When I reviewed the Nightstick TMC-550XL weapon light, I found it to be a great light. The only thing that I lamented was the lack of holster support at the time. Fortunately, that is changing as GunfightersINC has just announced that they are selling and will mold holsters for the Nightstick weapon lights.
Earlier this year, I bought a Fenix E30R in the hopes that it would work well as a lightweight, bright, compact, 18650 powered flashlight, for outdoor use. I was basically buying the form-factor as the E30R is just about as small as you can make a 18650 powered light. Unfortunately, the light hasn’t quite worked out like I hoped. It works to be sure but it could be better with some seemingly simple additions.
The E30R is a compact, USB rechargable flashlight that is powered by a single 18650 or 2 CR123A batteries. It boasts 1600 lumens pushed through a TIR optic to shape the beam.
Length: 3.9” (99mm)
Body: 0.8” (21.5mm)
Head: 1.0” (25.4mm)
Weight: 1.8 oz. (51g) excluding battery
Battery: One 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery (included) or two CR123A Lithium batteries can be used in an emergency
Included: Fenix ARB-L18-3500 rechargeable Li-ion battery, magnetic charging cable, body clip, lanyard, spare O-ring
Observations from Use
I’ve owned many Fenix lights over the years. In fact, I owned one of the first Fenix lights imported via a group buy on Candlepower forums back in the day. They have always served me well and I have come to trust and even prefer them in many cases. This is the first one that has disappointed me. It looks amazing. It is extremely bright. The form-factor is amazing. The clip is excellent. The output levels are nicely spaced. Fenix got so much right but their user interface design let them down in a big way.
The light can be turned on by a half-second long press on the switch. That means that when you need light, you push the switch and wait. That is annoying. When I push the switch, I want light right then. On top of that, the light always turns on in low mode which can be a good thing unless you want most or even all of the lumens right away. You have to long press to turn the light on and then click to cycle through each of the 5 modes. For example, accessing the Turbo setting from off requires a half-second long press followed by 4 clicks. There is no way to access Turbo or High from off and no mode memory. Either or both of those options would make this light 10 times easier to live with.
I realize that I can’t hold too much of this against the light because I read about the user interface before I bought the light and it is marketed as an EDC light (which is often code for a fiddly user interface in flashlight marketing terms). Still, I was hoping it wouldn’t be as annoying as it seemed… but it is. The user interface is just not well suited to outdoor (and obviously “tactical”) use.
With all that out of the way, I can report that this light is great in other ways. It makes use of a SST40 LED behind a lens and the beam is EXCELLENT. It’s bright, white, and well balanced in terms of throw and spill. The E30R puts all that SST40 efficiency to good use with great mode spacing. In most outdoor use cases, the 350 lumen medium setting is more than enough light and it will give you over 5 hours of runtime in that setting!
In terms of appearance and other physical attributes, the light is a joy. The copper-colored accents look great. The magnetic charging and battery charge indicator are easy to use and functional. The deep carry clip is strong and well designed. The light is easy to hold and operate in spite of its small size.
This light could have been great as it combines so many great features and attributes in such a small, 18650 powered package. If it just had some sort of output mode memory or a way to go directly to High or Turbo setting, it would be a far more useful light for outdoor use. As it is now, it feels like a light with a lot of unrealized potential. If you are looking for a light for something like EDC in an office, this might work.
PHLster has opened pre-orders for the newest addition to the ARC Enhanced WML Switch line. The TLR version is similar to the previously available X300 version in that it comes in a multi-pack with multiple switch length options for the user to choose. These are a direct, drop-in replacement for the original rocker switch.
PHLster and Sentinel Concepts are co-developing a new product, the Rail Buddy, designed to keep spare batteries for weapon mounted lights close at hand. The rail buddy will work with several battery types including the 18650s and 18350s that are driving many of today’s modern lights.
The Rail Buddy will attach via a Velcro One-Wrap strap so that it can be mounted in a variety of locations on the handguard or elsewhere. It can also be used to help with cable management for tape switches.
The battery storage compartment is currently in the prototype stage (3D printed prototype shown).
When it comes to backcountry light sources, I like redundancy but when it comes to hiking or bagging peaks, I dislike weight. Two lights are heavier than one. You can see my dilemma. Maybe you have wrestled with it too. Fortunately, I have found an ultralight, extremely useful combination of lights that keep weight to a minimum has built-in redundancy, recharges via the USB power bank I am already carrying, and won’t break the bank. In fact, this combo weighs less than most tactical flashlights.
The combo consists of two very compact and lightweight lights: the Streamlight Microstream USB which we have already reviewed and the utterly incredible Nitecore NU25. Both of these lights together weigh in at 3 ounces and the pair will set you back only about $65.
Before I get into why these lights work so well together, I’ll share a few thoughts on the Nitecore NU25 – a lightning review of sorts. This headlamp is a darling of the ultralight community and it is easy to see why. It has well balanced beam shape and plenty of output along with long-running low modes. The separate high-CRI flood beam is great for reading maps in true color and the red output is actually well-executed enough to be useful for tasks like finding your beanie in a cold tent without overwhelming your dark adjusted vision. It even has an easy to deal with lock-out function which is great for a light that will spend most of its time bumping around in your pack. It’s an incredibly functional headlamp that weighs in at just 1 ounce and costs only $35. That is, frankly, incredible.
The Streamlight Microstream and Nitecore NU25 are even better together. I use them in two situations that cover 80% of my backcountry use case. They are my go-to lights when I am NOT PLANNING on being out past dark but want to carry lights just in case and they are ideal for warm weather overnighters/multinight trips. They could be pressed into cold weather but I would prefer lights than can take lithium primary batteries for this (see this article). I have found several reasons why they work so well together:
Common Rechargeable Functionality – They are both rechargeable via micro USB. I always carry an Anker Power Bank (see the previous review) so it is easy to keep both lights up and running. When one is charging, I can use the other. No muss, no fuss.
Extreme Redundancy – These aren’t just redundant because they are both potential light sources. They take redundancy to another level due to the fact that the Microstream can stand in as a headlamp thanks to its two-way clip that allows it to be clipped to a hat brim. They can also leverage the same power source.
Extra Functionality – The NU25 is especially useful for backcountry use. It has red output for use in dark conditions where you don’t want to wreck dark adjusted vision. It has a high color rendition output for use in reading maps after dark. It can even be powered directly from your power bank which is great if you want to use it as a tent light!
Lightweight and Compact – Both lights are also extremely lightweight and compact. Lightweight is obviously nice when your pack is already full of 40 pounds of other lightweight gear. However, compactness is an often overlooked but desirable attribute in electronics. I can fit both of these lights AND the power bank in the same pocket of my shell to keep them warm in case conditions get cold above tree line. Emergency lights aren’t useful if the cold has drained their batteries.
It would be hard to find two lights that cover more bases, provide more redundancy, are more affordable, and better quality than these. They are a worthy addition to any kit.
Where to Buy
I have never been able to find either of these lights in a brick and mortar store. However, some of you may be able to find the Streamlight without much trouble. I just purchased mine on Amazon:
Do you have a gear or concept recommendation that fits the On Foot, Off Grid series? Do you have strategies for dealing with cold weather? Tell us about it in the comments below or drop us a line on the Contact page.
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