Princeton Tec EOS is a popular 3 aaa cell luxeon headlamp of this type. With lithium batteries, it weighs about 3.5 oz. and provides 3 levels of illumination and runtimes.
Now there is a new LED on the block called the CREE. It’s similar to the luxeon, but puts out about twice the light for the same power draw. The color of these first generation CREEs is very white, unlike the early luxeons which varied widely.
The Fenix LOD-CE is a mass produced one aaa cell penlight which is currently in a class by itself. It measures about 3” long by ½” wide, has 3 brightness levels as well as strobe and SOS. (I consider these last two modes mostly worthless.) The high beam is rated at an amazing 50 lumens, with a measured runtime of 1 hour and 20 minutes with an E2 lithium. For comparison, this is about twice the level of the original luxeon lights such as the ARC. Medium output is 20 lumens for 4 hours, while low produces a still quite bright 7.5 lumens for 9 hours. (http://lights.chevrofreak.com/runtimes/Fenix%20L0P-CE/) The listed weight is 14.5 grams, and my weight with key ring, clip, and aaa lithium is about 24 grams.
Fenix lights are known for their high quality and the LOD-CE (about $45) is no exception. The aluminum body has the most durable type III anodized finish. Even with the key ring attached, the light can stand on its tail. A simple twist on-off cap controls the various modes, while a coated glass lens protects the LED and provides “dunkable” water resistance.
One thing I don’t like too much is the use of pulse width modulation (PWM) for the lower two brightness levels. PWM pulses the light on and off very fast. The easiest way to determine if a light uses PWM is to shine the light on your index finger while moving your finger from side to side. You will see many fingers with PWM, but only one with a constant brightness light. That said, it’s done much better than most earlier lights, and the high beam does not pulse. The beam itself is a wide spot with a very generous sidespill. Unfortunately, the spot is too wide to throw a beam as far as its prodigious output would otherwise permit. Even so, I greatly prefer this beam to my Princeton Tec EOS, which I find useful but disconcertingly narrow. Fenix lights have a reputation for going through O-rings faster than most, but at first glance I don’t see a problem and my light came with a few spares.
Fenix also sells a small monster 135 lumen CREE light which uses a single lithium 123 cell. While it’s only a matter of time before an assortment of small CREE headlamps hits the market, I’ve never made that much of a distinction between small flashlights and headlamps. I usually hike hand carrying my lights anyway, to see better. Small lights can be easily fit to a hat brim or even held in one’s mouth for basic short chores.
The Fenix works well in all these carry modes, and for now it has become my ultimate ultralight light.